The Poison of Subjectivism by C.S. Lewis

This essay contains the essence of Lewis’ arguments in his fascinating short book ‘The Abolition of Man/Humanity’.…

VIDEO by CSLewisDoodle

Sinners in the hands of an angry God by Jonathan Edwards (American Puritan Theologian)

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Where there is talk about preaching and hell, Jonathan Edwards’s name is never far behind. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is the most famous sermon in American history. And undoubtedly Edwards is the most caricatured preacher because of it.

You can read the whole sermon online, or listen to someone like Mark Dever read it.

But few people know that Edwards often preached on heaven, too. And his sermons on heaven are as beautiful as his sermons on hell are sobering.

For a wonderful introduction to Edwards on heaven, I’d encourage you to listen to Sam Storms’s talk on “Joy’s Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven.” But first you might want to read the text of Edwards’s sermon, “Heaven, A World of Love.

We’ve all heard the line about the danger of “being so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good.” But surely C. S. Lewis was right: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this” (Mere Christianity, chapter 10).

Read it here –

– Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God



David Platt – Incarnation Wonder of Grace (Part 3 of 4)

God's grace Philippians 2:5-11 

Verse 8 – And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Why is the incarnation important? Why did it happen?

What belief, if any, separates Christianity apart from the world religions? Is there anything that is completely and totally unique to Christianity? That was the subject of debate and discussion, at a british conference years ago, on comparitive religions. And they were discussing, „Is there anything that makes Christianity unique? And while they were in their heated discussion, all these experts and religious scholars, a guy named C. S. Lewis wanders in. And he says, „What’s the fuss all about?” They say, „Well, we’re debating, trying to figure out if there’s anything unique about christianity”. And he responded immediately, „Well, that’s an easy one. One word: Grace”.

Grace is the why of the incarnation. It is incomprehensible to think about Christ becoming a man, because of the purpose for which He came. We should never cease to be a people that are not amazed about grace.

Three moves that Christ makes that helps to give us a picture of incomprehensible grace:

  1. He goes from exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted. His incarnate position as the Son of Man makes possible our eternal privilege as sons of God. 
  2. He goes from life to death, so that we might live. The reality: He was born to die a shameful, painful, cursed death. And even 2000 years later we are rejoicing at His mastery over death, because through Him we have life. You and I don’t walk around captive to our sin, we are freed to live. To live now, and for all of eternity. His shame on the cross becomes our honor. All that is shameful about us, our sin, our wickedness, the things we think, the things we do, the things that not even those closest to us don’t even know about, the things that would be exposed before God are transferred to Him (Christ). And He’s transferred to us His righteousness, and His beauty and His holiness, and His redemption. a)His humiliation becomes our honor. b)His pain becomes our joy, and c)His curse becomes our blessing. He left life to go to death, so that you and I might find life. We are not worthy of this kind of grace. May we never become numb, and tired and sleepy in the face of grace. This (grace) is a mammoth truth.
  3. He goes from rich to poor, so that we might be rich. The richness of all that He is, His divinity, His deity, His greatness, His majesty, and all that He owns, all the resources in the world belong to Him. Everything is His. For your sake though, He became poor. He entered a world of humiliation and depravation and poverty. The Creator of the world became homeless, so that we might become rich. See His poverty in the world: He gave up His rights, He gave us His resources and now, we are His people in the world. We are followers of Jesus Christ, who became poor so that others might become rich. And how can we ever show Christ if we don’t give up our rights and we give others our resources?

We talk glibly of the „Christmas Spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis.  But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning.  It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas.  And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians-I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians – go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet them) averting their eyes, and passing by on the other side.  That is not the Christmas Spirit.  Nor is it the spirit of those Christians- alas, they are many- whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob.  For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor- spending and being spent-to, enrich their fellow men, giving time, trouble, care, and concern to do good to others-and not just their own friends-in whatever way there seems need.

Excerpted from Knowing God by J.I. Packer.  Copyright 1973 by Intervarsity Press.

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully– ~The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis. by John Piper

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Free John Piper Book here –
–Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully–
~The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis.
by John Piper

Whether exploring Herbert’s moving poetry, Whitefield’s dramatic preaching, or Lewis’s imaginative writing, this book highlights the importance of Christ-exalting eloquence in our praise of God and proclamation of his gospel.

First Edition 2014
Crossway Books (Wheaton, Illinois)

C. S. Lewis on the Danger of Love

C S Lewis – Despre pericolul dragostei. Foloseste Google translator aici pentru –Limba Romana

Read the entire post here by Jonathan Parnell of Desiring God : C. S. Lewis on the Danger of Love.

Jonathan Parnell writes –

If you were having a cup of tea with C. S. Lewis on Valentine’s Day, and you asked him sincerely, „Mr. Lewis, am I better not to love because it’s so risky?” — he might say something like this:

Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”

To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that his teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The Four Loves, (New York, Harcourt, 1960)

How to make abortion palatable – a letter from Wormwood

John Knight of Desiring God writes a story, using C S Lewis’s fictional characters Wormwood and Grubnat from his book titled ‘The Screwtape Letters”. The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”.

The Subtle Art of Destroying Humans

by John Knight (

My dearest Grubnat,

I am glad to see you are finally learning to be subtler in manipulating your human. As I had warned you, I was concerned that your boisterous assault on the unborn vermin with the rare chromosomal makeup (the “disabled,” as the other vermin call them) was going to expose all our plans to destroy them.

So I congratulate you on the recent article in The New York Times, “Breakthroughs in Prenatal Screening.” I can see your skills developing. We must continue on this path as it does two important things for us: 1) it further blinds the humans to our real schemes; and 2) it rids us of having to deal with those foul, weak, “special” children that the Enemy calls “indispensable.” We mustn’t lose our grip here.

Because of this article, and unlike my last letters to you, I actually have a few things to commend — things to see you repeat.

No Names, No Shame

Now, I wouldn’t have opened the article exactly the way you did (more on that in my comments about how you can improve), but I must admit I appreciate how you dehumanized the mother and the child in your opening paragraphs.

Refusing to mention the name of the child was excellent! Names are bad for our cause. It makes the humans actually begin to imagine them as “children” rather than the “mere tissue” we want them to think those little humans are. Let them only think the child is “Down syndrome,” and never Michael or Elizabeth.

Silence of the Moms

Also, good job on not quoting the mother at all about how she feels today about her child. Those puny humans, left with all their preconceived notions and prejudices, already do well at creating frightening alternative realities for that mother. They talk about how sad she was, how horrible her life was, how much better it would have been if that child had never been born. In fact, I am a little jealous at how quickly they’ve been trained to distort reality.

The humans who have been through the distortion tutelage usually aren’t even afraid of the right things! When a parent talks about both the hardship and the “blessing” of raising that child (yes, the Enemy often makes good come to the family through this vermin), a little whiff of reality sets in. And when that happens it becomes harder for us to kill the next one. So keep bleaching from their minds the idea of these babies being real persons.

The Responsibility of Fatality

Another thing: the clean, clinical description of the prenatal tests nicely ignored any discussion about how much the culture loathes these disabled children. How laughable for them to think that “tests” are neutral in a world like theirs!

The doctors and so-called ethicists are the best among them for our cause. Keep working on the medical professionals to believe that termination is a responsible choice, especially when you know the mother doesn’t have anyone around her to support the birth of her child.

A Well-Informed Genocide

And another thing: The following sentence was perhaps your best: “When prenatal testing reveals that a fetus has a serious birth defect, some women may consider ending their pregnancies.” Hilarious! Yes, yes, yes! Let the mothers think they are just making an “informed, personal choice” rather than realize that they’re part ofour culturally orchestrated attack on children who have the extra chromosome. The Holocaust was fun, but this is even more satisfying. They actually think their individual choices don’t accumulate into genocide.

Now enough with the commendations! Here are a few things you neglected.

No Baby Pictures

Why in the world did you allow them to have drawings of babies in the graphic above the article? Yes, some humans are so calloused that they don’t care whether it is a baby or not. But most don’t like to think too much about it. Don’t give them any evidence that the little creatures they are destroying are actually human just like them. Don’t make this mistake again. Test tubes or computer code or something like that are far better. Keep it clean and scientific.

Bury Abortion

As much as I appreciated your opening the article with the story about the friend with the disabled child, you overdid it. The headline was about prenatal screening and you immediately made the story about abortion. The humans are stupid but even they can see an agenda this obvious. Next time bury the abortion bit later in the story so that the test results always end with a “compassionate” termination.

Avoid Real Sufferers

Never suggest that they talk to parents who are raising children with disabilities. For some unknown reason to me, when they talk to people who have experienced real suffering rather than imagined suffering, they get encouraged and emboldened. You know how our Enemy works in suffering.

Killing Can Be a Good Thing

In the future, only present all the hardship and expense and loneliness and how awful their lives will be, always couching it in terms of how horrible their baby’s life will be. They feel better, and their hearts get just a little harder, when they rationalize that killing their baby was a good thing. That’s the reason that if we can convince a woman to have an abortion she will likely have more.

Make these corrections and I’m sure your next piece will be even better. And I knowThe New York Times will be happy to print it.

Content with your work, for now,


Liar, Lunatic or Lord – Did God Really Say…?


Cover of "Fundamentalism and the Word of ...

Cover of Fundamentalism and the Word of God

John Piper:

God made me see it. I believe, I couldn’t believe the Bible is untrue if I tried, because I’m just taken by Him. That’s my biggest reason (for believing the Bible).

You can’t persuade anybody with that, so up above those layers are the layers of experience, of encounter withe the text. And, I think that at one level, the Bible, as C. S. Lewis said: „You believe in it as you believe in the sun not only because you see it, but you see everything else by it.” I asked my professor in Germany one time, „Why do you believe the Bible?” And he said, „Because it makes sense out of the world for me”. And I think that is right. You don’t take every sentence and relate it to every part of the world. You just… year after year, after year, you live in the book and you deal with the world and it brings coherence to evil, and good, and to sorrow, and to loss.

There is one other level I would mention. liar, lunatic, Lord argument in the Gospels works for me. And Paul, liar, lunatic, or faithful apostle. Because I think I know Paul better than I know anybody in the Bible. Luke wrote most quantitatively, but he’s writing narrative. The apostle Paul you know, if you read his 13 letters hundreds of time, you know this man. Either he’s stupid, I mean insane, or liar, or a very wise, deep, credible, thoughtful person. So, when I put Paul up against any liberal scholar in any German university that I ever met, they don’t even come close. So, I have frankly never been tested very much by the devil, or whoever, to say, „This wise liberal offering his arguments…” and I read Paul and I say, „I don’t think so!” This man (Paul) is extraordinary, he’s smart, he’s rational, he’s been in the 3rd, 7th heaven evidently, and he’s careful about what he’s saying”. So, that whole argument: Liar, lunatic, Lord, works for me with Jesus and it works powerfully for Paul.

And, once you’ve got Paul speaking, self authenticating, irresistible, worldview shaping truth, then, as you move out from Jesus and Paul, the others just start to shine with confirming evidences

Why are you married? After 43 years, how do you endure losses? I mean, really, where does your strength come from? „You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Free from pornography, and free from divorce, free from depressions that just undo you. How do you find your way into marriage over and over, and out of depression, and away from the internet. How does that happen? It happens by the power of this incredible book.

2 recommended books on Scripture:

  1. Scripture in Truth by D.A.Carson and Nichols
  2. Fundamentalism and the word of God by J. I. Packer

Al Mohler:

The problem is with how few of our confessional statements are clear on this. So, one of our evangelical liabilities is that too much has been assumed under our article (statements) of Scripture, without specifying language, with inerrancy being one of those necessary attributes of Scripture to be affirmed.

You do find people today, some lamentably, who are trying to claim that you can still use the word, while basically eviscerating it, emptying it of meaning, so you have historical denials. In particular, you have that a text- and the Chicago Statement is very clear. Our affirmations of denials are actually patterned after the International Council of Biblical Inerrancy, which was itself patterned after previous statements in which there were not only affirmations, but clear denials. So, when you look to that statement, you’ll see the assertion of what that statement means, and you have clear denials. One of the affirmations is Scripture has different forms of literature. But, the denial is that you can legitimately dehistoricize an historical text. So, in other words, everything Scripture reveals, including a historical claim is true. Well, you find some people saying, „Well, you can affirm the truthfulness of the text, without the historicity of the events. You can’t do that. You have people who are now using genre criticism, various forms to say: This is a type of literature, the lamentable argument is, this is the type of text to which the issue of inerrancy doesn’t apply. In other words, „I don’t like it”. But, what they mean is (that the text) it’s not making a truth claim. That’s ridiculous, but you find these kinds of nuances going on.

