Scan and OCR by Copper Kettle aka T.A.G, 2003-12-21. Yekaterinburg.
     Corrected: vladioan

     Spellcheck: Andrew B Robertson, 07.01.2005

     Born in Ireland  in  1898, C. S. Lewis was educated  at Malvern College
for a year and then privately. He gained  a triple first at Oxford and was a
Fellow and Tutor at Magdalen College 1925-54. In 1954 he became Professor of
Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. He was an outstanding and
popular lecturer and had a lasting influence on his pupils.
     C. S. Lewis was for many years an atheist, and described his conversion
in  Surprised by Joy: 'In the Trinity term of  1929 I  gave in, and admitted
that God was God ... perhaps the most dejected  and reluctant convert in all
England.'  It was  this  experience that  helped  him to understand not only
apathy  but active  unwillingness to  accept religion, and,  as  a Christian
writer, gifted with an exceptionally brilliant and logical mind and a lucid,
lively  style,  he was  without peer.  The  Problem  of  Pain, The Screwtape
Letters,  Mere  Christianity,  The Four  Loves  and  the Posthumous  Prayer:
Letters to Malcolm, are only  a few of his best-selling works. He also wrote
some delightful books for  children and some  science fiction, besides  many
works  of literary criticism. His works are known to  millions of people all
over the world in  translation. He died on 22nd November, 1963, at  his home
in Oxford.
     The contents  of  this  book were  first  given  on the air,  and  then
published in three separate parts as The Case for Christianity  (1943),  (*)
Christian Behaviour (1943),  and Beyond  Personality (1945). In  the printed
versions I made a few  additions to  what I had said at the  microphone, but
otherwise left the text much as it had been. A "talk" on the radio should, I
think, be as like real talk as possible, and should  not sound like an essay
being read aloud. In my talks I had therefore used  all the contractions and
colloquialisms I  ordinarily use in conversation. In  the  printed version I
reproduced  this,  putting don't  and we've  for do not  and  we  have.  And
wherever, in  the talks,  I had made the importance of  a word  clear by the
emphasis of my voice, I printed it in italics.
     [*] Published in England under the title Broadcast Talks.
     I  am  now  inclined to think that  this was a  mistake-an  undesirable
hybrid between the art of speaking and the art of writing. A talker ought to
use variations  of  voice  for emphasis because his  medium  naturally lends
itself to that method: but  a  writer ought not to  use italics for the same
purpose. He has his own, different, means of bringing out  the key words and
ought to use them.  In  this edition I  have  expanded the  contractions and
replaced  most of the  italics  by recasting  the  sentences  in which  they
occurred:  but  without  altering, I hope, the  "popular" or "familiar" tone
which I  had all  along  intended.  I  have also added  and deleted  where I
thought I understood any part of my subject better now than ten years ago or
where I knew that the original version had been misunderstood by others.
     The  reader should be warned  that  I offer no  help  to anyone who  is
hesitating between two Christian "denominations." You will not learn from me
whether you ought to become an  Anglican, a  Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a
Roman Catholic.
     This  omission  is intentional (even in  the list I have just given the
order is alphabetical). There is no mystery about  my  own position. I  am a
very ordinary layman of  the  Church of England, not especially "high,"  nor
especially  "low," nor especially anything  else. But in  this book I am not
trying to convert anyone to my own position. Ever since I became a Christian
I have thought that  the best, perhaps the  only, service I  could do for my
unbelieving  neighbours was to explain and defend  the belief that  has been
common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for
thinking this. In  the first  place,  the  questions which divide Christians
from  one  another  often  involve  points  of  high  Theology  or  even  of
ecclesiastical  history which  ought  never  to  be treated except  by  real
     I should have been out of my depth in such waters: more in need of help
myself than able to help  others. And secondly, I think we must  admit  that
the  discussion of these disputed  points has no tendency at all to bring an
outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we
are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than
to  draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in
the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God
and that  Jesus Christ is His only Son.  Finally, I got  the impression that
far  more,  and  more  talented,  authors  were  already  engaged  in   such
controversial  matters  than  in  the defence of what  Baxter  calls  "mere"
Christianity.  That part of the line where I thought I could serve  best was
also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.
     So far as I know, these were my only motives, and I should be very glad
if  people  would not  draw fanciful  inferences  from my silence on certain
disputed matters.
     For example, such silence need not mean that I myself am sitting on the
fence. Sometimes I  am.  There are questions  at issue between Christians to
which I do not think I have the answer. There are some  to which I may never
know the answer: if I asked them, even in a better world, I might (for all I
know) be answered as a far greater questioner was answered: "What is that to
thee?  Follow  thou Me."  But there  are  other questions as  to which I  am
definitely on one side of  the  fence, and yet  say nothing.  For I was  not
writing to  expound  something I  could  call "my  religion," but to expound
"mere" Christianity, which is  what it is  and was what it was long before I
was born and whether I like it or not.
     Some people draw unwarranted conclusions from the fact that I never say
more about the Blessed Virgin Mary than is involved in asserting  the Virgin
Birth of Christ.  But surely my reason  for not doing so  is obvious? To say
more would take  me  at once into highly controversial regions. And there is
no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as
this. The Roman  Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the
ordinary fervour  that attaches to  all sincere  religious belief, but (very
naturally) with  the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a
man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake.
     It is very difficult so to dissent from them  that you will  not appear
to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant
beliefs on this  subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots
of  all  Monotheism whatever.  To radical  Protestants  it  seems  that  the
distinction between Creator and creature (however holy) is  imperilled: that
Polytheism is risen again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you
will not appear something worse than a heretic-an idolater, a Pagan. If  any
topic  could be relied upon to wreck a book about "mere" Christianity-if any
topic makes  utterly unprofitable reading for  those who do not yet  believe
that the Virgin's son is God-surely this is it.
     Oddly  enough, you cannot  even  conclude, from my silence on  disputed
points, either that I think them important or that I think them unimportant.
For this is itself one of the disputed points. One of  the things Christians
are  disagreed  about  is  the importance of  their  disagreements. When two
Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is  usually not long
before one asks whether such-and-such a point "really matters" and the other
replies: "Matter? Why, it's absolutely essential."
     All this is  said simply in order to make clear what kind of book I was
trying to write; not  in the least to conceal or evade responsibility for my
own beliefs. About  those, as I  said before, there is  no  secret. To quote
Uncle Toby: "They are written in the Common-Prayer Book."
     The danger dearly was that I should  put forward as common Christianity
anything that  was peculiar to  the  Church of England or  (worse  still) to
myself. I tried to guard against this by sending the original script of what
is  now Book  II to four clergymen (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman
Catholic)  and asking for  their criticism. The Methodist thought I  had not
said enough about Faith, and  the  Roman Catholic thought I had gone  rather
too far about the comparative unimportance of theories in explanation of the
Atonement.  Otherwise  all  five  of  us  were agreed.  I did not  have  the
remaining books similarly "vetted" because in them, though differences might
arise  among Christians, these would be  differences between  individuals or
schools of thought, not between denominations.
     So far  as I  can  judge from  reviews and from  the  numerous  letters
written  to  me,  the book, however  faulty  in other respects, did at least
succeed  in  presenting  an  agreed,  or  common,  or   central,  or  "mere"
Christianity. In that way it  may possibly be of some help  in silencing the
view that, if  we omit the disputed points, we shall have  left only a vague
and bloodless H.C.F. The H.C.F. turns out to be something  not only positive
but pungent; divided from all non-Christian beliefs  by a chasm to which the
worst divisions inside Christendom are not really comparable at all.
     If I have not directly helped the cause of reunion, I have perhaps made
it clear why we ought to  be reunited. Certainly I  have met with little  of
the fabled odium theologicum from convinced members of communions  different
from my  own. Hostility  has come more from borderline people whether within
the  Church of England  or  without  it: men not  exactly  obedient  to  any
communion. This I find  curiously consoling. It is at  her centre, where her
truest children dwell, that each communion  is really closest to every other
in spirit, if not in doctrine.  And this suggests that at the centre of each
there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all
differences of temperament,  all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with
the same voice.
     So much for my  omissions on doctrine.  In Book III,  which deals  with
morals, I have also  passed over some things in silence, but for a different
reason. Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I  have
had  a great  dislike of people  who, themselves in ease and  safety,  issue
exhortations to men in the  front line. As a result I  have a  reluctance to
say much  about temptations  to  which I  myself  am not exposed.  No man, I
suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes
men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by
lacking  some  good  impulse of which  it  is  the  excess or perversion.  I
therefore did not feel myself qualified to give advice about permissable and
impermissable  gambling: if there is any permissable, for I do not  claim to
know  even that. I  have also said  nothing about  birth-control. I am not a
woman nor even a married man, nor am I a priest. I did not think it my place
to  take a  firm  line about  pains, dangers  and  expenses from  which I am
protected; having no pastoral office which obliged me to do so.
     Far deeper objections may be  felt-and have been expressed- against  my
use of the  word Christian to mean one  who  accepts the common doctrines of
Christianity. People ask: "Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a
Christian?" or "May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far
more truly  a  Christian, far closer to the  spirit of Christ, than some who
do?"  Now this  objection is in  one sense very right, very charitable, very
spiritual, very sensitive. It has every amiable quality except that of being
useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use  language as these objectors
want us to use it. I will  try to make this clear by the history of another,
and very much less important, word.
     The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had
a  coat  of  arms  and  some  landed  property. When you  called  someone "a
gentleman" you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a  fact.
If you said he was not "a gentleman" you were not  insulting him, but giving
information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a
gentleman; any more than there now  is in saying that James is a fool and an
M.A.  But  then  there  came   people   who  said-so  rightly,   charitably,
spiritually,  sensitively,  so  anything  but  usefully-"Ah, but  surely the
important thing about a gentleman is not the  coat of arms and the land, but
the behaviour?  Surely he is the  true gentleman who behaves  as a gentleman
should?  Surely in  that sense  Edward is far  more  truly a gentleman  than
     They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is  of course
a  far better thing than  to have a  coat  of arms.  But it  is not the same
thing.  Worse still,  it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a
man "a gentleman" in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of
giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to  deny that he is
"a gentleman" becomes simply  a way of insulting him. When a  word ceases to
be a term  of description and  becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer
tells  you  facts about the object: it  only tells you  about the  speaker's
attitude to that object.  (A  "nice"  meal  only means  a  meal  the speaker
     A gentleman, once it has been  spiritualised and refined out of its old
coarse,  objective  sense, means  hardly more than a  man whom  the  speaker
likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of
approval  already,  so it was not needed for that use;  on the other hand if
anyone  (say, in  a historical work) wants  to  use  it in its old sense, he
cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose.
     Now if once we allow people to start spiritualising and refining, or as
they might say "deepening,"  the  sense of the word Christian,  it too  will
speedily become a  useless  word.  In the first place, Christians themselves
will never be able  to apply it to anyone. It  is not for us to say who,  in
the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see
into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge.
     It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that  any man is, or is not,
a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which  we can  never
apply is not  going to be a  very  useful word. As for the unbelievers, they
will no doubt cheerfully use the word in the refined  sense.  It will become
in their mouths simply a term of praise. In calling anyone a Christian  they
will mean that they think him  a good man.  But  that  way of using the word
will be no enrichment of the language, for  we already  have the word  good.
Meanwhile, the word  Christian will have been spoiled for any  really useful
purpose it might have served.
     We must therefore  stick to  the  original,  obvious meaning. The  name
Christians was first given at  Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to "the  disciples," to
those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its
being  restricted  to  those  who profited by that teaching as much as  they
should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some
refined, spiritual, inward fashion were "far closer to the spirit of Christ"
than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological,
or moral  one.  It is  only a  question of  using words so  that we  can all
understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine
lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than
to say he is not a Christian.
     I  hope no  reader will  suppose  that  "mere" Christianity is here put
forward as an alternative to the  creeds of the  existing communions-as if a
man could adopt it in preference  to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or
anything else. It is more like a hall  out of  which doors open into several
rooms. If  I  can bring  anyone  into  that hall  I shall have done  what  I
attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and
chairs and meals. The hall  is a place to wait in, a place from which to try
the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the
rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.
     It  is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for
a considerable  time, while  others  feel certain almost  at once which door
they must knock at. I  do  not  know why there is this difference, but I  am
sure  God keeps no one  waiting unless He  sees that it is good  for  him to
wait. When you do  get into your room  you will  find that the long wait has
done you some kind of good which  you  would not have had otherwise. But you
must  regard  it  as waiting, not as  camping.  You must keep on praying for
light: and, of  course,  even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the
rules which are common to  the whole house. And above all you must be asking
which door is the true one; not which  pleases  you  best by  its paint  and
     In plain language, the question should never be: "Do  I like that  kind
of  service?"  but  "Are these doctrines  true:  Is holiness  here?  Does my
conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this  door due
to  my  pride, or  my  mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular
     When you have reached your own room, be  kind to those  Who have chosen
different  doors and to those who are still in the  hall. If they  are wrong
they  need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you
are  under orders to pray for them. That  is one of the rules common  to the
whole house.


