from
God in the Dock:
Essays on Theology and Ethics

by
C. S. Lewis
edited by Walter Hooper

C. S. Lewis

These pages:
quick index to selections
Part I, 1-9
Part I, 10-23
Part II
This page:
Part III
Part IV (Letters)

Editor:

Walter Hooper

Categories:

the Inklings

Christianity

index pages:
authors
titles
categories
topics
translators

quick index to quoted selections from God in the Dock
Part I   1:   Evil and God
  2:   Miracles
  3:   Dogma and the Universe
  4:   Answers to Questions on Christianity
  5:   Myth Became Fact
  6:   ‘Horrid Red Things’
  7:   Religion and Science
  9:   The Grand Miracle
10:   Christian Apologetics
11:   Work and Prayer
13:   On the Transmission of Christianity
15:   The Founding of the Oxford Socratic Club
16:   Religion Without Dogma?
17:   Some Thoughts
18:   ‘The Trouble With “X”...’
23:   Must Our Image of God Go?
Part II   1:   Dangers of National Repentance
  2:   Two Ways With the Self
  3:   Meditation on the Third Commandment
  4:   On the Reading of Old Books
  6:   Meditation in a Tool Shed
  8:   The Decline of Religion
11:   Priestesses in the Church?
12:   God in the Dock
14:   Revival or Decay?
16:   Cross-Examination
Part III  1:   ‘Bulverism’ or, The Foundation of 20th Century Thought
  2:   First and Second Things
  4:   The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment
  7:   Delinquents in the Snow
  8:   Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State
  9:   We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’
Part IV
(Letters)
  4:   Mr. C. S. Lewis on Christianity
  7:   The Church’s Liturgy, Invocation, and Invocation of Saints
  8:   The Holy Name
11:   Pittenger-Lewis and Version Vernacular

Part III

Part III: 1

‘Bulverism’
or, The Foundation of 20th Century Thought

in shortened form: ‘Notes on the Way’, Time and Tide, vol. XXII (29 March 1941)
this version: The Socratic Digest, No. 2 (June 1944)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant — but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments.

In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third — ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ ‘At that moment’, E. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.’

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Part III: 2

First and Second Things

‘Notes on the Way’', Time and Tide, vol. XXIII (27 June 1942)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

What business have people who call might right to say they are worshippers of Odin? The whole point about Odin was that he had the right but not the might. The whole point about Norse religion was that it alone of all mythologies told men to serve gods who were admittedly fighting with their backs to the wall and would certainly be defeated in the end. [...] The gods will fall. The wisdom of Odin, the humorous courage of Thor (Thor was something of a Yorkshireman) and the beauty of Balder will all be smashed eventually by the realpolitik of the stupid giants and misshapen trolls. But that does not in the least alter the allegiance of any free man. Hence, as we should expect, real Germanic poetry is all about heroic stands, and fighting against hopeless odds.

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Part III: 4

The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment

20th Century: An Australian Quarterly Review, vol. III, No. 3 (1949)
Res Judicatae, vol. VI (June 1953)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. [...] To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.
For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as crime; and compulsorily cured. [...] We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it? Such ‘cure’ will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution.
The essential act of mercy was to pardon; and pardon in its very essence involves the recognition of guilt and ill-desert in the recipient. If crime is only a disease which needs cure, not sin which deserves punishment, it cannot be pardoned.

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Part III: 7

Delinquents in the Snow

Time and Tide, vol. XXXVIII (7 December 1957)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

Revolutions seldom cure the evil against which they are directed; they always beget a hundred others. Often they perpetuate the old evil under a new name.

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Part III: 8

Is Progress Possible?
Willing Slaves of the Welfare State

The Observer (20 July 1958)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

We shall grow able to cure, and to produce, more diseases — bacterial war, not bombs, might ring down the curtain — to alleviate, and to inflict, more pains, to husband, or to waste, the resources of the planet more extensively. We can become either more beneficent or more mischievous. My guess is we shall do both; mending one thing and marring another, removing old miseries and producing new ones, safeguarding ourselves here and endangering ourselves there.
But a remedial treatment can be judged only by the probability of its success; a technical question on which only experts can speak. Thus the criminal ceases to be a person, a subject of rights and duties, and becomes merely an object on which society can work. And this is, in principle, how Hitler treated the Jews.
One school of psychology regards my religion as a neurosis. If this neurosis ever becomes inconvenient to Government, what is to prevent my being subjected to a compulsory ‘cure’? It may be painful; treatments sometimes are. But it will be no use asking, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ The Straightener will reply: ‘But, my dear fellow, no one’s blaming you. We not longer believe in retributive justice. We’re healing you.’