You also find very clear points of friction. So, for ex.: Do we have to believe in the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis? That puts us over and against a dominant intellectual system, that establishes what is called credibility in the secular academy. Those evangelicals that feel intellectually accountable to that are trying to say, „There has to be some other way then of dealing with Genesis 1-11. And that’s where you have, now, the ultimate friction point which is coming for instance with the historical Adam, and an historical fall. And now, you’re finding people who are trying to say, „Okay, There is no historical claim in Genesis 1-3, but I still believe in an historical Adam, because I’m just gonna pull him out of the air and plop him down. I still believe in a historical Adam, I’m not gonna root it in the historical text, but, I need him because Paul believed in him.

And then you have people who are on websites today, someone like Peter Enns, who used to teach at an institution which required inerrancy, who no longer teaches there, who says, „Clearly, Paul did believe in inerrancy, but Paul was wrong.” So now, not only do you have the denial of inerrancy and the historicity of Genesis 1-3, but, you have Paul now in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 being said (about): Well, now inerrancy for him means he was speaking truthfully, as inspired by God, but limited to the worldview that was accessible and available to him at the time. That is not what Jesus believed about Scripture.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

Michael Horton Is The Doctrine of Inerrancy Defensible?

Michael Horton at a Ligonier Conference:

Young evangelicals and inerrancy – There is a resurgence of commitment to inerrancy among a lot of young christians, especially in the young calvinist movement and that’s very encouraging. But, there are also signs that there is a generation that knew not the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, that Dr. Sproul and Dr. MacArthur were a part of so many years ago. I remember when I was a teenager I went to one of those conferences, and I was wrestling with some of these questions myself, and I was raised in a very conservative evangelical background, but I’ve always had some restless, inquisitive spirit and didn’t want to just take things whole as they were being taught to me without asking some questions and being convinced in my own mind. What I was questioning, in many respects, the doctrine of inerrancy really wasn’t. I think a lot of younger christians right now are struggling with inerrancy for a lot of the same reasons their parents and grandparents may have struggled with it. (PHOTO CREDIT

First of all, we’ve had 3 centuries of rationalistic criticism of the supernatural. Now, obviously, if we’re going to have a word form God, given to us in history, you have to be at least open to the plausibility for the supernatural world view. You can’t say that miracles never happen, and yet believe that God has spoken, has broken into our world to speak to us in our history. We’ve had 3 centuries of a presupposition that says, out of the gate, without any investigation, without any criticism or questioning, that things happen, purely according to natural processes. God doesn’t speak and God doesn’t act in history. He may have created the world, He may have wound up the clock, but He doesn’t get involved now that things are running along marvelously. God doesn’t speak either, to us in judgment that would terrify us, as Israel was terrified when God spoke at Mt. Sinai. Nor does He speak to us the good news of salvation, because we don’t need to be saved. And so, there’s this integral relationship between Pelagiansim- the belief that we can save ourselves, and naturalism- the belief that we don’t need to hear from  a god outside of ourselves. And that’s what we’ve seen for the last 3 1/2 centuries with the rise of the enlightenment, where spirit and letter were set in opposition. This was already clear in some of the mystical sects of the Middle Ages. It was very clear in the radical anabaptist movement, where leaders like Thomas Muntzer that Luther just preaches the external word, that merely just beats air, but, we have that inborn spiritual word in our hearts.  And so, the external word of Scripture and the internal word of the Spirit speaking directly in our hearts became a hallmark of western consciousness. It was picked up by the rationalists and secularized by people like Lessing and Kant and others, who said we have an inner morality that we turn to. We can trust that reason within us, and we don’t need a word outside of us. We do not need an external God outside of our own hearts, or our own minds, or our own experiences to tell us who we are, where we are, what or problem is and what He has done to solve it.

Immanuel Kant, one of the great leaders of the enlightenment said, „The concept of God, and even the conviction of His existence can be met only in reason, and cannot first come to us, either through inspiration or through tidings communicated to us, however great the authority behind them”.  He went on to say that the 2 things we can be convinced of most certainly of are the starry heavens above and the moral law within. But, of course this means that human existence is totally self enclosed, like the roof over this building. There’s nothing above us, there’s no one to tell us why He made us, how He made us, what His purpose is for our life, and how we stand before Him in the light of that purpose, and what He has done to save us. Closed up in ourselves. „In brief,” said Kant, „we seek moral imperatives. In brief, I am only interested on what is incumbent upon me, clearly distinguished form what God does for me. Hence, nothing new is imposed by the Gospel upon me. Rather, whatever the state of those reports, new strength and confidence is already given to my already good dispositions. And so, one of the real reasons I think we struggled with this, from Immanuel Kant to Oprah, is that we don’t allow anything from outside of our own narrow experience and reason to interrupt us.

Christianity is a rational faith. Not rationalistic, but rational. There is no great doctrine in the christian faith that isn’t a mystery, that doesn’t transcend our reason. But, there is no doctrine in christianity that is against reason itself. But, rationalism is itself against reason because it presupposes a world that doesn’t exist  before it even investigates that world. 

Unwilling to be judged by God’s external law, many of our contemporaries are unwilling to be saved  by God’s external Gospel. In one sense, the modern age has been very rationalistic: „Just the facts, ma’am.” And on the other hand, very mystical. When it comes to finding ultimate meaning in life, they realize they can’t find ultimate meaning in science and reason, and so they turn inward. As C. S. Lewis said: They sort of just become scientist magicians- going to the lab and thinking critically as scientists, and then going home and playing with their ouija boards. (10)

There’s a schizophrenia in out culture that is that is very much a part of our problem with an external authority. Also, there have been scuffles with science. The reformation contributed mightily to the rise of modern science, in many ways. But, there’s the history, especially in the Medieval church of Copernicus and Galileo that still haunts us to this very day. Today, science and orthodox faith are polarized as never before. Scientists often go beyond the methods, sources, and criteria of their own field, in order to pronounce on philosophical and metaphysical questions, while, sometimes christian theologians transgress the boundaries of the faithful interpretation of Scripture and adopt extra biblical theories. And, what happens in the process often is you have young people going off to college not knowing what they believe and why they believe it, and they get caught in this crossfire between science and faith.

Thirdly, there are genuine discrepancies. After 3 centuries of relentless criticism, we can say there are genuine discrepancies. Now, discrepancies are not errors. Discrepancies are problems that we haven’t solved in our exegesis. They’re not problems with the text, but they’re problems with us. But, it’s not as if this was shown for the first time in the enlightenment. If you read Jean Calvin’s commentaries, or if you go back to John Chrysostom, for that matter. Or, Augustine, you see that they point out discrepancies. But, as in any science, you don’t throw a whole paradigm that is stable and accounts for the greatest amount of data overboard, simply because you can’t explain anomalous data. And if that’s true, and the sign is that it is generally true when we come to the inerrancy of the Scripture.

For the Protestant reformers, the defense of Scripture, they agreed with Rome on the inerrancy of Scripture- Rome has down  to the second Vatican council agreed with the inerrancy of Scripture, at least officially. The reason the informers were so insistent on Sola Scriptura was not because they have a sort of Islamic attachment to a book, It was because they knew that in that book, God had spoken to us outside of our experience, outside of our reason, outside of what we ever could have know for ourselves and delivered the only hope for our salvation and the salvation of the world. And so, the Gospel itself was bound up with Scripture.

The apostle Paul tells us, famously, in 2 Timothy 3:14 „But, as for you continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training and righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped, for every good work.” The first thing we need to look at here, in this definition of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is:

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God’s own testimony to His word is in Scripture.

The Bible’s testimony to itself. The Bible is a canon, coming from the greek word canon, which means rule, it’s sort of similar to a constitution. And in the ancient near eastern world, the world of political treaties from which our covenantal analogies in Scripture come, in that ancient near eastern world, a great king would liberate a lesser people from tyrants and then annex that lesser people to himself. And so, his word had both liberating power and when he gave them the treaty, binding, regulating power. And it’s no different between Yahweh and His people. God is the great king, greater than all kings of the earth, and God has annexed us, He has chosen us, redeemed us, called us to Himself, liberating us from lords that cannot make us safe. And so, God;s word not only saves, it rules. It’s not only the word of liberation, that saves us from our enemies. It is also that constitution by which the people of God are bound, and by which His church is regulated. Nothing added, nothing subtracted on penalty of death. And there’s a line in these ancient near eastern treaties of Israel’s neighbors. With these political arrangements, the treaty always had a clause saying that whoever adds to or takes away from the words of this treaty X,Y, and Z would happen to them. And usually it was death. We find the exact same formula in the Old Testament. We read that death will come to anyone that adds words to this law or takes away from the words of this law. And in the last book of the Bible it ends the same way: Whoever adds words or takes away from this prophecy, his name will be taken away from the Book of Life.

That’s what it means to have a canon. But, how can we embrace the christian canon over other supposed canons? For instance, the Koran. What distinguishes the Bible? Scripture, of course, is self authenticating. That means that as we read the Bible we hear God speak to us, and you don’t need to know the argument for how that happens, to really hear God speak through His word. You don’t have to become an apologist, you don’t have to defend it to all detractors. The word of God speaks for itself because in that word, we have God Himself addressing us through the lips of His ambassadors.  And yet, we need to always be prepared for the defense that we have, and also to help christians struggling with issues like inerrancy, to think through the internal and external evidence for the faithfulness of God speaking in His word.

The best way to do this is to start with Jesus. 

Jesus is GodJesus declared and eyewitnesses confirmed that He was the promised Messiah. That was His message concerning Himself. He’s the Son of God and the Son of David, who was sent to deliver us from our sins. That’s the main message and ministry of Jesus Christ. And He explained that He came to die on the cross, and to be raised 3 days later. So, we start with the message of Jesus. Who did Jesus believe He was? And what did Jesus believe He had come to do? And then, the second question to ask is: Did He do that? Was He successful? Did He accomplish everything that He promised? And when we look at  that we see great evidence internal and external for the resurrection of Christ.

Those with the means, the motive and the opportunity to disprove the resurrection of Jesus failed to do so. They failed to come up with evidence. In fact, the ancient rabbinical sources, the rabbis of Jesus’ day said that He was born illegitimately and was probably demon possessed because ‘He performed signs and wonders and led our people astray by the work of Satan’, confirming therefore that He was performing signs and wonders, and confirming the report that the unpardonable sin the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to say that Jesus was performing these miracles, not by the power of the Holy Spirit, but by the power of Satan. They offered implausible arguments about the disciples having stolen Jesus’ body, proving once again that the body wasn’t there. Hindsight is 20/20, but you almost think that if you’re a later Jewish apologist, you’d wanna say, „Why couldn’t anybody shut up? Why were they talking so much? Why were they going after christians so much? Every time they attacked these claims that swirled around Jesus, they substantiated many of those claims as hostile witnesses.”

Roman and JEwish historians have both confirmed that a great dissension erupted in Jerusalem over the whereabouts of Jesus’ body and over the immediate rise- this wasn’t a slowly evolving myth, over the immediate rise of the disciples of Christ who proclaimed His resurrection, on penalty of death. And none of the disciples showed themselves to be in any mood for martyrdom. They fled the scene leaving the women to sort of fend for themselves. The men fled. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Where do we learn about this? In the Bible itself. If you start a new religion would you represent yourself and your buddies that way? Well, the New Testament is telling us warts and all what had happened because whatever it was it was great enough to bring them out into the light of day and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ even though they knew that they would be martyred for that claim.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The person who wrote that, the apostle Paul, was commissioned by this risen Christ. And the other apostles were commissioned directly by Jesus Christ. They had to be eyewitnesses. And so, what we have now in the New Testament is a canon composed through human agency, with the criteria of their being eye witnesses and commissioned directly by Jesus Christ for this purpose.

Let me just say a little word about trinitarian cooperation in inspiration. The cooperation of the persons of the trinity is very important here. Every work that the godhead does is done from the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit.- Whether it’s creation, whether it’s the Exodus and the conquest, or whether it’s the life and ministry and work of Jesus Christ. Nothing is done by the Father without the Son and the Spirit. Nothing is done by the Son without the Father and the Spirit. Nothing is done by the Spirit without the Father and the Son. They cooperate in every work. And that is true of inspiration as well.

If we just have a doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy that focuses on the Father’s speaking (such as): It’s inerrant and infallible because God said it, I believe it, that settles it- we do not yet have a sufficiently christian doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy. But, some people say, „No, it should focus on Christ, Christ is the content, the substance of Scripture and this often leads to a canon within a canon approach. That is, whatever preaches Christ, in other words, whatever ‘I’ think preaches Christ is inerrant, and everything around it might be full of errors, but at least that is true, at least the Gospel is true. And then, some people take the Holy Spirit and separate the Holy Spirit from the word, so that you hear things like, „What the Holy Spirit is saying to us today is is just as important as what He said to the prophets and the apostles.” What we have to do is recognize  that in the work of inspiration, the Father is speaking, the Son is the content, and the Holy Spirit is the one who both inspires the text and illumines our hearts to embrace it.

