These files are here to help you study and understand C. S. Lewis and the
sources and corroborators of his thinking.
Please feel free to use these files but please also acknowledge my copyrights.
| St. Augustine makes a crucial distinction between charity and lust in this
extract from De Doctrina Christiana III, x, 15–16 (the
treatise on Christian Instruction). He says. “charity is a motion
of the soul whose purpose is to enjoy God for His own sake and one’s
self and one’s neighbor for the sake of God. Lust, on the other
hand is a motion of the soul bent upon enjoying one’s self, one’s
neighbor, and any creature without reference to God. This distinction
helps us understand C. S. Lewis’s theology of temptation.
| C. S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer is a
modern verstion of St. Augustine’s Letter to Proba, a North African
woman who had written him about the problems she was having in prayer. “Why
[our Lord] should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we
ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does
not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants
us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers.” This theology
of desire expressed through prayer is developed by St. Thomas Aquinas and
is echoed in George MacDonald’s theology of prayer and comes to full
flower in Letters to Malcolm.
C. S. Lewis’s theology of prayer echoes St. Augustine’s,
especially in his commentary on the First Letter of John: “The
entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire.
You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring
prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.
Suppose you are going to fill some holder or container, and you know
you will be given a large amount. Then you set about stretching your
sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know the quantity
you will have to put in it and your eyes tell you there is not enough
room. By stretching it, therefore, you increase the capacity of the
sack, and this is how God deals with us. Simply by making us wait he
increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul,
making it able to receive what is to be given to us.” This theology
of desire expressed through prayer is developed by St. Thomas Aquinas
(see below, under “Dogma and the Universe”) and is echoed
in George MacDonald’s theology of prayer and comes to full flower
in Letters to Malcolm.
| One of my students wrote this magnificent distillation of the argument
of C. S. Lewis’s Miracles: A Preliminary Study.
| One of the most important poems C. S. Lewis wrote was “Deadly Sins.” It
is the finest distillation of his theology of temptation and God’s
way of helping go through our temptations to receive the real good
that God wants to give us. Here is the poem and my commentary, arranged
for study purposes. © 1987 Paul F. Ford. All rights reserved.
| In C. S. Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm, p. 98; “Two Ways
with the Self,” God in the Dock, p. 193; and Letters
to An American Lady, 21 May 1955, he mentions his faviorite passage
from his favorite books by one of his favorite spiritual writers, St. Francis
de Sales. The book was the Introduction to the Devout Life. Here
is the passage.
| Here, along with “Deadly Sins” (mentioned above), is the teaching
on temptation which informs C. S. Lewis’s theology of temptation.
| In his essay “Dogma and the Universe” (from God in the
Dock) C. S. Lewis speaks about unveiling ourselves before God and
learning at first to tolerate and then to enjoy the touch of God on our
naked selves. This echoes the theology of prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas: “a
petition is an expression of desire . . . when we call upon God in our
prayers we unveil our mind in his presence.” Here are the two passages
side by side, for study purposes.
| To help my students read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, I
prepared this chart which helps them keep track of the “ghosts” on
holiday from hell and what they are clinging to that keeps them in hell.
This might help you too.
| My great mentor, James O’Reilly, wrote this fine distillation of
C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity for the reading groups O’Reilly
| In his essay "“Work and Prayer” (from God in the Dock)
C. S. Lewis uses the Benedictine motto, Ora et Labora, and compares
work and prayer as forms of efficient causality (see C. S. Lewis poem, “Prayer,” with
epigraph from Pascal, “God has given his creatures prayer to confer
on them the dignity of causality”). Here is a diagram I use to explain
Lewis’s teaching to my students.
| To help my students read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, I
prepared this chart which helps them keep track of the themes and of the
tactics of hell and heaven. This might help you too.
| That Hideous Strength is one of C. S. Lewis’s
greatest novels but I didn't enjoy it very much the first four times I
I saw that its five plots echo each other. Here is my plot diagram.
| The spiritual problem of Jane Studdock in That Hideous Strength reflects
a central spiritual issue in C. S. Lewis’s own life as expressed
in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Here are the
parallels between Surprised by Joy and That Hideous Strength, arranged
for study purposes.
| C. S. Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, gets its
title from a poem by William Wordsworth. The titles of the autobiography
and the poem would not tell you that both are about terrible loss, in Lewis’s
case, the death of his mother, and in Wordsworth’s, the death of
his dear daughter. What a spiritual transformation in Lewis’s life,
then, is reflected in Lewis's poem, “As the Ruin Falls,” written
to his wife on her deathbed! Here are the two poems, arranged for study