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LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church. The Real C.S. Lewis Part 2 His Life and Writings: Mere Christianity (Screwtape, and other writings) “You’ll never get to the bottom of him.” J.R.R. Tolkien Complied by Paulo F. Ribeiro MBA, PhD, PE, IEEE Fellow. March 14, 2004, AD

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LaGrave Avenue

Christian Reformed Church

The Real C.S. Lewis

Part 2

His Life and Writings: Mere Christianity (Screwtape, and other writings)

“You’ll never get to the bottom of him.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Complied by

Paulo F. Ribeiro

MBA, PhD, PE, IEEE Fellow

March 14, 2004, AD

Grand Rapids

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Philosophical Background

Lewis was qualified at exposing the presuppositions upon which modernism stands. Lewis pointed out that while traditional Western/Christian philosophy rests on deductive logic, modernist thought systems rest exclusively on induction.

Induction is a kind of reasoning that begins with observed facts and then proceeds upward toward a more abstract hypothesis, while deduction begins with abstract premises and general assumptions and works its way downward toward a specific conclusion.

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Mere Christianity

“THE CONTENTS of this book were first given on the air, and then published in three separate parts as Broadcast Talks (1942), Christian Behavior 0943), and Beyond Personality (1944). In the printed versions I made a few additions to what I had said at the microphone, but otherwise left the text much as it had been.”

  • Book I: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

    • I. The Law of Nature

    • II. Some Objections

    • III. The Reality of the Law

    • IV. What Lies Behind the Law

    • V. We Have Cause to be Uneasy

  • Book II: What Christians Believe

    • I. The Rival Conceptions of God

    • II. The Invasion

    • III. The Shocking Alternative

    • IV. The Perfect Penitent

    • V. The Practical Conclusion

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Mere Christianity

  • Book III: Christian Behavior

    • I. The Three Parts of Morality

    • II. The "Cardinal Virtues"

    • III. Social Morality

    • IV. Morality and Psychoanalysis

    • V. Sexual Morality

    • VI. Christian Marriage

    • VII. Forgiveness

    • VIII. The Great Sin

    • IX. Charity

    • X. Hope

    • XI. Faith

    • XII. Faith, level II

  • Book IV: Beyond Personality or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity

    • I. Making and Begetting

    • II. The Three-Personal God

    • III. Time and Beyond Time

    • IV. Good Infection

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Mere Christianity

The series was carried on the BBC Home Service on Wednesday evenings between 7:45 and 8 pm

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Mere Christianity

And The Pubs Went Silent

“I remember being in a pub filled with soldiers on one Wednesday evening. At a quarter to eight, the bartender turned the radio up for Lewis. “You listen to this bloke,” he shouted. “He’s really worth listening to.” And those soldiers did listen attentively for the entire fifteen minutes.”

George Sayer, Jack, CS Lewis and His Times

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Mere Christianity

  • Mere Christianity" was the term C. S. Lewis employed to describe essential Christianity--those core Christian beliefs held through the ages by Catholics and Protestants alike. Lewis adapted the term from a Protestant clergyman in England Richard Baxterwho wrote more than three hundred years ago on the "essentials" of Christianity (1615 – 1691).

    • "I am a CHRISTIAN, a MEER CHRISTIAN, of no other Religion; and the Church that I am of is the Christian Church, and hath been visible where ever the Christian Religion and Church hath been visible: But must you know what Sect or Party I am of? I am against all Sects and dividing Parties: But if any will call Meer Christians by the name of a Party, because they take up with Meer Christianity, Creed, and Scripture, and will not be of any dividing or contentious Sect, I am of that Party which is so against Parties: If the Name CHRISTIAN be not enough, call me a CATHOLICK CHRISTIAN; not as that word signifieth an hereticating majority of Bishops, but as it signifieth one that hath no Religion, but that which by Christ and the Apostles was left to the Catholick Church, or the Body of Jesus Christ on Earth."

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Mere Christianity

“Mere Christianity - a two-edged sword more effective than any other book in modern times for slaying the dragons that guard two treasures that are needed for the jihad ahead: understanding Christianity and uniting Christians. The secret of his understanding is that he sees the center, the Christocentrism, the Big Picture, and relates everything else to it. Mere Christianity does in theology what Narnia does in fiction: it shows us Christ. And in doing this, it does the second thing: it provides the primary bridge to unite God's separated people. Mere Christianity shows that what unites all Christians is much more real than some "lowest common denominator" arrived at by abstracting from differences. It shows the concrete reality of the center, Christians' common Commanding Officer, and thereby clears the air on the battlefield, correcting the provincial perspective most Christians had in Lewis's day, and converting them from "civil war Christians" to "world war Christians.”

