C.S. Lewis was a brilliant man. During his life he taught for 40 years between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; gave radio chats to a nation at war on the essential goodness of Christianity; and wrote 19 books ranging from non-fiction to philosophy to essays to a text book on English literature in the sixteenth century excluding drama, and more. Shortly after college I became more familiar with Lewis. His collection of works changed my life . They were so vast, rich, accessible, fun, and intelligent that I could not shake them. Lewis wrote in a way that was complete in its parts and in the whole, and he did this with intention. Lewis’ books are full of profound and entertaining phrases and lessons. For brevity’s sake brevity, here are four of my favorites.
1- Stories have meaning (the Narnia series)
“Someday you will be old enough to to start reading fairy tales again.” – The Lion, the Which, and the Wardrobe
Stories, even fiction stories, tell a truth. Everything Lewis wrote bleed everything Lewis believed. But this reality is not unique to Lewis; he was just honest about it. To Lewis what we believe must come out in everything we do. Especially when we make up our own little world using words on paper. What a writer believes shapes what a writer writes. We can only make coherent worlds that feel real by using our own understanding of our own coherent world. Everything a person believes comes out in what they create. Therefore, we are to read carefully, not just looking for naughty scenes and foul language. We should be on the lookout for bad ideas as well as truths that we think reflect our own world, but in reality would only destroy it.
2 – Love overflows naturally (Reflections on the Psalms)
“It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”
We do not need to be told to talk loudly or often on what we really love; it just happens. What we talk about most, spend our time and money on most, think about most, etc. is what we love most. This was a huge weight off my shoulders when I first read this. God commands us to tell of him, do for him, etc. It is not a command from a small jealous God worried about being out done. It is instead the good instruction of the one who designed us and wants to help us understand the motives behind our actions. God does not demand our allegiance because he fears being dethroned from our hearts. He calls for it because we naturally act from our hearts and he wants us to realize who or what we truly love. What we choose to do reflects what we love.
3 – Biblical humility (Mere Christianity)
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Growing up I often felt at odds with what I thought was being asked of me when the Bible said to be humble. I thought this meant I was to think little of who I was and what I was to do. In reality thinking of oneself poorly all the time is not being humble but is instead a perverse form of pride. I am still the primary object of my time and thoughts. Lewis shows that to be humble, as Christ was humble, is not to think of oneself as a nothing. Christ did not think of himself as a nothing. Instead we are to not think of ourselves much at all. We are to think of others more than ourselves. To think more on their needs and wants and who they are than to think about what all I would like and who exactly I am. In looking to love God and to love others I will find my most important needs meet and my true identity.
4 – The fallacy of “Bulverism” (God in the Dock)
Unfortunately there is no easy quote that shows the point of this lesson. It comes from a short essay he wrote called “Bulverism” found in the book God in the Dock. In the story a little boy, named Ezekiel Bulver, hears an argument. In the argument he realizes that the two people are not attacking the facts or truth of the others arguments. They are simply pointing out how that person holds to a belief because of some aspect about themselves. “The only reason you think that way is because you’re a boy, or a girl, or you grew up other there, or you voted for that party, etc.” The argument is not weighed or discussed on its actual merits, but on the position of the person holding it. This is ridiculous but easy and Lewis saw this kind of conversation and debate all over the place in his day and warned of its growth. This fallacy is frequent in our own time and it removes real truth from any conversation and replaces it with an experiential/relative truth for each individual.
C.S. Lewis was brilliant and his works reflect this brilliance. More importantly, he loved Christ and allowed his relationship with Christ to shape everything about himself. Since Lewis’ relationship with Christ shaped everything he wrote, he writing reflects Christ’s love.