On November 22, 1963 C.S. Lewis passed away. It was on this same day that the American president John F. Kennedy also passed away. Both men had a profound impact on the American world view. I believe that C.S. Lewis is still impacting lives today, because when I read his words, I am changed. His words cause you to dig down and really think about your relationship to God and how your life has an impact in this world.
In a world of the thirty second sound bite and the 140 characters or less world of Twitter, we want to have our thoughts quick and short. C.S. Lewis didn’t operate that way- he made people think, really ponder about the message of Jesus Christ and how salvation isn’t what we first think it means. The message of Christianity is simple enough for children to understand but deep enough to make the greatest philosophers contemplate what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
I have ten of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes here, you may find some you love, and you may have a suggestion or two to add to this list. What quotes have I missed that you would’ve included?
Doing it the wrong way
Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. 1
Rats in the Cellar
When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. . . . Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. . . . Now that cellar is out of reach of my conscious will. I can to some extent control my acts: I have no direct control over my temperament. And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do—if indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are—then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about. . . . But I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God. 2
No amount of falls will undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up
It seems to me that Lewis’s intent in all of his writing, in all of his explication, was to aid the Christian in his or her daily living by pointing them to God’s love and redemptive power and warning them of Satan’s pitfalls. For this, good people everywhere ought to be grateful. Though the battle with Satan and his minions is a deadly serious one, and at times may seem hopeless, Lewis tells us we need not despair. In one of his letters, Lewis proffers one of his greatest statements of hope. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, & the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the sign of His presence. 3
Living in the company of Gods and Goddesses
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which…you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations-these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. 4
Heaven works backwards
[You] cannot in your present state understand eternity…But you can get some likeness of it if you say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective…All this earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved…All their life on earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me but have this and I’ll take the consequences”, little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things…the Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly. 5
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” [one might ask]. I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your thoat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, and age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me…you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways…It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty…If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. 6
Easy to please but hard to satisfy
Our Father in Heaven, who as Lewis taught is easy to please but hard to satisfy, will not allow those who come unto Him to remain as they are. “To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labor to make us lovable.” Jesus came to heal us with His love (see John 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9; D&C 34:1-3) He came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly (see John 10:10). Let me repeat: as C. S. Lewis observed, “that is precisely what Christianity is about. The world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.” That life, a new life in Christ, opens us to new feelings, new insights, and new perspectives on our existence here and hereafter. It enables us to see things as they really are. Thus Lewis confessed: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” 7
Did Jesus ever say he was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One?
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be a God.”
That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that choice open to us. He did not intend to. 8
On meetings and programs over prayer and religious devotion
Promote the importance of outward religiosity, meetings, and programs, over prayer and inward devotion. Best of all is to keep a person from praying altogether. From two separate letters of Screwtape’s we read the following: “Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more `religious’ (on those terms), the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.” “The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether.” 9
There is no other stream
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion. “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill. “Then drink,” said the Lion. “May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill. “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh, dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once. 10
1. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book II, Ch. 2, Para. 9, p. 49.
2. Mere Christianity p. 165-66. See also Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An LDS Perspective [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 68 – 69.
3. Collected Letters, Volume II, p. 507. See also Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An LDS Perspective [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 57.
4. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
5. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, Ch. 9, 67-68.
6. C. S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” in Present Concerns, 73-74.
7. Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An LDS Perspective [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 153 – 154.
8. C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56.
9. Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An
LDS Perspective [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999].
10. C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, 20-21.