Peter Kreeft

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Mere Christianity

Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the UniverseThe Law of Nature Lewis notes a tendency in humans of appealing to a standard of absolute truth in quarrels and arguments. He calls this standard the Law of Nature or the Moral Law.

  • We have heard people quarrelling.

  • They say things like this:

    • How'd you like it if ….?

    • That's my seat I was in it first.

    • Give me a bit of your chocolate, I gave you some of mine.

    • Come on you promised.

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Mere Christianity

The Law of Nature

  • The person who says these things is not just saying that he doesn't like the behaviour - rather he is appealing to a higher standard which he expects the other person to know about.

  • The other person seldom replies: `I don't believe in fairness, or kindness or keeping promises.' `I don't believe in standards of behaviour'.

  • He will try to say that there is some special reason why he did what he did.

    • There is another reason why he should have taken the seat,

    • Things were quite different when he was given the chocolate,

    • Something else has turned up to stop him keeping the promise.

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Mere Christianity

The Law of Nature

  • Quarrelling shows that we try to demonstrate that the other person is in the wrong. He has offended against what is right.

  • So some say that everyone instinctively recognises there is a difference between right and wrong and does not need to be taught its basic principles such as fairness, honesty, kindness, courage etc.

    • (They do not mean that there are not some people who are completely oblivious to the difference)

  • Others reply and ask: What about the differences between cultures?

    • However in no culture do people regard kindness as evil, or cowardice as good.

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Mere Christianity

The Law of Nature

  • There have been, and are, moral differences between cultures - but the differences are not about whether kindness, fairness, generosity, honesty etc are good or evil, but

    • how these should be applied and

    • whether they should be applied to all or just to a privileged group.

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Mere Christianity

Where did this moral sense come from? The Moral Imperative pressing upon humanity.

  • (1) Either it comes from physical world:

    • (a) Our sense of right and wrong is an instinct that has come from our biological make up or psychology - which are the results of random evolutionary processes.

    • (b) Our sense of right and wrong comes from social conventions we have learnt.

    • (c) A combination of (a) and (b)

  • (2) Or it comes from beyond the physical world

    • Spiritual world or God.

  • Even if (1) above is part of the story, can it be the whole story?

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Mere Christianity

Can either of the explanations from the physical world be right?

  • Consider the first.

    • Our psychology - result of random evolutionary processes - has led us to value kindness and selflessness..

      • But if the sense of goodness is just an instinct which is the result of `survival of fittest' then does it have any intrinsic value?

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Mere Christianity

Is morality only the instinct to preserve the species?

  • If we hear of someone in danger there will be two contradictory instincts:

    • Herd instinct to help him - preserve the species.

    • The instinct to avoid danger - preserve the species.

  • We will also feel inside us a third thing which tells us we ought to suppress one instinct and encourage the other.

  • There are appropriate times for each instinct.

  • Morality tells us that at this time, such and such an instinct should be encouraged.

  • Therefore morality is not itself just a physical instinct.

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Mere Christianity

  • Where does our moral sense come from?

    • Not as we have seen from our biology.

  • Has it come from social conventions we have learnt?

  • Do we ever think that one social convention is better than another? (One society may believe in slavery another not.)

  • Do we think we have progressed - ie got better in our moral customs?

  • If we do, then we are implicitly acknowledging another greater Real Morality by which we judge one morality or social convention against another.

  • Universal agreement that fairness, honesty, kindness etc are good and not evil, cannot be a mere world wide social convention because different cultures believed them to be good before they had met one another.

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Mere Christianity

  • Suppose two of us had an idea of what New York was like.

  • Your idea might be truer than mine because there is a real place called New York by which we can compare our ideas.

  • But if we simply meant `the town I am imagining in my head' then one person's idea would be no more correct than the other person’s ideas.

  • If there were no such thing as Real Morality - but just what evolution made people think, or just what different cultures had developed themselves - there would be no meaning to the statement that Nazi morality is inferior to any other morality

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Mere Christianity

  • A different form of the argument that there must be more to morality than can be explained from the physical world.

  • Can one derive an `ought' from an `is'?

  • Science can tell us what is the case, but can it tell us what ought to be the case?

    • Electrons behave as they do - that is neither morally right nor wrong - it is just the way things are - the whole story.

    • We behave in certain ways but that is not the whole story for we know we ought to behave in certain other ways.

    • Therefore there is more than one kind of reality.

      • The first of these realities is subject to scientific investigation and discovery - the other one isn’t.

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Mere Christianity

  • If our moral sense is not mere biology/ psychology nor social convention then:

    • it must have come from beyond the physical world.

  • That is what religion is about.

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Mere Christianity

Book I - Right and Wrong as a Clue to the

Meaning of the Universe

An Engineering Perspective

A Flow-Chart Approach

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Mere Christianity

End of the


A Force/Power is a sort of a

tame and convenient God .

