Thursday, July 28, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 8)

I am wondering how far we can ascribe to the work of the Devil those very legitimate desires that we indulge in. Some people have a very sensitive conception of the presence of the Devil. Others haven’t. Is the Devil as real as we think he is? That doesn’t trouble some people, since they have no desire to be good, but others are continually harassed by the Old Man himself.

No reference to the Devil or devils is included in any Christian Creeds, and it is quite possible to be a Christian without believing in them. I do believe such beings exist, but that is my own affair.  Supposing there to be such beings, the degree to which humans were conscious of their presence would presumably vary very much.Third-Reich-3 I mean, the more a man was in the Devil’s power, the less he would be aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows lie’s drunk. It is the people who are fully awake and trying hard to be good who would be most aware of the Devil. It is when you start arming against Hitler that you first realize your country is full of Nazi agents. Of course, they don’t want you to believe in the Devil. If devils exist, their first aim is to give you an anaesthetic — to put you off your guard. Only if that fails, do you become aware of them.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 56-57.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 7)

Just as a reminder, these questions were posed to C.S. Lewis on April 18, 1944 by workers at the Electric and Musical Industries Ltd., in Hayes, Middlesex. This company, known today as EMI, is probably best known for its recording studios at Abbey Road,EMI record quality control London which was where the Beatles recorded their music. It's quite interesting to see how Lewis handles their questions, most of the time keeping his answers quite short.

We don’t qualify for heaven by practice, but salvation is obtained at the Cross. We do nothing to obtain it, but follow Christ. We may have pain or tribulation, but nothing we do qualifies us for heaven, but Christ.

C.S. Lewis:
The controversy about faith and works is one that has gone on for a very long time, and it is a highly technical matter. I personally rely on the paradoxical text: ‘Work out your own salvation. . . for it is God that worketh in you’ (Philippians 2:12). It looks as if in one sense we do nothing, and in another case we do a damned lot. ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,’ but you must have it in you before you can work it out. But I have no wish to go further into it, as it would interest no one but the Christians present, would it?

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 55.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 6)

PieintheSkyIs it true that Christians must be prepared to live a life of personal discomfort and self-sacrifice in order to qualify for ‘Pie in the Sky’?

All people, whether Christian or not, must be prepared to live a life of discomfort. It is impossible to accept Christianity for the sake of finding comfort: but the Christian tries to lay himself open to the will of God, to do what God wants him to do. You don’t know in advance whether God is going to set you to do something difficult or painful, or something that you will quite like; and some people of heroic mould are disappointed when the job doled out to them turns out to be something quite nice. But you must be prepared for the unpleasant things and the discomforts. I don’t mean fasting, and things like that. They are a different matter. When you are training soldiers in manoeuvres, you practise in blank ammunition because you would like them to have practise before meeting the real enemy. So we must practise in abstaining from pleasures which are not in themselves wicked. If you don’t abstain from pleasure, you won’t be good when the time comes along. It is purely a matter of practise.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 53-54.

Friday, July 22, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 5)

Is it true that Christianity (especially the Protestant forms) ends to produce a gloomy, joyless condition of society which is like a pain in the neck to most people?

martin-lutherAs to the distinction between Protestant and other forms of Christianity, it is very difficult to answer. I find by reading about the sixteenth century, that people like Sir Thomas More, for whom I have a great respect, always regarded Martin Luther’s doctrines not as gloomy thinking, but as wishful thinking. I doubt whether we can make a distinction between Protestant and other forms in this respect. Whether Protestantism is gloomy and whether Christianity at all produces gloominess, I find it very difficult to answer, as I have never lived in a completely non-Christian society nor a completely Christian one, and I wasn’t there in the sixteenth century, and only have my knowledge from reading books. I think there is about the same amount of fun and gloom in all periods. The poems, novels, letters, etc., of every period all seem to show that. But again, I don’t really know the answer, of course. I wasn’t there.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 53.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 4)

Materialists and some astronomers suggest that the solar planetary system and life as we know it was brought about by an accidental stellar collision. What is the Christian view of this theory?

C.S. Lewis:
spilled-milkIf the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts — i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true?  I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give yow a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 52-53.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 3)

Will you please say how you would define a practising Christian? Are there any other varieties?

C.S. Lewis:
Certainly there are a great many other varieties. It depends, of course, on what you mean by ‘practising Christian’. If you mean one who has practised Christianity in every respect at every moment of his life, then there is only One on record — Christ Himself. In that sense there are no practising Christians, but only Christians who, in varying degrees, try to practise it and fail in varying degrees and then start again. A perfect practice of Christianity would, of course, consist in a perfect imitation of the life of Christ I mean, in so far as it was applicable in one’s own particular circumstances. Not in an idiotic sense it doesn’t mean that every Christian should grow a beard, or be a bachelor, or become a travelling preacher. It means that every single act and feeling, every experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, must be referred to God. It means looking at everything as something that comes from Him, and always looking to Him and asking His will first, and saying: ‘How would He wish me to deal with this?’
Red-Cross-dog---Italy    A kind of picture or pattern (in a very remote way) of the relation between the perfect Christian and his God, would be the relation of the good dog to its master. This is only a very imperfect picture, though, because the dog hasn’t reason like its master: whereas we do share in God’s reason, even if in an imperfect and interrupted way (‘interrupted’ because we don’t think rationally for very long at a time — it’s too tiring — and we haven’t information to understand things fully, and our intelligence itself has certain limitations). In that way we are more like God than the dog is like us, though, of course, there are other ways in which the dog is more like us than we are like God. It is only an illustration.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 50.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UK factory workers ask C.S. Lewis questions (part 2)

C.S. Lewis visited the Electric and Musical Industries Ltd., in Hayes, Middlesex on April 18, 1944 in order to answer questions from the factor workers.

