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The Weight of Glory Paperback – Deckle Edge, March 1, 2001
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From the Back Cover
Addressing some of the most difficult issues we face in our day-to-day lives, C. S. Lewis's ardent and timeless words provide an unparalleled path to greater spiritual understanding. Considered by many to be his most moving address, "The Weight of Glory" extols a compassionate vision of Christianity and includes lucid and compelling discussions on forgiveness and faith.
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The Weight of Glory 6/8/1941 – In this address, Lewis first talks about the longings we each have: the deep longing for something which no experience on earth satisfies though we have faint glimpses of, like a memory of something long ago. It’s the desire that beauty stirs within us, the longing to be fully immersed and joined into the beauty. It’s what others have described as the God shaped void within us. Lewis argues that this longing proves that there must be a world where this longing can be fulfilled and that we are made for that world.
Lewis takes some time to discuss the idea of rewards received for work. First, there are rewards which are not directly connected to the work, such as being paid to clean for example. Then there are rewards which are clearly organically tied to the effort to obtain them, such as a good marriage is the reward for loving one’s spouse. Lewis points out that while the former can be accused of only doing the work for the reward, this makes no sense to say in the latter case. Lewis also notes that some rewards, while organically tied to the effort taken to obtain them, aren’t recognized as desirable until one has obtained them or is at least closer to that goal. Lewis uses the example that one wouldn’t know they enjoy Greek poetry until after they had gone through the work of learning Greek.
Lewis believes that heaven is like this. I think he conceived of everything in heaven as being of a higher order than things of this world. Thus he talks about how we improperly long for worldly things, which are really a false substitute for the heavenly things we ought to long for.
Lewis spends most of the remainder of the lecture talking about glory. He thinks that while seeking fame on earth may be conceited, desiring to please God is not. This is the first sense of glory. The second is in how we will “shine” as God’s masterpieces. Lewis considers this idea that God can take delight in us to be something so amazing that we can barely believe it—the “weight or burden of glory”.
Finally, Lewis discusses how we ought to keep other’s glory in mind when considering those around us and how this ought to keep us humble.
Learning in War-Time 10/22/1939 – Lewis addresses how study can seem to be a trivial pursuit during war time. His argument is primarily that we must engage in normal human activity whatever the circumstances are. And there is always some crisis or matter which may seem more important. For example, the matter of heaven and hell is always present and more significant than war. Study is a necessary undertaking to which some have been called and which they should work at despite distraction, frustration and fear.
Why I’m not a Pacifist 1940 – Lewis first lays a foundation from which he will build the rest of his arguments. The foundation consists of Lewis’ view of the conscious as having two parts: a drive to do what is right and beliefs about what right and wrong are. Lewis next explains his concept of reason by which he will address the latter portion of the conscious. A reasonable argument, says Lewis, consists of facts, “intuition”, and a series of linked, logical propositions. What Lewis means by intuition is that which can’t be argued but with which virtually everyone agrees, such as love is good and hate is bad. (Lewis believes that people “must be trained in obedience to the moral intuitions…”, an idea he also addresses in The Abolition of Man.) Authority is also an important consideration in deciding a matter, both because we don’t have time to examine every belief and because our beliefs are liable to be corrupted.
After all this groundwork, Lewis finally begins making his case. First, he considers the fact of whether or not all wars do more harm than good, concluding that “history is full of useful wars as well as of useless wars.” He next examines whether the intuition of love as better than hate (or helping as better than harming) leads to pacifism or not. First, he recognizes that we are incapable of helping everyone so that to help one means not helping another. He then states that if two parties are in conflict, for an observing party to do nothing would violate the intuition. (He assumes that action would come in the form of physical intervention and violence.) From here says, “The question is whether war is the greatest evil in the world…”. This shows that he thinks of pacifism as the view that war should never be engaged in. And the only reason he could see to take this position would be if it could be argued that war is always worse than the alternative. After this, he argues that pacifism is impractical, because pacifists will be overcome by those who are not.
Turning next to authority, Lewis argues that human authority, both specific (England at that time) and general (“righteous war” praised throughout history) support war.
