“Mere Morality”

“Mere Morality” January 8, 2019


At Magdalene College, Cambridge
Magdalene Bridge and College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (Wikimedia Commons photograph by Simon Palmer)
Relatively late in his teaching career, C. S. Lewis left Oxford and took a professorship in this Cambridge college.


In the wee hours of the night since our return from Egypt (and, most immediately, from France) on Sunday evening, when (as I’ve inevitably been doing) I wake up thinking it’s time to head out when it’s really only 3:00 AM, I’ve been reading in an anthology entitled The Shadow-Lands of C. S. Lewis: The Man Behind the Movie, gathered and lightly annotated by Peter Kreeft, of the Department of Philosophy at Boston College.  It’s affecting me powerfully, as reading the works of Lewis always does, and I’m afraid that, if you read what I write, you’ll be subjected to the effects of this latest encounter over the next few days and weeks.  (I’m going to try to resist the temptation to go thoroughly Lewisian all at once, and will try to let things trickle out in relatively small increments.)


I’ve been a deep admirer of the Anglican scholar, novelist, and apologist C. S. Lewis on multiple levels since my mid-teens — I cannot commend him to your attention enthusiastically enough — and the passage below will stand as one example among very many of why that is so:


Mere morality is not the end of life.  You were made for something quite different from that.  J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about.  The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for.  Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends us for something in which morality will be swallowed up.  We are to be remade.  All the rabbit in us is to disappear — the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit.  We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.  (from God in the Dock)


(By Man, of course, Lewis intended Human.  He died on 22 November 1963 — the same day on which the dystopian novelist Aldous Huxley also died and the day on which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated — in time that hadn’t yet achieved our era’s remarkable enlightenment and bliss regarding gender issues.)



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