10 Quotes From C.S. Lewis

Any day is a good day for some C.S. Lewis quotes! 

“To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” —C.S. Lewis 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” —C.S. Lewis 

“For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Faith, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” —C.S. Lewis 

“And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?” —C.S. Lewis 

“A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.” —C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis On Relationships

All of these quotes from C.S. Lewis appear in the book Yours, Jack.

“The modern tradition is that the proper reason for marrying is the state described as ‘being in love.’ … Doesn’t the modern emphasis on ‘love’ lead people either into divorce or into misery, because when that emotion dies down they conclude that their marriage is a ‘failure,’ though in fact they have just reached the point at which real marriage begins.” 

“There is a terrible comment on this in I Cor VI 16 ‘he that is joined to a harlot is one flesh.’ You see? Apparently, if Christianity is true, the mere fact of sexual intercourse set up between human beings a relation which has, so to speak, transcendent repercussions—some eternal relation is established whether they like it or not.” 

“Agape is best seen, I think, in the words ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ i.e., by an act of will, aim at your neighbor’s good in the same way as you aim at your own. Now you don’t ‘love’ yourself because of your own ‘lovable qualities.’ You may, in moments of vanity, attribute lovable qualities to yourself, but that is not the cause of your self-love but one of the results of it. At other moments, when you dislike yourself, you still wish for your own happiness. This attitude to one’s own self is dictated by nature: towards other selves it has to be acquired.” 

“The great thing in friendship as in all other forms of love is, as you know, to turn from the demand to be loved (or helped or answered) to the wish to love (or help or answer).” 

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

“I take it that in every marriage natural love sooner or later, in a high or low degree, comes up against difficulties (if only the difficulty that the original state of ‘being in love’ dies a natural death) which forces it either to turn into dislike or else to turn into Christian charity. For all of our natural feelings are, not resting places, but points d’appui, springboards. One has to go on from there, or fall back from there. The merely human pleasure in being loved must either go bad or become the divine joy of loving.” 

“It is right and inevitable that we should be much concerned about the salvation of those we love. But we must be careful not to expect or demand that their salvation should conform to some ready-made pattern of our own. … God has His own unique way with each soul.” 

“The real trouble about the duty of forgiveness is that you do it with all your might on Monday and then find on Wednesday that it hasn’t stayed put and all has to be done over again.”

You can read my review of Yours, Jack by clicking here. And you can check out some other quotes I shared from this collection of Lewis’ personal correspondence here and here.

C.S. Lewis On Christ’s Second Coming

“The idea which here shuts out the Second Coming from our minds, the idea of the world slowly ripening to perfection, is a myth, not a generalization from experience. And it is a myth which distracts us from our real duties and our real interest. It is our attempt to guess the plot of a drama in which we are the characters. But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. …

“The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph. This seems to some people intolerably frustrating. So many things would be interrupted. Perhaps you were going to get married next month, perhaps you were going to get a raise next week: you may be on the verge of a great scientific discovery; you may be maturing great social and political reforms. Surely no good and wise God would be so very unreasonable as to cut all this short? Not now, of all moments!

“But we think thus because we keep on assuming that we know the play. We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who the minor characters. The Author knows.” —C.S. Lewis, in The World’s Last Night

C.S. Lewis Asks, Is There Such A Thing As “Christian Obstinacy”?

“There are times when we can do all that a fellow creature needs if only he will trust us. In getting a dog out of a trap, in extracting a thorn from a child’s finger, in teaching a boy to swim or rescuing one who can’t, in getting a frightened beginner over a nasty place on a mountain, the one fatal obstacle may be their distrust. We are asking them to trust us in the teeth of their senses, their imagination, and their intelligence. We ask them to believe that what is painful will relieve their pain and that what looks dangerous is their only safety. We ask them to accept apparent impossibilities: that moving the paw farther back into the trap is the way to get it out—that hurting the finger very much more will stop the finger hurting—that water which is obviously permeable will resist and support the body—that holding onto the only support within reach is not the way to avoid sinking—that to go higher and onto a more exposed ledge is the way not to fall. …

“But if we succeed, we do so because they have maintained their faith in us against apparently contrary evidence. …

“Now to accept the Christian propositions is ipso facto to believe that we are to God, always, as that dog or child or bather or mountain climber was to us, only very much more so. …

“There is, you see, no real parallel between Christian obstinacy in faith and the obstinacy of a bad scientist trying to preserve a hypothesis although the evidence has turned against it. Unbelievers very pardonably get the impression that an adherence to our faith is like that, because they meet Christianity, if at all, mainly in apologetic works. And there, of course, the existence and beneficence of God must appear as a speculative question like any other. Indeed, it is a speculative question as long as it is a question at all. But once it has been answered in the affirmative, you get quite a new situation. To believe that God—at least this God—exists is to believe that you as a person now stand in the presence of God as a Person. What would, a moment before, have been variations in opinion, now become variations in your personal attitude to a Person. You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence.” —C.S. Lewis, in The World’s Last Night

10 Quotes From C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis(When is it ever not a good day to share C.S. Lewis quotes?!)

