Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

You Don’t Have to Go

C. S. Lewis suggested that we make one of two errors concerning the devil: either we think too much of him or we think too little of him.  I wonder if the same thing isn’t true about hell.

I am recently concerned about teachers who say that hell is temporary or not as bad as we think or non-existent.  Yet, I am also concerned about preachers who can’t seem to stop talking about hell.  The people in their churches fear hell all the time because preacher says they had better be careful to do right or they will go there.  So one side proclaims that hell is nothing to worry about; while the other side proclaims that hell is hanging over all our heads.

But why are we proclaiming hell at all?  Isn’t the job of the church to proclaim Christ?  Whatever you believe about hell, the message is still Jesus.  Every person needs Jesus (for a lot more than just fire insurance).

One of my favorite stories is about Calvin Coolidge as the Speaker of the House.  There was a very heated argument between two representatives and one told the other to go to hell.  The offended man sputtered and turned to Coolidge, who had been flipping pages of a book during the argument.  The man asked if the Speaker had heard the terrible thing the other had said.  Coolidge responded, “I have been checking the rule book.  You don’t have to go.”

It’s as simple as that.  Our message isn’t about hell.  Our message is about Jesus.  Because of Jesus, no one has to go to hell.



Filed under Church, grace, Theology and mystery

Have they heard the Truth?

Many times, when I read or hear people expressing their disdain for the Christian faith—particularly those who claim to have left it—I wonder if they have ever really known the faith.  To me, the Christian faith is Jesus.  Not what Jesus has done for me.  Not the doctrines about Jesus.  Not the things I do for Jesus.  The Christian faith is Jesus.  In Him, in relationship with Him, I live.  He is my life, my all. 

And I doubt that those who have walked away from the faith have understood that.  I am confident that those who deny the faith from the outside have never heard or understood that gospel. Then I wonder—would they have denied the real gospel?

Of course, some will reject and some may even deny.  But they should at least be exposed to the truth!  As long as the Christian faith is presented as a set of doctrines or life standards or rituals, people will experience the frustration and despair that Lewis wrote about.  As long as it is something I have to do, the success of which depends on me, I am in trouble.

Bottom line: The gospel is the story of the love of God revealed in the Person and work of Jesus.  The Christian faith is a walk with a Friend.  Christian doctrine is about who our Lord is and what He has done.  Christian standards are the natural result of a life centered on Jesus.    



Filed under Freedom, grace, Grace definition, heart, Relationship

Losing the Faith

My thoughts these days are often with those who have left behind the faith of their youth or former days.  I read several blogs of people who would say that they used to be believers.  I would love to have deep conversations about what has happened in their hearts because the relationship with Jesus that is so real to me and so life-giving can be theirs as well.  But something has happened and they no longer seek peace and joy from Jesus.

So, it was a great blessing for me to read C. S. Lewis again.  His book, Surprised by Joy, is the story of his life and his faith.  Early in the book, he tells how he lost his first faith.  I have to cut and paste in order to keep this a reasonable length, but you can read it for yourself in chapter four of that book.  He was a young man when a teacher’s words and thoughts brought him great peace and took away his faith.  He does not blame the teacher or think her evil.  He was ripe for the change.

“The whole thing became a matter of speculation:  I was soon (in the famous words) “altering ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel.’”  And oh, the relief of it!  From the tyrannous noon of revelation I passed into the cool evening of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.”

“One reason why the Enemy found this so easy was that, without knowing it, I was already desperately anxious to get rid of my religion; and that for a reason worth recording.  By a sheer mistake—and I still believe it to have been an honest mistake—in spiritual technique I had rendered my private practice of that religion a quite intolerable burden.   It came about in this way.  Like everyone else I had been told as a child that one must not only say one’s prayers but think about what one was saying.  .  .  [the false conscience] whispered, ‘Yes, but are you sure you were really thinking about what you said?’; then, more subtly, ‘Were you, for example, thinking about it as well as you did last night?’  The answer, for reasons I did not then understand, was nearly always No.  ‘Very well,’ said the voice, ‘hadn’t you, then, better try it over again?’ And one obeyed; but of course with no assurance that the second attempt would be any better.“

Lewis goes on to share some of the feelings he encountered as he tried to pray “correctly.” 

“My nightly task was to produce by sheer will power a phenomenon which will power could never produce, which was so ill-defined that I could never say with absolute confidence whether it had occurred, and which, even when it did occur, was of very mediocre spiritual value.”

“This was the burden from which I longed with soul and body to escape.  It had already brought me to such a pass that the nightly torment projected its gloom over the whole evening, and I dreaded bedtime as if I were a chronic sufferer from insomnia.  Had I pursued the same road much further I think I should have gone mad.”

Listen to the hearts of those who say they have left the Christian faith.  Aren’t most of them saying something like what Lewis has written?  The expectations of the faith, as presented by the religious traditions, were unreasonable.  No success was really possible.  No one could be good enough, work hard enough, pray long enough—there was no hope for the kind of acceptance and peace they longed for. 

But was that the Christian faith?

More tomorrow….


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Relationship