     1. The Law of Human Nature
     2. Some Objections
     3. The Reality of the Law
     4. What Lies Behind the Law
     5. We Have Cause to Be Uneasy


     1. The Rival Conceptions of God
     2. The Invasion
     3. The Shocking Alternative
     4. The Perfect Penitent
     5. The Practical Conclusion


     1. The Three Parts of Morality
     2. The "Cardinal Virtues"
     3. Social Morality
     4. Morality and Psychoanalysis
     5. Sexual Morality
     6. Christian Marriage
     7. Forgiveness
     8. The Great Sin
     9. Charity
     10. Hope
     11. Faith
     12. Faith


     1. Making and Begetting
     2. The Three-Personal God
     3. Time and Beyond Time
     4. Good Infection
     5. The Obstinate Toy Soldiers
     6. Two Notes
     7. Let's Pretend
     8. Is Christianity Hard or Easy?
     9. Counting the Cost
     10. Nice People or New Men
     11. The New Men

     Every one  has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes  it sounds funny and
sometimes it sounds merely  unpleasant; but however it sounds,  I believe we
can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they
say. They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did the same to
you?"-"That's my seat, I  was there  first"-"Leave him alone, he isn't doing
you  any  harm"-  "Why should  you  shove in first?"-"Give me a  bit of your
orange, I gave you a bit of mine"-"Come on, you promised." People say things
like that  every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as
well as grown-ups. Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the
man who makes them is not merely saying  that the other man's behaviour does
not  happen to  please him.  He is  appealing  to some kind of  standard  of
behaviour  which he expects  the  other man to know about. And the other man
very seldom replies: "To hell with your standard." Nearly always he tries to
make out  that  what  he  has been  doing  does  not really  go against  the
standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there
is some  special reason in this particular case why the person  who took the
seat first should not  keep it, or that things were quite different  when he
was given the bit of orange, or that something  has turned up which lets him
off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had
in  mind  some kind of  Law or  Rule  of  fair play  or decent  behaviour or
morality or  whatever you like to  call it, about which they  really agreed.
And they have. If they had not, they might,  of course, fight  like animals,
but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarrelling means
trying to  show  that the  other man is  in the wrong. And there would be no
sense in  trying to do that  unless you and he had some sort of agreement as
to what Right and Wrong are; just as  there would be no sense in saying that
a footballer had committed a foul  unless there was some agreement about the
rules of football.
     Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of
Nature.  Nowadays,  when we talk of  the  "laws of  nature"  we usually mean
things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the
older thinkers called the Law  of Right and Wrong "the Law  of Nature," they
really meant the Law of Human Nature.  The idea was that, just as all bodies
are  governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so
the creature  called man also had his law-with this great difference, that a
body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a
man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.
     We  may put this in another way. Each  man is at every moment subjected
to  several different sets of law but there is only one of these which he is
free to  disobey. As  a  body,  he is subjected to  gravitation  and  cannot
disobey it; if  you leave  him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice
about falling than a stone has. As an organism, he  is subjected  to various
biological laws  which he  cannot disobey any more than an  animal can. That
is, he cannot  disobey those laws which he shares with other things; but the
law which is peculiar to  his human nature, the law  he does not share  with
animals or vegetables or inorganic  things, is the  one he can disobey if he
     This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every
one knew it by nature and  did  not need to be taught it. They did not mean,
of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who  did
not  know it, just as you find a few  people who are colour-blind or have no
ear for a tune. But  taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human
idea of decent behaviour  was  obvious to every one. And I believe they were
right. If they  were  not, then all the things  we  said about the war  were
nonsense.  What was  the sense in saying the enemy were in the  wrong unless
Right  is a  real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and
ought to have practised? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right,
then, though we might still have  had  to fight them,  we could no more have
blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.
     I  know that  some  people  say the idea of a Law  of  Nature or decent
behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different  civilisations  and
different ages have had quite different moralities.
     But  this  is  not  true.  There have  been differences  between  their
moralities,  but  these  have  never  amounted  to  anything  like  a  total
difference. If anyone  will take the  trouble to compare the  moral teaching
of, say, the ancient Egyptians,  Babylonians,  Hindus,  Chinese, Greeks  and
Romans, what will really  strike him will be how very like they  are to each
other  and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together  in
the appendix of  another  book  called  The Abolition of  Man; but  for  our
present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different
morality  would  mean. Think  of  a country  where  people were admired  for
running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the
people who had been kindest to him. You might  just as well try to imagine a
country  where  two  and  two made five. Men  have differed  as regards what
people you ought to be unselfish to-whether it was only your own  family, or
your  fellow  countrymen, or everyone. But  they have always agreed that you
ought  not to  put yourself  first. Selfishness has never been  admired. Men
have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they  have
always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
     But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says
he  does not believe in a real Right  and  Wrong, you will find the same man
going back on this a moment later.  He  may break his promise to you, but if
you try breaking one to  him he  will be complaining "It's  not fair" before
you  can say Jack Robinson. A  nation may  say treaties  do  not matter, but
then,  next minute, they  spoil  their case  by saying that  the  particular
treaty they want to break was an unfair one.  But if treaties do not matter,
and if there is  no such thing  as Right and Wrong- in other words, if there
is  no Law of Nature-what  is  the difference between a fair treaty  and  an
unfair  one? Have they not let  the  cat out  of  the bag  and  shown  that,
whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?
     It seems,  then,  we are forced to  believe in a real Right  and Wrong.
People may  be sometimes mistaken about them,  just as people sometimes  get
their sums wrong;  but they are not  a matter of mere taste and  opinion any
more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on
to my next point, which is  this. None of us are  really keeping the Law  of
Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, I apologise to them. They had
much better read some  other work, for nothing I am  going  to say  concerns
them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:
     I  hope  you will not  misunderstand what I am going to  say.  I am not
preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend  to be better than anyone else.
I  am only  trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year,  or
this  month, or,  more likely, this very day, we  have  failed  to  practise
ourselves  the kind of  behaviour we expect from other people.  There may be
all sorts of excuses for us. That time you  were so unfair  to the  children
was  when  you were  very  tired. That  slightly  shady business  about  the
money-the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And
what you  promised to do for  old  So-and-so and  have  never done-well, you
never would have promised  if  you had known how frightfully busy  you  were
going to  be. And as for  your behaviour to your wife (or husband) or sister
(or brother) if I knew how irritating they could  be, I would  not wonder at
it-and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same.  That is  to say, I
do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone
tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses
as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good
excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we
like it or  not, we  believe in the Law of Nature. If we  do not  believe in
decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having
behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in  decency  so much-we  feel the
Rule or Law pressing on us so- that we cannot bear  to face the fact that we
are breaking  it,  and consequently we try to shift the  responsibility. For
you  notice that  it is  only  for our bad behaviour  that we find all these
explanations. It is only our bad  temper that we  put down to being tired or
worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.
     These, then,  are the two points  I wanted to  make. First, that  human
beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave
in  a certain way, and cannot  really get rid of it. Secondly,  that they do
not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law  of Nature; they break it.
These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and
the universe we live in.

     If they are  the foundation, I had better  stop to make that foundation
