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 C. S. Lewis Quotes
82 Famous Quotes by C. S. Lewis
11/29/1898 - 11/22/1963
Also Known As:  
N. W. Clerk     Clive Staples Lewis     C.S. Lewis
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About C. S. Lewis

Feast of John Vianney, Curè d'Ars, 1859 To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life -- to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son -- how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of the Conversion of Paul If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether: of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say, "No time for that", "Too late now" and "Not for me". But Nature herself forbids you [young people] to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God's hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Continuing a Lenten series on prayer: The primary object of prayer is to know God better; we and our needs should come second. ... The Notebooks of Florence Allshorn March 16, 2000 Continuing a Lenten series on prayer: I have called my material surroundings a stage set. In this I can act. And you may well say "act". For what I call "myself" (for all practical, everyday purposes) is also a dramatic construction; memories, glimpses in the shavinglass, and snatches of the very fallible activity called "introspection", are the principal ingredients. Normally I call this construction "me"' and the stage set "the real world". Now the moment of prayer is for me -- or involves for me as its condition -- the awareness, the reawakened awareness, that this "real world" and "real self" are very far from being rock-bottom realities. I cannot, in the flesh, leave the stage, either to go behind the scenes or to take my seat in the pit; but I can remember that these regions exist. And I also remember that my apparent self -- this clown or hero or super -- under his grease-paint is a real person with an off-stage life. The dramatic person could not tread the stage unless he concealed a real person: unless the real and unknown I existed, I would not even make mistakes about the imagined me. And in prayer this real I struggles to speak, for once, from his real being, and to address, for once, not the other actors, but -- what shall I call Him? The Author, for He invented us all? The Producer, for He controls all? Or the Audience, for He watches, and will judge, the performance?

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Mellitus, First Bishop of London, 624 The [Christian] "doctrines" are translations into our concepts and ideas of that which God has already expressed in language more adequate, namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of Thomas More, Scholar & Martyr, & John Fisher, Bishop & Martyr, 1535 Continuing a short series on topics of Christian apologetics: He would be a brave man who claimed to realize the fallen condition of man more clearly than St Paul. In that very chapter [Romans 7] where he asserts most strongly our inability to keep the moral law he also asserts most confidently that we perceive the Law's goodness and rejoice in it according to the inward man. Our righteousness may be filthy and ragged; but Christianity gives us no ground for holding that our perceptions of right are in the same condition. They may, no doubt, be impaired; but there is a difference between imperfect sight and blindness. A theology which goes about to represent our practical reason as radically unsound is heading for disaster. If we once admit that what God means by "goodness" is sheerly different from what we judge to be good, there is no difference left between pure religion and devil worship.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of Oswald, King of Northumbria, Martyr, 642 Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Wilfrid, Abbot of Ripon, Bishop of York, Missionary, 709 Commemoration of Elizabeth Fry, Prison Reformer, 1845 No nation, and few individuals, are really brought into [God's] camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus, simply as biography. Indeed, materials for a full biography have been withheld from men. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of win which they already had... The "Gospels" came later and were written not to make Christians but to edify Christians already made.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c.230 Commemoration of Clive Staples Lewis, Spiritual Writer, 1963 The sort of love I have been describing... can also be felt for bodies that claim more than a natural affection: for a Church or (alas) a party in a Church, or for a religious order. This terrible subject would require a book to itself. Here it will be enough to say that the Heavenly Society is also an earthly society. Our (merely natural) patriotism towards the latter can very easily borrow the transcendent claims of the former and use them to justify the most abominable actions. If ever the book which I am not going to write is written, it must be the full confession by Christendom of Christendom's specific contribution to the sum of human cruelty and treachery. Large areas of "the World" will not hear us till we have publicly disowned much of our past. Why should they? We have shouted the name of Christ and enacted the service of Moloch.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Eglantine Jebb, Social Reformer, Founder of 'Save the Children', 1928 What makes some theological works like sawdust to me is the way the authors can go on discussing how far certain positions are adjustable to contemporary thought, or beneficial in relation to social problems, or "have a future" before them, but never squarely ask what grounds we have for supposing them to be true accounts of any objective reality. As if we were trying to make rather than to learn. Have we no Other to reckon with?