In 2 Corinthians 1, the father is the faithful promise maker and we read: „All of the promises of God find their yes in Christ. Yet, we can only utter our amen to God for His glory because He has also put His seal on us and given us His spirit in our hearts as a guarantee”. There you have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in cooperation. Other passages 2 Timothy 3:15017, that I just read also makes that point very well. The Father is mentioned, the Son is mentioned, and the Spirit is mentioned. (25:00)

But, when you go back and read the creation account, one of the things that has really stood out to me in recent years is the way you have there in the creation account two forms of God’s creative accounts. The first is ex nihilo, bringing the world out of nothing. „Let there be..” and there was. That’s the formula that we’re familiar with. But, in those same passages you have references to God saying, „Let the earth bring forth.. ” and the earth brought forth. Now here’s the thing. Liberals and fundamentalists often sound alike in their presupposition, that to the extent that something is from God, it is not through human agency. This is something we really have to work through because hyper supernaturalism and naturalism are kissing cousins. The first thing we have to see here is because it’s trinitarian, the Father working in the Son, by the Spirit, both declaring, „Let there be…” and there was, but also through the work of the Holy Spirit saying, „Let the earth bring forth…” God used the natural capacities of the prophets and the apostles to bring forth that which He had foreordained before the foundation of the world. Photo credit for book

To delineate this a little bit more, what I’d like to do in the time remaining is look very briefly at a book that I think remains probably the best book on this subject. B. B. Warfield and A. Hodge’s book ‘Inspiration’ remains untouched. Their arguments have yet to be answered by critics. And so, I wanna mention their points very briefly, cause I don’t think anything here has changed yet.

  1. They point out that the rejection of inerrancy, which means that the Bible does not err in all that it affirms in the original autographs, they point out that the rejection of inerrancy is typically founded ultimately on a false view of God’s relation to the world. In other words, either miracles cannot happen, or whenever God acts it always has to be miraculous. Here again, the fundamentalists and the liberals often play off against each other. If it’s going to be an act of God, to that extent, it can’t come through human agency. You have to deny the human aspect. And yet, these authors say biblical inspiration, not only includes the untrammeled play of all the authors faculties, but involves the very substance of what they write. It’s not just how they write it, it’s what they write that is human. It is evidently, for the most part a part of their mental and spiritual activities. The writers say God’s superintendence does not compromise creaturely freedom. Our freedom is not divine freedom, it’s always creaturely freedom. But precisely because God gives it to us by analogy, we really do have freedom. This means that it is not the case that as to the extent that God does something, creatures don’t do something. Rather, it is precisely because of God’s sovereign freedom that human freedom is even possible in the first place. God has no trouble, therefore, producing a Bible that is without errors, without interrupting or taking away human freedom. There’s this assumption that human freedom implies error. „To err is human”, that’s not the case at all. And of course, Jesus Christ was without sin, and yet tempted in all respects as we are. If we believe that He was truly human, yet without sin we can believe that the Bible is truly human, yet without error.
  2. Warfield and Hodge underscore the redemptive historical unfolding of biblical revelation. In other words, the Bible did not fall down from heaven, it’s not like Muhammad receiving the Koran, supposedly as it dropped down from Allah to Muhammad. It’s not a collection of eternal timeless  thoughts and principles. It is a story, it is  narrative that unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. And that which is less clearly revealed in the Old Testament is more clearly revealed in the New Testament. 1200 years of this organic, like a plant, organic development is what produced our Bible. That’s what we have in the Old and New Testaments. A canon that has grown through the centuries, through the superintending work of the Spirit, working through creaturely means. Therefore, say the authors, theories concerning  authors, dates, sources, and modes of composition that are not plainly inconsistent with the testimony of Christ and His apostles. As to the Old Testament or with the apostolic origin of the books of the New Testament cannot in the least invalidate the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy. Those questions are open. They’re questions about the humanness of the books. Whenever we bump into the obvious humanness of the Bible, that shouldn’t diminish our confidence in its divinity, its divine force. Rather, it should strengthen it, that in all of its humanity, in all of its diversity, in all of its plurality of witnesses and voices, clearly, there is one voice behind it all that brings it together. In Scripture, no less than in history itself. (32:50)
  3. These Princeton theologians faced squarely the question of contradictions and errors. They noted problems in great detail. Some discrepancies are due to imperfect copies, which textual criticism properly considers. Other discrepancies may be due to an original reading that has been lost. Or we may simply fail to have adequate data, or be blinded by or own presuppositions from understanding a given text. They say, „Sometime we are destitute of the circumstantial knowledge which would fill up  and harmonize the record, as is true in any historical record. But, you don’t have historians running off and saying the battle of Waterloo never happened because there are things we can’t explain. The record itself, they say, furnishes evidence that the writers were in large measure dependent on their knowledge upon sources and methods in themselves fallible. Peter, himself, says that the prophets were diligently searching out in an inquiring as they were writing out their prophecies, what this might mean. They weren’t Nostradamus, walking around receiving a word of knowledge to see into the future. No, God gave them audible verbal words  in those case of ‘Thus saith the Lord”, analogous to ‘Let there be light,’ and there was. And in other cases, led them to the trammel free of their faculties and in His sovereignty determined that what they said would be an inspired record of what He wanted for future generations to be recorded.
  4. (skipped # 4)
  5. The claim of inerrancy is that in all their real affirmations, these books are without error. Every sentence here, every thesis of Hodge and Warfield was carefully selected and every word in it is very important. Now, there are many things in the Bible that are not real affirmations, but are assumptions on the part of the writer. A reductionistic view of language would only lead us to reject the inerrancy and the trustworthiness of the Bible because we couldn’t reconcile it, for example, with the cosmology of the Psalmist with Einstein. It would be ridiculous. As Jean Calvin said, „Moses was not an astronomer. He wasn’t doing astronomy. He was giving us God’s inspired  infallible record of His covenant relationship with His people and His sovereignty over the whole earth”. Whatever the Scriptures teach is inerrant. We have to ask: What is their purpose? What is being really affirmed in certain passages? Some critics have said, „Look, the Psalmist says that the world rests on four pillars. What an antiquated world view, as if they’ve never read poetry before. It may well be that the Psalmist assumed a cosmology or a world view  that was unknown until modern science. That may be, but what was he affirming? What is the real affirmation there of the Psalmist, especially when it’s in the form of poetry? He didn’t believe God had feathers, yet He spoke of God having feathers (cover me with Your wings…). We have to be very careful that we don’t hand liberals the fodder. A classic example that is often quoted is Matthew 13:32 where Jesus said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed. I can’t tell  you how many well educated scholars who used to believe in inerrancy and now they don’t, flounder on this passage. Of course the mustard seed is not the smallest seed in all the world. We know what the smallest seed in all the world is and it’s not that one. But, 2 things we can say by way of response. Jesus didn’t necessarily know what was the smallest seed in the entire world. In His state of humiliation He didn’t know the hour or the time of His return: Only my Father in heaven. In His state of humiliation Jesus Christ was faithfully telling  what He had been delivered from the Father. All of this, I received from my Father in heaven”. And so, Jesus was speaking to them in a way that they would have understood, out of a world, out of a place and time He belonged to very much, as a first century Jew. What’s really being affirmed in this passage is: The smallest seed you have any awareness of, any experience of in your daily life, the kingdom of God starts out like that, and gets  real big. Inerrancy requires our confidence, not in the exactitude of the biblical statements, but in the reliability  of the biblical statements. What is affirmed as reliable, not necessarily exhaustive?

Critics, also, often point out that if you follow the chronologies in the Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, you arrive, as archbishop Usher did in the 17th century, that the world was created Sunday, October 23rd 4004 B.C. Well, if that’s disproved, then the Bible therefore unravels and we can no longer trust in its authority. Well, now we know how chronologies work. Chronologies are not like the United States Census Report. Chronologies in the ancient world highlighted significant people in dynasties. You go from George Washington and skip to Abraham Lincoln. You don’t go from George Washington to his children, and their children and so forth. And the same is true in Matthew’s genealogy. Once again it’s a question of the scope. What is being claimed in each passage? As Warfield explains: It is true that the Scriptures were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or ethnology, or human history as such. Therefore, they are not to be studied primarily as sources of information on these subjects. Not because they’re unreliable, because they don’t address it. That’s not their purpose. That’s not their scope.

  • 6. An appeal to the inerrancy of the original autograph. This is kind of the Achilles’ heel. Critics will say, „What museum can I go to for the original autographs? If so, we can talk about whether they’re inerrant or not inerrant. You guys keep talking about the  inerrancy of the original autographs…” We’re clearly not saying that this (the Bible) is inerrant. Textual criticism is always going through and showing, after more careful research, more careful study that the ending of the Lord’s prayer isn’t in the best manuscripts. Because not much has changed through textual criticism, nothing touching any major point of doctrine , we can be convinced that as it is now, the conclusions that have been reached are pretty devastating to higher critics.

It is really important for us to realize that not only the Gospel, but the nature of God is implicated in this whole question of inerrancy, and that’s what I’m going to close with here.

I mentioned that the reformers bound their understanding of Scripture, the importance of the nature of Scripture with the content, the Gospel itself. Whatever the holy, unerring, and truthful God says is simply by virtue of  having come from Him holy, unerring, and truthful. In addition, the content of God’s speech is none other than the gift of the eternal Son, who became flesh for our Salvation. Revelation is therefore not merely an ever new event that occurs through the work of the Spirit, it is a written canon of biting, Spirit breathed, constitution for the covenant community unto all generations. That’s why Paul calls it a pattern of sound words, that we are to guard by means of the holy Spirit, who dwells within us. Of course this word creates. The Spirit creates through this word our act of faith in it. But, it is primarily, and first and foremost objectively the faith, once and for all delivered  to the saints.

Far more than ancient eastern rulers who demanded the death penalty for adding and subtracting from the canon does this great King, the Lord God almighty impose His canon with all seriousness. Secular kings could impose their constitutions simply by brute force, vascillating arbitrarily between harsh tyranny and careless abandon. But our King rules us, brothers and sisters, our King rules us in order to save us. He doesn’t rule us haphazardly, or tyrannically, although He has more power than all the kings of the earth. When He speaks, life comes to those who are dead. Sins are forgiven, and new creation dawns. That’s what happens when God speaks. In this way, we see the wide gulf separating christianity from Islam, for instance, in its claim.

And, I’ll conclude with this comparison and contrast. No Muslim embraces the Koran out of confidence that only there they can find the gracious face of a father, who warmly embraces them in His Son. Whereas the Koran is a collection of oracles supposedly dictated directly from Allah to Muhammad, the Bible directs us to the testimony of prophets and apostles over many centuries and in the proper voice of each author. Furthermore, whereas Paul reminded Caesar’s court that the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ were public knowledge , saying, „These were not done in a corner, as you, yourself know.. Everything, every miraculous claim in the Koran was done in a corner. A deep dark corner. Privately, not publicly, not open to investigation or criticism. 3 centuries of the greatest intellects of the western culture  have subjected the Bible to criticism precisely because it invites it, and has turned out to be better for the struggle. Islam means submission, based on the mere assertions of its leader. Christianity proclaims trust in Jesus Christ based on historical reports. And that same gulf separates Christianity from all of the inward looking enthusiastic movements of our age. Christians receive Scripture as inspired and inerrant because it comes from a faithful FatherIt speaks of a gracious Son, and it is certified by the Spirit who opens our heart to receive its treasures  for everything that we need in this passing evil age. And all other ground IS sinking sand.

VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (6) Escaping the Wiles of the Devil (last video)

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

The Screwtape Letters Part 5 – The Lust of the Flesh


Last Part 6 – Escaping the Wiles of the Devil

Dr. Root, C.S. Lewis scholar at Wheaton College, Illinois, in his last lecture gives some antidotes to Screwtape’s wiles and ways to avoid temptations and see more victory from the writing of C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.

Screwtape’s overtures must be detected and overcome. How can this be done? Any study of C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters must end with a word of hope and some positive advice, as to how we can become less and less susceptible to the wiles of the evil one. In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis said he thought pride was the great sin. And, certainly pride is one area, one thread on which several of the Screwtape Letters are held together. When Lewis says ‘pride is a great sin’ though, I would tend to take issue with him, unless he means by ‘great sin’, like the apex of a pyramid is the greatest point of a pyramid, I’m comfortable with what he’s claimed. Lewis wasn’t the only one who said pride was the greatest sin. Augustine, in his commentary on Psalm 19 says the same thing. And, many christians throughout time.

