Quotes from Mere Christianity

My favorite lines from this C. S. Lewis classic.

  • Page 17: In explaining how the Moral Law is unlike other laws of nature, such as gravity, which can only be obeyed (e.g., a rock cannot choose disobey the law of gravity). With Moral Law, a human can choose to disobey what the law requires. "The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not." (Emphasis mine.)

    The point of this is to note that an external (non-human) entity could not learn about the Law of Human Nature by observing humans since we do what is contrary to that law, rather than what the law requires. Again, in contrast with other natural laws for which an external entity could learn about the law by observing the law in action. He uses this in working up the argument that there is a Rule of Right and Wrong which all humans are endowed with naturally; this Moral Law is not something we came up with but rather is something inherent to us. If you buy this much then you must wonder where this Moral Law came from, if not from we who experience it.

  • Page 20: "there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men's behavior, and yet quite definitely real  a real law, which none of us made but which we find pressing on us." And again similarly on page 23: "men find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey."

  • Then a summary of where the argument is now, page 25: "I am not yet within a hundred miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong." (Emphasis mine.)

  • Page 28: "But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man."

  • My favorite quote of the book and one that for me rings quite true; page 31: "It [Christianity] therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law, and put yourself wrong with that Power  it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk."

  • In explaining Christian theology, page 32: "They tell you how the demands of this law [the Moral Law], which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God."

  • Page 32: "All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts — to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying facts. I wish it was possible to say something more agreeable. But I must say what I think true. Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end..."

  • On what it means to be an atheist, page 35: "If you are an atheist, you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist, I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most..."

  • Page 42, setting up the Christian world view: "One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been." 

  • Page 44: "I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. ... To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence, and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. ... It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness."

  • Page 45: "One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe — a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference [between Christianity and Dualism] is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel." (Wildly strong ending, there.)

  • This is another one of my favorite quotes from the book because it's so illustrative and rings true; page 46: "Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."

  • Page 48: "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. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having." (Emphasis mine.)

  • Page 48, this one is a bit more difficult to imagine but compelling all the same: "The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free."