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An excerpt from The Joyful Christian – Readings from C. S. Lewis

The question of Faith…arises after a man has tried his level best to practice the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already God’s own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy. Now, once again, what God cares about is not exactly our actions. What he cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind of quality–the kind of creatures He intended us to be–creatures related to Himself in a certain way. I do not add “and related to one another in a certain way” because that is included: if you are right with Him, you will inevitably be right with all your fellow creatures, just as if all the spokes of a wheel are fitted rightly into the hub and the rim, they are bound to be in the right positions to one another. And as long as a man is thinking of God as an Examiner who has set a sort of paper to do, or as the opposite party in a sort of bargain–as long as he is thinking of claims and counterclaims between himself and God–he is not yet in the right relation to Him. He is misunderstanding what he is and what God is. And he cannot get into the right relation until he has discovered the fact of our bankruptcy.

When I say “discovered”, I mean really discovered: not simply said it parrot-fashion. Of course, any child, if given a certain kind of religious education, will soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer God that is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that without keeping something back. But I am talking of really discovering this: really finding out by experience that it is true.

Now we cannot, in that sense discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that, if we try harder next time, we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say “You must do this. I can’t.” Do not, I implore you, start asking yourselves, “Have I reached that moment?” Do not sit down and start watching your own mind to see if it is coming along. That puts a man quite on the wrong track. When the most important things in our life happen, we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. A man does not always say to himself, “Hullo! I’m growing up.” You can see it even in simple matters. A man who starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I am talking of now may not happen to everyone in a sudden flash–as it did to St. Paul or Bunyan: it may be so gradual that no one could ever point to a particular year. And what matters is the nature of the change in itself, not how we feel while it is happening. It is the change from being confident about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for ourselves and leave it to God.

So perhaps we need to get to the point of Surrender.

C. S. Lewis and Atheism

I have read a grand total of eight books by C. S. Lewis from cover to cover. Seven of them were “The Chronicles of Narnia” series and the other was a very short book called “The Screwtape Letters”. I love reading quotes by Lewis, but reading one of his books is, for me, akin to reading “Rocket Science: A Brief Overview” or “For the Love of Math”. Not really something I can just skim through. I’ve had a copy of “The Joyful Christian” for probably a year, but I also have a pile of other books on my nightstand with bookmarks in all of them. I’ve been a bit intimidated at the thought of cracking open this book, but I ventured a peek yesterday. I was relieved to find that it is a compilation of writings, most of which are 2 to 3 pages long: C. S. Lewis for the short attention span or “Lewis: The Cliff Notes Edition”. Oh yeah, I am all OVER that! Here an excerpt that Keller also quoted in “The Reason for God”:


My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too — for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist — in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless — I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality — namely my idea of justice — was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

I don’t care who you are, that’s some good stuff, there. And I’m pretty sure Lewis has his hand on his head in the above picture because his brain is hurting. Have an awesome Sunday; you’re in my prayers.