But, let me see if I can make a case. If, again, they mean pride is at the apex of a pyramid, it’s at the end of a process. We know that the apex of the pyramid is being supported by things far more substantive beneath the apex. But, let me explain what we discover as we go to the parts that are the more substantive of the pyramid, where something like pride would be the apex. I am not talking, too, of pride as pride in a job well done. I’m talking about that form of pride that manifests itself as a kind of pretense- making myself look better than I am. Deluding myself into thinking I am  better than I am, or wanting other people to buy into the delusion.

Could it not be that maybe pride is preceded by insecurity and fear. If you knew me as I am, you might reject me. So I try to make myself better than I am. If this is true, then the Bible is explicit about what would be beneath – fear and insecurity. 1 John 4:18 „perfect love casts out fear”. Now, you and I have never been loved perfectly by another human being before. Well meaning people have done the best they can, but we’ve still picked up mixed messages. So, consequently, if perfect love casts out fear, a corollary might be that imperfect love breeds anxiety. And, each of us, by the methods we picked up from others, have been at some level saddled with the burden of anxiety. Furthermore, it gets worst before it gets better. You and I have never loved anybody perfectly either. So people in our world, who have looked to us for love. Though we’ve done the best we know how, we’ve still saddled them with some burden of anxiety.

There’s only one person who knows you utterly and loves you completely, and that’s God. His love is non contingent, it’s not based any kind of performance on our part. When we fail, He loves us and forgives us. When He’s picked us up by His grace, His love nurtures us. His love is not increased by our performance, nor is it diminished by our failure. This is overwhelming. God knows us and loves us completely. That doesn’t mean He’s not disappointed at our failure. But His love is such that He remains with us. He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

Therefore, it would appear that the greatest sin, at the base of the pyramid is to reject the love of God, to be unwilling to accept the love of God in our lives.

Antidote – The love of God. 

Security in the love of God is a preventative, making us less susceptible to Screwtape’s temptation and offerings. Lewis writes an essay: First and Second Things. You put first things first, you get second things thrown in. You put second things first, you lose out on first and second things. For, who can eat, and who can enjoy life without Him? Screwtape provides false notions of the self and of the world. When we define ourselves by these falsehoods, we become susceptible by the things he suggests will fulfill us. We look for artificialities, rather than something substantive in God. God loves you. He knows you and He loves you. And, nothing will keep you safe from the evils of the wicked one more than the realization of God’s love for you and your loving response to Him. Trusting that He has your best welfare at stake, so you don’t start looking for it in other places. I think we need to define ourselves by how He sees us and He loves us. We are always having a great love story told to us, by the great lover of our souls, and we live most of our lives out of cognition. There are brief moments when we get it. He loves us and we’re overwhelmed. And then, we fall out of cognition as quickly as we fell into cognition.

In the heart of God, He offers us the best He can offer us- His love. And we, instead, vector off towards artificialities. The love of God keeps us secure. If you neglect God’s love, you will begin to drift away from Him and drift towards those artificialities that we use as a substitute for God. And once Screwtape could move towards these idols, these artificialities, he’ll start to have His way with us. We, withdrawing into ourselves  and becoming self-referential, we also look on others in a utilitarian way, which compounds our sense of isolation. We also increase our own sensitivities, becoming more easily hurt by the actions of others around us, while becoming less sensitive to the hurt others around us may be enduring because of us. Photo below via

Growing in Virtue

There is something we can do in order to grow in grace as well

Growing in Virtue 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Lewis also writes about virtue in Mere Christianity. Virtue is an integrated hole. Virtue is a means to the good life. Virtue had facets, but they were all interdependent. – These things grow in response to our love for God. These are the offerings of our love back to God, in loving response. All these are habits, too, by the way.

  1. Courage is the habitual ability to suffer pain and hardship. It’s endurance, fortitude, it’s staying power. Courage is the ability to say „Yes” to right action, even in the teeth of pain. Our own moral development will not progress if we don’t have this endurance. When the temptation comes we endure. When we run the risk of vectoring we need to endure in our loving response to God. We need to lather up again in God’s love for us, that we might triumph over some of these other things. 
  2. Temperance, on the other hand is the habitual ability to resist the enticement of immediate pleasure, in order to gain the more remote good. If courage is the ability to say „yes” in the right action even in the teeth of pain, temperance is the ability to say „no” to wrong action even in the jaws of pleasure. And we can do that most readily, when we’re most satisfied in our relationship with God. If you find yourself caving in because you’re intemperate, let the red light go on the dashboard of your life- God loves you, He forgives you… when the red light goes on, go to Him in your intemperance and receive from Him His grace, that you might reinsert yourself in the world. Temperance is a mark of maturity. When my children were little, they weren’t born temperate. When they were little, they would have been willing to sell their souls for sweets. They were easy marks for Screwtape whenever he came. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.
  3. Justice is the habit of being law abiding and concerned with the common good and general welfare of ones society. Justice recognizes that my own moral development is interlinked with my responsibility to you. Justice seeks to secure and protect natural rights, to be fair and render to others their due. If I am engages in self-referential ways that treat you in a utilitarian way, my own character is diminished, and as a human being I am not enjoying life to the fullest. Justice testifies to the fact that character and development is connected to one’s responsibility to another. One’s moral development is linked to practicing fairness and showing genuine concern  for the welfare of others.
  4. Wisdom. Lastly, wisdom is the habit  being careful about decisions one makes. It seeks counsel and advice. Wisdom is the perspective of the scaffold, it’s the perspective of God’s word, it’s the perspective of friends who bring to us insight that we wouldn’t have, if we were operating individually, or self-referentially. We need this wisdom.

The thing that keeps us moving in the realm of virtue and spiritual maturity is when it’s all built on the foundation of God’s love. God’s love is the antidote to the wiles of the evil one. Three weeks before C S Lewis died, an American girl wrote him a letter, and she had read the Narnian chronicles, and Lewis was on his deathbed, virtually. Nobody would have faulted him if he wouldn’t have wrote this girl back. But, he writes her a letter, this great christian leader, not struggle free in his life, but a struggler who learned the art of living through his struggles. He learned about the grace of God and the love of God. And Lewis writes this girl, as he’s on the threshold of eternity, to an 11 year old American girl on the threshold of her earthly experience, and he says to her, „If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much will go wrong with you. And I pray you may always do so.” It’s still great advice.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (5) The Sins of the Flesh

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Part 5 –  The Sins of the Flesh

Screwtape, when he writes, especially about the sins of the flesh, and fleshly desire, he writes this in Letter 19, and it’s his key concept to the desires of the flesh. He writes: Separate your patient’s sexuality from all that might humanize him. To humanize the desire is not to deny the desire, but to allow love and justice to guide and direct it. That place where we begin to respect  the humanity of the other person, not be self-referential and utilitarian, using other people for our own ends. Screwtape writes in Letter 7: Once you’ve made the world an end of faith and means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. So we see that Screwtape seeks to hold the patient in a state of confusion over real pleasure. And, artificiality, or the corruption of pleasure.

In letter 9, we are informed that the devil cannot produce pleasures. Screwtape says, „All we can do is to encourage humans to take pleasures which our enemy has produced at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden. Hence, we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that which is least natural, least redolent of its maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „Exploit the troth. Undulation – we have these up and down periods in our life. He says, „Exploit the troth, exploit the down time.” In other words, help your patient move towards pleasure, that is a kind of anesthetizing behavior.

All of us are wounded. Not necessarily all of us are broken. Brokenness is an awareness of our wound, and how it affects us at some level. And, our tendency, because of our woundedness, rather than bringing it to Jesus, to begin the process of healing us, we will gravitate towards anesthetizing behaviors. These behaviors are things like drug addiction, alcohol addictions, eating disorders, sexual addiction, workaholism. Usually, these anesthetizing behaviors get us by, they don’t get us better. And, usually, as time comes, we pick up some convictions along the way, and the anesthetizing behaviors that got us by from our youth, these anesthetizing behaviors begin to operate in contrast to our convictions.

Romans 7 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Who will set me free form these things? Paul says Christ will. Why is it that we keep going back to these things, even though they are contrary to our convictions? I would like to suggest to you that: Our wounds are deeper than our convictions. And, if we’re not finding the grace of God healing us in the places of our life, especially in the troth period, we become particularly susceptible to the sins of the flesh, and Screwtape has his way on us. (10:22)

What is the antidote to lust? It’s reality. To see another person as she or he really is. That is why Screwtape says, „Separate his sexuality from all that might humanize it. Separate it from reality. Separate it from virtue, as a means to pleasure, and lead them towards vice and unrestrained expression that doesn’t take into account the humanity of another person.” In Letter 13 Screwtape warns Wormwood not to allow his patient to experience real pleasure. The characteristic of pains and pleasure, he writes, is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. He writes, „How could you have failed to see that a real pleasure  is the last thing you ought to have him meet?” Because a real pleasure would see things as they are, not as he would have them be. In an experiment in criticism, Lewis said: In coming to understand anything, we must accept the facts as they are, not as they are for us.

In Letter 17, he talks about the glutton of delicacy, and we talked about that under pride. But, Lewis finishes his discussion of the gluttony of delicacy by talking about this woman, who talks about- „All I want” state of mind. I want it like this, I want it like that”. She has in her mind what she wants. He says at the end of that particular statement: She doesn’t mind what she eats herself, but does like to have things nice for her boy. In fact, of course, her greed has been one of the chief  sources of the boy’s domestic discomfort for many years. She thinks she’s doing right by the boy, but she’s projecting on the boy what she wants the boy to be like, rather than being concerned to let the boy be what he ought to be. (18:00)

In Letter 20 we see Screwtape say this to Wormwood, „The goal is to produce in every age, a general misdirection of what may be called sexual taste.. (Here, sexual taste is the abuse of another person for my own ends, but, it’s an abuse of another person in a particular way). This they do, by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers, who determine the fashionable type. As a result, we are more and more directing the desires of men towards something that does not exist, making the role of the ‘I’ in sexuality more and more important. At the same time, making it’s demands more and more impossible.

The use of undulation is a seedbed for temptation. In Letter #8, Screwtape invites Wormwood to exploit troth times. In Letter 25, we see this: There’s the horror of the same old thing. The lust then for novelty. You can’t get a person, then, to be satisfied in their present state, they have to lust for something that’s beyond what’s in their own pasture, or their own world. The God who is immutable created the immutability of time. He even entered it himself. He gives His creatures a love of permanence, as well as a love of change or variety. God seeks to gratify both of these loves via the rhythms of life. To overindulge one side of the permanence-variety struggle is to neglect the other, to play to eternity, while failing at temporal responsibility. This is gnostic. So to, to play to time, while failing at the eternal responsibility, this is damnable. The antidote to the excesses of change is permanence. Permanence is to discover the light in the particular.

Screwtape seeks to exaggerate the pleasures of either, to make an end of it. He seeks to destroy balance, and the struggle to bring about balance. And this results in diminished pleasure and increased desire. So, the pleasure of novelty is subject to the law of diminishing returns. This leads to the susceptibility to fashion or vogues, and so on. Screwtape’s goal is mainly to produce that nonsense in the intellect, which reinforces corruption in the will. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „We want cattle who can finally become food, but God wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. Screwtape will try to make man in his image, where as God will remake us in the image of His Son. All choice moves us one way or another, towards a miserific vision, or the beatific vision.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (4) The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil

Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

We are almost predatory about self deception and Screwtape advises his nephew, Wormwood to help people in that regard, to be self deceived. The word Akrasia means to make excuses and rationalize bad acts. It self justifies. Remember that even when Christ was dying on the cross for our sins, there were those at the foot of the cross who said, „If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself.” We understand the ‘save yourself’ mentality. But, Jesus didn’t come to save himself, He came to save lost humanity. And, Job’s self referential experience, and we’re tender towards Job because he’s suffering, and any time we suffer, we wanna give people in the moment of their crisis a wide swath of understanding and patience. But, Job, even in his hurting moments, God says to him: Gird up your loins like a man, Job, and I will ask you and you will instruct me. It’s a very ridiculous juxtaposition of God as the student and Job as the teacher. And then He says to him, „Will you really annul mu judgments, that you may be justified?”

The bad alternative to repentance is this akrasia, this rationalization. It’s a bad alternative to repentance and the obedience that follows on the heels of repentance. Obedience is the opener of eyes. We might say, akrasia is the closer of eyes. It keeps us from seeing reality. Obedience allows me to live in the benefits of omniscience. I’m a pea brain, I don’t know very much. But, every time God, in His omniscience, calls me to obedience, I can live beyond my own capacities. If I obey Him, I receive the benefits of omniscience. Furthermore, obedience is the splint that God places on a broken life in order that it might mend. But, disobedience and akrasia, in willful blindness, keeps me in that broken state.