An inconsistent Power


Do you believe

in the existence

of a Moral Law?


A Force

A Power?


End of the





Are you tricking

me with a

religious talk?

A God ?



Is there anything

or anyone

behind the Moral



We are trying to find

truth and the meaning of

the universe.

End of the



Are you




End of the


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Mere Christianity

How can we find out more about the

thing behind the moral law and

the meaning of the universe?

The Moral Law tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do.

The Moral Law does not give us any

grounds for thinking that God is “good” in the sense of being soft and nice..

The Moral Law is as hard as nails.

If God is like the Moral Law, then


Looking into the

The Universe He Made

Looking inside ourselves,

where He wrote the moral


He is

quite merciless.

The universe is

a very dangerous place.

He is

a great artist


Do you want

to proceed?

at your own


But you cannot know

a man by looking at

the house he built.

End of the


End of the



End of the


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Mere Christianity

Is He an Impersonal


Goodness ?


Is He a Personal


Goodness ?

If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless.



Absolute Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger - according to the way you react to it. God is the only comfort and supreme terror

No exceptions, or allowances


Do you want to

find out more

about God


End of the


End of the



Christianity tells how the demands of the Moral Law,

which we cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how

God Himself becomes man to save man from the

disapproval of God.

Have you broken

the Moral Law?

Do you think you need




Beginning of Chapter 1 of the Great Story ...

Which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

End of the


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Mere Christianity

“My reason for going around in this way was that Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced the sort of facts I have been describing.

Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a Moral Law, the Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with the Power - it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.

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Mere Christianity

The Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin with comfort; it begins with dismay.

In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end. If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end despair.

All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts - to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer.”

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Mere Christianity

  • The Rival Conceptions of God

  • I. Those who believe in some kind of God - majority

  • 1.      God is beyond good and evil

    • a.   Everything good in one way, bad in another

    • b.   Pantheism (Prussian philosopher Hegel and Hindus)

    • c.   God animates the universe and he IS the universe – if he did not exist the universe would not exist

  • 2.      God is good and wants us to behave in one way and not another

    • a.   Jews, Mohammedans, and Christians

    • b.   Christian idea: God invented and made the universe

    • c.   Example: painter/painting can be destroyed/painter still exists/in the painting you can see the painter

    • d.   Must believe that God is separate from the world and that some things are contrary to his will

    • e.   Thinks that a great many things have gone wrong and God insists upon our putting them right again (wants it right, not wrong – defined by Bible)

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    Mere Christianity

    • Those who do not believe in any kind of God – minority

      • 1.    Argues against God by saying God is unjust

      • 2.    A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.

      • a.  Lewis decides that justice is not just his private feelings, but that there is a need for justice from a creator

      • b.  Concludes: if the universe has no meaning, then we would never have found out that it has no meaning (used example of if we were always in darkness, we would not know what light is).

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    Mere Christianity

    The Invasion

    Lewis discusses what he calls Christianity-and-water.

    There are many people who reject Christian doctrine because it is not simple.

    It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple… if you want to go on and ask what is really happening - then you must be prepared for something difficult.

    Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed.

    What is the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless.

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    Mere Christianity

    The Invasion

    There are only two views that face all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other is the view called Dualism.

    Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad.

    But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two powers: some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to.

    The existence of the Law of Nature requires the ultimate God.

    The existence of evil proves the existence of the devil as a fallen angel

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    Mere Christianity

    The Invasion

    In fact, what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to Him.

    To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and skill. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent.

    Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

    Enemy-occupied territory-that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

    When you go to church you're really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.

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    Mere Christianity

    The Shocking Alternative

    Who was (and is) Christ?


    Great Moral Teacher?


    It does Not Make Sense

    It is beyond my senses

    It is non-sense

    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be 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 open to us. He did not intend to.

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    Mere Christianity

    Book 2 - What Christians Believe

    The Cosmic Equations – Math/Calculus for Life




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    The Mere Christianity/CS Lewis Catechism

    Q1. Why did God give free will to man allowing evil to come into the picture?

    A1. Because free will is the only thing that makes possibly any love or goodness or joy worth having.

    Q2. What did God do to restore / redeem man?

    A2. God Himself becomes man to save man from the

    disapproval of God.

    Q3. What is the formula of Christianity?

    A3. That Christ was killed for us, that His death washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.

    Q4. Is salvation by God's predestination or by human choice?

    A4. "I was offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. But I feel my decision was not so important. I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon... I chose, yet it really did not seem possible to do the opposite."

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    Mere Christianity

    "Faith... is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where they get off,' you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion."

