Tag Archives: cslewis

CS Lewis and the gap between antiquity and modern times


Here are 2 more things that Lewis wrote on the subject of the gap between modern and ancient societies. These are from letters that he wrote. The first is before making the BBC radio broadcasts that were later collected together into the book “Mere Christianity”.

  1. I mainly want to talk about .. the Law of Nature, or objective right and wrong. It seems to me that the New Testament, by preaching repentance and forgiveness, always assumes an audience who already believes in the Law of Nature and know they have disobeyed it. In modern England we cannot at present assume this….(10 Feb. 1941, letter to Dr. James Welch, Director of Religious Broadcasting for the BBC).
  2. The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the mind of my audience of any sense of sin… The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers whether Jews, Metuentes or Pagans, a sense of guilt… Thus the Christain message was in those days unmistakably the … Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy. The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.”  (“God in the Dock”, God in the Dock, 1979, Fount 1998., p. 93) [ 『被告席の神』God in the Dock (1970年) ウォルター・フーパー編 エッセー集。偉大なる奇跡 ―C.S.ルイス宗教著作集別巻1』(第1部) 本多峰子 訳 新教出版社 1998年8月.  『偉大なる奇跡『被告席に立つ神―C.S.ルイス宗教著作集別巻2』(第2部,第3部)本多峰子 訳 新教出版社 1998年11月

Here are some quotes from C.S. Lewis himself about the gap between modern man and man of antiquity (the past). The first 5 are from “De Descriptione Temporum”, Lewis’ first lecture at Cambridge University, 1954.

  1. Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not…
  2. I have come to regard as the greatest of all divisions in the history of the West that which divides the present from, say, the age of Jane Austen and Scott…
  3. somewhere between us and the Waverley Novels, somewhere between us and “Persuasion”, the chasm runs.
  4. I do not think that any previous age produced work which was, in its own time, as shatteringly and bewilderingly new as that of the Cubists, the Dadaists, the Surrealists, and Picasso has been in ours.
  5. In [Jane Austen’s] days some kind and degree of religious belief and practice were the norm: now… they are the exception.
  6. Between Jane Austen and us, but not between her and Shakespeare, Chaucer, Alfred, Virgil, Homer, or the Pharaohs, comes the birth of the machines… It alters Man’s place in nature.


The second set of quotes comes from Book 1 of “Mere Christianity”.

  1. 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
  2. This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it…taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one.
  3. some people say …different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities. But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own.
  4. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to – whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
  5. the idea of a sort of behaviour [human beings] ought to practise, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature.
  6. a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.

And finally, from chapter 14 of “Surprised by Joy”:

Had something really dropped out of our lives? Was the archaic simply the civilized, and the modern simply the barbaric?

Session #31: September 22nd, 2010

First edition cover
Image via Wikipedia

In this session, we will finish answering the questions about “Out of the Silent Planet”, and begin reading the second book in this science fiction trilogy, Perelandra.  This story deals with several important matters regarding Christianity. Reading this story is a good way to learn about Christian values.

Anyone is welcome. In fact, as we will be starting a new book today, this session would be a good time to join or re-join our informal reading group. I will bring photocopies of the first chapter of Perelandra, for those who do not have their own copy of the book. (I will also bring extra copies of the worksheets for “Out of the Silent Planet“.)

I will bring worksheets for “Perelandra”. You will read the novel at home, in your own time. The worksheets are not compulsory, but I recommend them. The questions will help you

  • focus on the key points of the text,
  • get more out of reading the story.

We will discuss the novel in the next two or three sessions by discussing our answers to the worksheets. To answer some of these questions, you will need a Bible. A Japanese Bible should be sufficient. (The language in the English Bible, although beautiful, is very difficult, and should only be attempted by advanced learners of English.)

As always, the discussions will be in English, and in our sessions I will refer to the English version of the book (I will be using this paperback edition). However, it is perfectly ok to read the book  in Japanese. In fact, I encourage you to do so.

  1. Reading the book in Japanese only is better than not reading the book at all.
  2. Reading the book (any book) in both Japanese AND English is perhaps THE most powerful language-learning method of all.
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Session 25: April 21st, 2010 – Chps 11-13 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Christmas Pudding

Originally uploaded by Turkinator

While eating some Christmas pudding, also called plum pudding, we summarized and discussed chapters 11-13 of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Our next session will be the last Wednesday in May, May 26th. We will summarize and discuss the last chapters of the book.

In addition, I plan to discuss these questions:
1) Why do we read?
2) Lewis said the Narnian stories are fairy tales. How is a fairy tale different from other kinds of fiction?
3) Lewis wrote that he chose to write the Narnian stories as fairy-tales because the fairy-tale was the best way to express what he wanted to say. What did he want to say?

Fantasy and science fiction

My daughter borrowed the video of Miyazaki’s movie ゲド戦記.  I have seen this movie before. I found it intriguing, but rather unsatisfying. There were many themes or echoes of earlier Miyazaki movies, like the witch who held the heart of the main character – an idea found also in Howl’s Moving Castle (itself, based on a British novel).

When I was a teenager, I read a great deal of science fiction, and tho I read less of that genre now, I still enjoy science-fiction movies such as I, Robot, Blade Runner, and Avatar. The Miyazaki movie is based on a series of books by the American science fiction writer, Ursula Le Guin. Wikipedia tells us that

In the past, Le Guin had rejected Hayao Miyazaki’s offer to create a film based on the series, but due to her love of his films, Le Guin granted Studio Ghibli the rights. The story is based mainly on elements of the third and fourth novels of Earthsea; however, Le Guin has stated that she found this rendition of her work “disappointing” and untrue to the spirit of Earthsea.

Le Guin was very critical of The Dark Tower, a science-fiction story supposedly written by C.S. Lewis:she thought it embarrassingly bad. Later, Le Guin read a book  disputing that The Dark Tower had in fact been written by Lewis. The book was by Kathryn Lindskoog and was called The C.S. Lewis Hoax. After reading it, Le Guin changed her mind about Lewis:

I finished it liking Lewis, as man and artist, better than I had ever done before.

Kathryn Lindskoog was a fan of C.S. Lewis and wrote her thesis about his work. She went to England to meet C.S. Lewis and met him in Oxford in 1956. She wrote about her meeting him here.