firm before I go  on. Some  of the letters I have had show-that a  good many
people  find it difficult to understand just what this Law of Human  Nature,
or Moral Law, or Rule of Decent Behaviour is.
     For example, some people wrote to me saying,  "Isn't  what you call the
Moral Law simply  our herd instinct and  hasn't it been developed  just like
all  our other  instincts?" Now  I  do  not  deny that  we  may have a  herd
instinct: but that is not what I  mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it
feels like to be prompted by instinct-by mother love, or sexual instinct, or
the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act
in a certain way.  And,  of  course, we  sometimes do feel just that sort of
desire to  help another person:  and no doubt that desire is due to the herd
instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different  from feeling that
you ought to help  whether you want  to or not. Supposing you hear a cry for
help from a man in danger. You  will probably feel two  desires-one a desire
to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other  a desire to keep out of
danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside
you, in addition to these two  impulses, a  third thing which tells you that
you ought to follow the  impulse to help, and suppress  the  impulse  to run
away. Now this thing  that judges between  two instincts, that decides which
should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say
that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note
on  the piano and not another, is  itself  one of the notes on the keyboard.
The Moral Law tells us  the tune we have to  play: our instincts are  merely
the keys.
     Another  way of  seeing  that the  Moral Law is not simply  one of  our
instincts is this. If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in
a creature's mind except those two instincts, obviously the stronger  of the
two must win. But at  those moments  when we are most conscious of the Moral
Law, it usually seems to be telling us  to  side with the weaker  of the two
impulses. You probably want  to be safe much more  than you want to help the
man who is drowning: but  the Moral Law tells you to help  him all the same.
And surely it often tells us to try to  make the right impulse stronger than
it naturally is? I mean, we often  feel  it  our duty to  stimulate the herd
instinct, by waking up our imaginations  and arousing our pity and so on, so
as to get up enough steam for doing the  right thing. But clearly we are not
acting from instinct  when we set about making an instinct stronger  than it
is. The thing that says to you,  "Your herd instinct is asleep. Wake it up,"
cannot  itself be the herd instinct. The thing  that tells you which note on
the piano needs to be played louder cannot itself be that note.
     Here  is  a  third way  of seeing  it If the  Moral Law was one  of our
instincts, we ought to be able to point to some one impulse inside us  which
was always what we call "good,"  always  in agreement with the rule of right
behaviour. But you cannot. There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law
may not sometimes tell  us to suppress, and none which it may  not sometimes
tell  us to encourage. It is  a mistake  to think that some of our impulses-
say mother love or patriotism-are good, and others, like sex or the fighting
instinct, are bad. All we mean is that  the occasions  on which the fighting
instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent
than  those  for  restraining  mother  love  or patriotism.  But  there  are
situations in which it is the duty  of a married man to encourage his sexual
impulse and of a soldier to encourage  the fighting instinct. There are also
occasions on which a mother's love for her own children or  a man's love for
his  own country  have to  be  suppressed or  they  will  lead to unfairness
towards other people's children or  countries. Strictly speaking,  there are
no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has
not got two kinds of  notes on it,  the "right" notes and the  "wrong" ones.
Every single note is right at one time  and wrong  at another. The Moral Law
is not any one instinct or any set of instincts: it is something which makes
a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the
     By the  way,  this point  is of great  practical consequence. The  most
dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and
set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of
them  which will not  make  us  into devils if we  set it  up as an absolute
guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe,  but it is not.
If you leave out  justice  you  will  find yourself breaking agreements  and
faking evidence in trials "for the  sake of humanity," and become in the end
a cruel and treacherous man.
     Other  people wrote to me  saying, "Isn't  what you call the Moral  Law
just  a  social convention, something that is  put into us  by education?" I
think there is a misunderstanding here. The people who ask that question are
usually taking it for granted  that if we have learned  a thing from parents
and teachers,  then  that thing must be merely  a  human invention. But,  of
course, that is not so. We all learned the multiplication table at school. A
child who grew  up alone on a desert island would not know it. But surely it
does not follow that the multiplication table is simply a  human convention,
something human  beings have  made up for  themselves and  might  have  made
different if they had  liked? I fully agree that we learn the Rule of Decent
Behaviour  from parents  and teachers,  and  friends and books,  as we learn
everything else. But some of the things we learn are  mere conventions which
might have been  different-we  learn to keep to the left of the road, but it
might just  as  well  have been the rule to keep to the right-and  others of
them, like mathematics,  are real truths. The question is to which class the
Law of Human Nature belongs.
     There  are  two  reasons for  saying it belongs to the  same  class  as
mathematics. The first is, as I said in the first chapter, that though there
are differences between the moral ideas of one time or country and those  of
another, the differences  are not  really very great-not nearly so  great as
most people imagine-and you can recognise  the same law running through them
all: whereas  mere conventions,  like  the  rule of the road or the kind  of
clothes  people  wear, may differ to  any extent. The other reason  is this.
When you think about these differences between  the morality  of  one people
and another, do you think that the morality of one  people is ever better or
worse than that of  another? Have any of  the changes been improvements?  If
not, then of course there could never be  any moral progress. Progress means
not just  changing, but changing for the better.  If  no set of  moral ideas
were truer or better  than any other, there would be no sense in  preferring
civilised  morality  to  savage  morality,  or  Christian  morality to  Nazi
morality. In  fact,  of course, we  all do believe that some  moralities are
better  than  others. We do believe  that some  of the people  who  tried to
change the moral ideas of their own age were what we would call Reformers or
Pioneers-people  who understood  morality  better than their neighbours did.
Very well then. The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better
than  another, you  are, in fact,  measuring them both by a standard, saying
that one of them conforms to  that standard more nearly  than the other. But
the standard that measures two things  is  something  different from either.
You  are, in fact, comparing them  both with  some  Real Morality, admitting
that there is such a  thing  as a real  Right,  independent  of what  people
think, and that some  people's  ideas  get nearer  to  that real Right  than
others. Or put it this way. If your moral ideas can be truer,  and those  of
the Nazis less true, there must  be something-some Real Morality-for them to
be true  about. The  reason why your idea  of New York can be truer or  less
true than  mine is that New York is a real  place, existing quite apart from
what either of us thinks. If  when  each of  us said "New  York" each  meant
merely "The town I am  imagining in my own head,"  how could one of  us have
truer ideas than the other? There would be no question of truth or falsehood
at all.  In the  same way, if  the Rule of  Decent  Behaviour  meant  simply
"whatever each nation happens to approve," there would be no sense in saying
that any  one nation had  ever been  more  correct in its  approval than any
other; no sense  in saying  that the world could ever grow morally better or
morally worse.
     I conclude then, that  though the differences between people's ideas of
Decent Behaviour often make you suspect that there is no real natural Law of
Behaviour at  all,  yet the  things  we  are  bound  to  think  about  these
differences really prove just the opposite. But  one  word before I  end.  I
have  met  people  who  exaggerate  the  differences, because they  have not
distinguished  between  differences of  morality and differences  of  belief
about  facts. For example, one  man said  to  me, "Three  hundred  years ago
people in England were putting witches to death.  Was that what you call the
Rule of Human  Nature or Right Conduct?"  But  surely  the reason we do  not
execute  witches is  that  we  do  not believe there are such  things. If we
did-if  we really thought that there  were people going about  who had  sold
themselves  to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return
and were using  these powers to kill their neighbours or drive  them mad  or
bring bad weather,  surely we  would all agree that  if  anyone deserved the
death penalty, then these filthy quislings did.  There  is  no difference of
moral principle here: the difference is simply about  matter of fact. It may
be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral
advance in  not  executing them  when you  do  not think they are there. You
would not call a  man humane  for ceasing  to  set  mousetraps if  he did so
because he believed there were no mice in the house.

