C.S. Lewis has long been revered as one of the leading Christian thinkers of the 20th century. His simple ideas have caused us to ponder deeper truths, his bluntness over matters of the human heart have caused us to blush and sheepishly admit wrongs we wouldn’t have otherwise, and his analogies have given us just a clearer glimpse into the thoughts of God.
The power of the written word. One needs only to pick up a Lewis book to witness its strength. And The Weight of Glory is no exception. Allow me to run through the catalogue of chapters, in case you haven’t read this classic, and hopefully it will convince you to pick it up for your next read. Disclaimer: It is not a pleasure read – it’s a thinker and it will cause you to dig deep to discover some of its meaning.
Chapter 1 – The Weight of Glory
This sermon was preached when England was at war with Germany, on June 8, 1941. People were probably at that time struggling with issues like truth, and justice and relevance in a world that was falling apart. Lewis puts forward the idea that a desire for reward is a basically biblical idea. He goes on to state that the appeals in scripture are actually given with desire in mind, and that desire is built into the design of man. He also states that the reward fits the behavior and is not an inappropriate or mercenary reward but the culmination of the activity. “The proper rewards are not tacked onto the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.”
Chapter 2 – Learning in War Time
I really appreciate Lewis’ argument here. He states that we are never really secure in life. Human life is lived on a precipice of constant danger. He also states that if we waited until we were safe to pursue beauty we would never begin that pursuit. Lewis preached this sermon in 1939 while tensions over the war in Europe were raging. Lewis, as an former soldier and Christian was called in to set things in perspective. I am certain he was addressing the question, “Why should we continue with our studies when the world is hanging on the edge of disaster?” He divides the question into two categories, one is the need for the saving of souls, and secondly the need for exclusive nationalism.
Chapter 3 – Why I am Not a Pacifist
I appreciate how Lewis starts out this talk by defining his terms carefully. He is using logic to appeal to the audience and this is very effective as it considers all options. He is going to systematically take apart these options one by one and be left with his own position as the best option.
Chapter 4 – Transposition
Lewis tackles a tough issue here, the issue of tongues. He starts by explaining the difference between sensations and emotions. Emotions are a higher order than sensations and sometimes the same sensation can be used for different and even opposing emotions.
Chapter 5 – Is Theology Poetry?
“Does Christian theology owe its attraction to its power of arousing and satisfying our imaginations?” That is the question Lewis attempts to answer in this essay. He made this speech at Oxford University at the Socratic Club on Nov. 6, 1944. He talks about his own experience to show the inadequacy of the Christian faith to be merely poetic in its appeal. He states that he prefers other mythologies to Christianity if it were merely mythical.
Chapter 6 – The Inner Ring
This talk was given at Kings College, University of London during a commemoration Oration on Dec. 14, 1944. He talks about the idea of inner rings, or in other words, being a part of a specific group. This group can be for any purpose, the main point is the desire to belong.
Chapter 7 – Membership
Faith has been relegated to a position of solitude, this is both paradoxical, dangerous, and natural. He states it is paradoxical considering that every other activity in recent history has robbed us of solitude. Secondly he states that this is dangerous because solitude has been pushed out of our lives, this effectively can keep religion out of our lives if we accept that concept. He also states this idea is natural, by that I mean we fall into the mentality of collectivism and fail to understand the meaning of being a part of the “Body of Christ”. Collectivism reduces the value of the individual and only speaks of the value of the group to which the individual belongs, while the concept we should embrace states both the value of the group as a whole entity and yet keeps the importance of each individual member within that specific group. That is the essence of what Lewis is arguing for.
Chapter 8 – On Forgiveness
The question he is answering here is why do we recite in the creeds the phrase, “We believe in the forgiveness of sins”? He assumes this is just something we all understand, but after giving it some thought he sees the wisdom of the writers of the creeds. We by nature need to be reminded of our own sinfulness and our need for forgiveness.
Chapter 9 – A Slip of the Tongue
This was the last sermon Lewis ever preached. He gave this talk at Oxford in a small chapel in Evensong on Jan. 29, 1956. The question he seems to be addressing is the reluctance of the believer to fully commit himself to God. He became aware of this in his prayer life. The difficulty seems to be the real fear that God will require something more than we wish to give at that time. The illustration he uses of paying taxes, we all agree in the necessity of paying taxes, but at the same time we all want to know how little we can get away with paying. So is our thinking with our relationship with God, we desire a relationship with Him but we don’t want Him to demand too much of us. We desire to “keep things temporal” as Lewis puts it.