We get the concept for akrasia from Aristotle’s ethics. Aristotle wrote: vice is unconscious of itself. It’s a statement that Lewis himself footnotes in the abolition of man, from Aristotle’s ethics. Lewis is very much aware of this concept of self deception. Lewis writes from the preface of Paradise Lost- Continued disobedience to conscience makes conscience blind. Then, of course, Paul in Romans 1:18 – „We suppress the truth in our unrighteousness.” Screwtape urges Wormwood to engage in a corrupted form of rhetoric, to keep his patient blind. (8:25) So we see first:

The rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior:

  • The Unknowing Falsification of Reality
  • Intentional & Dishonest
  • Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends
  • Self-referentialism

Photo from

Screwtape tells Wormwood: Jargon, not reason is your best ally in keeping your patient from church. In his Oxford History of English Literature, Lewis said of the Renaissance humanists, in their reaction to the medieval literature, he said, „They jeer, but they do not refute.” You can call a person a name, you can be dismissive of that other person, but, never engage them rationally to see if your ideas hold muster against the challenges that must come. Screwtape says, „By the very act of arguing you awake the patient’s reason. And once it is awake, who can foresee the result?” Reason is an ally to faith, it’s not an ally to self justification. Real criticism is going to do 2 positive things to my faith. (1) It’s gonna cause me to prune those accoutrements that have surrounded my faith, that are false. Maybe I picked them um blindly from my subculture. I entered into something like a group think, that can sometime occur in religious communities. (2) Or, the challenge can help me to understand my faith more robustly, as I see that my faith position stands up to the challenge, even as I engage in seeing how I can answer the particular questions that are brought up in the moment. Screwtape wants us to avoid that kind of thinking, because that kind of thinking, again, either prunes the falsehood or strengthens the truth and helps us see its vitality.

Truth is not reality, truth is what I think about reality when I think accurately about it. In Letter 1, Screwtape wants to keep those he seeks to destroy in a state of moral blindness. Screwtape writes: Give to him, your patient, a grand general idea that he knows it all, and that everything he has happened to pick up in casual talk and reading is a result of modern investigation. And so, then the person moves towards informal fallacies and logic, and we don’t even realize we’re blinding ourselves in these processes. In Letter 2 Screwtape talks about this rationalized behavior in more detail. He writes to Wormwood: All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily are still in our favor. Because those habits, especially if they are bad will tend towards the rationalization of the habit. If you move the person again towards reason, then they apply the reason to the habits and they try to adjust the scoliosis of their life to the plum line of reality, and they start to change and get better. Screwtape writes: Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which hell affords. Screwtape also advises Wormwood to notice hypocrisy in others also, while remaining blind to his own hypocrisies.

Lewis and Tolkien, both often quote this passage from Plato’s laws, where Plato says: An abuse does not nullify a proper use. A lot of time we point to abuse and we think the problem is solved. But, the abuse is usually the anomaly, the misuse of a particular thing. If we judge any segment of society by its worst example, nobody could stand. But, we find then, that we’re moving towards Screwtape’s inculcation of hypocrisy and delusion, when we begin to dismiss an entire class because we’re projecting the bad example on the whole.

In Letter 3, this rationalized behavior moves towards blame. Screwtape advises Wormwood to redirect his patient’s thinking towards unrealities. He says, „You must bring him, your patient to a condition to practice self examination for an hour, without discovering any of those facts about himself, which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him, or worked in the same office. Screwtape advises to keep his patient constantly irritated by things his mother does, without thought how irritating his own actions might be to others. At the end of the day, he has 2 visions of reality. The false vision of his mother, who is not as bad as the one he projects on her, and the false image of himself, which is not as good as the one he projects on himself. Wormwood is instructed to make that imaginary person daily less and less than the real mother. 24:37

There is another rhetoric Screwtape engages in. It’s- The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Intentional & Dishonest. In Letter 6, Lewis allows us to enter in this particular topic. He is engaged also in The Rhetoric of Rationalized Behavior: Devoid of Principle or Legitimate Ends. He basically creates an illusion of truth, we see this in Letter 23. We can have a kind of very religious illusion of truth. I believe that there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Goofy people who know they’re goofy, and goofy people who are dangerous. Lewis has Screwtape say, „Get your patient on a quest for the historical Jesus, which is always a distraction from reality, because this historical Jesus they’re pursuing is a Jesus of their own construction. First, he says, each historical Jesus is unhistorical. Second, all such construction places their importance of the historical Jesus on some peculiar theory he was supposed to have promulgated, which thus destract men’s mind from who He really is and what He actually did. A third aim, Screwtape writes, is by these constructions to destroy the devotional life. Instead of the Creator adored by his creature, you have merely a leader claimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian. Fourth, a religion of this kind is false to history in another sense, Screwtape writes. No nation and few individuals are really brought to the enemy’s camp by the historical study of the biography of Jesus. It is simply his biography. The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact: The resurrection. And a single theological doctrine: The redemption operating on a sense of sin, which they already had.

And the Screwtape says: About the general connection between christianity and politics our position is more delicate. Certainly, we do not want christianity to flow over into their political life, for, the establishing of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster for Screwtape and his kind. On the other hand, we do want men to treat christianity as a means, just a means. In some senses, devoid of principle, and devoid of particular and righteous ends, preferably, of course as a means to their own advancement. But, failing that, even the means to anything, even to social justice. The thing at first is to get a man to value social justice as a thing the enemy demands, and then work on him to the stage at which he values christianity because it may produce social justice. C S Lewis said: When the means become autonomous from the principle and ends, they become evil. He even says: Even when love becomes a god, it becomes a demon. He’s not saying social justice is inappropriate. He’s saying that even social justice can become a distraction, if it leads away from centering on Jesus.

Screwtape says, in Letter 26: Get your patient to believe this, not because it’s true, but for some other reason. This leads to the Rhetoric of Self Rationalized Behavior: Self-referentialism. While Lewis rightly acknowledged that all judgments rightly imply a standard, judgments are destined to go wrong when the standard is self-referential. And this is the thing we always want to avoid, this kind of rationalization.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (3) Pride

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

Part 3 – The Screwtape Letters and Pride

One of the most dominant themes of the Screwtape Letters is Screwtape trying to woo his patient, through Wormwood, into this swollen sense of self into pride.

Dr. Root unpackages the 3 recurring themes that occur throughout the letters:

  1. Pride – a swollen sense of self and a diminished view of God. Pride, basically is man trying to play God of his own life. Every definition of sin in the Bible – gluttony, anger, greed, envy, sloth, lust-  has this (pride) as the definite concept embedded in what it means to sin. (Romans 3:23) God knows we have a diminished experience if we are estranged from him. He seeks to woo us back. Screwtape wants us to be as estranged as possible forever, if he would have his way. PRIDE is the complete anti-God state of mind. It is the essential vice leading to every other vice. Lewis concludes his chapter on pride with these words: If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can tell them the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. Screwtape seems to take good things and corrupt them with pride- even humility, even prayer, even the church. 
  2. The Rationalization of Evil (coming up in lecture 4)
  3. Temptations of the Flesh (coming up in lecture 5)

Lewis says all evil is a perversion of good. You can’t think of a bad banana, without thinking of a good banana that went bad. Evil compares to good like bread mold compares to bread. It feeds on the original thing. But, even man made in the image of the Creator can take bead mold  and make penicillin out of it; something good out of something bad. And so too, God can take the worst of evil events, as He demonstrated at Calvary and make of it divine penicillin, and the ultimate healing medicine  for the worst ailment of all- our sin and our pride. Pride is self centered and self exalting, and as such, estranges us from the real world where God and others can be met. It engages in projection of self and self interest onto the world around us and thereby becomes utilitarian. Pride results in actual attempts to alter reality. 

Each of us is intolerant of pride when we see it in others, of course. But, a false humility is manifested in our blindness to pride in our own lives, every time it raises its ugly head. Pride transforms prayer into idolatry. The subtle act of one creating their own god, can provide ample reasons for being disappointed at that god, and then projecting the disappointment on the christian God. I wonder sometimes if some of the rejection some of the people have, even some of the new atheism, if some of that rejection is a rejection of a god they made in their own image. We would say, in an informal fallacy it’s a straw man argument. In essence, in pride, things matter if, and only if, they matter to me. This sets me in conflict with the rest of the world. And, if it sets me in conflict with the rest of the world, it has to be rationalized.


Afterlife – Is this all there is? (Inspiring Philosophy)


Inspiring Philosophy: Why is it that when we look around us we constantly ask, „Is this all there is?” If this it it, and all that there ever has been, why bother even asking the question? It should be instinctively self evident for us. But, for some reason it isn’t. To say that this life is all there is is denying the fundamental question in us all, that never ceases to go away: Is there more to life than just this world? 

„Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” C.S. Lewis

Theistic Thinker: The assumption here seems to be that size determines value. But, this seems to be grossly false. We don’t think that a grain of sand on a big beach is insignificant to the beach as a whole, because of its miniscule size, but rather, because the grain of sand does not contain any special potentiality that will make a difference to the beach as a whole.

The Cartesian Theist: Relative size does not determine value. If someone told you how incredibly tiny your newborn baby was compared to our entire galaxy, and that on this basis, he or she is insignificant, and therefore of no value, you would think that they were absolutely crazy. And, you would be right to think that way. And, there is no good reason to think that size determines value, and we know it most when we become parents for the first time, when we stare at that tiny little life which has just come into the world. It is for this reason, we should reject the suggestion that a human being, or humanity as a whole is analogous to a grain of sand.

Theistic Thinker: Now, what about the universe as a whole? Take the whole observable universe, which contains billions of galaxies, receding away from us in all directions, as a result of cosmic expansion. Do we have any potentiality that makes a difference for the universe? Yes, I think so. Not only do we, or any other similar species possess the structure to alter the potentiality of the universe for our future. But, arguably, of much more importance, we also bring an element missing in the universe. We bring in concepts such as love and compassion. The universe is not happy, and it is not sad. It is not even emotionally neutral. It is we, as human beings that introduce these concepts into the universe. This is indeed significant, in my opinion.

The Dutch Philosopher: It seems this life offers us opportunities that we will not be able to have in heaven. For example, the ability to be brave- to face one’s fears and overcome them. To express compassion- it can only be done if there is sorrow. But, most importantly, this life gives us the opportunity to uncoerced, choose God to be our Father, Savior, Teacher, and Mentor or to reject Him.

The Cartesian Theist: I think some atheists created the greatest ever psychological crutch, the idea that death is the end, the idea that there is no one other than myself, whom I am accountable to. The idea that I will not be judged. The idea that no one has the right to judge the way I live my life, other than myself. Must be some huge comfort- far from diminishing the idea of living your life well in this life, the idea of a judgment at the end of this life puts the greatest possible motivation on living well in the here and now. But, not out of fear and punishment, so much as a way of showing our appreciation to the Creator for all that He has given us. And, that every breath we take is thanks to Him.

Inspiring Philosophy: Some might say, „Knowing this life is all there is, really makes me want to do something good with it. But, I have to ask: Why? Why care about anything?” You know, in 70-80 years it’s all just going to end. Nothing you’ve done will matter at that point. No one can punish you for the wrongs you’re committed, no one can congratulate you for the good you’ve done. You can live a life of complete selfishness, with no other intention than to please yourself. And, once you die, it’s all over. So, if this life is all there is, why live a life of helping others, where in the end, everyone you’ve helped just passes away.

So let’s say that you can become a very influential person. The effects you had on the world will be remembered in 100 years. After 1000 years, the history books might still mention you. But after years, and years, no one will remember. So, why care, if this life is all there is? Everything you do will end up in the grave as well.

The Dutch Philosopher: In contrast to the non believer, who lives life on a sensual level, pleasing their desires and finds no satisfaction, because, eventually everything gets boring. Or, the nonbeliever that lives life on an ethical level, trying to do the good, but continues to fail. The christian believer that lives life on the God centered level, receives a personal relationship with their Creator, forgiveness of sin, and finds ultimate purpose that starts now. (5:00)

Published on Feb 22, 2013 InspiringPhilosophy

This is a Christian response to ‘Afterlife’ by „TheThinkingAtheist”. He refuses to accept this as a response video so far. The idea for this response video is owed to TheCartesianTheist. A link his channel and the channels of everyone involved are linked below:

The CartesianTheist:…


The DutchPhilosopher:…

C S Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (2) C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will post as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

See Part 1 – The Background here

In Part 2, Doctor Root gives one more background on which Lewis paints the Screwtape Letters, and that is Lewis’s concept of hell.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (1) The Background

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

Part 1 – The Background

C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man Chapter 3

Read Chapter 1 Men Without Chests here

Read Chapter 2 The Way here

Read the Appendix here

Chapter 3

The Abolition of Man

It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave.