     I now  go  back to  what I  said at the end  of the first chapter, that
there  were two odd things  about  the human  race. First,  that  they  were
haunted by the idea of a sort of behaviour they ought  to practise, what you
might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature. Second,
that they did not in fact do so.  Now  some of you  may  wonder why I called
this  odd. It  may  seem  to you  the most  natural  thing  in the world. In
particular, you may have thought I was rather  hard on the human race. After
all, you  may  say, what  I call breaking the Law  of Right  and Wrong or of
Nature, only means that people are  not perfect.  And why  on earth should I
expect them to be? That would be a good answer if what  I was  trying to  do
was to fix the exact amount of blame which is due to us for not behaving  as
we  expect  others to behave.  But  that  is not  my  job at  all. I am  not
concerned at present  with  blame; I am trying  to find out  truth. And from
that point  of view the very  idea  of something being imperfect, of its not
being what it ought to be, has certain consequences.
     If you take a thing  like a stone or a tree, it is what it is and there
seems no sense in saying it ought to have  been otherwise. Of course you may
say a stone is  "the wrong  shape" if  you want to use it for a  rockery, or
that a tree is a bad tree because it does not give  you as much shade as you
expected. But all you  mean is that the  stone or tree does not happen to be
convenient for  some purpose of  your own.  You  are not,  except as a joke,
blaming  them for that. You  really  know, that,  given the weather  and the
soil, the tree could not have been any different. What we, from our point of
view, call a "bad" tree is obeying  the laws of its nature just as much as a
"good" one.
     Now have you noticed what follows? It follows that what we usually call
the  laws  of nature-the  way  weather works on a tree for  example-may  not
really be laws  in  the strict sense, but only in a manner of speaking. When
you say that  falling stones always obey the law of gravitation, is not this
much the same as saying that the law only means "what stones always do"? You
do not really think that when a stone is  let go, it suddenly remembers that
it is under orders to fall to  the  ground.  You only mean that, in fact, it
does fall.  In other  words, you  cannot be sure that there is anything over
and  above the facts  themselves, any  law about  what  ought to happen,  as
distinct from what does happen. The laws  of nature, as applied to stones or
trees, may  only mean "what Nature, in fact, does."  But if  you turn to the
Law of Human Nature, the  Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter.
That law certainly does not mean "what  human beings, in fact, do"; for as I
said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey
it completely. The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them;
but  the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings  ought to do and do
not. In  other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes
in above and beyond the actual facts. You have the facts (how men do behave)
and you also have something else (how  they ought to behave). In the rest of
the  universe  there  need not  be  anything but the  facts.  Electrons  and
molecules behave in a certain way,  and certain results follow, and that may
be the whole story. (*) But  men behave in a certain way and that is not the
whole  story,  for  all  the  time  you  know  that  they  ought  to  behave
     [*] I do not think it is the whole story, as you will see later. I mean
that, as far ax the argument has gone up to date, it may be.
     Now this is really so peculiar that one is tempted to try to explain it
away. For instance, we might try to  make out that when you say  a man ought
not  to act as he does, you only mean the same  as when you say that a stone
is the wrong shape; namely, that what he is doing happens to be inconvenient
to you. But  that  is simply untrue. A man occupying the  corner seat in the
train because he got there first, and  a  man who slipped  into it  while my
back was  turned and removed  my bag, are both equally  inconvenient. But  I
blame the  second  man and  do  not blame  the first. I am not  angry-except
perhaps for a moment  before I come to my senses-with  a man who trips me up
by accident; I am angry with a man who tries to trip me up  even  if he does
not succeed. Yet the first has hurt me and the second has not. Sometimes the
behaviour  which I  call bad is not inconvenient to me  at all, but the very
opposite. In  war,  each  side may  find a  traitor  on the other side  very
useful. But though they use him and pay him they regard him as human vermin.
So you cannot say that what we call decent behaviour in others is simply the
behaviour that happens to  be useful to us. And  as for decent  behaviour in
ourselves,  I  suppose  it  is  pretty obvious  that it does  not  mean  the
behaviour  that  pays.  It means  things  like  being  content  with  thirty
shillings when you might have got three pounds,  doing school  work honestly
when it would be easy to cheat,  leaving a girl alone when you would like to
make love to  her, staying in  dangerous places when you could  go somewhere
safer, keeping promises  you would rather not  keep, and  telling  the truth
even when it makes you look a fool.
     Some people say that though decent conduct does not mean what pays each
particular  person  at a particular  moment,  still,  it means what pays the
human race as a whole; and that consequently there  is no mystery about  it.
Human beings, after all, have some sense; they see that you cannot have real
safety or happiness except in a  society  where every one plays fair, and it
is because  they see this that  they try to behave decently. Now, of course,
it  is  perfectly  true  that  safety  and  happiness  can  only  come  from
individuals, classes, and  nations being honest and fair  and  kind  to each
other. It  is  one  of  the  most important truths in  the world.  But as an
explanation of why we feel as we do about Right and Wrong it just misses the
point If we ask: "Why ought I to be unselfish?" and you reply "Because it is
good for society," we may  then  ask, "Why  should  I  care what's  good for
society except when it happens to pay me personally?" and then you will have
to say, "Because  you ought to  be unselfish"-which simply brings us back to
where we started. You are  saying what is true, but you are  not getting any
further. If a man asked what was the point of playing football, it would not
be much good saying "in order to  score goals," for trying to score goals is
the game itself, not  the reason for the game, and you would really  only be
saying that football was football-which is true,  but not worth  saying.  In
the same way, if a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no
good replying, "in order to benefit society," for trying to benefit society,
in  other words  being unselfish (for "society" after all only  means "other
people"), is one of the  things  decent behaviour consists in; all  you  are
really saying is that decent behaviour  is  decent behaviour. You would have
said just  as much if you had stopped at  the  statement, "Men  ought to  be
     And that  is  where  I do stop. Men ought to be unselfish,  ought to be
fair. Not  that men are  unselfish, nor that  they like being unselfish, but
that  they ought to be. The Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, is not simply
a fact about human behaviour in the same way  as the Law of  Gravitation is,
or may be, simply  a fact about how heavy objects behave. On the other hand,
it  is not a mere fancy, for we cannot get rid of the idea, and most  of the
things we say  and think about men would be reduced  to  nonsense if we did.
And it is not simply a statement about how we should like men  to behave for
our own convenience; for the behaviour we call bad or  unfair is not exactly
the  same  as the  behaviour  we  find  inconvenient, and  may  even  be the
opposite. Consequently,  this  Rule  of Right and  Wrong,  or  Law  of Human
Nature, or whatever you  call  it, must somehow or other be a  real thing- a
thing  that is  really there, not made up by  ourselves. And yet it is not a
fact in the ordinary sense, in the  same way as  our  actual  behaviour is a
fact. It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than
one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above
and beyond the  ordinary facts of men's  behaviour, and yet quite definitely
real-a real law, which none of as made, but which we find pressing on us.

