Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Mere Christianity": Preface

As previously noted in my very brief disortation on The Screwtape Letter I think the preface to a book is a very important facet and is something should be read, but is often skipped over. I find it established the tone of the book, and gives an insight into what the book contains. Having as said as much, I'll begin.

C. S. Lewis opens this book by explaining to the reader how it came to be. He had been asked to give it during WWII over the radio. He explains minor changes he has made in his book. He has transformed the of the lectures into a book changing where needed and formng 

The Daily Lewis: October 20th 2011

October 20th, 2011

An Extraordinary Claim

"One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous  as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you.  But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people  that their sings were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He hesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whole laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in history."

From Mere Christianity Bk 2 Ch 3

The Daily Lewis: October 19th 2011

October 19th, 2011

"God's Answer to a Fallen World

What did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them have never quite succeeded. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered throughout the heathen religions about a god who dies and come to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was- that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different form anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips. "

From Mere Christianity Bk 2; Ch 3

The Daily Lewis: October 18th 2012

A day late, but as the saying goes, "better late than never."

October 18th, 2012

St. Luke, Evangelist

"Surely there's no difficulty about the prayer in Gethsemane on the ground that if the disciples were asleep they couldn't have heard it and therefore couldn't have recorded it? The words they did record would hardly have taken three seconds to utter. He was only 'a stone's throw' away. The silence of night was around them. And we may be sure He prayed aloud. People did everything aloud in those days....

There is a rather amusing instance of the same thing in Acts 24. The Jews had got down a professional orator called Tertullos to conduct the prosecution of St. Paul. The speech as recorded by St. Luke takes eighty-four words in the Greek, if I've counted correctly. Eighty four words are impossibly short for a Greek advocate on a full-dress occasion. Presumably, then, they are a precis? But of those eighty-odd words forty are taken up with preliminary compliments to the bench - stuff which, in a precis on that tiny scale, ought not to have come in atall. It is easy to guess what has happened. St. Luke, though and excellent narrator, was no good as a reporter. He starts off by trying  to memorize, or to get down, the whole speech verbatim. And he succeeds in reproducing a certain amount of the exordium...The whole rest of the speech has to be represented by a ludicrously inadequate abstract. But he doesn't tell us what has happened, and thus seems to attribute to Tertullos a performance which would have spelled professional ruin. "

From Letters to Malcolm; Ch 9

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lewis Reading of the Day: October 17th, 2011

"The Price of Free Will

Christians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this World. And, of course, that raises problems. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God's will or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power...

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad...Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way; apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. His is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher from its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on. If God thinks this state of wat in the universe a price worth paying for free will - that is, for makingl a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings - then we may take it worth paying. "

-From Mere Christianity Bk. 2 Chap 3

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Screwtape Letters: Original Preface

In the original publishing of his work Lewis also submitted a preface which he has dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien, the friend who originally brought him to Christianity.

This introduction serves, as the last did, to set the stage for the novel, and offer explanation. It serves as an opener, and more importantly a warning not to misenterpret his intent in writing The Screwtape Letters.

Ultimately I think C.S. Lewis uses The Screwtape Letters to explore the nature of both sin and temptation and more broadly the nature of evil, and the manners it presents itself and makes itself appealing to us, the reader.

To begin, Lewis states that there are two what he calls, "equal and opposite errors"(3) into which humans can fall concerning demons, devils, and satanic powers; first being disbelief, the second being "to feel an excessive  and unhealthy interest in them"(3).

Important points I think he then preceeds to bring up,
"Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar...There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth"(4).

An important part that I, as a modern reader picked out came in Lewis' explanation that the letters in the book aren't necessarily in order. To be specific, he mentions the word "rationalizing":

"Number XVII appears to have been composed before rationing became serious"(4).

Though this is certainly a casual reference it hints to the reader that to rationalize will be a key theme, and it will be very important in the understanding of this novel to understand rationalizing. So here will I include some sort of explanation on it, and end on that note.

Rationalization: An Eplanation Brought to you by Changing Minds. org.



When something happens that we find difficult to accept, then we will make up a logical reason why it has happened.
The target of rationalization is usually something that we have done, such as being unkind to another person. It may also be used when something happens independent of us which causes us discomfort, such as when a friend is unkind to us.
We rationalize to ourselves. We also find it very important to rationalize to other people, even those we do not know.


