Essential C.S. Lewis Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:44:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Essential C.S. Lewis Essential C.S. Lewis 76160007 CSL Daily 8/16/17 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:44:49 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

That Hideous Strength, a book from Lewis’s Sci-Fi trilogy, was published August 16, 1945.

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“There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.”

That Hideous Strength
(Published in 8/16/1945)

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CSL Daily 8/15/17 Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:45:27 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

A previously unpublished essay by Lewis was the lead title piece in Christian Reunion published on August 15, 1990.

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“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”

The Screwtape Letters XVI
(Published in The Guardian on 8/15/1941)

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CSL Daily 8/14/17 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:45:12 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

Voyage to Venus by Lewis was published on August 14, 1953. It is the same book as Perelandra from 1943.

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“We must use the talent we have, not the talents we haven’t.”

Letter to Cynthia Donnelly 8/14/1954
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)

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CSL Daily 8/13/17 Sun, 13 Aug 2017 12:27:13 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

The second ever radio talk by Lewis was given on August 13, 1941. At the time it was called “Scientific Law and Moral Law” but is “THE REALITY OF THE LAW” in Mere Christianity.

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“The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean ‘what Nature, in fact, does’. But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean ‘what human beings, in fact, do’; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely.”

2nd BBC Broadcast
(Given on 8/13/1941; Known as The Reality of the Law)

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(CMCSL-7): C.S. Lewis was a Universalist Sat, 12 Aug 2017 19:27:49 +0000 BRIEF UPDATE: It’s seems I’ve “over-summarized” MacDonald’s views on Universalism…inadvertently creating, or continuing a misconception about him. So, I’ll be doing a formal update soon to correct this oversight. 

This is part of an occasional series exploring questionable claims about the life or writings of C.S. Lewis.  For a list of the topics either already explored or planned to be examined you can visit the introduction to this series

Saying C.S. Lewis is popular among Evangelicals is like reporting the grass is green. However, there are those who are on the other end of the spectrum, believing Lewis is dangerous because of some of his views. One of those issues deals with the heart of the Christian faith – the issue of salvation. Specifically, whether or not everyone will be saved. Those who believe ALL will be saved are called “Universalists.” That is, if you hold to the idea that all will eventually go to Heaven, you are a Universalist. Some believe that Lewis held this position. However, a careful consideration of his writings clearly shows he did not hold this perspective.

Specifically, there are three main reasons some believe Lewis held a Universalist position. The first has to do with the Emeth character from The Last Battle, the final Narnia story. A second common factor for thinking he believed in Universalism is his praise of George MacDonald, who was a proponent of universal salvation. Finally, another concern expressed by some is comments Lewis made related to salvation in Mere Christianity, as well as other writings.

Let’s consider the weakest proof that Lewis held Universalist beliefs, his connection to George MacDonald (1824-1905). Before doing that a short summary of who MacDonald was is in order, along with considering how we know Lewis looked up to him. Obviously, he was a writer, because Lewis read his works, but about what subjects did he write? Similar to Lewis, MacDonald penned works in a variety of fields. The Wikipedia page on him begins with stating he was “a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.” The next sentence brings some clarity to his writings by proclaiming him as “a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature.” This immediately overlooks the fact that he published non-fiction material, but then he is not well-known for this genre. However, it is important to point this out because one of those works, Unspoken Sermons, was beloved by Lewis. Yet it was at the age of 17, when not a Christian, that Lewis was profoundly impacted by MacDonald’s fictional work, Phantastes. Years later when Lewis’ The Great Divorce was released a central character in that fictional work is the “real life” MacDonald. Finally, when Lewis wrote the preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology he stated, “I have never concealed the fact that I regard him as my master.” Thus, clearly there is no denying that Lewis had great respect for MacDonald and he influenced him greatly. However, as will be shown later, Lewis did not agree with MacDonald on Universalism and especially not on his most extreme statement about it; “hell is not everlasting, there is…no hell at all.”

Next let’s consider Emeth, a character from The Last Battle, the final Narnia story. Obviously, this is a work of fiction, so basing an author’s beliefs from a story is shaky ground to begin with. Yet, valid objections can be raised from the picture Lewis does paint. Emeth is a Calormene soldier, whose race is known for worshiping Tash, a false god who is very cruel. It is clear in the story that he served Tash before he died and yet when he speaks with Aslan after this he discovers that anything he did that was good in the name of his false god, Tash was accepted as service done to Aslan. Therefore, Emeth gets to go to the equivalent of Heaven in Narnia. Thus, opponents claim this is proof that Lewis believed all go to Heaven.

The third and final concern to note has to do with what Lewis wrote in his non-fiction that relates to this matter. It is, of course, beyond the scope of this article to consider every passage related to the subject. Interested readers can consult the additional resources given below to gain greater detail on this and the above topics.

