C. S. Lewis and Contemporary Culture

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 78, Autumn 1998 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

by Douglas Gresham, 16 April 1998

“The purpose of this lecture series is to bring speakers to campus who are able to communicate the message of Christianity in the tradition of C. S. Lewis. “

Provocative or Questionable Quotes from Doug’s Lecture


About the age of four, a little dog that he was fond of in the neighborhood (his name was Jacksie) was run over, and Clive came home that day deciding that he was never going to be Clive, that he would be Jacksie ever thereafter.

He wrote his first analytical notes on Milton’s Paradise Lost when he was nine years old.

Kirkpatrick [his tutor] was an atheist and he was a rationalist, and very soon the young Jack began to lose any attachment he had ever had to a Christian faith. He sank slowly from a nominalism into agnosticism, and thence into the darkness of atheism.

However, he pursued a career at the university, after his tutor Kirkpatrick, and he took a triple first at Oxford when he was a very young man. He fought in the First World War as a volunteer in the Somerset Light Infantry and had some horrific experiences.

He assumed that because by the time he was 23 he had read all the great classics of literature, in their original languages, that other students had done the same.

Jack began slowly, through all his reading, and his talking with other dons at Oxford, to become aware of this character called Jesus Christ.


Let me explain to you that Jack and my mother, who had very similar intellectual abilities, used to play the game Scrabble, with which I’m sure you’re familiar… Anyway, they would take two Scrabble sets, one board and two sets of letters, and they would play Scrabble in all known languages, factual or fictional — as long as the person could prove that the word concerned had actually appeared in print. For this reason words like Maskull, Orkish from Tolkien, Ming Chinese, all of these things were available. And they would fill the Scrabble board until there were no gaps left. These people had the most staggering intellects of anyone I have yet encountered; one was my mother and the other was Jack himself.

Being isolated on a pinnacle of immense intellectual ability and intelligence, probably the greatest mind this 20th Century has seen, he was totally alone on this pinnacle…. And he discovered that there was someone else on the same pinnacle of intellectual ability. My mother took her degree from, I think, Columbia University before she was 20 years old.

Jack had developed the ability, or the inability, to ever forget anything he had read…. People would… reach the most dusty book they could find, and they’d blow the dust off and Jack would say “Open it at a page at random,” and they would. He said, “Now read me the first line.” It was usually some obscure medieval poem they would pick out, and they would read the first line and Jack would start to quote and he would keep quoting until they asked him to stop. And my mother could pick up a book of a score of a complicated piano concerto by Chopin or something, read it, put it down, and then go and play it on the piano.

Jack always said that my mother’s input for [Till We Have Faces] was so great that it should have been titled as a collaboration by the two of them.


In the First World War the soldiers went to the battlefield and lived there for months, sometimes (if they survived) for years — in the blood-soaked mud, up to their necks sometimes, rats, mice, all those horrible things. And yet Jack regarded that as not the worst experience of his life; his school days, he thought, were even worse.

Of one thing I am convinced, that if he were brought back into today’s society, suddenly, from beyond the grave, he would think he was dead and living in hell.

Since [Lewis] died we have so much changed the world for the worse that I think he would consider himself to be living in hell were he here today. And it is MY generation that have done this…. A curiosity about America is that in the States’ scholarly institutions, in the schools of this country, you can teach homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle if you want, you can teach Buddhism as an alternative lifestyle if you want, you can teach Islam as an alternative lifestyle if you want, you can teach anything you like as long as it is NOT Christianity.

I apologize to you that we have allowed education in this country [the U. S.] to make Christianity a dirty word…. If you do not get Christianity back into your universities, back into your primary schools, back into your secondary schools, into your offices, into your businesses, it is doomed.

Now you say “the crisis in the public school systems.” I say which one? The whole system is in crisis. It is imploding on itself. I said only yesterday, I think, that I have travelled around the world more times than I can remember. One of my other sins is that I’m a yachtsman. And I have sailed boats in the Coral Sea. And all of the very best balanced, emotionally adjusted, best socially interactive, best educated children I have ever met have been home schooled. And there are two pieces of advice I give young people who are about to have children. One is, first and foremost, take your television set to a multi-level car park, check that there’s no one on the ground below, and heave it over the edge. And the second is hook into a good Christian home schooling program and home school your children. Now as a psychotherapist dealing with post-child-abuse trauma, I can tell you that one of the reasons they are so brilliant, these children, is that they get the one-on-one parent-child relationship which is so essential to the health and welfare of a child. The idea of putting your children in school and going to work all day, or putting the children in child care and going off to work, I don’t care WHAT the financial necessities are, that is the abuse of that child’s potential and the abuse of that child’s psychology.

I did not advocate Christian public education. I don’t even know what that is.

I think that if you cannot lead a prayer in your classrooms, something is wrong with your system.


I have the misfortune to be usually cast in the role of a Biblically-styled prophet.