—John Bunyan

`Man’s conquest of Nature’ is an expression often used to describe the progress of applied science. `Man has Nature whacked,’ said someone to a friend of mine not long ago. In their context the words had a certain tragic beauty, for the speaker was dying of tuberculosis. `No matter’ he said, `I know I’m one of the casualties. Of course there are casualties on the winning as well as on the losing side. But that doesn’t alter the fact that it is winning.’ I have chosen this story as my point of departure in order to make it clear that I do not wish to disparage all that is really beneficial in the process described as `Man’s conquest’, much less all the real devotion and self-sacrifice that has gone to make it possible. But having done so I must proceed to analyse this conception a little more closely. In what sense is Man the possessor of increasing power over Nature?

Let us consider three typical examples: the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive. In a civilized community, in peace-time, anyone who can pay for them may use these things. But it cannot strictly be said that when he does so he is exercising his own proper or individual power over Nature. If I pay you to carry me, I am not therefore myself a strong man. Any or all of the three things I have mentioned can be withheld from some men by other men—by those who sell, or those who allow the sale, or those who own the sources of production, or those who make the goods. What we call Man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by. Again, as regards the powers manifested in the aeroplane or the wireless, Man is as much the patient or subject as the possessor, since he is the target both for bombs and for propaganda. And as regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive. By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.

It is, of course, a commonplace to complain that men have hitherto used badly, and against their fellows, the powers that science has given them, But that is not the point I am trying to make. I am not speaking of particular corruptions and abuses which an increase of moral virtue would cure: I am considering what the thing called `Man’s power over Nature’ must always and essentially be. No doubt, the picture could be modified by public ownership of raw materials and factories and public control of scientific research. But unless we have a world state this will still mean the power of one nation over others. And even within the world state or the nation it will mean (in principle) the power of majorities over minorities, and (in the concrete) of a government over the people. And all long-term exercises of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of earlier generations over later ones.

The latter point is not always sufficiently emphasized, because those who write on social matters have not yet learned to imitate the physicists by always including Time among the dimensions. In order to understand fully what Man’s power over Nature, and therefore the power of some men over other men, really means, we must picture the race extended in time from the date of its emergence to that of its extinction. Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors. This modifies the picture which is sometimes painted of a progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the age most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its predecessors almost as drastically as that of its successors. And we must also remember that, quite apart from this, the later a generation comes—the nearer it lives to that date at which the species becomes extinct—the less power it will have in the forward direction, because its subjects will be so few. There is therefore no question of a power vested in the race as a whole steadily growing as long as the race survives. The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future.

The real picture is that of one dominant age—let us suppose the hundredth century A.D.—which resists all previous ages most successfully and dominates all subsequent ages most irresistibly, and thus is the real master of the human species. But then within this master generation (itself an infinitesimal minority of the species) the power will be exercised by a minority smaller still. Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well aas stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.

I am not yet considering whether the total result of such ambivalent victories is a good thing or a bad. I am only making clear what Man’s conquest of Nature really means and especially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. We shall have `taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho’ and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it?


For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. In all ages, no doubt, nurture and instruction have, in some sense, attempted to exercise this power. But the situation to which we must look forward will be novel in two respects. In the first place, the power will be enormously increased. Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them—how Plato would have every infant „a bastard nursed in a bureau”, and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women,1 and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry2—we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please.

The second difference is even more important. In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao—a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart. They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are now mere natural phenomena. Judgements of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education. The conditioners have been emancipated from all that. It is one more part of Nature which they have conquered. The ultimate springs of human action are no longer, for them, something given. They have surrendered—like electricity: it is the function of the Conditioners to control, not to obey them. They know how to produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce. They themselves are outside, above. For we are assuming the last stage of Man’s struggle with Nature. The final victory has been won. Human nature has been conquered—and, of course, has conquered, in whatever sense those words may now bear.

The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the motivators, the creators of motives. But how are they going to be motivated themselves?

For a time, perhaps, by survivals, within their own minds, of the old `natural’ Tao. Thus at first they may look upon themselves as servants and guardians of humanity and conceive that they have a `duty’ to do it `good’. But it is only by confusion that they can remain in this state. They recognize the concept of duty as the result of certain processes which they can now control. Their victory has consisted precisely in emerging from the state in which they were acted upon by those processes to the state in which they use them as tools. One of the things they now have to decide is whether they will, or will not, so condition the rest of us that we can go on having the old idea of duty and the old reactions to it. How can duty help them to decide that? Duty itself is up for trial: it cannot also be the judge. And `good’ fares no better. They know quite well how to produce a dozen different conceptions of good in us. The question is which, if any, they should produce. No conception of good can help them to decide. It is absurd to fix on one of the things they are comparing and make it the standard of comparison.

To some it will appear that I am inventing a factitious difficulty for my Conditioners. Other, more simple-minded, critics may ask, `Why should you suppose they will be such bad men?’ But I am not supposing them to be bad men. They are, rather, not men (in the old sense) at all. They are, if you like, men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what `Humanity’ shall henceforth mean. `Good’ and `bad’, applied to them, are words without content: for it is from them that the content of these words is henceforward to be derived. Nor is their difficulty factitious, „We might suppose that it was possible to say `After all, most of us want more or less the same things—food and drink and sexual intercourse, amusement, art, science, and the longest possible life for individuals and for the species. Let them simply say, This is what we happen to like, and go on to condition men in the way most likely to produce it. Where’s the trouble?’ But this will not answer. In the first place, it is false that we all really like the same things. But even if we did, what motive is to impel the Conditioners to scorn delights and live laborious days in order that we, and posterity, may have what we like? Their duty? But that is only the Tao, which they may decide to impose on us, but which cannot be valid for them. If they accept it, then they are no longer the makers of conscience but still its subjects, and their final conquest over Nature has not really happened. The preservation of the species? But why should the species be preserved? One of the questions before them is whether this feeling for posterity (they know well how it is produced) shall be continued or not. However far they go back, or down, they can find no ground to stand on. Every motive they try to act on becomes at once petitio. It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

Yet the Conditioners will act. When I said just now that all motives fail them, I should have said all motives except one. All motives that claim any validity other than that of their felt emotional weight at a given moment have failed them. Everything except the sic volo, sic jubeo has been explained away. But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism. The impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive is immune from the solvent which is fatal to my justice, or honour, or care for posterity. When all that says It is good’ has been debunked, what says 1 want’ remains. It cannot be exploded or `seen through’ because it never had any pretentions. The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. I am not here speaking of the corrupting influence of power nor expressing the fear that under it our Conditioners will degenerate. The very words corrupt and degenerateimply a doctrine of value and are therefore meaningless in this context. My point is that those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.

We may legitimately hope that among the impulses which arise in minds thus emptied of all `rational’ or `spiritual’ motives, some will be benevolent. I am very doubtful myself whether the benevolent impulses, stripped of that preference and encouragement which the Tao teaches us to give them and left to their merely natural strength and frequency as psychological events, will have much influence. I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently. I am inclined to think that the Conditioners will hate the conditioned. Though regarding as an illusion the artificial conscience which they produce in us their subjects, they will yet perceive that it creates in us an illusion of meaning for our lives which compares favourably with the futility of their own: and they will envy us as eunuchs envy men. But I do not insist on this, for it is a mere conjecture. What is not conjecture is that our hope even of a `conditioned’ happiness rests on what is ordinarily called `chance’—the chance that benevolent impulses may on the whole predominate in our Conditioners. For without the judgement `Benevolence is good’—that is, without re-entering the Tao—they can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing these impulses rather than any others. By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance. And Chance here means Nature. It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas, that the motives of the Conditioners will spring. Their extreme rationalism, by `seeing through’ all `rational’ motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour. If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere `nature’) is the only course left open.

At the moment, then, of Man’s victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely `natural’—to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man. Every victory we seemed to win has led us, step by step, to this conclusion. All Nature’s apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever. If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its Tao a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt against her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness. Ferum victorem cepit: and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold.

My point may be clearer to some if it is put in a different form. Nature is a word of varying meanings, which can best be understood if we consider itsvarious opposites. The Natural is the opposite of the Artificial, the Civil, the Human, the Spiritual, and the Supernatural. The Artificial does not now concern us. If we take the rest of the list of opposites, however, I think we can get a rough idea of what men have meant by Nature and what it is they oppose to her. Nature seems to be the spatial and temporal, as distinct from what is less fully so or not so at all. She seems to be the world of quantity, as against the world of quality; of objects as against consciousness; of the bound, as against the wholly or partially autonomous; of that which knows no values as against that which both has and perceives value; of efficient causes (or, in some modern systems, of no causality at all) as against final causes. Now I take it that when we understand a thing analytically and then dominate and use it for our own convenience, we reduce it to the level of `Nature’ in the sense that we suspend our judgements of value about it, ignore its final cause (if any), and treat it in terms of quantity. This repression of elements in what would otherwise be our total reaction to it is sometimes very noticeable and even painful: something has to be overcome before we can cut up a dead man or a live animal in a dissecting room. These objects resist the movement of the mind whereby we thrust them into the world of mere Nature. But in other instances too, a similar price is exacted for our analytical knowledge and manipulative power, even if we have ceased to count it. We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture. To many, no doubt, this process is simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected, and the old opposition to Galileo or to `body-snatchers’ is simply obscurantism. But that is not the whole story. It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scientists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.

click for naturalism on wikipedia

From this point of view the conquest of Nature appears in a new light. We reduce things to mere Nature in order that we may `conquer’ them. We are always conquering Nature, because`Nature’ is the name for what we have, to some extent, conquered. The price of conquest is to treat a thing as mere Nature. Every conquest over Nature increases her domain. The stars do not become Nature till we can weigh and measure them: the soul does not become Nature till we can psychoanalyse her. The wresting of powers from Nature is also the surrendering of things toNature. As long as this process stops short of the final stage we may well hold that the gain outweighs the loss. But as soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same. This is one of the many instances where to carry a principle to what seems its logical conclusion produces absurdity. It is like the famous Irishman who found that a certain kind of stove reduced his fuel bill by half and thence concluded that two stoves of the same kind would enable him to warm his house with no fuel at all. It is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls. It is in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere `natural object’ and his own judgements of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will. The objection to his doing so does not lie in the fact that this point of view (like one’s first day in a dissecting room) is painful and shocking till we grow used to it. The pain and the shock are at most a warning and a symptom. The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his de-humanized Conditioners.

We have been trying, like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet at the same time to retain it. It is impossible. Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own `natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

I am not here thinking solely, perhaps not even chiefly, of those who are our public enemies at the moment. The process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany/Traditional values are to be `debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it. The belief that we can invent `ideologies’ at pleasure, and the consequent treatment of mankind as mere υλη, specimens, preparations, begins to affect our very language. Once we killed bad men: now we liquidate unsocial elements. Virtue has become integration and diligence dynamism, and boys likely to be worthy of a commission are `potential officer material’. Most wonderful of all, the virtues of thrift and temperance, and even of ordinary intelligence, are sales-resistance.

The true significance of what is going on has been concealed by the use of the abstraction Man. Not that the word Man is necessarily a pure abstraction. In the Tao itself, as long as we remain within it, we find the concrete reality in which to participate is to be truly human: the real common will and common reason of humanity, alive, and growing like a tree, and branching out, as the situation varies, into ever new beauties and dignities of application. While we speak from within the Tao we can speak of Man having power over himself in a sense truly analogous to an individual’s self-control. But the moment we step outside and regard the Tao as a mere subjective product, this possibility has disappeared. What is now common to all men is a mere abstract universal, an H.C.F., and Man’s conquest of himself means simply the rule of the Conditioners over the conditioned human material, the world of post-humanity which, some knowingly and some unknowingly, nearly all men in all nations are at present labouring to produce.

Nothing I can say will prevent some people from describing this lecture as an attack on science. I deny the charge, of course: and real Natural Philosophers (there are some now alive) will perceive that in defending value I defend inter alia the value of knowledge, which must die like every other when its roots in the Tao are cut. But I can go further than that. I even suggest that from Science herself the cure might come.

I have described as a `magician’s bargain’ that process whereby man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power. And I meant what I said. The fact that the scientist has succeeded where the magician failed has put such a wide contrast between them in popular thought that the real story of the birth of Science is misunderstood. You will even find people who write about the sixteenth century as if Magic were a medieval survival and Science the new thing that came in to sweep it away. Those who have studied the period know better. There was very little magic in the Middle Ages: the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the high noon of magic. The serious magical endeavour and the serious scientific endeavour are twins: one was sickly and died, the other strong and throve. But they were twins. They were born of the same impulse. I allow that some (certainly not all) of the early scientists were actuated by a pure love of knowledge. But if we consider the temper of that age as a whole we can discern the impulse of which I speak.

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious—such as digging up and mutilating the dead.