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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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. And, taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven 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. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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We must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version, if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear, but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945 The very strength and facility of the pessimists' case at once poses us a problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must have always been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Don't imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he won't be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who's always telling you that, of course, he's nobody. Probably all you'll think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him, it will be because you feel a bit envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He won't be thinking about himself at all. There I must stop. If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you're not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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In most parts of the Bible, everything is implicitly or explicitly introduced with "Thus saith the Lord". It is... not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite -- it excludes or repels -- the merely aesthetic approach. You can read it as literature only by a tour de force... It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long, except to those who go to it for something quite different. I predict that it will in the future be read, as it always has been read, almost exclusively by Christians.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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If... you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane -- if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground -- ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of past ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling of how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945 If the [Incarnation] happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth -- the very thing that the whole story has been about. Since it happened only once, it is by Hume's standards infinitely improbable. But then, the whole history of the Earth has also happened only once: is it therefore incredible? Hence the difficulty, which weighs upon Christian and atheist alike, of estimating the probability of the Incarnation. It is like asking whether the existence of nature herself is intrinsically probable. That is why it is easier to argue, on historical grounds, that the Incarnation actually occurred than to show, on philosophical grounds, the probability of its occurrence.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, Teacher, Martyr, c.200 We must never speak to simple, excitable people about "the Day" without emphasizing again and again the utter impossibility of prediction. We must try to show them that that impossibility is an essential part of the doctrine. If you do not believe our Lord's words, why do you believe in His return at all? And if you do believe them, must you not put away from you, utterly and forever, any hope of dating that return?

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Bartolomè de las Casas, Apostle to the Indies, 1566 An essential part of the ordination exam ought to be a passage from some recognized theological work set for translation into vulgar English -- just like doing Latin prose. Failure on this part should mean failure on the whole exam. It is absolutely disgraceful that we expect missionaries to the Bantus to learn Bantu, but never ask whether our missionaries to the Americans or English can speak American or English. Any fool can write learned language: the vernacular is the real test. If you can't turn your faith into it, then either you don't understand it or you don't believe it.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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I will attempt no historical or theological classification of [George] Macdonald's thought, partly because I have not the learning to do so, still more because I am no great friend to such pigeon-holing. One very effective way of silencing the voice of conscience is to impound in an Ism the teacher through whom it speaks; the trumpet no longer seriously disturbs our rest when we have murmured '..Thomist', 'Barthian', or 'Existentialist'. And in Macdonald it is, always the voice of conscience that speaks. He addresses the will: the demand for obedience, for "something to be neither more nor less nor other than done" is incessant. Yet in that very voice of conscience every other faculty somehow speaks as well -- intellect and imagination and humour and fancy and all the affections; and no man in modern times was perhaps more aware of the distinction between Law and Gospel, the inevitable failure of mere morality.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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When we propose to ignore in a great man's teaching those doctrines which it has in common with the thought of his age, we seem to be assuming that the thought of his age was erroneous. When we select for serious consideration those doctrines which "transcend" the thought of his own age and are "for all time", we are assuming that the thought of our age is correct: for of course by thoughts which transcend the great man's age we really mean thoughts that agree with ours. Thus I value Shakespeare's picture of the transformation in old Lear more than I value his views about the divine right of kings, because I agree with Shakespeare that a man can be purified by suffering like Lear, but do not believe that kings (or any other rulers) have divine right in the sense required. When the great man's views do not seem to us erroneous we do not value them the less for having been shared with his contemporaries. Shakespeare's disdain for treachery and Christ's blessing on the poor were not alien to the outlook of their respective periods; but no one wishes to discredit them on that account.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c.230 Commemoration of Clive Staples Lewis, Spiritual Writer, 1963 What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ -- can become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe wants to offer to His Father -- that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him. It is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, exciting hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many other things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Commemoration of Richard Rolle of Hampole, Writer, Hermit, Mystic, 1349 I have often, on my knees, been shocked to find what sort of thoughts I have, for a moment, been addressing to God; what infantile placations I was really offering, what claims I have really made, even what absurd adjustments or compromises I was, half-consciously, proposing. There is a Pagan, savage heart in me somewhere. For unfortunately the folly and idiot-cunning of Paganism seem to have far more power of surviving than its innocent or even beautiful elements. It is easy, once you have power, to silence the pipes, still the dances, disfigure the statues, and forget the stories; but not easy to kill the savage, the greedy, frightened creature now cringing, now blustering in one's soul.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, Martyr, 1980 Commemoration of Paul Couturier, Priest, Ecumenist, 1953 Continuing a short series on prayer: Even if all the things that people prayed for happened -- which they do not -- this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable "success" in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something more like magic -- a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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Feast of English Saints & Martyrs of the Reformation We must not encourage in ourselves or others any tendency to work up a subjective state which, if we succeeded, we should describe as "faith", with the idea that this will somehow ensure the granting of our prayer. We have probably all done this as children. But the state of mind which desperate desire working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in the Christian sense. It is a feat of psychological gymnastics.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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I have found (to my regret) that the degrees of shame and disgust which I actually feel at my own sins do not at all correspond to what my reason tells me about their comparative gravity. Just as the degree to which, in daily life, I feel the emotion of fear has very little to do with my rational judgment of the danger. I'd sooner have really nasty seas when I'm in an open boat than look down in perfect (actual) safety from the edge of a cliff. Similarly, I have confessed ghastly uncharities with less reluctance than small unmentionables -- or those sins which happen to be ungentlemanly as well as unchristian. Our emotional reactions to our own behaviour are of limited ethical significance.

Christianity Quotes, by C. S. Lewis

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