Examining at last divine authority, Lewis argues that current Christian authority and Christian history both support violence. The only verse which Lewis apparently can think of which might support pacifism is Matthew 5:39, “Do not resist an evil person”. Lewis believes Jesus here is addressing personal revenge and considers Paul and Peter’s talk about government using the sword as support for Christians using the sword. Lastly Lewis considers his bias and argues that since it would be more convenient to be a pacifist, it is more likely for one to be biased towards it. In other words, not finding a logical reason to be pacifist nor authoritative support, Lewis concludes that people must be pacifist because it is easier and more convenient for them to do so.1
Transposition 5/28/1944 – Essentially, as I understand it, Lewis is addressing the argument that since alleged supernatural works of the Holy Spirit manifest as naturally explainable phenomenon, isn’t it more reasonable to believe all such instances are simply natural, not supernatural? Lewis’ argument is that the “higher” spiritual must be transposed into the “lower” natural world and must therefore use otherwise natural means to do so. He uses the metaphor of how we attempt to represent three-dimensional reality in two-dimensional drawings.
Is Theology Poetry? 11/6/1944 – Lewis addresses the question of if our beliefs about God (and even in the existence of God) are merely fanciful and quaint ideas we hold sentimentally but without any true reality behind them.
The Inner Ring 12/14/1944 – Lewis speaks about the desire to be “in” and accepted along with the fear of being left out and rejected. He warns against the danger of doing wrong in order to fit in as well as the fleeting nature of the sense of being “in”.
Membership 2/10/1945 – Lewis refutes the idea of Christianity as a private, individual, personal matter alone. He takes some time to differentiate between groups whose members are different but complementary (metaphor of church as a body) and mere collections of like people or things. Lewis also touches on hierarchy and authority. Overall, Lewis basically argues against isolated individualism on one hand and homogeneous collectivism on the other.
On Forgiveness 8/28/1947 – Lewis talks about God’s forgiveness of our sins. He explores the difference between excusing (I understand, no big deal, etc.) and true forgiveness as well as how this relates to forgiving others.
A Slip of the Tongue 1/29/1956 – Lewis warns against the temptation to “play” at Christianity which comes from the desire to hold onto the things of the world. Refusing to let go of these things causes one to not get too spiritual to the point which would require real change in their life.
prEFaCE T his book contains a selection of the too numerous addresses which i was induced to give during the late war and the years that immediately followed it. all were composed in response to personal requests and for particular audiences,
C.S.Lewis. Weight of Glory . UNKNOWN. Kindle Edition.
Top international reviews
This book is no difference. His observations are sharp and the essays are so well-argued that make the conclusions inevitable. In other words, C S Lewis is persuasive. The way how he writes makes his works very quotable and in turn memorable for us.
In this book, Lewis did not shy away from controversies of his time but confronted them head on. His skills rest not only in taking apart and in turn illuminate the questions asked, but also to argue eloquently with conviction from his heart. This is what makes Lewis so compelling to read. In arguing learning in war-time, he says, among other things, "the learned life then, is, for some, a duty." (p.59) Why? "[The learned life] has indirect values which are especially important today... To be ignorant and simple now - not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground - would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. .. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past... A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age." (p. 58-59)
This sense of mission in learning is broader than personal gain in the labour market, is it not? And in every age, we need someone like Lewis to help us see through the deceptions of the day. Is this not true also? Our world has gotten more confusing , if anything. I find often there is timeliness in Lewis' arguments.
I like his directness in addressing issues, for example, on hell and heaven. Rightly said. He makes bold statements that we may not dare to utter these days, but they are truths that we should know. The one essay that has stood out for me from this collection is Membership. What he says about membership is not new if you read the Bible. What is unusual in his skill is in how he crystalises the concept so precisely. The concept of members of a club has been diluted to mean units, which has only quantitative impact on the club. However, the biblical concept of members is that members occupy structural position, such that, 'If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number, you have inflicted an injury on its structure.' (p. 164-165) That's what is wrong in today's society, while in contrast God offers us an identity'in the structure of the eternal cosmos for which we were designed or invented' (p.173)) Isn't that exciting?
Let me indulge one more of my highlights from this book: "I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over this fellows. That I believe to be the true ground of democracy.' (p. 168) Therefore democracy / equality is medicine for its protective function; it is needed because the society is sick. The corollary is that if the society is not sick, we don't need democracy. But the error of the day is that it is pursued as if it is nutritious food intrinsic for our health, rather than being the medicine that perhaps we should loathe the fact that we need it in the first place.
If these highlights grip you and excite you, then there are a lot more in this book which you should turn to read and claim them as your own.