If we compare the chief trumpeter of the new era (Bacon) with Marlowe’s Faustus, the similarity is striking. You will read in some critics that Faustus has a thirst for knowledge. In reality, he hardly mentions it. It is not truth he wants from the devils, but gold and guns and girls. `All things that move between the quiet poles shall be at his command’ and `a sound magician is a mighty god’.3 In the same spirit Bacon condemns those who value knowledge as an end in itself: this, for him, is to use as a mistress for pleasure what ought to be a spouse for fruit.4 The true object is to extend Man’s power to the performance of all things possible. He rejects magic because it does not work;5 but his goal is that of the magician. In Paracelsus the characters of magician and scientist are combined. No doubt those who really founded modern science were usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power; in every mixed movement the efficacy comes from the good elements not from the bad. But the presence of the bad elements is not irrelevant to the direction the efficacy takes. It might be going too far to say that the modern scientific movement was tainted from its birth: but I think it would be true to say that it, was born in an unhealthy neighbourhood and at an inauspicious hour. Its triumphs may have-been too rapid and purchased at too high a price: reconsideration, and something like repentance, may be required.

Is it, then, possible to imagine a new Natural Philosophy, continually conscious that the `natural object’ produced by analysis and abstraction is not reality but only a view, and always correcting the abstraction? I hardly know what I am asking for. I hear rumours that Goethe’s approach to nature deserves fuller consideration—that even Dr Steiner may have seen something that orthodox researchers have missed. The regenerate science which I have in mind would not do even to minerals and vegetables what modern science threatens to do to man himself. When it explained it would not explain away. When it spoke of the parts it would remember the whole. While studying the It it would not lose what Martin Buber calls the Thou-situation. The analogy between the Tao of Man and the instincts of an animal species would mean for it new light cast on the unknown thing, Instinct, by the only known reality of conscience and not a reduction of conscience to the category of Instinct. Its followers would not be free with the words only and merely. In a word, it would conquer Nature without being at the same time conquered by her and buy knowledge at a lower cost than that of life.

Perhaps I am asking impossibilities. Perhaps, in the nature of things, analytical understanding must always be a basilisk which kills what it sees and only sees by killing. But if the scientists themselves cannot arrest this process before it reaches the common Reason and kills that too, then someone else must arrest it. What I most fear is the reply that I am `only one more’ obscurantist, that this barrier, like all previous barriers set up against the advance of science, can be safely passed. Such a reply springs from the fatal serialism of the modern imagination—the image of infinite unilinear progression which so haunts our minds. Because we have to use numbers so much we tend to think of every process as if it must be like the numeral series, where every step, to all eternity, is the same kind of step as the one before. I implore you to remember the Irishman and his two stoves. There are progressions in which the last step is sui generis—incommensurable with the others—and in which to go the whole way is to undo all the labour of your previous journey. To reduce the Tao to a mere natural product is a step of that kind. Up to that point, the kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on `explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on `seeing through5 things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to `see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To `see through’ all things is the same as not to see.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

  1. Men Without Chests
  2. The Way
  3. The Abolition of Man
  4. Appendix-Illustrations of the Tao


1. The Boke Named the Governour, I. iv: `Al men except physitions only shulde be excluded and kepte out of the norisery.’ I. vi: `After that a childe is come to seuen yeres of age… the most sure counsaile is to withdrawe him from all company of women.’

2. Some Thoughts concerning Education,§7:1 will also advise his Feet to be wash’d every Day in cold Water, and to have his Shoes so thin that they might leak and let in Water, whenever he comes near it.’ §174: `If he have a poetick vein, ‘tis to me the strangest thing in the World that the Father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. Methinks the Parents should labour to have it stifled and suppressed as much as may be.’ Yet Locke is one of our most sensible writers on education.

3. Dr Faustus, 77-90.

4. Advancement of Learning, Bk I (p. 60 in Ellis and Spedding, 1905; p. 35 in Everyman Edition).

5. Filum Labyrinthi, i.

Transcriber’s Notes

Buber, Martin (1878-1965) philosopher who said the I-Thou approach to relationships is the only way people can be fully authentic; only a part of our humanity is expressed in the I-It relationship.

Clotho – of the three Fates of Greek mythology, she was the one who wove the fabric of life

factitious – contrived, artificial

Faustus – the magician of Renaisance legend who bargained his soul to the devil in exchange for power

Ferum victorem cepit – from Horace Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et/ Artes intulit agresti Latio.: „Greece, once overcome, overcame her wild conqueror,/ And brought the arts into rustic Latium.” The vanquished were actually the victors; Lewis is saying that nature, being conquered, is the true winner.

Francis Bacon – proponent (1561-1626) of the „scientific revolution” who advocated science as a tool to gain power over nature; he is known more for his polemical writings on science than his advancement of human knowledge

Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Romantic poet who reverenced nature as divine

H.C.F. – highest common factor

Inter alia – Amongst other things

Paracelsus – (1493-1541), more properly Theophrastus Phillippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who was known for his medical innovations during the Renaisance. Traditionally it has been said that Paracelsus was taught by several bishops and the occultist abbot of Sponheim, Johannes Trithemius.

Petitio – short for petitio principii or begging the question: a logical fallacy in which the thing to be proved is implicitly assumed.

Sic volo, sic jubeo – short for sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas: „Thus I will, thus I command, my pleasure stands for law.”

Sui generis – adj. [literally, of its own kind] constituting a class alone: unique, peculiar.

υλη – hule or matter, as used by Aristotle

Wireless – radio

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

  1. Men Without Chests
  2. The Way
  3. The Abolition of Man
  4. Appendix-Illustrations of the Tao

Posted by The Augustine Club at Columbia University, March 2002, because the book is only in print sporadically

Last update: March 6, 2002

Grief is not a disorder

Chuck Colson reports that the American Psychiatric Association began serious discussions, earlier this year, about whether to label grieving a psychiatric disorder. Emotions are part of what makes us human. Only in the postmodern western part of the world is the ultimate goal: Pleasure. And that means no pain? Chuck Colson calls it a fantasy that would make us less than human.

Colson cites C.S.Lewis’s Abolition of man: If wise men of old sought to conform the soul to reality, the solution to the human problem was self discipline and virtue. But today through applied science and now it seems through little white pills we try to subdue reality to the wishes of man. Lewis was a prophet. What he saw was that our attempt to conquer nature will inevitably lead to nature conquering us. When humans are reduced to mere nature, the by products of chances and cause, they may be manipulated and remade according to the whims of the powerful.  It is an invitation to dehumanization and tyranny.

C.S. Lewis The Abolition of Man Chapter 1 – Men without chests

Here is a book that is rarely in print so Columbia University digitized it.  Abolition is a short philosophical work about moral education and the context of Lewis’s book is British education in the 1940s, so some of his expressions will need explanation. For this, you can read Dale J. Nelson’s short discussion of the book here.

Synopsis of Chapter 1: All civilizations have agreed: education ought to nurture in the child a love of the good; admiration of the excellent and beautiful; faithfulness to the truth; and also children should be taught to disapprove of the false, the shoddy, the unworthy.  The aim of true education is not only that children learn to spell and calculate and become physically strong. It is, above all, that young people should become courageous, generous, steady, and capable of discrimination in a good sense, that is, able to judge what is more worthy and what is less worthy of the esteem of a mature human being.(source here. ) The book is composed of 3 chapters. (COMING UP – DAILY)

Read Chapter 2 here – The Way

Read Chapter 3 here – The Abolition of Man    Read – Appendix here

C.S. Lewis



Reflections on education with special
reference to the teaching of English in
the upper forms of schools (means upper grades)


So he sent the word to slay
And slew the little childer.


I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text books. That is why I have chosen as the starting-point for these lectures a little book on English intended for ‘boys and girls in the upper forms of schools’. I do not think the authors of this book (there were two of them) intended any harm, and I owe them, or their publisher, good language for sending me a complimentary copy. At the same time I shall have nothing good to say of them. Here is a pretty predicament. I do not want to pillory two modest practising schoolmasters who were doing the best they knew: but I cannot be silent about what I think the actual tendency of their work. I therefore propose to conceal their names. I shall refer to these gentlemen as Gaius and Titius and to their book as The Green Book. But I promise you there is such a book and I have it on my shelves.

In their second chapter Gaius and Titius quote the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall. You remember that there were two tourists present: that one called it ‘sublime’ and the other ‘pretty’; and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the first judgement and rejected the second with disgust. Gaius and Titius comment as follows: ‘When the man said This is sublime, he appeared to be making a remark about the waterfall… Actually … he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings. What he was saying was really I have feelings associated in my mind with the word „Sublime”, or shortly, I have sublime feelings’ Here are a good many deep questions settled in a pretty summary fashion. But the authors are not yet finished. They add: ‘This confusion is continually present in language as we use it. We appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings.’1

Before considering the issues really raised by this momentous little paragraph (designed, you will remember, for ‘the upper forms of schools’) we must eliminate one mere confusion into which Gaius and Titius have fallen. Even on their own view—on any conceivable view—the man who says This is sublime cannot mean I have sublime feelings. Even if it were granted that such qualities as sublimity were simply and solely projected into things from our own emotions, yet the emotions which prompt the projection are the correlatives, and therefore almost the opposites, of the qualities projected. The feelings which make a man call an object sublime are not sublime feelings but feelings of veneration. If This is sublime is to be reduced at all to a statement about the speaker’s feelings, the proper translation would be I have humble feelings. If the view held by Gaius and Titius were consistently applied it would lead to obvious absurdities. It would force them to maintain that You are contemptible means I have contemptible feelings’, in fact that Your feelings are contemptible means My feelings are contemptible. But we need not delay over this which is the very pons asinorum of our subject. It would be unjust to Gaius and Titius themselves to emphasize what was doubtless a mere inadvertence.

The schoolboy who reads this passage in The Green Book will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant. It is true that Gaius and Titius have said neither of these things in so many words. They have treated only one particular predicate of value (sublime) as a word descriptive of the speaker’s emotions. The pupils are left to do for themselves the work of extending the same treatment to all predicates of value: and no slightest obstacle to such extension is placed in their way. The authors may or may not desire the extension: they may never have given the question five minutes’ serious thought in their lives. I am not concerned with what they desired but with the effect their book will certainly have on the schoolboy’s mind. In the same way, they have not said that judgements of value are unimportant. Their words are that we ‘appear to be saying something very important’ when in reality we are ‘only saying something about our own feelings’. No schoolboy will be able to resist the suggestion brought to bear upon him by that word only. I do not mean, of course, that he will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial. The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is ‘doing’ his ‘English prep’ and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all. The authors themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.

Before considering the philosophical credentials of the position which Gaius and Titius have adopted about value, I should like to show its practical results on the educational procedure. In their fourth chapter they quote a silly advertisement of a pleasure cruise and proceed to inoculate their pupils against the sort of writing it exhibits.2 The advertisement tells us that those who buy tickets for this cruise will go ‘across the Western Ocean where Drake of Devon sailed’, ‘adventuring after the treasures of the Indies’, and bringing home themselves also a ‘treasure’ of ‘golden hours’ and ‘glowing colours’. It is a bad bit of writing, of course: a venal and bathetic exploitation of those emotions of awe and pleasure which men feel in visiting places that have striking associations with history or legend. If Gaius and Titius were to stick to their last and teach their readers (as they promised to do) the art of English composition, it was their business to put this advertisement side by side with passages from great writers in which the very emotion is well expressed, and then show where the difference lies.

They might have used Johnson’s famous passage from the Western Islands, which concludes: ‘That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.’3 They might have taken that place in The Prelude where Wordsworth describes how the antiquity of London first descended on his mind with ‘Weight and power, Power growing under weight’.4 A lesson which had laid such literature beside the advertisement and really discriminated the good from the bad would have been a lesson worth teaching. There would have been some blood and sap in it—the trees of knowledge and of life growing together. It would also have had the merit of being a lesson in literature: a subject of which Gaius and Titius, despite their professed purpose, are uncommonly shy.

What they actually do is to point out that the luxurious motor-vessel won’t really sail where Drake did, that the tourists will not have any adventures, that the treasures they bring home will be of a purely metaphorical nature, and that a trip to Margate might provide ‘all the pleasure and rest’ they required.5 All this is very true: talents inferior to those of Gaius and Titius would have sufficed to discover it. What they have not noticed, or not cared about, is that a very similar treatment could be applied to much good literature which treats the same emotion. What, after all, can the history of early British Christianity, in pure reason, add to the motives for piety as they exist in the eighteenth century? Why should Mr Wordsworth’s inn be more comfortable or the air of London more healthy because London has existed for a long time? Or, if there is indeed any obstacle which will prevent a critic from ‘debunking’ Johnson and Wordsworth (and Lamb, and Virgil, and Thomas Browne, and Mr de la Mare) as The Green Book debunks the advertisement, Gaius and Titius have given their schoolboy readers no faintest help to its discovery.