    "... I was going to tell you of Lewis's role in the "before and after" story of Chuck Colson, Nixon's hit man, whose famous desk sign tells you all you need to know about his "before"--"When you've got them by their [say necks], their hearts and minds will follow." Federal judges convicted him of Watergate crimes, but the judge of the universe convicted him of a crime that's only on God's books: pride. And God's prosecuting attorney was C.S. Lewis. When Colson came to Mere Christianity's chapter on pride, he saw the truth, and himself, and made the right choice between the two, as Lewis had. He is now a great warrior for God's little guys instead of a little [bad boy]for Nixon's big guys: he helps publicans in prison instead of Pharisees in politics..“

    Peter Kreeft

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    Screwtape Letters

    The Screwtape Letters" is fiction. But only fiction in the sense that the characters and the dialogue sprang from the imagination of one of the greatest modern Christian writers. Yet in our terrestrial reality the issues confronted in this book play out in our lives every day.

    The book contains thirty-one letters from Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, who is Screwtape's underling in fiendishness. Screwtape is an upper-level functionary in the complex bureaucracy of the underworld. The "Screwtape Letters" are friendly advice from this elder statesman to a front-line tempter on how to procure the soul of his "patient", a young Christian man just trying to live out his everyday life.

    We get the letters only from one side of the correspondence (Screwtape's), yet the story of the meanderings of the Christian "patient's" soul is clearly read between the lines. The letters begin with Wormwood's failure to keep his subject from becoming a Christian. The urbane Screwtape informs him that, although this is an alarming development, his patient is by no means lost to the dark forces of evil.

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    Screwtape Letters

    World War II serves as the backdrop for the Letters. Yet war and strife do not play a significant roll in the work. The book is about more everyday and universal problems. Problems every individual must deal with even today.

    Thus, each letter addresses various aspects of the travails of the human soul and how the devil tempts that soul away from goodness and toward evil - not evil on a grand scale, but evil on a petty scale. They show how evil can seep into a Christian's relationships with friends and family, in his views on the church, even in his practice of prayer.

    As each letter unfolds, we find the Christian "patient" slipping more and more out of the hands of Wormwood and his temptations. Screwtape's advice to the tempter becomes more firm and yet more subtle. And, by degrees, we come to see the workings of evil in our own hearts. "The Screwtape Letters" is a book that entertains while it instructs. It is a book to be treasured and studied.

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    Screwtape Letters

    The correspondence of devils would not be an easy composition for most writers. Yet C. S. Lewis was a master at revealing subtleties of the diabolical mind. We find Screwtape to be urbane, intelligent, witty and even charming. These qualities are tools. Like a hammer or a screwdriver, in the right hands they can build a cathedral. In the wrong hands they could destroy a high-speed turbine in motion.

    Through the "Screwtape Letters" we come to realize that evil seldom pops up as the genocidal maniac slaughtering millions (though it does on occasion show up in the guise of a Stalin or a Hitler). For individuals, it generally takes the form of little urgings that come from within, telling us to respond brusquely to a family member or to frown on that poor soul in the neighboring pew with the funny hat.

    It is evil in our everyday lives that Screwtape addresses, petty evils that add up in the end to the destruction of our morality, the demise of our individuality and the utter destruction of our souls.

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    Screwtape Letters

    • Outline

    • 1 - Reason / Truth, Material Needs and Science

      • Books and Friends

      • Intellect, Philosophies, Doctrines Material Needs

      • Meaning of Life

      • Science & Knowledge

    • 2 - Appearance, Reality and the Church

      • Habits (Mental, Bodily)

      • The Church

      • Appearance and Reality Emotions

      • Humility

      • Prayer

    • 3 - Relationships, Prayer and Faith and Action

      • Relationship With Spouse and Family

      • Common Ground and Actions

      • Prayer

      • Coffee and Heart Attack

    • 4 - Prayer: Why? And Does It Work?

      • Prayer

        • Form

        • Position

        • Attitude

        • Direction

  • 5 - War, Fear of Pain, Suffering, Death and Faith

    • Pain, Suffering and Faith

    • Reaction to War

    • Death

    • Faith

  • 6 - My (Not Thy?) Will Be Done

    • Life's Tribulations

    • General Activities of the Mind

    • General Attitude to War

    • General Attitude

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    I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

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    He took in more, he felt more, he remember more, he invented more … His writings record an intense awareness, a vigorous reaction, a taking of the world into his heart … His blacks and whites of good and evil and his ecstasies and miseries were the tokens of a capacity for experience beyond our scope.

    Austin Farrer on C.S. Lewis

    Next weeks l.jpg
    Next Weeks more … His writings record an intense awareness, a vigorous reaction, a taking of the world into his heart … His blacks and whites of good and evil and his ecstasies and miseries were the tokens of a capacity for experience beyond our scope.

    • March 21

      • Myth, Imagination

      • Narnia

    • March 28

      • Love, Pain and Suffering

      • Shadowlands