06Oct2018

Book #31: Mere Christianity

Next on my scripture supplement reading was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  This book has been on my to-read list for ages and after I found it in a stack of books given to me by a friend, I thought it was about time I read it.

I went into reading it blind, not really knowing what it was about other than, uh, Christianity.  It’s actually a compilation of talks Lewis did for radio, which was probably like the greatest podcast ever.  Wait, could C. S. Lewis podcasts be a real thing?  Reminder: check for C. S. Lewis podcasts later today.

I marked up the copy of it, wrote in margins, wrote in my journal, and talked with people about it nearly every day. The only part of the book that didn’t get as much love was the part where he explains the theology of the trinity.  I did write in where I disagreed, but for the most part, it just felt overly complicated.

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

“We all want progress.  But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be.  And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

“Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it.  If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth — only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

“A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

“You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness.  You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong — only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him.  In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good.  Goodness is, so to speak, itself; badness is only spoiled goodness.”

“Evil is a parasite, not an original thing.”

“When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.”

“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

“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.”

“[God] wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.  He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.”

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before…all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself…Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

On modesty, I loved this quote and his earlier explanations on the distinction between modesty and chastity.

“When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity.  But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners.”

On marriage and settling into the second stage of love that is quieter and more enduring, he says,

“It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God.  They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other…Being ‘in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

This whole chapter was amazing so instead of copying the many passages I marked, I’ll just recommend you read it.

“Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…Pride always means enmity — it is enmity.  And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.”

“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.”

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

“Faith is the…art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods…One must train the habit of faith…That is why daily praying and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief no any other will automatically remain alive in the mind.  It must be fed.”

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness.  They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

“How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.”

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  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 form the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on 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.”

If you made it all the way down to the bottom of these passages, you better grab a copy and give it a try.  Even where I differed in my beliefs, I still found Lewis’ insights to be powerful and eye-opening.

Goodreads rating: Five Big Fat Stars

 

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Jenny

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has written 248 articles on Red Hot Eyebrows.

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