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Mere Christianity | Quotes

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1.

There would be no sense in ... that unless you and he [agreed] as to what Right and Wrong are.


Book 1, Chapter 1

Lewis argues that the fact that humans quarrel over issues of fairness and proper behavior proves the existence of a universal, inborn standard of right and wrong. When we quarrel we try to prove the other person has violated this standard. Alternatively, we might defend our own actions by saying we violated the standard because we had a good excuse to do so. That every person holds this standard of right and wrong proves the existence of a Moral Law. This Law governs human nature, telling us we ought to do good. We did not invent the moral standard nor the Law of Human Nature, yet we cannot deny their reality.

2.

When you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual facts.


Book 1, Chapter 3

The Law of Human Nature, or Moral Law, governs humankind just as scientific laws like gravity govern the created universe. Scientific laws, like gravity, describe what happens in the physical world. The Law of Human Nature does not describe what happens but what ought to happen. In the rest of the universe there are only facts, but the presence of the Law of Human Nature indicates there is another type of reality, reaching into this reality and attempting to influence human behavior.

3.

God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror.


Book 1, Chapter 5

Humanity is in a dire situation, for we have put ourselves at odds with God by continually breaking his Moral Law. This is a terrifying realization. Our sinful nature makes us turn away from God, but the paradoxical truth is that only through Him can we achieve the happiness and peace we vainly seek in the world.

4.

Christianity is a fighting religion.


Book 2, Chapter 1

The Christian narrative centers on the idea that God's perfect creation went wrong when Earth was occupied by Satan, who convinced humanity to join him in the fight against God. Lewis conceives of the universe being in the midst of a civil war and Earth as an "enemy-occupied territory." Repentance means surrendering one's weapons and leaving Satan's army to join the righteous side, God's side, in this fight.

5.

Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness.


Book 2, Chapter 2

Lewis argues that evil has no real existence of its own but is merely a perversion of that which is good. All we call evil is merely an attempt to achieve good things using misguided methods. This idea is embodied in the figure of Satan, the "fallen angel."

6.

He would either be a lunatic ... or else he would be the Devil of Hell.


Book 2, Chapter 3

Lewis argues we cannot dismiss Christ as merely a great teacher, for a great teacher would not make the claims Christ did. We must take His claims to divinity literally and not as metaphors, given the historical and religious context in which they were made. If we claim He is only a great teacher and reject Christ's claim of divinity, we can explain his claims in only two other ways. He must either be the devil or an insane person.

7.

The death of Christ is ... something absolutely unimaginable from outside [that] shows through into our own world.


Book 2, Chapter 4

The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ were a turning point in human history. For the first time God entered history and infused humankind with the divine spiritual life through the atonement of Christ. The person of Christ is the first example of a human who is all that God wishes humans to be: a man whose nature is united with God's. Christ's coming made it possible for humans to become what God wishes us to be.

8.

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions ... are of ... importance.


Book 3, Chapter 9

Lewis explains that the virtue of charity or love, embedded in the Golden Rule, has nothing to do with a feeling of liking. We are to practice charity toward even those we dislike by acting "as if" we had charitable feelings. This mechanism not only ensures a moral action but also has the effect of actually generating charitable feelings. In the same way uncharitable actions generate more uncharitable feelings. All of our actions, no matter how small, participate in this feedback cycle, snowballing over the course of a lifetime.

9.

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.


Book 3, Chapter 10

The theological virtue of hope entails "a continual looking forward to the eternal world," something that might be viewed as escapism. Lewis claims the contrary: it is hope for heaven that fuels Christians to perform the greatest works on this Earth, such as the abolition of the slave trade by English evangelicals. This is a paradox of the kind that are common in Lewis's presentation of Christianity. To aim directly for that which we want or need is to ensure we will never receive it.

10.

Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers everything for nothing.


Book 3, Chapter 12

Lewis is discussing the transformative faith that arises in earnest Christian seekers. After their utmost efforts to practice virtue result only in repeated failure, they realize they are "bankrupt" to God. There is nothing they can give God that He doesn't already have, and they even fail at giving God what was already God's. This realization leads to surrender. Christian seekers cease their futile efforts and ask God to step in. They are ready to accept Christ's offer of exchanging their bankrupt sinful selves for a transformation that will make them like Christ, children of God.

11.

The map is ... more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.


Book 4, Chapter 1

Lewis compares theology, or Christian doctrine, to a map. He explains that people can occasionally catch glimpses of God without the map provided by theology, but they won't know how they found Him or how to find Him again. Finding God without the map is like walking on a beach. Both are real experiences, much more real than any map. But neither is useful if we want to get somewhere or find something. If we want to find America, a map of the Atlantic Ocean would be invaluable. If we want our experiences of God to be something more than momentary, sporadic, and ultimately meaningless, we would be wise to use the map—the Christian doctrine and practice—left behind by those who walked the path before us.

12.

We must think of the Son ... streaming forth from the Father, like ... thoughts from a mind.


Book 4, Chapter 4

Lewis explains the relationship between two aspects of the three-person God, the Father and the Son. He uses similes to illustrate how the Father could beget the Son at the same time that God remains one being.

13.

Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The ... purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.


Book 4, Chapter 4

Lewis explains that through the Atonement of Christ, humanity gained access to the spiritual life that animates God. This made it possible for humans to repent and be saved. The process behind salvation is the transformation of a human's biological life into the spiritual life of God. This transformation makes a new kind of person—one whose relation to God the Father is the same as Christ's relation to God.

14.

Divine make-believe sounds rather strange ... But ... [isn't] that how the higher thing always raises the lower?


Book 4, Chapter 7

When a Christian prays the Lord's Prayer, what he is actually doing is pretending to be Christ. This pretending results in the person having Christ-like thoughts and actions. This sort of pretending is the way humans always grow. It can be seen in the games of children that imitate adult life. It is also the mechanism by which a baby learns language as his mother speaks to him as if he already understands.

15.

The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.


Book 4, Chapter 8

Lewis states the reason people exist is to be drawn into God through the person of Christ. The Bible hints that this movement of humanity into God will restore balance to all of nature, setting right what has gone wrong throughout God's creation. Suffering and death will be left behind and a new kind of life will bring us the happiness and peace of God.

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