Favorite C. S. Lewis Quote

I am a big fan of C. S. Lewis because he had a way of explaining complex issues in simple ways.  This quote from Mere Christianity below is probably my favorite because it really addresses people who want to re-define the historical Jesus of the Bible.  Enjoy!

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.

  • RZA


  • Byron Mace

    Mere Christianity (Signature Classics, complete C. S. Lewis Collection, p. 59)
    “…the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-Life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, BUT that God will make us good because He loves us. …”( Emphasis, mine.)

  • Andrew Ryan

    “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.”

    Either you believe that the things Jesus said were profound moral teachings or you do not. If they ARE great moral teachings then it makes no different whether they came from a lunatic, liar, Lord, or legend – they should stand on their own merits. Take two other figures held up as great philosophers – Socrates and Confucius.

    Now, it has been theorised that Socrates was an invention of Plato. And Wiki says this on Confusius: “Because no texts survive that are demonstrably authored by Confucius, and the ideas most closely associated with him were elaborated in writings that accumulated over the period between his death and the foundation of the first Chinese empire in 221 BC, many scholars are very cautious about attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself. ”

    And yet people can quote great sayings from these two men. The sayings stand on their own merits, regardless of their provenance. The same should go for Jesus. There are many alternatives to Jesus being the son of God that do not take away from his value as a moral teacher.

    So I do not agree with CS Lewis on this matter.

  • Andrew, I agree with everything you say about moral teaching. I don’t remember “chapter and verse,” but I remember Lewis saying much the same. He would agree with you totally. But the “great moral teachings” were not the sayings Lewis was refering to in your quote. As you suggest, the world is full of great moral teaching, There may be some expansion in some things Jesus said, but it is not a wholesale revolution that renders all other teaching “Minor League”

    Rather, he was thinking of such things as “the Father and I are one.” “He who has seen me has seen the Father” “No one comes to the Father except by me” “Before Abraham was, I am” and a good number of other things which would be bizarre if not true.

    Lewis would say that the presence of sound, or even great moral teaching mixed in with these sayings makes it hard to dismiss the grandiose statements as the product of a deranged mind.

    In one of his books “The Abolition of Man”, Lewis gives examples of parallel teaching in other systems of moral teaching throughout the world. His point was (partially) that Christianity is not unique by virtue of its moral code, the bulk of that code is common to most of humanity.

    The Christian distinctive comes as a response to the observation that, no matter how worthwhile the moral code, people seem to be unable to fully keep it. Why is that? And what does that inability/unwillingness say about our capacity to be united/reunited (in non-christian systems) with Fundamental Goodness in its appearance as a moral Creator God? The distinctive is not in a moral teaching, it is in how are we to be reconciled, given that we can’t follow consistently even the best teaching –we constantly water it down to make it do-able.

  • Andrew Ryan

    R, I don’t really see anything in your posts that goes against what I said. His great moral teaching is not disputed by anyone. Even other religions acknowledge it. Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Saying that if the ‘i’m the Lord’ quotes would make Christ deranged or genuine do not affect the great moral teaching point, which is what Lewis was trying to argue. And I don’t even accept the deranged idea anyway. The Dalai Lama isn’t deranged, but I don’t believe he’s the reincarnation of past Dalai Lamas either.

  • In the Jewish religious tradition, what Jesus was understood to be claiming was quite a bit higher than the Dalai Lama. One can perhaps be convinced that he himself is destined by the universe to be the great teacher for this age, and not be thought insane. Jesus’ claims were understood as claims to be the ONE, the trancendent God who created heaven and earth, who judges the nations, who sent the great flood, who rescued Israel out of Egypt. Quite a different claim indeed, and hard to accept as consistent with a fully rational mind unless true.

    The claims surrounding the DL are not inconsistant with a well-ordered and moral person, even if I think him wrong. Those of Jesus are far more extreme.

  • Andrew Ryan

    That’s if you discount the possibility that the Lord claims were later embellishments not actually made by Jesus. And even if you think Jesus did mistakenly think he was divine, you can still accept he had smart ideas. Have a chat with a Muslim if you want to know how that position can be intellectually defended. And if you dismiss all Muslims as utterly dilusional, look to President Jefferson, who took pains to separate Jesus’ teachings from the supernatural elements of the story.

  • Bill Pratt

    You don’t believe Socrates or Confucious existed?

  • Andrew Ryan

    My point was their existence doesn’t matter either way with regards to their teaching. I believe historians are mixed on the issue, but that’s irrelevant to my point.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Typed in a rush. To clarify, Conf is not disputed as a historical figure, it is just than he cannot be confirmed as the author of all quotes attributed to him. Socrates though, I understand, is thought by some historians as possibly an intention of Plato. Either way, the point stands that the quotes exist as good sense apart from their credited authors. But I’m pretty sure I explained this in my original post.