Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What C.S. Lewis taught me this summer

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis rocked my world this summer.  I enjoyed every page, loved his writing style, and was amused by his obvious belief in aliens.  Most importantly I was left with some truths that are stretching me, training me to be more like Him.  There is so much wisdom in this book, one of my favorite parts was the ways he explains The Trinity, but I couldn't quote a whole chapter here, so you'll have to read it yourself for that bit of wisdom.  Here are some of the quotes that grabbed me this summer.

On choosing a church:
"the question should never be: 'Do I like that kind of service?' but 'Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here?'"

On why God gave us free will:
"Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.  A world of automata--of creatures that worked like machines--would hardly be worth creating.  The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.  And for all that they must be free."

On the original sin:
"The moment you have a self at all, there is the possibility of putting yourself first--wanting to be the centre--wanting to be God, in fact.  That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race."

On happiness and peace:
"That is why is is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion.  God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing."

When Christ returns:
"something else--something it has never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left?  For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.  It will be too late then to choose your side.

On individuality of our walk:
"An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning."

On giving:
"I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.

On judging:
"That is why Christians are told not to judge.  We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material.  But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it...when his body dies all of that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or worst out of this material, will stand naked...We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was.  There will be surprises."

On pride:
"In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.  Unless you know God as that--and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison--you do not know God at all.  As long as you are proud you cannot know God.  A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you."

On loving your neighbor:
"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."

On salvation:
"He offers everything for nothing.  In a sense, the whole Christian life consists in accepting that very remarkable offer.  But the difficulty is to reach the point of recognizing that all we have done and can do is nothing."

On community:
"God can show Himself as He really is only to real men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another.  For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body."

On one of Satan's tricks:
"That is the devil getting at us.  He always sends errors into the world in pairs--pairs of opposites.  And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is worse....He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.  But do not let us be fooled.  We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.  We have no other concern with either of them."

On giving ourselves to Christ:
"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'."

On what God desires to do in our lives:
"Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing....But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on a an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.

"Lose your life and you will save it.  Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life.  Keep back nothing.  Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours.  Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.  Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.  But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.


thewonderfulhappens said...

Yeah, I've gotta read that book!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Thank you!