EMI LifeSupposing a factory worker asked you: ‘How can I find God?’ How would you reply?

C.S. Lewis:
I don’t see how the problem would be different for a factory worker than for anyone else. The primary thing about any man is that he is a human being, sharing all the ordinary human temptations and assets. What is the special problem about the factory worker? But perhaps it is worth saying this: Christianity really does two things about conditions here and now in this world: 
(1) It tries to make them as good as possible, i.e., to reform them; but also 
(2) It fortifies you against them in so far as they remain bad.
If what was in the questioner’s mind was this problem of repetition work, then the factory worker’s difficulty is the same as any other man confronted with any sorrow or difficulty. People will find God if they consciously seek from Him the right attitude towards all unpleasant things . . if that is the point of the question?

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 49-50.

Monday, July 18, 2011

UK factory workers asking C.S. Lewis questions (part 1)

C.S. Lewis attended a special event on April 18, 1944 at Electric and Musical Industries Ltd., in Hayes, Middlesex in order to answer questions from the factor workers. EMI (as it is known today) also ran the legendary recording studios at Abbey Road, London. Here's the introduction C.S. Lewis gave before answering questions from the factory workers.

C.S. Lewis: 
aerial view emiI have been asked to open with a few words on Christianity and Modern Industry. Now Modern Industry is a subject of which I know nothing at all. But for that very reason it may illustrate what Christianity, in my opinion, does and does not do. Christianity does not replace the technical. When it tells you to feed the hungry it doesn’t give you lessons in cookery. If you want to learn that, you must go to a cook rather than a Christian. If you are not a professional Economist and have no experience of Industry, simply being a Christian won’t give you the answer to industrial problems. My own idea is that modern industry is a radically hopeless system. You can improve wages, hours, conditions, etc., but all that doesn’t cure the deepest trouble: i.e., that numbers of people are kept all their lives doing dull repetition work which gives no full play to their faculties. How that is to be overcome, I do not know. If a single country abandoned the system it would merely fall a prey to the other countries which hadn’t abandoned it. I don’t know the solution: that is not the kind of thing Christianity teaches a person like me. Let’s now carry on with the questions.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 48.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Christian Reunification: Is it possible?

reunion logoSo far as I can judge from reviews and from the numerous letters written to me, the book [Mere Christianity], however faulty in other respects, did at least succeed in presenting an agreed, or common, or central, or 'mere' Christianity.... If I have not directly helped the cause of reunion, I have perhaps made it clear why we ought to be reunited.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins 2001) xi.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Signs of spring

Alberta prairie crocus  in iceThe miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise. St Peter for a few seconds walked on the water; and the day will come when there will be a re-made universe, infinitely obedient to the will of glorified and obedient men, when we can do all things, when we shall he those gods that we are described as being in Scripture. To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: hut often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says, ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’ Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is, of course, this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our Leader, the Son of man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.

The Grand Miracle – Part 2
C.S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 87-88.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Without the miraculous, it would not be Christianity

jesus-christ-resurrectionOne is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least, the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would he no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they arc only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may he many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian.

The Grand Miracle – Part 1
C.S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 80.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Body and soul

Young_man_smoking_and_drinking-SPL‘You are always dragging me down,’ said I to my Body. ‘Dragging you down!’ replied my Body. ‘Well I like that! Who taught me to like tobacco and alcohol’? You, of course, with your idiotic adolescent idea of being “grown-up”. My palate loathed both at first: but you would have your way. Who put an end to all those angry and revengeful thoughts last night? Me, of course, by insisting on going to sleep. Who does his best to keep you from talking too much and eating too much by giving you dry throats and headaches and indigestion? Eh?’‘And what about sex?’ said I. ‘Yes, what about it?’ retorted the Body. ‘If you and your wretched imagination would leave me alone I’d give you no trouble. That’s Soul all over; you give me orders and then blame me for carrying them out.’

C.S. Lewis, “Scraps,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 216-217.

Friday, July 8, 2011

C.S. Lewis on the popularity of strip clubs

baconYou can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights vent out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

“Sexual Morality” – part 2
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins Edition 2001) 96.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Either marriage or total abstinence

chastity ringWe must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity…. Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

“Sexual Morality” – part 1
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins Edition 2001) 95.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Athanasius against the world

Athanasius the GreatHis epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, ‘Athanasius against the world’. We are proud that our country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, ‘whole and undefiled’, when it looked as if all the civilized world was slipping hack from Christianity into the religion of Arius*— into one of those ‘sensible’ synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

*Arius (c. 250-c. 336), a champion of subordinationist teaching about the Person of Christ.

C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 206.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What it means when we are blind to our own mistakes

see mistakes in arithmeticRemember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.
“Morality and Psychoanalysis” – part 2
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins Edition 2001) 93.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Every time you make a choice…

ChoiceI would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

“Morality and Psychoanalysis” – part 1
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Harper Collins Edition 2001) 92.