Friday, May 25, 2012

Aslan–you’re bigger!

And then—oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him.
    But for the movement of his tail he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment. And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane.
Lucy and Aslan      “Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”
    The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.
    “‘Welcome, child,” he said.
    “AsIan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
    “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
    “Not because you are?”
    “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia The Chronicles of Narnia (1951, this edition Harper Collins, 1994) 141.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Who is Aslan?

Beaver-speaks-to-Pevensies      “Oh, yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling—like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.
    “Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.
    “Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.”
    “Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
    “Aslan a man!” Mr. Beaver said sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
    “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
    “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950; this edition from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996)) Chapter VIII, 93.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The mountain we cannot climb

mt-everest-peakAll right, Christianity will do you good a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called ‘good’ — all that about ‘leading a decent life’ and ‘being kind’ — isn’t quite the magnificent and all-important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be ‘good’ (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that ‘a decent life’ is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear — the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.
‘When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away’ (1 Cor 13:10). The idea of reaching ‘a good life’ without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up ‘a good life’ as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to he accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are ‘done away’ and the rest is a matter of flying.

C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit?” published as a pamphlet for the Student Christian Movement in Schools (probably 1946) and God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 111-112.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What’s behind the door?

doorBut still for intellectual honour has sunk very low in our age I hear someone whimpering on with his question, ‘Will it help me? Will it make me happy’? Do you really think I’d be better if I became a Christian?’ Well, if you must have it, my answer is ‘Yes.’ But I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage. Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal ‘sell’ on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug? Faced with such an issue, can you really remain wholly absorbed in your own blessed ‘moral development’?

C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit?” published as a pamphlet for the Student Christian Movement in Schools (probably 1946) and God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 111-112.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Are you asking a sincere question or being evasive?

evasiveThe question before each of us is not ‘Can someone lead a good life without Christianity’?’ The question is, ‘Can I?’
    …. [T]he man who asks me, ‘Can’t I lead a good life without believing in Christianity?’ …. is really asking. ‘Need I bother about it? Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being “good”? Aren’t good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn’t someone inside?’
    To such a man it might be enough to reply that he is really asking to he allowed to get on with being ‘good’ before he has done his best to discover what good means. But that is not the whole story. We need not inquire whether God will punish him for his cowardice and laziness; they will punish themselves. The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to he true. He is like the man who deliberately ‘forgets’ to look at the notice hoard because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him.
    The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity. Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed ‘Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall he forgiven him’ (Luke 12:10). But to evade the Son of Man, to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might he He who was ringing up. To leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might he from Him — this is a different matter. You may not he certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.

C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit?” published as a pamphlet for the Student Christian Movement in Schools (probably 1946) and God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 110-111.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Better equipped for leading a good life

wendys-meal-poutineIf Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live for ever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth—control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to he ‘good’ or ‘bad’ simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of ‘happiness’…. The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.

C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit?” published as a pamphlet for the Student Christian Movement in Schools (probably 1946) and God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 108-109.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Misleading question

SmarteronFacebookCAN’T YOU LEAD A GOOD LIFE WITHOUT BELIEVING IN CHRISTIANITY? This is the question on which I have been asked to write, and straight away, before I begin trying to answer it, I have a comment to make. The question sounds as if it were asked by a person who said to himself, ‘I don’t care whether Christianity is in fact true or not. I’m not interested in finding out whether the real universe is more like what the Christians say than what the Materialists say. All I’m interested in is leading a good life. I’m going to choose beliefs not because I think them true but because I find them helpful.’ Now frankly, I find it hard to sympathise with this state of mind. One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is completely quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any of you have really lost that desire. More probably, foolish preachers, by always telling you how much Christianity will help you and how good it is for society, have actually led you to forget that Christianity is not a patent medicine. Christianity claims to give an account of facts —to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.

C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit?” published as a pamphlet for the Student Christian Movement in Schools (probably 1946) and God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 108-109.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rescue for the drowning

lifeguard-running If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) ‘No, it’s not fair! You have an advantage! You’re keeping one foot on the bank’? That advantage—call it ‘unfair’ if you like—is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?
    Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the Atonement. But remember this is only one more picture. Do not mistake it for the thing itself: and if it does not help you, drop it.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 59.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Raising the white flag (Part 2)

Zara J: Things aren't very cheery here Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole’.  This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance…. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. it cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all—to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
    But supposing God became a man—suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 56, 57-58.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Raising the white flag (Part 1)

The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter…. The one most people have heard is the one I mentioned before—the one about our being let off because Christ has volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us… And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead?… On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take ‘paying the penalty’, not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of ‘standing the racket’ or ‘footing the bill’, then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.
    Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.white flag Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole’.  This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. in fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person—and he would not need it.
    Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you hack without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going hack. it cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us?

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 54, 56-57.