24 June, 2010

Mere Christianity

Hard to choose a quote from a book so infinitely quotable.

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

C.S. Lewis is the probably the best writer (particularly theological or philosophical) I have ever read.  I don't like when writers feel they have to dumb-down ideas when they try to explain them, and I dislike even more when they show off their superior intellect by needlessly complicating things with weird sentence structure or words that sound learned.  C.S. Lewis gives the full picture in stunningly simple terms (he makes writing clearly seem so effortless!), and yet you feel the full force of his intelligence behind it. Even in the Narnia books, it never feels like he's trying too hard.  
Now that I think about it, seeming effortlessness is my favorite literary style.  Bill Bryson writes "choke-on-your-coffee funny" books, but it never seems like he's trying too hard.  And then when I try to write something in the same style I realize how ridiculously difficult it actually is.  And then I say what the heck, toss down my pencil, pick up I'm a Stranger Here Myself and vow to leave writing to people who can actually do it.

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