I am involved in my ministry at home in post-child-abuse trauma therapy. You cannot hear the stories of the middle-aged people who have been ritually abused, the middle-aged people who have been abused by emotional neglect, you cannot hear these things and live with these people and be comfortable. You cannot live in America, where the current regime is responsible for more deaths of Americans than Adolph Hitler, and be comfortable as a Christian.

When I got back to my hotel I went to the bar to get a Coca Cola and within three minutes I was propositioned by three different prostitutes.

The greatest minds I have ever met have been Christian minds. The greatest egos I have ever met have been scientists and other people who have missed this truth. And I am pretty egotistical. I made my living for some years as a professional radio and television personality…. And my broadcasting career was extremely successful. In fact, the highlight of it was — and still remembered to this day, in the city of Perth in western Australia — that I’m the man who sold 2,000 tons of chicken manure in six weeks to an urban population. And what really comes out of that, you know, is that people who give up believing in God fall for anything.

My unpublished biography of Jack… I was originally commissioned to write it by a publisher, and I sent the first draft to him and he wanted to make so many changes to the book that it would have turned into a book that I wouldn’t want to write or be seen to having written. There are three reasons for writing books. One is if you hope it will make you rich; the second is that you hope it will make you famous. Now I run a ministry, and everything I have belongs to Jesus, so it doesn’t really matter whether I get rich out of it or not; that’s up to Him.

Secondly, I’m probably more famous now than I actually enjoy being. I’ve been there before as a broadcaster, and I ducked out of it because I got sick of it. I went back to farming and hid out on the farm for 13 years. But I realized when I went back into ministry that the Holy Spirit might require of me to become a public figure again; I left that to Him. So that motivation is removed. So the only motivation I have left for writing books is because I have something valuable to say…. Now my biography will be a simple recounting of what happened in Jack’s life as I learned of it from him and others, and it will be a stark and fairly brutal biography…. So yes, I will rewrite it, then I will seek out a publisher.

When people applaud a talk like this, it is very easy for me to fall into the temptation of thinking what a good speaker I am or what a good chap I am, but I am not. I have nothing to say without the Holy Spirit of God, so give the glory to Him in your prayers tonight.


I used to be an Anglican, by the way, but now I’m a Christian. I get great responses to that when I’m preaching in Anglican churches, believe me.

And for a while the Jews obeyed…. And then they slid back into worshipping idols, sacrificing their children on the altars of Moloch and all that sort of hideousness. And God, almost despairing, sent them prophets to tell them what to do. Jonah, for example, who went to Ninevah… [Note: The Ninevites were not Jews.]

[God] came here himself and had himself made into the perfect man. And then he took out his anger on himself as Jesus Christ and had himself nailed to a cross in the most agonizing torture that man has ever devised….

I am apologizing that Christian churches ever attached a stigma to pregnancy, outside of wedlock or inside of wedlock, so the people think it is a shameful thing to be pregnant.

The trouble with Anglicanism is that it has simply ceased to be, in many cases…. Well I’m here to say that’s bullshit. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity. If there’s no virgin birth, there is no Christianity.


In ancient Greek they had four words for love… in fact, they had five. But because he was doing this as a recording session… he could not go into the fifth one…. But in any case, the progression of loves between human beings must start with agape, as the Greeks called it, which is the first form of love… It is that emotion that makes you rush out and pick up a hurt child in the street. Although in this country you can’t do that anymore — you’ld get sued, wouldn’t you!

When you have met a human being and this agape has taken place, the next form of love to develop should be philia, love of friendship, shared interests, common interests, shared differences.

And when philia has become firmly established, a third form of love comes into play, and that is storge. Storge is the love or need love, the love of a familiar, and anyone who has ever lost a favorite dog will know what that’s all about — or a favorite pair of slippers, for that matter.

When all three of those loves are firmly in place, and only then, will eros, a romantic love between a man and woman be allowed to show its ugly head…. And once that marriage has taken place, then Venus, the sexual love between man and woman, can be allowed to happen.


My favorite of all Jack’s works is Till We Have Faces.. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. And here is a classic illustration of the difference between English culture and American culture. The Americans have made a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche also: Walt Disney’s “The Beauty and the Beast.” Jack did Till We Have Faces out of it. The reason I think it is a wonderful book is that I have probably reread it eight or nine times, and every time I come back to it it is a fresh book….

The first time you read it (and I read it first when I was about 13 or 14 years old — I was 14) it is a vibrant retelling, an exciting adventure story, of a myth…. I think it’s probably one of the greatest books ever written.

I’ll ask you a question: who does the Fox represent [in Till We Have Faces.]? And my answer is Satan. What evidence do you have to assume that Orual is ugly? The answer is none.


“As a private detective (which is something I spent many years doing) I can tell you that to actually prove that papers containing Jack’s handwriting were burnt on this fire in 1960 (the site of it is now under a house) is going to be tantamount to impossible; to prove that they were not, is impossible.”