C.S. Lewis – Favorite Quotes and Concepts

            I have been a fan of C.S. Lewis since the early 1970’s when I set the goal of reading everything he had written.  The following quotes and concepts are the highlights of that project.

Clive Sinclair Lewis (1898-1963)

  • One of the greatest Christian apologists/defenders
  • Born in Ireland
  • “Culture shocked” upon moving to the “hated” England
  • Wounded in the brutal trench warfare of WW I
  • Professor of Literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities
  • Converted to Christianity at age 32
  • Author of over 30 books – “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Screwtape Letters”
  • Best friend: J.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings”)
  • Died in England in 1963
  • Honored with a memorial in the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey
  • LDS scholars refer to Lewis as the “Thirteenth Apostle” because he in his harmony with the Restored Gospel

Favorite C.S. Lewis Quotes

God is Not a Mere Impersonal Essence

A girl I knew was brought up by ‘higher thinking’ parents to regard God as a perfect ‘substance’; later in life she realized that this had actually led her to think of Him as something like a vast tapioca pudding (to make matters worse, she disliked tapioca). (Miracles)

“God Loves Effort”

            I disliked very much the hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixty-rate music….
            I realized that the hymns were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. 
            It gets you out of your solitary conceit. (“God in the Dock,” p. 62)

The World is a Place of Training and Correction, Not Just Happiness

            If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.   
            Imagine a set of people all living in the same building.  Half of them think it is a hotel, and the other half think it is a prison. 
            Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable…
            The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists; the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic. (“God in the Dock,” p. 52)

We Live in a Society of Possible Gods and Goddesses

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship … All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.  It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.  There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal … (“The Weight of Glory”)

Perfection and Deification

The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas.  Nor is it a command to do the impossible.  He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.  He said (in the Bible) there we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words.  If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly. His own boundless power and delight and goodness.  The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for.  Nothing less.  He meant what He said. (“Beyond Personality,” pgs. 174-175.)

Becoming Like God Requires Major Change

I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald.  Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.   He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself. (“Beyond Personality,” p. 174)

Difference Between Those in Heaven and Hell

            There are only two kinds of people in the end; those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”  All that are in hell, chose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened. (“The Great Divorce,” p. 73)

Jesus Is Not Just a Great Mortal Teacher.  He Is Either God, a Devil, or a Lunatic

            I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to. …  Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.  [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 55-56]

Secular Intellectuals

            It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out.  Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary; it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so. (“The Abolition of Man,” p. 35))

Atheistic Materialism

            If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of man was an accident too.  If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents–the accidental by-products of the movement of atoms.  And this hold for thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s.  But if their thoughts are merely accidental by-products, why would we believe them to be true?  I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents.  It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset. (“God in the Dock,” p. 52-43)

Your Family Gets Upset Only When You Get Up Early to Go to Church

            It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early for Church.  It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house. (“God in the Dock,” p. 61)

Ambition Can Be Good or Bad

            Ambition.  We must be careful what we mean by it.  If it means the desire to get ahead of other people–which is what I think it does mean–then it is bad.  If it means simply wanting to do a thing well, then it is good. (“God in the Dock,” p. 56)

All Roads Don’t Lead to Rome or Heaven

            We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center; rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. (“The Great Divorce, p6)

Evil Cannot Turn Into Good

            Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good.  Time does not heal it. (“The Great Divorce,” p.6)

Cravings, Lust, Addictions

            But the time comes on when, though the pleasure becomes less and less and the craving fiercer and fiercer, and though he knows that joy can never come that way, yet he prefers to joy the mere fondling of unappeasable lust and would not have it taken from him.  He’d fight to the death to keep it.  He’d like well to be able to scratch; but even when he can scratch no more he’d rather itch than not. (“The Great Divorce,” p. 70)

The Mere Existence of God

            There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself…as if the good Lord had nothing better to do than exist! (“The Great Divorce,” p. 71)

Those Who Love Are Near to God

            We may say, quite truly and in an intelligible sense, that those who love greatly are near to God. (“The Four Loves,” p. 19)

What True Love Is

            Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained. (“God in the Dock,” p. 49)

There Are No Practicing Christians

            What is a practicing Christian?  If you mean one who has practiced Christianity in every respect at every moment of his life, then there is only One on record–Christ Himself.  In that sense there are no practicing Christians. (“God in the Dock,” p. 85)

We Don’t Become Christians to be Comfortable

            As you perhaps know, I have not always been a Christian.  I didn’t go to religion to make me happy.  I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.  If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. (“God in the Dock,” p. 58)

Prayer is a Request that May or May not be Granted

            Now even if all the things that  people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove that Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer.  For prayer is a 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. (“God in the Dock,” p. 65)

Self-evident Truths

            If nothing is self-evident, then nothing can be proved. (“The Abolition of Man,” p. 53)


            Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny. (“The Abolition of Man,” p. 63)

Favorite C.S. Lewis Concepts Paraphrased

            Over the decades, I have paraphrased the following C.S. Lewis concepts in countless talks and lessons.

Two Heads are Better Than One

            Two heads are better than one, not because one will be right, and one will be wrong, but because the chance of them going wrong in the same direction is reduced.

We Must Explain Things So That They Cannot be Misunderstood

            It is not good enough to explain things so that others can understand; we must explain things so that others cannot misunderstand. Readers/listeners are like sheep.  We must not only point them in the right direction, but we must also have fences with closed gates along the way.

The Broader Message of Miracles

            We don’t fully appreciate miracles until we see their broader application.  For example, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he foreshadowed the greater miracle of the universal resurrection.  When Jesus turned water into win, he reminded us that God turns water into wine every season through rain and harvest.

The Light of Christ Proves the Existence of God

            There is a pervasive spirit that has influenced all people, at all times, and in all places.  People of every age and location have similar views of right and wrong.  If our existence is the hodge-podge of random accidents, this shared paradigm would not exist. The source of this spirit is God, or the light of Christ. This is one of the greatest proofs of His existence.

Eternal Marriage

            The relationship between a husband and wife must survive beyond the grave. How can it be that we will not be with our spouse in the hereafter when we have shared pure love and eternal joy together here?  Wouldn’t our joy of being in the presence of God be enhanced if we share that joy with our loved one.  No one wants to go to Disneyland, “the happiest place on earth,” by themselves?

Atheist Materialists

            To the atheist materialist, everything in the universe is the result of the random accidental collision of molecules.  Accordingly, our thoughts are also the product of random accidental collisions of molecules in our brain.  Since our thoughts are random accidents, there is no reason to trust our thoughts.  And if, because of our thoughts we are atheists, there is no good reason to be atheists.

Confusing Who is the Judge and Who is the Judged

            In British courtrooms the person on trial stands in the “dock” to be judged.  We sometimes try to put God “in the dock.” We often forget that God is the Judge, and we are the ones being judged.  We “judge” God, and put Him in the “dock”, whenever we say, “How can God let that happen?” “How can He ….?” God is the Supreme Judge. He is the Judge of all. He is the one judging us.  We are never in a position to judge Him.  God is not in the dock; we are. That is something we must always keep in mind.

Pride is the Greatest Sin  

Pride is the greatest of all sins. “Pride is the supposed independence from God.”

Satan’s Greatest Strategy – Procrastination

The demons in The Screwtape Letters discuss Satan’s greatest strategy. One suggests: “Tell them there is no God.” Another recommends: “Say that God is impersonal.” Another proposes: “Claim that believers are hypocrites.” The most astute demon says that procrastination is the most effective strategy: “Tell them they have all the time in the world. It’s not that important. They can wait another day.”

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