Two key passages in Mere Christianity are found in the tenth chapter (Nice People or New Men) of Book 4 (Beyond Personality). In this chapter Lewis addressed the question of why some non-Christians are nicer than Christians. He then stated the obvious that when Christians “behave badly, or fail to behave well” that they make “Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.” But then after this he explained why it was irrational to think one could simply label an individual either a Christian or not. Here is where one should be careful to not miss the context of what is said overall. Lewis wrote that he thought some “who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ” could still be “so strongly attracted by Him that they are His” more than they realize. This passage alone would merely suggest there are those who had not yet accepted Christ, but are on the way to doing so. But Lewis didn’t stop there. The next sentence proclaimed:

There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.

There is a letter from 1934 (not long after he became a Christian) where Lewis stated he believed there are those “outside the visible Church” who “are finally saved” based on the fact they were directed “to concentrate solely on the true elements in their own religions.” Lest one think Lewis changed his position on the matter, he wrote the following in a 1952 letter:

I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god or to a v. imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know Him.

As Donald T. Williams states in Deeper Magic, “Traditional Evangelicals are disturbed by Lewis’s line of reasoning because they think it unbiblical and fear that, if accepted, it might blunt the urgency of the task of world evangelization.” But, as disturbing as all of this is, it does not amount to labeling Lewis as a Universalist. Instead, all that can be said is that Lewis either believes, or hopes a position called Inclusivism is possible. Williams explains this belief “holds that not all men are saved, that those who are saved are saved by the death of Christ, but that it is possible for some who have never heard the name of Jesus to be saved by that death through ‘implicit faith’ by following the light that they had.”

Taking this understanding and recalling other events in The Last Battle, one realizes that not everyone in that story got to Narnia’s version of Heaven. One, Susan, who was once a queen in Narnia didn’t go (but then she technically didn’t die in that story either). Also, not all Calormenes went to Heaven and Shift, the ape didn’t go either (among others). Thus, if one were looking for proof that Lewis was a Universalist from the final Narnia tale, one would have to overlook these facts.

Finally, regarding Lewis’ association with George MacDonald, in addition to what has already been stated there are a couple of letters not available in The Collected Letters that present a clear picture of what Lewis thought of his master’s belief in this regard. Those letters will be published in the next edition of Journal of Inklings Studies (October 2017). In that article Reggie Weems presents them and explains why they can be considered the final authority on the matter. Those letters were responses to Rev. Alan Marshall Fairhurst, who in his first letter to Lewis asked why he did not agree with George MacDonald’s views about Universalism. Lewis’ reply on September 6, 1959 found him stating he wished he could “follow G.M. in this point,” but that he “parted company from MacDonald on that point because of a higher authority,” words from Jesus himself.

In conclusion, while the information presented here does not place Lewis within the bounds of teachings advocated by Evangelicals, it also does not warrant labeling him a Universalist. Likewise, his view on these matters are not a point that he went about emphasizing and so because he had many more things to say that are useful to Christians it would be a shame to turn away from his other wonderful writings.

The next article to be posted is:



Updated 8/12/2017


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CSL Daily 8/12/17 Sat, 12 Aug 2017 14:50:29 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

A second edition of The Abolition of Man was published by Geoffrey Bles on August 12, 1946.

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“An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.”

The Abolition of Man
(2nd Edition Published 8/12/1946)


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CSL Daily 8/11/17 Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:25:04 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

“The Sailing of the Ark” was published on August 11, 1948 in Punch. Revised and re-titled “The Late Passenger” in Poems.

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“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time-for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

The Screwtape Letters XV (Published in The Guardian on 8/8/1941)

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CSL Daily 8/10/17 Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:27:18 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

Lewis’ letter to the editor of Church Times on “The Holy Name” was published on August 10, 1951.

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“I think almost all the crimes which Christians have perpetrated against each other arise from this, that religion is confused with politics.”

Letter to Don Giovanni Calabria 8/10/1953
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)

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CSL Daily 8/09/17 Wed, 09 Aug 2017 16:30:05 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

The first known letter Lewis wrote to Sister Penelope occurred on August 9, 1939.

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“One hopes there will come a day when one can enjoy nice things said about one’s self just in the same innocent way as one enjoys nice things about anyone else—perfect humility will need no modesty.”

Letter to Sister Penelope 8/9/1939
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II)

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CSL Daily 8/08/17 Wed, 09 Aug 2017 00:43:44 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

The 15th letter from Screwtape was published on August 8, 1941 in The Guardian. Themes include understanding Time.

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“The humans live in time but our Enemy [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present.”

The Screwtape Letters XV
(Published in The Guardian on 8/8/1941)

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(PODCAST) Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions – Episode 1 Tue, 08 Aug 2017 13:52:46 +0000 If you have been on social media over the last few years then you have probably seen a quotation attributed to Lewis from someone that you wondered if he actually wrote. That happen to me time and time again; so much that I began to collect them as I researched whether or not Lewis wrote the quote in question. That led to a blog series examining each quotation (see link below). More recently I began collecting information related to the life of Lewis and his writings that are misunderstood and started a blog series on this (link also below). This led me to considering what you now see, the first of a six-part episode chatting about these topics. This initial show provides an overview of all the subjects address in the other programs. Guest host for today is Dr. Crystal Hurd. 