     Let  us sum up what we have reached so far.  In the  case of stones and
trees  and  things of that sort, what we call  the Laws of Nature may not be
anything except a way of speaking. When  you say that nature is  governed by
certain laws,  this may only  mean that nature does, in  fact, behave  in  a
certain way. The so-called laws may not  be anything real-anything above and
beyond the  actual facts  which we observe. But in  the case of Man, we  saw
that this will not do. The Law of  Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must
be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behaviour.  In  this
case, besides  the actual facts, you have something else-a real law which we
did not invent and which we know we ought to obey.
     I  now want  to consider what this tells us about  the universe we live
in. Ever since men were  able to think,  they have been wondering what  this
universe really is and how it came to be there. And, very roughly, two views
have been held. First, there  is what is called the materialist view. People
who  take that  view  think that matter and space just happen  to exist, and
always  have  existed, nobody  knows why; and that the  matter,  behaving in
certain  fixed ways,  has just  happened,  by a  sort of fluke,  to  produce
creatures like ourselves who are able to think. By one chance in a  thousand
something  hit  our sun  and  made it  produce  the planets;  and by another
thousandth  chance   the  chemicals  necessary   for  life,  and  the  right
temperature, occurred on one of these planets, and so some of  the matter on
this earth  came  alive; and  then, by  a  very  long series of chances, the
living  creatures  developed into  things  like us.  The  other view  is the
religious view. (*) According to it, what is  behind the  universe  is  more
like a mind than it is like anything else we know.
     [*] See Note at the end of this chapter.
     That  is to say, it is  conscious, and has  purposes, and  prefers  one
thing to another. And on this view it made the universe, partly for purposes
we do not know, but partly, at any rate, in order to  produce creatures like
itself-I  mean,  like  itself  to  the extent of having minds. Please do not
think that  one of  these views was held a  long time ago and that the other
has gradually taken  its place. Wherever there have  been  thinking men both
views turn up. And note  this  too.  You  cannot find  out which view is the
right one by science in the ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It
watches  how things behave.  Every  scientific  statement in  the  long run,
however complicated  it  looks, really means  something like, "I pointed the
telescope  to such and such a part of the  sky at 2:20  A.M. on January 15th
and saw so-and-so," or, "I put some of this stuff in  a pot and heated it to
such-and-such  a temperature and it did so-and-so." Do not think I am saying
anything  against science:  I am only saying what its  job is.  And the more
scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with  me that  this
is  the job of science- and  a very useful and necessary  job it is too. But
why anything comes to be there at  all, and whether there is anything behind
the things  science  observes-something of a  different  kind-this is not  a
scientific question. If there is  "Something  Behind," then  either it  will
have to remain altogether unknown to  men or else make itself  known in some
different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement
that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can
make. And  real  scientists do not usually  make them.  It  is  usually  the
journalists and popular novelists who have picked  up a few odds and ends of
half-baked science  from textbooks  who go in  for them.  After  all, it  is
really  a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became  complete so
that it knew every single thing in  the whole universe. Is it not plain that
the questions, "Why is there  a  universe?" "Why  does it go on as it does?"
"Has it any meaning?" would remain just as they were?
     Now the position would be quite  hopeless  but  for this. There is  one
thing, and  only one, in the whole universe which we know more about than we
could  learn from external  observation. That  one  thing  is Man. We do not
merely  observe men, we  are men. In this case we have, so to speak,  inside
information; we are in the know. And because of that,  we know that men find
themselves  under  a moral law, which they  did  not make, and  cannot quite
forget even when  they try, and  which they know they ought  to obey. Notice
the  following  point. Anyone  studying Man  from the  outside as  we  study
electricity or  cabbages, not knowing our language and consequently not able
to get any inside knowledge from us, but merely observing what we did, would
never get the slightest evidence that  we  had this moral law. How could he?
for his observations would only show what we did, and the moral law is about
what we ought to do. In the same way, if there were anything above or behind
the observed  facts  in the case of  stones  or the weather, we, by studying
them from outside, could never hope to discover it.
     The position of  the question, then,  is like  this.  We want  to  know
whether  the  universe  simply happens to  be what  it  is for no reason  or
whether  there  is a power behind  it that makes  it what it is.  Since that
power, if it exists, would be not one  of the  observed facts but  a reality
which  makes them, no  mere observation of the facts  can find it. There  is
only one case in which we can know  whether  there is anything  more, namely
our own case. And in that one case we find there is. Or put it the other way
round. If there was  a controlling power outside the universe, it could  not
show itself to us as one of the  facts inside the universe- no more than the
architect  of a house could actually be a wall or  staircase or fireplace in
that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be
inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us  to behave in
a  certain  way.  And that is just what we do  find inside ourselves. Surely
this ought to arouse our  suspicions? In the  only case where you can expect
to  get an answer, the answer turns out to be Yes;  and in  the other cases,
where you do not  get an answer, you see why you  do  not.  Suppose  someone
asked  me, when  I see a man in a blue uniform going down the street leaving
little paper packets at each house, why I suppose that they contain letters?
I should reply, "Because whenever he leaves a similar little packet for me I
find it does  contain a letter." And if he then objected, "But you've  never
seen all  these letters  which you think the other  people  are  getting," I
should say, "Of course not, and I shouldn't expect to,  because  they're not
addressed to me. I'm  explaining the packets I'm  not allowed to open by the
ones I am allowed to open." It  is the  same  about this  question. The only
packet I am allowed  to open is Man.  When I do, especially when I open that
particular man called Myself, I find  that I do not  exist on my own, that I
am  under a law; that somebody or something wants me  to behave in a certain
way. I do not, of course, think that if I could get inside a stone or a tree
I should find exactly the same thing, just as I do not  think all the  other
people in the  street get the  same letters as I  do.  I  should expect, for
instance, to find that the stone had to obey the law of gravity-that whereas
the  sender of the letters  merely  tells  me to obey the  law  of  my human
nature, He  compels  the stone to obey the laws of its  stony nature. But  I
should expect to find  that there was,  so to speak, a sender  of letters in
both cases, a Power behind the facts, a Director, a Guide.
     Do not think I am going faster than I really am. I  am not yet within a
hundred  miles of  the  God of Christian theology. All  I  have  got to is a
Something which is  directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law
urging me  to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when
I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like
anything  else  we know-because  after all the  only  other thing we know is
matter and you can hardly imagine a bit of matter  giving instructions. But,
of course, it need not be very like a mind, still less like a person. In the
next chapter we shall see if we can find out anything more about it. But one
word of warning. There has been  a  great deal of soft soap talked about God
for the last hundred years. That is not what I am  offering. You can cut all
that out.
     Note -In order to keep this  section short enough when it was given  on
the  air,  I mentioned only the Materialist view and the Religious view. But
to  be  complete I ought  to  mention the In between view called  Life-Force
philosophy,  or  Creative  Evolution,  or Emergent  Evolution. The  wittiest
expositions of it come in the works  of Bernard Shaw,  but the most profound
ones in those  of  Bergson. People  who hold  this  view say that  the small
variations  by which life on this planet  "evolved" from the lowest forms to
Man were not due to chance  but to the  "striving" or "purposiveness"  of  a
Life-Force. When people say this we must ask them whether by Life-Force they
mean something  with a mind  or not. If they do, then  "a mind bringing life
into existence and leading it to perfection" is really a God, and their view
is thus identical with the Religious. If they do not, then what is the sense
in saying  that something without a mind "strives"  or  has "purposes"? This
seems to me fatal to their view. One  reason why  many people find  Creative
Evolution so attractive  is that it gives one much of  the emotional comfort
of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are
feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do  not  want to believe that the
whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to
think of  this great  mysterious Force rolling on through  the centuries and
carrying you on its  crest. If,  on the other hand, you want to do something
rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force,  with no morals and
no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome  God we learned
about when we were children. The Life-Force is a  sort of tame  God. You can
switch it on when you want, but it will  not bother you.  All the thrills of
religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of
wishful thinking the world has yet seen?