“There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us. If you are a nice person—if virtue comes easily to you—beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. …You must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.” —C.S. Lewis

“On the contrary, those who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their own sexuality than anyone else. They come to know their desires as Wellington knew Napoleon, or as Sherlock Holmes knew Moriarty; as a rat-catcher knows rats or a plumber knows about leaky pipes. Virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog.” —C.S. Lewis

“For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of  course, it is better to be neither.” —C.S. Lewis

 “A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless he is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favor. But that would not be forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.” —C.S. Lewis 

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” —C.S. Lewis

“The human lives in time but our enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” —C.S. Lewis

“War creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.” —C.S. Lewis

“The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for.” —C.S. Lewis

“Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials.” —C.S. Lewis

9 Quotes From C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis at his deskYesterday I posted a review on an innovative book The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis. Truly this man’s literary output during his lifetime, and his works’ staying power after his lifetime, is amazing. Here are a few quotes from this prolific author.

“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.” —C.S. Lewis

“Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, In some sort we are still.” —C.S. Lewis

“God saw the Cross in the creation of the first nebulae.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Nothing can deceive unless it bears a plausible resemblance to reality.” —C.S. Lewis

“The real way of mending a man’s taste is not to denigrate his present favorites, but to teach him how to enjoy something better.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Coming to understand anything we must reject the facts as they are for us in favor of the facts as they are.” —C.S. Lewis

“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other Voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day.” —C.S. Lewis

“‘Be ye perfect.’ I think He meant ‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.’” —C.S. Lewis 

“That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected) he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When trouble comes along—illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation—he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.” —C.S. Lewis

I previously posted quotes from C.S. Lewis here, here, and here.

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis (book review)

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis wrote the first books I fell in love with as a kid, and he continues to be my “go to” author as an adult. One of the things which makes Lewis so widely read and appreciated is the variety of genres in which he wrote. This is the subject of an insightful book by Jerry Root and Mark Neal—The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis.

Lewis wrote satire, poetry, literary criticism, autobiography, apologetic, children’s literature, and science fiction, to name just a few of the genres. Scholars who study his works point to seventeen literary genres in which he was adept. The fact that he could write so eloquently in this many genres is amazing, but what’s even more amazing, say Root and Neal, is that he could stick to one genre, even when it would be so tempting to shift to another mid-book.

Lewis was fond of talking about the time he felt his imagination had been “baptized.” That is to say, when he was aware of the power of using imagination to open others’ minds to new worlds and ideas. Those who have read the Narnia books or the space trilogy books know how imaginative Lewis’ writing can be. But what Root and Neal point out is that this amazing imagination was on full display in all of the different genres in which Lewis wrote.

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis would be a great pre-read the next time you are going to read something from C.S. Lewis. Each chapter in this book zeros-in on a particular Lewis book, so reading that chapter prior to reading the corresponding C.S. Lewis book will prime your mind to spot the brilliant imagination that was on display in every book he wrote.

I am an Abingdon Press book reviewer.

A Half Dozen Quotes From C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis at his deskWhenever is it not a good day for some quotes from C.S. Lewis?!

“It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” —C.S. Lewis

“Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality.” —C.S. Lewis

“The work of a Beethoven and the work of a charwoman become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly ‘as to the Lord.’ This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig to the glory of God and a cock must crow. We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the ‘gospel’ or good news which the Christians brought.” —C.S. Lewis

“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life—what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.” —C.S. Lewis

“Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the truth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’” —C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis On The Scarcity Mindset

C.S. Lewis at his deskWhen C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, he wrote as an experienced demon giving advice to his young, protege demon. In this writing, when he refers to the “the Enemy” he’s talking about God, and “our Father” is the devil.

“The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition.’” —C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Jesus came that we might have life in abundance; the devil wants to leave you competing for scarcity after he steals, kills and destroys. Choose God’s way. Choose abundance! Choose life!

C.S. Lewis On Marriage

C.S. Lewis at his deskTwo powerful passages on marriage from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity—

“The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism—for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact—just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.”

“My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British [or American] people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

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