Listen to C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions 01





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CSL Daily 8/07/17 Mon, 07 Aug 2017 11:45:40 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

The poem “Two Kinds of Memory” was published on August 7, 1947 in Time and Tide. A revised version is in Poems.

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“The good things even of this world are far too good ever to be reached by imagination. Even the common orange, you know: no one could have imagined it before he tasted it. How much less Heaven.”

Letter to Mrs. Johnson 8/7/1956
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)

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CSL Daily 8/06/17 Sun, 06 Aug 2017 13:28:54 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

“Common Decency,” the first BBC broadcast by Lewis was given on August 6, 1941. It is better known as “The Law of Human Nature” in Mere Christianity.

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“Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are.”

The Law of Human Nature
(First heard on the BBC on 8/6/1941)

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(CCSLQ-38) – Christ Himself Bible Sat, 05 Aug 2017 17:45:04 +0000 This is part of a series exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. Presently a new article is posted the first Saturday of each month (or sometimes the second if there are five Saturdays). There is an “at a glance” page (CLICK HERE) to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series.   

“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him.”

Of all the quotations that I’ve questioned so far, this one is by far the one that most would object about calling into question. If you have followed this series closely, you know that Lewis DID write these words, so why caution against sharing it? As you might have observed in the picture above, the key reason is the context issue. While many will read the above statement and agree with it, there are some who would take issue with it. Clarity is provided when you discover the more complete thought Lewis wrote.

Thus, this quote suffers from leaving out other parts of Lewis’ statement on the issue. Interestingly there are some versions of the quotation that provide more from Lewis, but it skips over several words and so it doesn’t provide enough clarity. Here is the most common variation, which again is incomplete:

“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. We must not use the Bible as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts can be taken for use as weapons.”

Before revealing the more complete context, let’s consider where Lewis wrote these words. They come from a letter to Mrs. Johnson on November 8, 1952. They were in response to several questions that she asked of him.  As noted in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. 3 she had inquired “Is the Bible Infallible?” and what you see below is his complete response (words in bold are what is found above).

 “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and not read without attention to the whole nature & purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons.

Finally, while the above, unedited version, does bring the issue in sharper focus, I hesitate to encourage the sharing of even this lengthier passage. Why? That’s because these comments were in response to a direct question found in a private letter. I point this out because while this statement can be useful, had Lewis decided to write an article on the topic then material from it would have been better suited for sharing. This is especially true when considering what Lewis means when he spoke of “myth,” which is not in the sense most commonly used today. That is, Lewis did not mean “myth” in the sense that something is false. If you are not familiar with Lewis’ views on the topic then consider consulting this online article, “The Gospel as C. S. Lewis’s ‘True Myth'” by Joshua S. Hill.

The next article to be posted on September 9, 2017 is:


Related Articles:

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 8/5/2017


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CSL Daily 8/05/17 Sat, 05 Aug 2017 14:18:56 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

“Invocation of Saints” is a letter published on August 5, 1949 in Church Times and is now in God in the Dock.

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[Screwtape advises:] “You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.”

The Screwtape Letters XIV
(Published in The Guardian on 8/1/1941)

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CSL Daily 8/04/17 Fri, 04 Aug 2017 11:45:55 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

On August 4, 1922 Lewis earned a first class (highest honors) degree in Literae Humaniores (“Greats”) from Oxford.

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[Screwtape advises:] “Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware of that he has them, but this is specially true of humility.”

The Screwtape Letters XIV
(Published in The Guardian on 8/1/1941)

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CSL Daily 8/03/17 Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:45:59 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

Lewis resigned from Cambridge in August, 1963. There he had held the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature.

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“I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts, and specially we must not use an apostle’s teaching to contradict that of Our Lord.”

Letter to Mrs. Emily McLay 8/3/1953
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)

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WRL03 – The Great Divorce Wed, 02 Aug 2017 15:19:43 +0000 This podcast, part of an occasional feature to encourage you to read material from Lewis, focuses on one of the shortest works by him (excluding essays, of course). The Great Divorce was first released in weekly installments in The Guardian before published in 1946. If you have never read this fictional work then you will be pleasantly surprised about how much truth can be learned from the experiences of the characters! The guests sharing their thoughts are (in order of appearance): Dennis Beets, Gina DalFonzo, James Motter, and Brenton Dickieson.     


Listen to The Great Divorce Reflections


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CSL Daily 8/02/17 Wed, 02 Aug 2017 11:49:50 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

“On the Death of Charles Williams” (“To Charles Williams” in Poems) was first published in the August, 1945 issue of Britain Today.

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“God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence and He may be doing most for us when we think He is doing least.”

Letter to Mary Margaret McCaslin 8/2/1954
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)

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CSL Daily 8/01/17 Tue, 01 Aug 2017 11:45:36 +0000 FACT OF THE DAY:

On August 1, 1941 the 14th letter from Screwtape was published in The Guardian before being available in the book The Screwtape Letters.

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“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing … it is irresistible. If even ten per cent of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?”

Letter to Mary Willis Shelburne 8/1/1953
(Published in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III)


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