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Monday, March 8, 2010

"Men must endure their going hence." (CS Lewis' Tombstone)

CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day. His major contributions in literary criticism, children's literature, fantasy literature, and popular theology brought him international renown and acclaim. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.

I did not know it by Lewis completely abandoned the Christian faith of his childhood and became an atheist at the age of 15.

During his time at Oxford, Lewis converted from atheism to being one of the most influential Christian writers of the 20th century; 1931 marks the year of Lewis's conversion to Christianity. He became a member of the Church of England. Lewis cites his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as the writings of the converted G. K. Chesterton, as influencing his conversion.

I love C.S. Lewis and I blame him for the roughly 2 year that I have been scanning all of his printed works for a particular quote that had a profound impact on me. I've been misquoting it ever since I discovered it. It was something about our ability to bring out the very best or the very worst in people, yadda yadda. I had gone to a friend with a question about conversion and long story short, I was given the task of finding my copy of "Mere Christianity". I opened the book and it practically fell open to page 92. The jaw-dropping quote practically slapped me in the face:

"People often think of Christian Morality as a kind of bargain in which God says 'If you keep a lot of rules I'll reward you, and if you don't, I'll do the other thing.' I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that 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 heavenly 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."  Mere Christianity, p. 92

CS Lewis was blessed with many gifts. Chief among them was his gift of literary clarity that rose to genius level. I'm glad he's looking over my shoulder. His words decorate the Masthead under the word "Spikenard".

I think it's time to read that masterpiece again...

1 comment:

  1. Karen,
    Enjoyed your comments here, and am reminded of my own debt to Lewis over the years. I do executive coaching in Atlanta and regularly go through MC. I hope you have had the opportunity to visit the Lewis haunts in Oxford, notably the Bird & Baby on St. Giles, and the Kilns. Find me at or on twitter at BTW, the quote on your masthead is one of my favs, and the basis for a book that is under contract that I am writing, "Made for Another World: Exploring Our Deepest Longings." Best, Barry Morrow,