     I ended my last chapter with the idea that in the Moral Law somebody or
something from  beyond the material universe was actually getting at us. And
I expect when I reached that point some of you felt a certain annoyance. You
may  even  have thought  that I had  played  a trick on you-that I  had been
carefully wrapping up to look like  philosophy what turns out to be one more
"religious jaw." You may have felt you were ready to listen to me as long as
you  thought  I  had anything  new to say;  but if it  turns out to be  only
religion, well, the world has tried that and you cannot put the clock  back.
If anyone is feeling that way I should like to say three things to him.
     First, as to putting the clock  back. Would you think I was joking if I
said that you can put a  clock back, and that if the  clock is  wrong it  is
often a very sensible thing to do?  But I  would rather  get away from  that
whole idea  of clocks. We  all want  progress.  But  progress  means getting
nearer to the  place where you want to  be. And  if you  have  taken a wrong
turning, then to go forward does not  get you any nearer. If you are  on the
wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right
road;  and  in  that  case  the  man who  turns  back  soonest  is  the most
progressive man. We have all  seen this when doing arithmetic. When  I  have
started a sum the wrong way,  the sooner I admit this and go back and  start
over again,  the faster I shall get on. There  is nothing progressive  about
being pigheaded  and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at
the  present state of the world, it  is  pretty plain that humanity has been
making some big  mistake. We are on  the  wrong road. And if  that is so, we
must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.
     Then, secondly, this has not yet turned exactly into a "religious jaw."
We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the
God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far
as a Somebody or Something behind the  Moral Law. We are not taking anything
from the Bible or the  Churches, we are trying to see  what we can  find out
about this Somebody on our own steam. And I want to make it quite clear that
what  we find out on our own  steam  is something that gives us a shock.  We
have  two  bits  of evidence about  the Somebody. One is the universe He has
made. If  we  used  that as our  only clue, then I  think we should  have to
conclude  that He was a  great artist  (for the universe is a very beautiful
place),  but  also that He is quite merciless  and no friend to man (for the
universe is a  very dangerous  and  terrifying  place).  The  other  bit  of
evidence is that Moral  Law which He  has put  into our minds. And this is a
better bit of evidence than the other, because it is inside information. You
find out more about God from the Moral Law than from the universe in general
just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation  than
by looking at a house he has built. Now, from this second bit of evidence we
conclude that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right
conduct -in  fair  play,  unselfishness,  courage,  good faith, honesty  and
truthfulness.  In  that  sense  we  should agree with the  account given  by
Christianity and some other religions, that God is "good." But do not let us
go too fast here. The Moral Law does not give  us any  grounds for  thinking
that God is "good" in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic.
There is nothing indulgent about the  Moral Law. It is as  hard as nails. It
tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful,
or dangerous,  or difficult it is to do. If God  is like the Moral Law, then
He is not soft. It is no use, at this stage, saying that what  you mean by a
"good"  God is  a God who  can forgive.  You  are going too quickly. Only  a
Person can forgive. And we have not yet got as far as a personal God-only as
far as a power, behind the Moral Law, and more  like a mind than it is  like
anything  else. But  it  may  still be very  unlike a Person.  If it is pure
impersonal mind, there may be no  tense in asking it  to make allowances for
you  or let you off, just as there is no sense in  asking the multiplication
table to let you off when  you do your sums wrong.  You are bound to get the
wrong answer. And it is no use either saying that if there is a God of  that
sort-an  impersonal  absolute goodness-then  you do not like Him and are not
going to bother about Him. For the trouble is that one part of you is on His
side and really agrees with  His disapproval of human greed and trickery and
exploitation. You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let
you off  this one time; but you know at bottom  that unless the power behind
the  world really  and unalterably detests that sort of behaviour,  then  He
cannot be  good. On  the other hand, we  know  that  if there does exist  an
absolute goodness  it must hate most of what we do. That is the terrible fix
we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all
our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But  if it is, then we  are making
ourselves  enemies  to  that  goodness every day, and are not  in  the least
likely to do  any  better tomorrow,  and  so our  case is hopeless again. We
cannot do without it. and we cannot do with it. God  is the only comfort, He
is also the  supreme terror:  the thing we  most need and  the thing we most
want to hide from. He is our only possible-ally, and we  have made ourselves
His enemies. Some people talk  as  if  meeting the gaze of absolute goodness
would be  fun.  They need to think  again. They are  still only playing with
religion. Goodness is either the great safety or  the great danger-according
to the way you react to it.  And we have reacted the wrong way. Now my third
point. When I  chose to get to my real subject in this roundabout way, I was
not trying to play any kind of  trick  on you. I had  a different reason. My
reason was that Christianity simply does not make sense until you have faced
the  sort  of  facts  I have  been describing.  Christianity tells people to
repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has  nothing (as far as I
know) to say to people who do not know they  have done anything to repent of
and  who do  not feel that they need any forgiveness.  It is after you  have
realised  that there is a real  Moral Law, and a  Power  behind the law, and
that you have  broken  that law and put yourself wrong with that Power-it is
after all this,  and not a moment sooner, that  Christianity begins to talk.
When you  know you are sick, you will listen, to. the doctor.  When you have
realised that our position is nearly  desperate you will begin to understand
what the Christians are talking about. They offer  an explanation of how  we
got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it. They offer
an explanation of  how  God  can be this impersonal mind  at the back of the
Moral Law and yet also a  Person. They tell you how the demands of this law,
which you and I cannot meet,  have been met  on  our behalf, how God Himself
becomes a man to save man from the disapproval  of God. It  is an old  story
and if you want to go into it you will no doubt consult people who have more
authority to talk  about it than I  have. All I am doing is to ask people to
face  the  facts-to understand  the  questions which Christianity  claims to
answer. And  they are very  terrifying facts. I wish it  was possible to say
something  more agreeable. But  I must say what I think  true. Of course,  I
quite agree  that the  Christian religion is,  in  the long run, a  thing of
unspeakable comfort. But it  does not  begin  in comfort; it begins  in  the
dismay  I have been describing, and it is no use at  all trying to go  on to
that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war
and everything else, comfort is the one  thing you cannot get by looking for
it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look  for
comfort you will not get either comfort or truth- only soft soap and wishful
thinking to  begin with and, in the end,  despair. Most of us  have got over
the prewar wishful thinking about international politics. It is time we  did
the same about religion.

