The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings

The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings

by C. S. Lewis

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C.S. Lewis, himself a convert, wrote of being "surprised by joy" when he discovered his belief in Jesus Christ. In these 127 devotional readings, selected from Lewis's many works on faith and spirituality, Christians everywhere can share in the joy of this master theologian as he discusses topics ranging from the nature of prayer and good works to psychoanalysis and fascism. In "The Joyful Christian", Lewis offers inspiration for all those who hunger and thirst after joy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780025709003
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 11/28/1977
Pages: 239

About the Author

C.S. Lewis was a professor of medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford and Cambridge universities who wrote more than thirty books in his lifetime, including The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Mere Christianity. He died in 1963.

Date of Birth:

November 29, 1898

Date of Death:

November 22, 1963

Place of Birth:

Belfast, Nothern Ireland

Place of Death:

Headington, England


Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Right and Wrong

Everyone has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kinds of things they say. They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?" -- "That's my seat, I was there first" -- "Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm" -- "Why should you shove in first?" -- "Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine" -- "Come on, you promised." People say things like this every day, educated as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: "To hell with your standard." Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off from keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play, or decent behavior, or morality, or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight likeanimals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the "laws of nature," we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong "the Law of Nature," they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law -- with this great difference, that a body could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

The Universe

We want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is. Since that power, if it exists, would be not one of the observed facts but a reality which makes them, no mere observation of the facts can find it. There is only one case in which we can know whether there is anything more, namely our own case, and in that one case we find there is. Or put it the other way round. If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe -- no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall, or staircase, or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves. Surely this ought to arouse our suspicions? In the only case where you can expect to get an answer, the answer turns out to be Yes; and in the other cases, where you do not get an answer, you see why you do not.

Suppose someone asked me, when I see a man in a blue uniform going down the street leaving little paper packets at each house, why I suppose that they contain letters? I should reply, "Because whenever he leaves a similar little packet for me I find it does contain a letter." And if he then objected, "But you've never seen all these letters which you think the other people are getting," I should say, "Of course not, and I shouldn't expect to, because they're not addressed to me. I'm explaining the packets I'm not allowed to open by the ones I'm allowed to open."

It is the same about this question. The only packet I'm allowed to open is Man. When I do, especially when I open that particular man called myself, I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way. I do not, of course, think that if I could get inside a stone or a tree I should find exactly the same thing, just as I do not think all the other people in the street get the same letters as I do. I should expect, for instance, to find that the stone had to obey the law of gravity -- that whereas the sender of the letters merely tells me to obey the laws of my human nature, He compels the stone to obey the laws of its stony nature. But I should expect to find that there was, so to speak, a sender in both cases, a Power behind the facts, a Director, a Guide.

Life on Other Planets

I...fear the practical, not the theoretical, problems which will arise if ever we meet rational creatures which are not human. Against them we shall, if we can, commit all the crimes we have already committed against creatures certainly human but differing from us in features and pigmentation; and the starry heavens will become an object to which good men can look up only with feelings of intolerable guilt, agonized pity, and burning shame.

Of course, after the first debauch of exploitation we shall make some belated attempt to do better. We shall perhaps send missionaries. But can even missionaries be trusted? "Gun and gospel" have been horribly combined in the past. The missionary's holy desire to save souls has not always been kept quite distinct from the arrogant desire, the busybody's itch, to (as he calls it) "civilize" the (as he calls them) "natives." Would all our missionaries recognize a fallen race if they met it? Could they? Would they continue to press upon creatures that did not need to be saved that plan of Salvation which God has appointed for Man? Would they denounce as sins mere differences of behavior which the spiritual and biological history of these strange creatures fully justified and which God Himself had blessed? Would they try to teach those from whom they had better learn? I do not know.

What I do know is that here and now, as our only possible practical preparation for such a meeting, you and I should resolve to stand firm against all exploitation and all theological imperialism. It will not be fun. We shall be called traitors to our own species. We shall be hated of almost all men; even of some religious men. And we must not give back one single inch. We shall probably fail, but let us go down fighting for the right side. Our loyalty is due not to our species but to God. Those who are, or can become, His sons, are our real brothers even if they have shells or tusks. It is spiritual, not biological, kinship that counts.

God in Outer Space

The Russians, I am told, report that they have not found God in outer space. On the other hand, a good many people in many different times and countries claim to have found God, or been found by God, here on earth.

The conclusion some want us to draw from these data is that God does not exist. As a corollary, those who think they have met Him on earth were suffering from a delusion.

But other conclusions might be drawn.

(1) We have not yet gone far enough in space. There had been ships on the Atlantic for a good time before America was discovered.

(2) God does exist but is locally confined to this planet

Table of Contents

Right and Wrong
The Universe
Life on Other Planets
God in Outer Space
Seeing and Believing
Miracle and the Laws of Nature
Illustrations of the Tao
Divine Omnipotence
Divine Goodness
Begetting and Making
Spirit, Spirits, Spiritual
The Three-Personal God
The Trinity
The Fall of Man
The Incarnation
The Virgin Birth
Miracles of Fertility
Miracles of Healing
Miracles of Destruction
Miracle of the Resurrection
Miracle of the Walking on the Water
Miracle of the Raising of Lazarus
Miracle of the Transfiguration
Miracle of the Ascension
On Seeing a Miracle
The Second Coming
What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?
"Putting on Christ"
First Fervor
Holy Communion
Devotions to Saints
Church Music
Ready-made Prayers
Festooning Ready-made Prayers
When and Where to Pray
The Moment of Prayer
Mechanics of Meditation
Answered Prayers
The Efficacy of Prayer
Spiritual Reading
Reading the Gospels
Biblical Exegesis
Thought, Imagination, Language
The Psalms
Prayer of Praise
Modern Translations of the Bible
Moral Choices
Justice and Fortitude
Belief and Disbelief
Faith and Good Works
Good Work and Good Works
The Devil
Screwtape to Wormwood on
Peaks and Troughs
Worldly Companions
Reinterpreting Jesus
Sins of Thought
Human Wickedness
Social Morality
Christian Society
Other Religions
Fascism and Communism
Is Christianity Hard or Easy?
Gift-love and Need-love
Appreciative Love
Love of Nature
Love of Country
Storge or Affection
Philia or Friendship
Eros and Venus
Agape or Charity
"Love Thy Neighbor"
Intercourse in the Afterlife
Christmas and Xmas
The Ego and the Self
The Airplane, the Wireless, and the Contraceptive
Human Pain
Animal Pain
The Crown and the Cross
Resurrection of the Body

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