From this passage the schoolboy will learn about literature precisely nothing. What he will learn quickly enough, and perhaps indelibly, is the belief that all emotions aroused by local association are in themselves contrary to reason and contemptible. He will have no notion that there are two ways of being immune to such an advertisement—that it falls equally flat on those who are above it and those who are below it, on the man of real sensibility and on the mere trousered ape who has never been able to conceive the Atlantic as anything more than so many million tons of cold salt water. There are two men to whom we offer in vain a false leading article on patriotism and honour: one is the coward, the other is the honourable and patriotic man. None of this is brought before the schoolboy’s mind. On the contrary, he is encouraged to reject the lure of the ‘Western Ocean’ on the very dangerous ground that in so doing he will prove himself a knowing fellow who can’t be bubbled out of his cash. Gaius and Titius, while teaching him nothing about letters, have cut out of his soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane. But it is not only Gaius and Titius. In another little book, whose author I will call Orbilius, I find that the same operation, under the same general anaesthetic, is being carried out. Orbilius chooses for ‘debunking’ a silly bit of writing on horses, where these animals are praised as the ‘willing servants’ of the early colonists in Australia.6 And he falls into the same trap as Gaius and Titius. Of Ruksh and Sleipnir and the weeping horses of Achilles and the war-horse in the Book of Job—nay even of Brer Rabbit and of Peter Rabbit—of man’s prehistoric piety to ‘our brother the ox’—of all that this semi-anthropomorphic treatment of beasts has meant in human history and of the literature where it finds noble or piquant expression—he has not a word to say.7 Even of the problems of animal psychology as they exist for science he says nothing. He contents himself with explaining that horses are not, secundum litteram, interested in colonial expansion.8 This piece of information is really all that his pupils get from him. Why the composition before them is bad, when others that lie open to the same charge are good, they do not hear. Much less do they learn of the two classes of men who are, respectively, above and below the danger of such writing—the man who really knows horses and really loves them, not with anthropomorphic illusions, but with ordinate love, and the irredeemable urban blockhead to whom a horse is merely an old-fashioned means of transport. Some pleasure in their own ponies and dogs they will have lost; some incentive to cruelty or neglect they will have received; some pleasure in their own knowingness will have entered their minds. That is their day’s lesson in English, though of English they have learned nothing. Another little portion of the human heritage has been quietly taken from them before they were old enough to understand.

I have hitherto been assuming that such teachers as Gaius and Titius do not fully realize what they are doing and do not intend the far-reaching consequences it will actually have. There is, of course, another possibility. What I have called (presuming on their concurrence in a certain traditional system of values) the ‘trousered ape’ and the ‘urban blockhead’ may be precisely the kind of man they really wish to produce. The differences between us may go all the way down. They may really hold that the ordinary human feelings about the past or animals or large waterfalls are contrary to reason and contemptible and ought to be eradicated. They may be intending to make a clean sweep of traditional values and start with a new set. That position will be discussed later. If it is the position which Gaius and Titius are holding, I must, for the moment, content myself with pointing out that it is a philosophical and not a literary position. In filling their book with it they have been unjust to the parent or headmaster who buys it and who has got the work of amateur philosophers where he expected the work of professional grammarians. A man would be annoyed if his son returned from the dentist with his teeth untouched and his head crammed with the dentist’s obiter dicta on bimetallism or the Baconian theory.

Eton schoolboy-England

But I doubt whether Gaius and Titius have really planned, under cover of teaching English, to propagate their philosophy. I think they have slipped into it for the following reasons. In the first place, literary criticism is difficult, and what they actually do is very much easier. To explain why a bad treatment of some basic human emotion is bad literature is, if we exclude all question-begging attacks on the emotion itself, a very hard thing to do. Even Dr Richards, who first seriously tackled the problem of badness in literature, failed, I think, to do it. To ‘debunk’ the emotion, on the basis of a commonplace rationalism, is within almost anyone’s capacity. In the second place, I think Gaius and Titius may have honestly misunderstood the pressing educational need of the moment. They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda—they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental—and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite tale. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.

But there is a third, and a profounder, reason for the procedure which Gaius and Titius adopt. They may be perfectly ready to admit that a good education should build some sentiments while destroying others. They may endeavour to do so. But it is impossible that they should succeed. Do what they will, it is the ‘debunking’ side of their work, and this side alone, which will really tell. In order to grasp this necessity clearly I must digress for a moment to show that what may be called the educational predicament of Gaius and Titius is different from that of all their predecessors.

Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it—believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt. The reason why Coleridge agreed with the tourist who called the cataract sublime and disagreed with the one who called it pretty was of course that he believed inanimate nature to be such that certain responses could be more ‘just’ or ‘ordinate’ or ‘appropriate’ to it than others. And he believed (correctly) that the tourists thought the same. The man who called the cataract sublime was not intending simply to describe his own emotions about it: he was also claiming that the object was one which merited those emotions. But for this claim there would be nothing to agree or disagree about. To disagree with This is pretty if those words simply described the lady’s feelings, would be absurd: if she had said I feel sick Coleridge would hardly have replied No; I feel quite well. When Shelley, having compared the human sensibility to an Aeolian lyre, goes on to add that it differs from a lyre in having a power of ‘internal adjustment’ whereby it can ‘accommodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them’,9 he is assuming the same belief. ‘Can you be righteous’, asks Traherne, ‘unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their value.’10

St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it.11 Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.12 When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science.13 Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.14 In the Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one ‘who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason at length comes to him, then, bred as he has been, he will hold out his hands in welcome and recognize her because of the affinity he bears to her.’15 In early Hinduism that conduct in men which can be called good consists in conformity to, or almost participation in, the Rta—that great ritual or pattern of nature and supernature which is revealed alike in the cosmic order, the moral virtues, and the ceremonial of the temple. Righteousness, correctness, order, the Rta, is constantly identified with satya or truth, correspondence to reality. As Plato said that the Good was ‘beyond existence’ and Wordsworth that through virtue the stars were strong, so the Indian masters say that the gods themselves are born of the Rta and obey it.16

The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.17 ‘In ritual’, say the Analects, ‘it is harmony with Nature that is prized.’18 The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being ‘true’.19

This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao‘. Some of the accounts of it which I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect. It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgement; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.

Over against this stands the world of The Green Book. In it the very possibility of a sentiment being reasonable—or even unreasonable—has been excluded from the outset. It can be reasonable or unreasonable only if it conforms or fails to conform to something else. To say that the cataract is sublime means saying that our emotion of humility is appropriate or ordinate to the reality, and thus to speak of something else besides the emotion; just as to say that a shoe fits is to speak not only of shoes but of feet. But this reference to something beyond the emotion is what Gaius and Titius exclude from every sentence containing a predicate of value. Such statements, for them, refer solely to the emotion. Now the emotion, thus considered by itself, cannot be either in agreement or disagreement with Reason. It is irrational not as a paralogism is irrational, but as a physical event is irrational: it does not rise even to the dignity of error. On this view, the world of facts, without one trace of value, and the world of feelings, without one trace of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice, confront one another, and no rapprochement is possible.

Hence the educational problem is wholly different according as you stand within or without the Tao. For those within, the task is to train in the pupil those responses which are in themselves appropriate, whether anyone is making them or not, and in making which the very nature of man consists. Those without, if they are logical, must regard all sentiments as equally non-rational, as mere mists between us and the real objects. As a result, they must either decide to remove all sentiments, as far as possible, from the pupil’s mind; or else to encourage some sentiments for reasons that have nothing to do with their intrinsic ‘justness’ or ‘ordinacy’. The latter course involves them in the questionable process of creating in others by ‘suggestion’ or incantation a mirage which their own reason has successfully dissipated.

Perhaps this will become clearer if we take a concrete instance. When a Roman father told his son that it was a sweet and seemly thing to die for his country, he believed what he said. He was communicating to the son an emotion which he himself shared and which he believed to be in accord with the value which his judgement discerned in noble death. He was giving the boy the best he had, giving of his spirit to humanize him as he had given of his body to beget him. But Gaius and Titius cannot believe that in calling such a death sweet and seemly they would be saying ‘something important about something’. Their own method of debunking would cry out against them if they attempted to do so. For death is not something to eat and therefore cannot bedulce in the literal sense, and it is unlikely that the real sensations preceding it will be dulce even by analogy. And as for decorum—that is only a word describing how some other people will feel about your death when they happen to think of it, which won’t be often, and will certainly do you no good. There are only two courses open to Gaius and Titius. Either they must go the whole way and debunk this sentiment like any other, or must set themselves to work to produce, from outside, a sentiment which they believe to be of no value to the pupil and which may cost him his life, because it is useful to us (the survivors) that our young men should feel it. If they embark on this course the difference between the old and the new education will be an important one. Where the old initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry-keeper deals with young birds— making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation—men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.

It is to their credit that Gaius and Titius embrace the first alternative. Propaganda is their abomination: not because their own philosophy gives a ground for condemning it (or anything else) but because they are better than their principles. They probably have some vague notion (I will examine it in my next lecture) that valour and good faith and justice could be sufficiently commended to the pupil on what they would call ‘rational’ or ‘biological’ or ‘modern’ grounds, if it should ever become necessary. In the meantime, they leave the matter alone and get on with the business of debunking. But this course, though less inhuman, is not less disastrous than the opposite alternative of cynical propaganda. Let us suppose for a moment that the harder virtues could really be theoretically justified with no appeal to objective value. It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite sceptical about ethics, but bred to believe that ‘a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers. In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment. The crudest sentimentalism (such as Gaius and Titius would wince at) about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use. We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’.20 The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity,21 of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.

The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius could debunk as easily as any other. 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.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.


The Green Book, pp. 19, 20.

2 Ibid., p 53.

Journey to the Western Islands (Samuel Johnson).

The Prelude, viii, 11. 549-59.

The Green Book, pp. 53-5.

6 Orbilius’ book, p 5.

7 Orbilius is so far superior to Gaius and Titius that he does (pp. 19-22) contrast a piece of good writing to animals with the piece condemned. Unfortunately, however, the only superiority he really demonstrates in the second extract is its superiority in factual truth. The specifically literary problem (the use and abuse of expressions which are false secundum litteram) is not tackled. Orbilius indeed tells us (p. 97) that we must ‘learn to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate figurative statement’, but he gives us very little help in doing so. At the same time it is fair to record my opinion that his work is on quite a different level from The Green Book.

8 Ibid., p 9.

Defence of Poetry.

10 Centuries of Meditations, i, 12.

11 De Civ. Dei, xv. 22. Cf. ibid. ix. 5, xi. 28.

12 Eth. Nic. 1104 b.

13 Ibid. 1095 b.

14 Laws, 653.

15 Republic, 402 a.

16 A. B. Keith, s.v. ‘Righteousness (Hindu)’ Enc. Religion and Ethics, vol. x.

17 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 454 b; iv. 12 b; ix. 87 a.

18 The Analects of Confucius, trans. Arthur Waley, London, 1938, i. 12

19 Psalm 119:151. The word is emeth, ‘truth’. Where the Satya of the Indian sources emphasizes truth as ‘correspondence’, emeth (connected with a verb that means ‘to be firm’) emphasizes rather the reliability or trustworthiness of truth. Faithfulness and permanence are suggested by Hebraists as alternative renderings. Emeth is that which does not deceive, does not ‘give’, does not change, that which holds water. (See T. K. Cheyne in Encyclopedia Biblica, 1914, s.v. ‘Truth’.)

20 Republic, 442 b, c.

21 Alanus ab Insulis. De Planctu Naturae Prosa, iii.

Transcriber’s Notes

Bimetallism – use of two precious metals (e.g. gold and silver) as the standard of currency

Baconian theory – theory that holds Francis Bacon to have written the plays attributed to Shakespeare

Elemetary text-books – (1940’s British) equivalent to high school-level books

Dulce (sweet) Decorum (seemly or honorable) from the Roman saying dulce et decorum est pro patria mori „It is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country.”

Margate – resort area on the southeastern coast of England

Marathon…Iona Marathon is a plain in southeast Greece, where the Athenians defeated Persian invaders in 490 B.C. and saved Western civilization. Iona is a remote island west of Scotland, where despite many hazards monks preserved the Christian faith and much of Western learning. Samuel Johnson meant that seeing these famous sites, scenes of the greatest human dedication, should inspire a good person to greater love of his own country and religious faith.

Pons asinorum – bridge of asses, a basic geometric theorem

Obiter dicta – incidental judgements or opinions

Ordo amoris – order of love

Ruksh, Sleipnir, etc. – majestic or lovable animals of literature

Secundum literam – literally true

Stick to their last – stick to their proper job, from the expression „Shoemaker, stick to your last” (the last is a model of the human foot, made of wood or metal)

Upper forms of schools (1940’s British) equivalent to American upper grades

Posted by The Augustine Club at Columbia University, March 2002, because the book is only in print sporadically

Last update: March 6, 2002

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