     I have  been asked to  tell you what Christians believe, and I am going
to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If
you  are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions
are simply wrong  all through.  If you are an atheist you do have to believe
that  the main point in all the religions of the whole  world  is simply one
huge mistake. If you are a Christian,  you  are free to think that all these
religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least  some hint of the truth.
When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human
race have always been wrong about  the question that  mattered to them most;
when I became a Christian I was able to take  a  more liberal view. But,  of
course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs
from other  religions,  Christianity  is  right  and they are wrong.  As  in
arithmetic-there  is  only one right  answer to a sum, and all other answers
are wrong: but some of the wrong answers  are much  nearer being right  than
     The first big division of humanity is into the majority, who believe in
some  kind  of  God  or gods,  and  the minority  who do not. On this point,
Christianity  lines up  with  the  majority-lines up with ancient Greeks and
Romans,  modern  savages, Stoics,  Platonists,  Hindus,  Mohammedans,  etc.,
against the modern Western European materialist.
     Now I go on to the next big division. People who all believe in God can
be divided according to  the sort of God they believe in. There are two very
different ideas on this subject One  of them is  the idea  that He is beyond
good and evil.  We humans  call  one thing  good and  another thing bad. But
according to  some  people  that  is merely our  human point of  view. These
people would say  that the wiser you become the less you would want  to call
anything good or bad, and the more dearly you would  see that everything  is
good in  one  way and  bad  in  another,  and  that  nothing could have been
different.  Consequently,  these  people  think  that long  before  you  got
anywhere  near   the  divine  point  of  view  the  distinction  would  have
disappeared  altogether. We call a  cancer bad, they would  say, because  it
kills a  man;  but  you might  just as  well call  a successful surgeon  bad
because he kills  a cancer. It all depends  on the point of  view. The other
and  opposite idea is that God is quite  definitely "good" or "righteous." a
God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave
in one way and not in another.  The first of these views-the one that thinks
God  beyond  good and evil-is called  Pantheism.  It  was held by the  great
Prussian philosopher Hagel  and, as  far as I  can understand  them, by  the
Hindus. The other view is held by Jews, Mohammedans and Christians.
     And  with this big difference between Pantheism and  the Christian idea
of God, there usually  goes another. Pantheists usually believe that God, so
to speak, animates  the universe as you animate your body: that the universe
almost is God, so  that if it  did  not exist He would not exist either, and
anything you find  in the  universe is  a part of God. The Christian idea is
quite  different.  They think God invented  and made the universe-like a man
making a  picture or composing a  tune. A painter  is not a picture, and  he
does not die if his picture is destroyed. You may say,  "He's  put  a lot of
himself into  it,"  but you only mean  that all  its beauty and interest has
come  out of his head. His skill is not in the picture in  the same way that
it is in  his head, or even in his hands. expect you see how this difference
between Pantheists and  Christians hangs together with the other one. If you
do not take the  distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is
easy to  say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But,  of
course, if you think some things really bad, and  God  really good, then you
cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate  from the world
and  that  some  of  the  things  we see  in it are  contrary  to His  will.
Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, "If you could only
see it from the  divine  point of view, you  would realise that this also is
God." The Christian replies, "Don't talk damned nonsense." (*)
     [*] One listener complained  of  the word damned as frivolous swearing.
But I mean exactly what I say-nonsense that is  damned is under God's curse,
and will (apart  from  God's grace) lead  those who  believe it  to  eternal
     For  Christianity is  a  fighting  religion. It  thinks  God  made  the
world-that space and time, heat  and cold,  and  all the colours and tastes,
and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out  of His
head" as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things
have gone  wrong  with  the  world that  God made and that  God insists, and
insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.
     And, of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the
world why has  it gone wrong? And for many years I simply  refused to listen
to the Christian  answers  to  this  question,  because  I  kept on  feeling
"whatever you say,  and however clever your  arguments are,  isn't  it  much
simpler  and  easier to  say that the  world was not made by any intelligent
power? Aren't  all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to  avoid the
obvious?" But then that threw me back into another difficulty.
     My argument  against  God  was  that  the universe seemed so cruel  and
unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does  not call
a  line  crooked  unless he  has  some  idea of a straight line.  What was I
comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If  the whole show was
bad and senseless from A to Z, so  to  speak, why did I, who was supposed to
be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against  it? A man
feels  wet  when he falls into water,  because man is not a  water animal: a
fish would not feel wet.
     Of course I could have  given up my  idea of justice by  saying it  was
nothing but  a  private idea of my own. But  if I did that, then my argument
against  God collapsed too- for  the argument  depended on  saying that  the
world  was really unjust, not simply  that  it  did not happen to  please my
private fancies. Thus in the very act  of trying to  prove  that God did not
exist-in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless-I  found I was
forced to assume that one part of reality-namely my idea of justice-was full
of sense.
     Consequently atheism turns  out to be too simple. If the whole universe
has no meaning,  we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just
as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no  creatures  with
eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

     Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view
that is also too  simple.  It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the
view  which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is  all
right-leaving  out all  the difficult and  terrible  doctrines about sin and
hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys' philosophies.
     It  is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are
not simple. They  look simple, but they are not.  The table I  am sitting at
looks simple: but ask a  scientist to tell you what it is really made of-all
about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and
what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain-and, of course,
you find that what  we  call "seeing  a table" lands you  in  mysteries  and
complications  which  you can hardly  get to  the end of. A  child saying  a
child's prayer looks simple.  And if you are content to stop there, well and
good. But if you are  not-and the modern world usually is not-if you want to
go on  and ask  what  is really  happening-  then you  must  be prepared for
something difficult. If  we ask  for something  more than simplicity,  it is
silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.
     Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted  by people who are
not  silly,  but  who,  consciously  or   unconsciously,   want  to  destroy
Christianity. Such  people  put up a  version of Christianity suitable for a
child  of six and make that  the  object of  their  attack. When you  try to
explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an  instructed adult,
they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is
all too  complicated  and that if there really were  a God they are sure  He
would have made "religion" simple, because simplicity  is so beautiful, etc.
You must be  on  your guard  against these people for they will change their
ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God
"making religion simple": as if "religion" were something  God invented, and
not His  statement to us of certain  quite unalterable facts  about His  own
     Besides  being complicated, reality, in  my experience, is usually odd.
It is not  neat,  not obvious, not what you expect. For instance,  when  you
have grasped that the earth and the other planets all  go round the sun, you
would naturally expect that all the planets were made  to match-all at equal
distances from each other, say,  or  distances that regularly increased,  or
all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go  farther from
the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either
the sizes or  the distances; and  some of them  have one moon, one has four,
one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.
     Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That
is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not
have  guessed. If it  offered us  just  the kind  of universe we had  always
expected,  I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is  not  the
sort of thing anyone would have  made up. It has just that queer twist about
it  that  real  things  have.  So  let  us  leave  behind  all  these  boys'
philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is  not  simple and  the
answer is not going to be simpler either.
     What  is the  problem? A universe that contains much that  is obviously
bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like  ourselves who
know that it is bad and  meaningless. There are only two views that face all
the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone
wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other
is  the view  called  Dualism.  Dualism means the belief that there are  two
equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and
the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight
out an endless war. I personally think that next  to Christianity Dualism is
the manliest and most sensible creed  on the market. But it  has  a catch in
     The two powers, or  spirits, or gods-the good  one  and the bad one-are
supposed  to  be quite  independent. They  both  existed from all  eternity.
Neither of  them made the other, neither of them has any more right than the
other to  call itself God. Each  presumably thinks it is good and thinks the
other  bad. One of them  likes hatred and cruelty, the  other likes love and
mercy, and  each backs its own view. Now what do we mean when we call one of
them the Good Power and the other the Bad Power? Either we are merely saying
that  we  happen to  prefer  the  one  to  the other-like preferring beer to
cider-or else we are saying that,  whatever the two  powers  think about it,
and  whichever we humans,  at the moment,,  happen to like,  one of them  is
actually wrong, actually  mistaken, in  regarding itself as good. Now it  we
mean merely that we happen to prefer the first, then we must give up talking
about good and evil at  all.  For good means what you  ought to prefer quite
regardless of what you happen to like  at any given moment.  If "being good"
meant  simply  joining the  side you happened to  fancy, for no real reason,
then good would not deserve to be called good. So we  must  mean that one of
the two powers is actually wrong and the other actually right
     But the moment you say that, you are putting  into the universe a third
thing  in addition to the two Powers: some  law or standard or rule of  good
which one of the powers conforms  to and the  other fails to conform to. But
since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the
Being who made this  standard, is  farther back and higher up than either of
them, and He will be the real God.  In  fact, what we meant  by calling them
good and bad turns out to be that one of them is  in a right relation to the
real ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to Him.
     The same point can be made in a different way. If Dualism is true, then
the bad Power must  be a being who likes  badness for  its  own sake. But in
reality we have no experience  of anyone liking  badness just because  it is
bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are
cruel for one  of two reasons- either  because  they  are  sadists, that is,
because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual
pleasure  to  them, or else for the sake of something  they are going to get
out of it-money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety
are  all, as  far as they go, good things. The  badness consists in pursuing
them by  the wrong method, or  in the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean,
of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean
that wickedness, when you examine  it, turns  out to  be the pursuit of some
good  in  the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness:  you
cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do  a  kind  action when
you are not feeling  kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply  because
kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty
is  wrong-only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words
badness cannot succeed even in being bad  in the same  way in which goodness
is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness.
And  there must be something good first before it can be  spoiled. We called
sadism  a  sexual perversion;  but you must first have the idea of a  normal
sexuality  before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which
is the perversion, because  you  can explain  the perverted from the normal,
and cannot explain the normal  from the perverted. It follows that this  Bad
Power, who is supposed to be on an equal footing with the Good Power, and to
love badness  in the same  way as  the Good Power loves goodness, is a  mere
bogy. In order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue
in the wrong way: he  must have impulses which were originally good in order
to be able to pervert them. But if he is bad he cannot supply himself either
with good  things to  desire or with good  impulses to pervert.  He  must be
getting both from the Good  Power. And if so, then he is not independent. He
is part  of the Good Power's world: he was made either  by the Good Power or
by some power above them both.
     Put  it  more  simply  still.  To  be  bad,  he  must  exist  and  have
intelligence  and   will.  But  existence,  intelligence  and  will  are  in
themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even
to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to
see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel?  That
is not a mere story  for the children. It is a real recognition of  the fact
that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil
to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All  the things which  enable a
bad man to  be  effectively  bad  are in themselves  good things-resolution,
cleverness, good  looks, existence  itself. That is why Dualism, in a strict
sense, will not work.
     But  I  freely  admit  that   real  Christianity  (as   distinct   from
Christianity-and-water)  goes much nearer  to Dualism than people think. One
of the  things  that  surprised  me when  I  first  read  the  New Testament
seriously was that it talked so  much about  a Dark  Power in the universe-a
mighty evil spirit who was held to be the  Power behind  death  and disease,
and  sin.  The difference  is that Christianity thinks  this Dark Power  was
created  by  God, and  was  good  when  he  was  created,  and  went  wrong.
Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at  war. But  it does
not think this is a war between  independent powers. It thinks it is a civil
war,  a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied
by the rebel.
     Enemy-occupied  territory-that is what this world  is.  Christianity is
the  story  of  how the rightful king has  landed,  you might say  landed in
disguise,  and  is  calling  us  all to  take part in a  great  campaign  of
sabotage. When you  go to church you  are  really listening-in to the secret
wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us
from  going. He  does  it  by  playing  on  our  conceit  and  laziness  and
intellectual snobbery.  I know someone will ask me, "Do you really  mean, at
this  time  of day,  to reintroduce our old friend the devil-hoofs and horns
and all?" Well, what the time of  day has to do with it I do not know. And I
am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer
is  "Yes,  I  do."  I do  not  claim  to know  anything  about  his personal
appearance. If anybody really wants  to know  him better I would say to that
person, "Don't worry. If you really want to, you will Whether you'll like it
when you do is another question."

