Category Archives: Literature

“Hammer your way through a continued argument” by C.S. Lewis

“I should rather like to attend your Greek class, for it is a perpetual puzzle to me how New Testament Greek got the reputation of being easy. St Luke I find particularly difficult.

As regards matter– leaving the question of language– you will be glad to hear that I am at last beginning to get some small understanding of St Paul: hitherto an author quite opaque to me.

I am speaking now, of course, of the general drift of whole epistles: short passages, treated devotionally, are of course another matter. And yet the distinction is not, for me, quite a happy one.

Devotion is best raised when we intend something else. At least that is my experience.

Sit down to meditate devotionally on a single verse, and nothing happens. Hammer your way through a continued argument, just as you would in a profane writer, and the heart will sometimes sing unbidden.”

–C.S. Lewis, “To Dom Bede Griffiths” (April 4, 1934) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949, Volume 2, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 136.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Bible, C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Communion with God, Creation, Eat This Book, grace, Jesus Christ, Joy, Literature, Love of God, New Testament, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Reading, Sanctification, Thanksgiving, Think, Worldview, Worship

“You can make him do nothing at all for long periods” by C.S. Lewis

“This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely—which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do—we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account.

If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.

They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over.

A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him.

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong.’ And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 62-65.

Leave a comment

Filed under C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Literature, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Satan, Screwtape, Sin, Temptation

“Reading great literature” by C.S. Lewis

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison.

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog…

In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

–C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961/1992), 140-141.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Literature, Quotable Quotes, Reading

“Do you feel yourself sufficient?” by C.S. Lewis

“At the sight of Aslan the cheeks of the Telmarine soldiers became the color of cold gravy, their knees knocked together, and many fell on their faces. They had not believed in lions and this made their fear greater.

Even the Red Dwarfs, who knew that he came as a friend, stood with open mouths and could not speak. Some of the Black Dwarfs, who had been of Nikabrik’s party, began to edge away.

But all the Talking Beasts surged round the Lion, with purrs and grunts and squeaks and whinnies of delight, fawning on him with their tails, rubbing against him, touching him reverently with their noses and going to and fro under his body and between his legs.

If you have ever seen a little cat loving a big dog whom it knows and trusts, you will have a pretty good picture of their behavior. Then Peter, leading Caspian, forced his way through the crowd of animals.

‘This is Caspian, Sir,’ he said.

And Caspian knelt and kissed the Lion’s paw.

‘Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’

‘I— I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I’m only a kid.’

‘Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not. Therefore, under us and under the High King, you shall be King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands. You and your heirs while your race lasts.’

–C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia) (New York: Harper Collins, 1951), 205-206.

1 Comment

Filed under Aslan, C.S. Lewis, Humility, Jesus Christ, Literature, Narnia, Pride, Quotable Quotes

“But the words were not quite the same” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“It was evening, and the stars were glimmering in the eastern sky as they passed the ruined oak and turned and went on down the hill between the hazel-thickets. Sam was silent, deep in his memories.

Presently he became aware that Frodo was singing softly to himself, singing the old-walking song, but the words were not quite the same.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1954), 1028.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Christian Theology, Hope, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Providence, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, Quotable Quotes, Resurrection, Sovereignty, Suffering

“We all long for Eden” by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ed. Humphrey Carpenter (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 110. Tolkien penned these words in a letter to his son, Christopher Tolkien, on January 30, 1945.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Christian Theology, Creation, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literature, Quotable Quotes, Sin, Worldview

“Devastating desire” by C.S. Lewis

“I feel strongly, with you, that there was something more than a physical pleasure in those youthful activities. Even now, at my age, do we often have a purely physical pleasure?

Well, perhaps, a few of the more hopelessly prosaic ones: say, scratching or getting one’s shoes off when one’s feet are tired.

I’m sure my meals are not a purely physical pleasure. All the associations of every other time one has had the same food (every rasher of bacon is now 56 years thick with me) come in: and with the things like Bread, Wine, Honey, Apples, there are all the echoes of myth, fairy-tale, poetry, and Scripture.

So that the physical pleasure is also imaginative and even spiritual. Every meal can be a kind of lower sacrament.

‘Devastating gratitude’ is a good phrase: but my own experience is rather ‘devastating desire’– desire for that-of-which-the-present-joy-is-a-Reminder.

All my life nature and art have been reminding me of something I’ve never seen: saying ‘Look! What does this– and this– remind you of?’

I am so glad that you find (as I do too) that life, far from getting dull and empty as one grows older, opens out. It is like being in a house where one keeps on discovering new rooms.”

–C.S. Lewis, “To Mary Van Deusen” (March 3, 1955) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Volume 3 (Ed. Walter Hooper; New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 583-584.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Creation, grace, Jesus Christ, Literature, Love of God, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Sanctification, Thanksgiving, Worldview, Worship