A person evades paying taxes and then rationalizes it by talking about how the government wastes money (and how it is better for people to keep what they can).
A man buys a expensive car and then tells people his old car was very unreliable, very unsafe, etc.
A person fails to get good enough results to get into a chosen university and then says that they didn't want to go there anyway.
A parent punishes a child and says that it is for the child's 'own good'.
I trip and fall over in the street. I tell a passer-by that I have recently been ill.


When a person does something of which the moral super ego disapproves, then the ego seeks to defend itself by adding reasons that make the action acceptable to the super ego. Thus we are able to do something that is outside our values and get away with it without feeling too guilty.
This is related to our need to explain what happens. Our need for esteem also leads us to rationalize to others.
Rationalization happens with bullies and victims. The bully rationalizes what they have done by saying that their victim 'deserved it'.
Self-Serving Bias uses rationalization when it leads to taking more credit for success than we deserve and blame others for our failures.
Rationalization is one of Anna Freud's original defense mechanisms. "

To end on a C.S. Lewis note:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Screwtape Letters": 2nd Preface

I find one of the most important  aspects to consider when reading or analyzing a work is what an author has to say about it himself. It sets the mood. So, without further ado,

In his "new", or relatively old at this time, preface to his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis determines to expound upon his book and create a preface that perhaps reflects the public's reaction to it as a whole. He not only reflects on this response is duly indicated. Questions that also may have risen he also explains and puts to rights, in a manner only Lewis is capable of, while remaining wholly honest and approachable to a wide audience.

He explains first and foremost the circumstances of his work's first being published in the Manchester Guardian, and the reaction by the general public, to this he comments,

"Reviews were either laudatory or filled with that sort of anger which tell an author that he has hit his target"(SL, pg. iv).

I find this statement not only fascinating given its affiliation with this particular work, but also as it generally relates to all authors as a general whole, and their works. Food for Thought?

Lewis then goes on to explain the sales as well as giving an amusing epithet for why readers choose to read and pick up his book.

Personally I find his explanations of matters/issues in the book most entertaining and thought provoking.

Lewis answers the most common question asked by his readers of his book- that is- if his belief in Satan, the devil, is genuine.  In his answer he not only affirms his belief in the devil, but also he rebuts a common misconception that the devil is "opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity"(pg. vii):

"There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a 'perfect badness' opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left"(pg vii).

My personal favorite activity to do whilst reading is an attempt to glean little non-specific truths that capture aspects of life. This quote answers that, and I think, presents much Food for Thought.

To continue my important truth gleaning I will now jump to the next one I felt was very important, esp. as it concerned objective truth( one of my very personal fav. existences) and faith. On his interpretations/explanations and pretty much downright speculations on God's other creations Lewis comments,

"My religion would not be in ruins if this opinion were shown to be false"(vii).

I think this phrase verifies and stands as a firm witness/testimony to objective truth. Lewis clearly here is differentiating between his conclusion about absolute truth, his "religion" in this circumstance, which hear I must input is well reasoned and logically arrived at, and his own speculations and opinions, which he outright calls an opinion. I think this is just an indication and hint, perhaps you could call it 'forshadowing' of a theme I think he most definitely touches upon in his book, that is, reason.

To be thorough in his task Lewis touches sets up an explanation for the devils, or depictions of angels in his novel. To my amusement at least he says, concerning his angels, which reflect traditional view,

"In Scripture the visitation of an angel is always alarming; it has to begin by saying 'Fear not.' The Victorian angel looks as if it were going to say, 'There, there.' "(ix).

He also references and comments on other literary depictions of demons, as in Dante's Inferno("the best"), Milton's works("grandeur, and high poetry"), and Goethe's Faustus("pernicious image").

And important human nature, truth reflecting statement from this section, which struck me,

"The humorous, civilized, sensible, adaptable Mephistopheles has helped to strengthen the illusion that evil is liberating"(ix).

And it is a common misconception I find. That somehow throwing off all morals will free you from all worries, a sickening delusion, but a delusion that is easily corrupting, as it plays into our own selfish thoughts, desires, and its easy appeal to human kind's fallen nature.

Moving on, as much as I would love to discuss the fallen nature of man...

There is not a paragraph in this introduction that I come upon and do not find that it is a jewel. An important aspect in bettering yourself, and separating your own high self image from reality would be to look at yourself from the outside,

"For humor involves a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside"(ix).

