C. S. Lewis on the Inability of Science to Define Morality

“I dread specialists in power because they are specialists speaking outside their special subjects. Let scientists tell us about sciences. But…questions about the good for man, about justice, and what things are worth having at what price…on these a scientific training gives a man’s opinion no added value. Let the doctor tell me I shall die unless I do so-and-so; but whether life is worth having on those terms is no more a question for him than for any other man.”

— from the essay “Is Progress Possible?” in God in the Dock, 315.


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The Missing Links – Dec. 26, 2010

C. S. Lewis

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  • Victor Reppert shares some good insights on faith and evidence, in response to John Loftus.




  • C. S. Lewis “once described the giving of praise and thanks as ‘inner health made audible.’ He felt that it was the most ‘balanced and capacious minds’ who found it easiest to praise others, while it was misfits and malcontents who found it hardest to offer praise and thanks–to others or to God (Reflections on the Psalms, 94-95).” An interesting look at Lewis’s numerous thank-you notes to fans and readers at the C. S. Lewis blog.
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C. S. Lewis on Good Writing

Signature of CS Lewis.

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Lewis was a diligent reader of writing samples submitted to him, both from close friends and from complete strangers. He offered general evaluative remarks, but also comments on specific lines and particular word choices. Sometimes he replied by offering a quick primer on the art of writing. To a little girl from Florida he offered these five principles:

  • “Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean, and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.”
  • “Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t say implement promises, but keep them.”
  • Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘more people died,’ don’t say ‘mortality rose.’
  • “Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing.” Under this heading, Lewis goes on to say that the writing should delight readers, not just label an event delightful; or it should make them feel terror, not just to learn that an event was terrifying. He says that emotional labeling is really just a way of asking readers, ‘Please, will you do my job for me?’
  • “Don’t use words that are too big for the subject.” Lewis illustrates this point by saying if you use infinitely as an intensifier instead of the simple word very, you won’t have any word left when you need to describe something that is truly infinite. (CL, 3, 766).

Another interesting snippet of this blog post concerns Lewis’s prolific correspondence:

As he became increasingly renowned in his later years, Lewis was inundated with letters on just about every topic imaginable—from spiritual direction to Spinoza to spelling. He did his best to answer as many letters as he could, though this became an onerous task. Lewis explained to one correspondent that he had answered 35 letters that day; on a different occasion, he noted that he had spent 14 hours that day catching up on his correspondence (CL 2, 509; 3, 1152).

— David Downing, “The Sound and Savor” of Words: Lewis on the Art of Writing at the C. S. Lewis blog

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C. S. Lewis on Avoiding God

C. S. Lewis, “The Seeing Eye” in Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967), pp. 168-167:

Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

(HT: Maverick Philosopher)


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C. S. Lewis on the Nativity

Merry Christmas, everyone!  May we all see the Incarnation afresh.

The Nativity
by C. S. Lewis

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beast like folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baaing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

Lewis writes about the incarnation in Miracles. He names it as the central miracle, that, “every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.” In other words, the incarnation is the hinge that open the heavens. And they are opened (or reopened) in a way that completes the myths of old and reimagines the relationship of God to his creation.

Jesus, God incarnate, enters nature in order to reclaim her. God, Lewis says, is part of nature like the corn-king of old and more… “He is not the soul of Nature nor any part of Nature,” Lewis explains, “He inhabits eternity: He dwells in the high and holy place: Heaven is his throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture.”

So, the incarnation is God’s claim on us, not ours on him. He is the invader, the thief, the wrestler of Jacobs. “It is not to tell of a human search for God at all, but of something done by God for, to, and about, Man,” Lewis says.

Advent prepares us to encounter The Incarnation and to turn off the noise of the Christmas racket while we point square into the face of God.

(Via the C. S. Lewis Blog)

Adoration of the Wise Men by Murillo

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The Top 15 Apologetics Books

Michael Patton shares his list at Parchment and Pen.  Here are the top five:

5. The God Who is There, Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer’s works could all be put on this list, but this particular work is representative of a timeless defense from a timeless scholar.

4. Faith Has its Reasons, Rob Bowman and Kenneth Boa

The best book for one who’s desire it is to understand not only what apologetics is, but how it is to be done. The authors give a great overview of all the different Christian apologetic methods asking the question “How are we to defend the faith?” They then discuss and defend Presuppositionalism, Fideism, Evidentialism, and Classical approaches to the defense of the faith. For the young, aspiring apologist, this is the first book that should be read.

3. The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright

Simply put, this is the most comprehensive work on the resurrection of Christ ever produced. Whatever you think of N. T. Wright, there is no debate that this is an immensely valuable contribution to the Christian witness.

2. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Habermas and Licona

Simply a must have for everyone. The resurrection of Christ is the central issue of Christianity. If Christ rose from the grave, Christianity is true; if he did not, it is false. Everyone needs to have a good defense of the resurrection and this work represents the best of the popular options. Get it!

1. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis

How can I do justice to what might be the most significant and influential apologetic work in all of Christianity? All I can say is that if you have not read Mere Christianity, shame on you.

What other good apologetics and philosophy books are you guys reading these days? 

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Interview with President of Walden Media (Narnia Films)

Thanks to C. S. Lewis scholar Devin Brown, professor of English at Asbury College, for bringing this interview to my attention.  As you probably know, Walden Media has produced the Narnia movies (including the forthcoming Voyage of the Dawn Treader) as well as great films like Amazing Grace and Charlotte’s Web.

Last spring Micheal Flaherty, President of Walden Media, visited Asbury College as part of its Engaging Culture weekend.  As those who have met him know, he is a truly great man–full of wisdom, enthusiasm, real joy, and deep compassion.

While he was on campus, Devin Brown had the opportunity to ask him about Walden’s mission, where its name came from, and even what his favorite scene [in the first Narnia film] is.  His responses to these and other questions can be viewed here.


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C. S. Lewis on Philosophy

“To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground–would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”
– Quoted from “Learning in War-Time,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses


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Well Said – C. S. Lewis

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

That’s a wonderful quote, which I just came across today.  It took some searching to find the source, and it seems that it originally appeared in chapter 9 of a collection of Lewis essays entitled They Asked for a Paper – now out of print.  However, it does appear in the Lewis anthology A Mind Awake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003).

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C. S. Lewis on Metaphors of the Incarnation and Atonement

Another fine piece from the C. S. Lewis blog, this time describing some of Lewis’s metaphors for understanding the Incarnation and Atonement.  David C. Downing (Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) writes:

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” That concise statement by the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:19a) has kept theologians busy for nearly two thousand years, trying to understand what exactly is being affirmed in the Christian doctrines of the Incarnation and the Atonement.

C. S. Lewis never lost his sense of wonder about either one of these central Christian teachings. Referring to the Incarnation as “The Grand Miracle,” Lewis said he could not conceive how “eternal self-existent Spirit” could be combined with “a natural human organism” so as to make one person. He added, though, that every human embodies the same enigma to a lesser degree, an immortal spirit inhabiting a mortal body (Miracles, chap. 14).

In one of his most extended comparisons, Lewis compares Christ to a pearl-diver, a passage so elaborate that it borders on allegory:

“One may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanishing rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the deathlike region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color too” (Miracles, chap. 14) . . . .

In a more mystical vein, Lewis describes God as an infinite ocean of light, able to absorb all shadows: “The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of the Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?” (Letters to Malcolm, chap. 8).

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