I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands ‘Thus saith the Lord’, it lies, and lies dangerously.

On just the same ground I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come in.

We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness, and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it: omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relive it, in the other.
Let us not be deceived by phrases about ‘Man taking charge of his own destiny’. All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?

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Part III: 9

We Have No ‘Right to Happiness’

The Saturday Evening Post, vol. CCXXXVI (21-28 December 1963)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

In words that are cherished by all civilized men, but especially by Americans, it has been laid down that one of the rights of man is a right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’. And now we get to the real point.

What did the writers of that august declaration mean?

It is quite certain what they did not mean. They did not mean that man was entitled to pursue happiness by any and every means — including, say, murder, rape, robbery, treason and fraud. No society could be built on such a basis.

They meant ‘to pursue happiness by all lawful means’; that is, by all means which the Law of Nature eternally sanctions and which the laws of the nation shall sanction.

She was rather leftist in her politics, and would have been scandalised if anyone had defended the actions of a ruthless man-eating tycoon on the ground that his happiness consisted in making money and he was pursuing his happiness. She was also a rabid teetotaller; I never heard her excuse an alcoholic because he was happy when he was drunk.

A good many of Clare’s friends, and especially her female friends, often felt — I‘ve heard them say so — that their own happiness would be perceptibly increased by boxing her ears.

When I was a youngster, all the progressive people were saying, ‘Why all this prudery? Let us treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.’ I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be bridled.

If we establish a ‘right to (sexual) happiness’ which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behaviour, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while the bad behaviour is real and works miseries and degradations, the happiness which was the object of the behaviour turns out again and again to be illusory.

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Part IV
Letters

Part IV: 4

Mr. C. S. Lewis on Christianity

The Listener, vol. XXXI (9 March 1944)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

My reason for thinking that a mere statement of even the highest ethical principles is not enough is precisely that to know these things is not necessarily to do them, and if Christianity brought no healing to the impotent will, Christ’s teaching would not help us.

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Part IV: 7

The Church’s Liturgy, Invocation, and Invocation of Saints

Church Times, vol. CXXXII (1 July 1949)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

Sir, — I agree with Dean Hughes that the connection of belief and liturgy is close, but doubt if it is ‘inextricable’. I submit that the relation is healthy when liturgy expresses the belief of the Church, morbid when liturgy creates in the people by suggestion beliefs which the Church has not publicly professed, taught, and defended. If the mind of the Church is, for example, that our fathers erred in abandoning the Romish invocations of saints and angels, by all means let our corporate recantation, together with its grounds in scripture, reason and tradition be published, our solemn act of penitence be performed, the laity reinstructed, and the proper changes in liturgy be introduced.

What horrifies me is the proposal that individual priests should be encouraged to behave as if all this had been done when it has not been done.

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Part IV: 8

The Holy Name

Church Times, vol. CXXXIV (10 August 1951)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

Is not each party innocent in its temperamental preference but grossly culpable if it allows anything so subjective, contingent, and (with a little effort) conquerable as a termperament preference to become a cause of division among brethren? If we cannot lay down our tastes, along with other carnal baggage at the church door, surely we should at least bring them in to be humbled and, if necessary, modified, not to be indulged?

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Part IV: 11

Pittenger-Lewis and Version Vernacular

The Christian Century, vol. LXXV (31 December 1958)

Copyright © 1970 by The Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis

It is absolutely disgraceful that we expect missionaries to the Bantus to learn Bantu but never ask whether our missionaries to the Americans or English can speak American or English. Any fool can write learned language. The vernacular is the real test. If you can’t turn your faith into it, then either you don’t understand it or you don’t believe it.

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