Beautiful. How often our own self image and worth causes us to fall, and ultimately could be our fall. Lets venture then into consequence. More specifically lets venture into one of the last things, that is, hell. Hell, a very touchy subject among all Christians, and non-Christians, is a reality. Lewis accepts this and discusses it in           several of his works[great chapter on it in The Problem of Pain]. In this work he says,

"We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment"(ix).

Ouch. We "must" picture. Notice the imperative. C.S. Lewis isn't dictating due to his superior intelligence and arrogance. Here he dictates - he orders - to stress the utter importance of not deluding ourselves. It is a warning.

Personally, my favorite[I have lots of favorites, as self contradictory as that is : ) ] part of the chapter was his discussion of the motives of demons, which previously might be attributed to boredom. The delusion, as he points out  is "the absurd fancy that devils are engaged in the disinterested pursuit of something called Evil"(xi).

He goes on to explain this, defining several motives. One, he calls "fear of punishment". The other, "a kind of hunger"(xi).  A kind of hunger he elaborates on in full in two beautiful well crafted paragraphs that follow,

"Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one's fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one's own- to hate one's hatreds and resent one's grievances and indulge one's egoism through him as well as through oneself. His own little store of passion must of course be suppressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish"(xi).

A little part of me, perhaps not a good intended part of me, is tempted to call Lewis out on this one. Shenanigan's Lewis! How dare you judge and offer judgement, establish that this occurrence is a wrong! Suggest that the way I am living my life is completely and wholly wrong and immoral. How dare you judge my neighbor!

Just as quickly as this little part jumps at this statement, another one, perhaps connected to my reason, and more importantly, my conscience, offers the rebuttal, condemning my momentary lapse from reason. Perhaps, and lets be honest, honestly I at the core of it all I know this statement to be true. I just don't want it to be because of the implications; that is, what it would mean for the way I live my life.

This phenomenon, though perhaps a deviation from the specific topic at hand, is a major theme in this work, and really any Lewis work.

To continue along the theme is some "love" from Lewis, and we're not talking the mushy gushy lovey dovey kind. We're talking about the delusional kind, which perhaps we are all guilty of having partaken in,

In relation to the aforementioned "hunger",

"On Earth this desire is often called 'love'. In Hell I feign that they recognize it as hunger"(xi).

Delusion - illusion - not able to name a thing as it is- This is the terminology Lewis incorporates in this work. A theme he follows throughout as it were. "What is" is  what truth is. Falling away, being blinded is a major tactic of the demons portrayed in this book, and as an analogy of temptation, is a warning from Lewis to be wary of this fact.

To put it more perfectly,

"It is for this that Satan desires all his own followers and all sons of Eve and all the host of Heaven. His dream is of the day when all shall be inside of him and all that says 'I' can say it only through him"(xii).

After a brief reflection on more trivial matters, like the naming of his characters, Lewis offers one more word of warning,

"But though it was easy to twist one's mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. I would have smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it"(xiv).

"Easy" - a word that instantly alerts me and reminds me how easy it is to stray from right, and sin.

But this also serves a warning as a reader to be wary of how easy it is to be sucked into the demon's arguments, and accept the "diabolical argument".

And that is the note I will end on. Please comment and add your thoughts, well thought out and supported by reason please. Feelings excluded. I hoped you enjoyed this, and feel free to leave any recommendations or critiques in comments( well thought out please).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"The Screwtape Letters": An Endeavor

Today I will begin the marvelous journey of outlining and documenting C.S. Lewis' fine work, The Screwtape Letters, which is a fictional work depicting a series of letter written between a more experienced demon, Screwtape, and his younger nephew, Wormwood, as Wormwood attempts to corrupt a soul. 

To understand this book, or any book, I recommend first learning a little about the author. 
And so, I have included the wikipedia article for your edification. Though brief, and insufficient in capturing the grandeur of Mr. Lewis, I found that this article was apt enough for my own purposes. 

I hope, if you hopefully intend to read along, that you will enjoy and participate in discussion of key themes and topics. This vain desire, however doesn't necessarily mean that you won't necessarily enjoy reading my summaries and reflections, due to Lewis' habit of capturing life's issues and truths often in his works.

Having said as much, I hope you will enjoy and participate. Best of luck in all you do.