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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 78, Autumn 1998

C. S. Lewis and Contemporary Culture Original Article

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

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


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 w
orst 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 hmself to be livng 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

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

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 ot 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

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