Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Yes, it is also the fiftieth anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Aldous Huxley. The fact that all three died on the same day prompted the author Peter Kreeft to write a book entitled Between Heaven and Earth in which he discussed the conversation the three might have had in the “waiting room of heaven.” On this anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis I will devote this blog post to a few lesser known quotes from Lewis.
Those who are not followers of Jesus may not agree with everything the man said. Yet, I daresay that most anyone will find his description of love, in The Four Loves, to be brilliant.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
But of course he was not simply a great writer; anyone who has read C.S. Lewis’ writings will know that he was a careful apologist for Christianity. He would not allow people to pretend they were Christians. In Mere Christianity he pointed out the depth of commitment required when one claims to have faith in Christ.
[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.
Yet Lewis was also careful to not put God in a box. When asked how one could help people encounter God, his answer is far from formulaic.
“You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into his Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment.”
“But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colors, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.”
“There is a character in one of my children’s stories named Aslan, who says, ‘I never tell anyone any story except his own.’ I cannot speak for the way God deals with others; I only know how he deals with me personally. Of course, we are to pray for spiritual awakening, and in various ways we can do something toward it. But we must remember that neither Paul nor Apollos gives the increase. As Charles Williams once said, ‘The altar must often be built in one place so that the fire may come down in another place.’”1
C.S. Lewis was a remarkable man and one of the most interesting people of the 20th century. Take some time to learn more about him as we honour his memory today.
1 Decision magazine, September 1963; © 1963 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.