Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong,
But I have other reasons for thinking so:
- Biology: The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
- Striptease: Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a striptease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?…
- Perversion: You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful….We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.
—C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian, pp. 127-128 (Reformatted for readability)
In light of Lord Richard Attenborough’s death this past week, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special remembrance of his life. In a 2009 Scottish TV interview, Attenborough recalled his favorite film as a director. It wasn’t what you’d expect, i.e. Gandhi (for which he won an Academy Award in 1983), but instead Shadowlands, about the love-life of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman.
Attenborough reveals his affinity for Shadowlands at the 6 minute mark:
And here’s the movie trailer for Shadowlands:
As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.’ The alternative is the real disaster. “The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop.”
Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own. So when it comes to identity, modern people have things completely back to front: Professing to be unsure of God, they pretend to be sure of themselves. Followers of Christ put things the other way around: Unsure of ourselves, we are sure of God.
—The Call, p. 25
(1.) Remember what St. John says, “If our heart condemn us, God is stronger than our heart.” The feeling of being, or not being, forgiven and loved, is not what matters. One must come down to brass tacks. If there is a particular sin on your conscience, repent and confess it. If there isn’t, tell the despondent devil not to be silly. You can’t help hearing his voice (the odious inner radio) but you must treat it merely like a buzzing in your ears or any other irrational nuisance. (2.) Remember the story in the Imitation, how the Christ on the crucifix suddenly spoke to the monk who was so anxious about his salvation and said “If you knew that all was well, what would you, to-day, do, or stop doing?” When you have found the answer, do it or stop doing it. You see, one must always get back to the practical and definite. What the devil loves is that vague cloud of unspecified guilt feeling or unspecified virtue by which he lures us into despair or presumption. “Details, please?” is the answer. (3.) The sense of dereliction cannot be a bad symptom for Our Lord Himself experienced it in its depth—“Why hast thou forsaken me?”….
—C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, p. 77. (Letter composed July 21st, 1958 at the Kilns, Headington Quarry, Oxford.)
“If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?”
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says, ‘What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.'”
“Oh Susan!” said Jill. “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up.”
“Grown up indeed,” said the Lady Polly. I wish she would grow up. Se wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
—C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, p. 169.
C.S. Lewis on the Incarnation of Christ:
—If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth.
—What had happened on Earth, when [God] was born a man at Bethlehem, had altered the universe for ever.
—When Pythagorus discovered the square on the hypotenuse was equal to the sum of the squares on the other sides he was discovering what had been just as true the day before though no one knew it. But in 50 B.C. the proposition ‘God is Man’ [would] not have been true in the same sense in [when] it was true in 10 A.D. because tho’ the union of God and Man in Christ is a timeless fact, in 50 B.C. we hadn’t yet got to that bit of time which defines it.
—The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment in Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.
—In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down;…down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature he has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.
—The Incarnation…illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that is somehow good to die, and which at one stroke covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.
—But supposing God became man—suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was almagated with God’s nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God….But we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man, That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.
—The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.
—How thankful I am that when God became a man He did not choose to become a man of iron nerves that would not have helped weaklings like you and me nearly so much.
—‘Yes,’ said Queen Lucy. ‘In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.’
—The Quotable Lewis, pp. 327-332. Excerpts taken from Perelandra, The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, Miracles, Mere Christianity, Letters of C.S. Lewis, and The Last Battle.
Here’s a PDF of C.S. Lewis’s obituary as it was originally seen in the New York Times. Lewis’s death was 50 years ago today, and the obituary was published two days later.
First, read about the first inaugural C.S. Lewis festival in Belfast, Ireland, Lewis’s birthplace, featuring the lighting of the famous lamp that served as the inspiration for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Second, Ivan Little of The Belfast Telegraph considers why Lewis is not revered in his hometown as he is elsewhere.
Finally, the BBC aired a live broadcast from Lewis’s local church honoring Lewis, with Alistair McGrath, fellow Anglican and author of the recent book C.S. Lewis: A Life, delivering the sermon. Details of the broadcast and audio of the 45 minute remembrance are here.
November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s passing into eternity. To mark the occasion, HarperCollins Publishers just released this single volume The Chronicles of Narnia (kindle edition only), which includes an illuminating conversation with Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson. Gresham recalls his thoughts on Narnia and what it was like growing up with Lewis. As far as I can tell, it is completely new, previously unpublished material.
You can read the conversation with Gresham for free here. Just click on the sample preview, which includes the entire discussion.
Many people take issue with Christians meddling in their affairs, whether in one’s private individual life or the public sphere. And while Christians (like others) can certainly be busybodies, John Stott makes a more disturbing point: Jesus is the ultimate meddler, and we really don’t like it.
[Jesus] is still, as C.S. Lewis called him, ‘a transcendental interferer.’ We resent his intrusions into our privacy, his demand for our homage, his expectation for our obedience. Why can’t he mind his own business, we ask petulantly, and leave us alone? To which he instantly replies that we are his business and that he will never leave us alone.
So we too perceive him as a threatening rival, who disturbs our peace, upsets our status quo, undermines our authority, and diminishes our self-respect.
We too want to get rid of him.
—The Cross of Christ, p. 54 (Emphases and line breaks mine.)
While at a conference on C.S. Lewis this past weekend, I was surprised that a children’s book, I Believe: The Nicene Creed, beautifully illustrated by Pauline Baynes, wasn’t in the bookstore.
Who’s Pauline Baynes? She famously illustrated Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Why wasn’t it in the bookstore? Sadly, because it’s out of print (even though it was first published in 2003).
If you’re a Narnia fan and aren’t too familiar with the Nicene Creed, there’s no better introduction to the Creed than this book. It’s a wonderful marriage of Narnia and the Nicene Creed.
And if you want to rally for its reprint, contact Eerdmans, the book’s publisher, and let them know you’d like it back in print. Otherwise, you’re relegated to finding a used copy.
In the meantime, click on the right cover to sample Baynes’ illustrations and enjoy this gem of a book.