     Christians,  then, believe that an evil power  has made himself for the
present the Prince of this World.  And, of course, that  raises problems. Is
this state of affairs in  accordance with God's will or not? If it is, He is
a  strange God, you  will say: and if  it  is not, how can  anything  happen
contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?
     But  anyone who  has  been  in authority  knows how a thing  can  be in
accordance with  your will in  one  way and not  in another. It may be quite
sensible for a mother  to say to the children, "I'm not going to go and make
you tidy the schoolroom every night. You've got to learn to keep  it tidy on
your own." Then she goes up one  night  and finds the Teddy bear and the ink
and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She
would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the  other hand, it is her will
which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing  arises in any
regiment, or trade union, or  school. You make a  thing  voluntary  and then
half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has
made it possible.
     It  is probably the same in the  universe. God created things which had
free  will. That means creatures  which can  go either  wrong or right. Some
people  think  they  can  imagine  a  creature which  was  free but  had  no
possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a  thing is free to  be  good it is
also  free to  be bad. And free will  is  what  has made evil possible. Why,
then, did God give them free will?  Because  free  will though it makes evil
possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or
joy worth  having.  A  world  of  automata-of  creatures  that  worked  like
machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for
His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to
Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight  compared with which
the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk
and water. And for that they must be free.
     Of  course God knew  what would happen if  they used their  freedom the
wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined
to disagree with Him. But there is  a difficulty about disagreeing with God.
He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be
right and He  wrong any more  than  a  stream can  rise higher than its  own
source. When you are  arguing  against Him you  are arguing against the very
power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch
you are sitting on. If God thinks  this state of war in the universe a price
worth  paying  for  free  will-that  is, for making  a  live world in  which
creatures  can do real  good  or  harm  and something of real importance can
happen,  instead  of  a  toy  world  which  only moves  when  He  pulls  the
strings-then we may take it it is worth paying.
     When we have understood about free will,  we shall see  how silly it is
to ask, as somebody  once asked  me:  "Why  did  God make a creature of such
rotten stuff that it went wrong?" The better stuff a creature is made of-the
cleverer and stronger and freer it is-then  the better it will be if it goes
right, but also the worse it will be if it goes  wrong. A cow cannot be very
good or very  bad; a dog can be both better  and worse;  a  child better and
worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so;
a superhuman spirit best-or worst-of all.
     How  did the Dark  Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to
which human  beings cannot give an answer with  any  certainty. A reasonable
(and traditional) guess, based on  our own experiences of  going wrong, can,
however, be  offered.  The  moment  you have a  self  at  all,  there  is  a
possibility of putting Yourself first-wanting to be the centre-wanting to be
God,  in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the
human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with  sex,
but  that is a mistake. (The story in the Book  of Genesis  rather  suggests
that  some corruption in our  sexual nature  followed  the fall and  was its
result,  not  its  cause.)  What  Satan put  into  the  heads of  our remote
ancestors was the idea that they could  "be like gods"-could set up on their
own as if they had created  themselves-be their own masters-invent some sort
of happiness  for themselves outside  God, apart  from God.  And out of that
hopeless  attempt has  come nearly  all  that we  call  human history-money,
poverty, ambition, war,  prostitution,  classes, empires,  slavery-the  long
terrible story  of man trying to find something  other  than  God which will
make him happy.
     The reason why  it can never succeed  is this. God made us: invented us
as a man  invents an engine.  A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would
not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run
on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the
food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it
is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering
about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself,
because it is not there. There is no such thing.
     That is the key to  history.  Terrific energy is expended-civilisations
are  built up-excellent  institutions devised; but each time  something goes
wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top
and it all slides back  into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It
seems to start up  all right and runs a  Jew yards, and then it breaks down.
They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to
us humans.
     And what  did God do? First  of all He left us conscience, the sense of
right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some
of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever  quite succeeded. Secondly,
He sent  the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those  queer stories
scattered all through the heathen religions  about a god who  dies and comes
to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly,
He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into
their  heads the sort of God He was -that there was only one of Him and that
He  cared about  right  conduct. Those  people  were the  Jews, and the  Old
Testament gives an account of the hammering process.
     Then comes  the real shock. Among these Jews there  suddenly turns up a
man  who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins.  He
says He has always existed. He says He is  coming to judge the world at  the
end of  time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians,
anyone  might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be
nothing  very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean
that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the  Being outside the world
Who had made it and was  infinitely  different from anything else.  And when
you have  grasped that,  you will  see that what  this man  said was,  quite
simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.
     One  part  of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have
heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim
to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God,  this is really so
preposterous as to  be  comic.  We can all  understand  how  a  man forgives
offences  against himself. You  tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal
my  money  and  I forgive  you.  But  what should we make of a  man, himself
unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on
other  men's  toes and  stealing  other  men's money? Asinine fatuity is the
kindest description  we  should give  of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus
did.  He  told people  that  their sins  were forgiven,  and never waited to
consult  all the other people  whom their sins had  undoubtedly injured.  He
unhesitatingly behaved as if He was  the party chiefly concerned, the person
chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the
God  whose laws are broken and whose  love is wounded in  every sin. In  the
mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only
regard as  a  silliness and  conceit unrivalled  by  any  other character in
     Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when
they read  the Gospels, do not usually  get the impression  of silliness and
conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He  is "humble
and meek" and we  believe Him; not noticing that, if  He were merely  a man,
humility  and meekness are the very last characteristics we could  attribute
to some of His sayings.
     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 a
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 patronising
nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to
us. He did not intend to.

     We are faced, then, with  a  frightening alternative. This  man  we are
talking  about either  was (and  is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or
something worse. Now it seems to me  obvious  that He was neither a  lunatic
nor a fiend:  and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it
may seem, I have  to accept the view  that He was and is God. God has landed
on this enemy-occupied world in human form.
     And now, what was the purpose of  it all? What did He come to do? Well,
to teach, of  course; but as soon as you look into the  New Testament or any
other  Christian writing  you  will  find they are constantly  talking about
something different-about  His  death and  His coming  to life  again. It is
obvious  that  Christians think the chief point of the story lies here. They
think the main thing He came to earth to do was to suffer and be killed.
     Now before  I  became a Christian I was  under  the impression that the
first thing Christians had  to believe was one particular theory as  to what
the point of this  dying was. According to that  theory God wanted to punish
men for having  deserted and  joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered
to be punished instead, and so  God let us off.  Now  I admit that even this
theory  does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to; but
that is not the point  I want  to make. What I came to see later on was that
neither  this theory  nor any  other  is Christianity. The central Christian
belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us
a fresh start Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many
different theories have  been held as to  how it  works; what all Christians
are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like.
All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you
good. But  the  modern theory  of  nourishment-all  about  the  vitamins and
proteins-is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long
before  the theory  of  vitamins was ever  heard of:  and  if the  theory of
vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the
same.  Theories  about   Christ's  death  are  not  Christianity:  they  are
explanations  about how it works.  Christians would not all agree as  to how
important these theories  are. My own  church-the Church of England-does not
lay down any one of  them as  the right one.  The Church  of Rome goes a bit
further. But I think they will all agree that the thing itself is infinitely
more important than any explanations that theologians have produced. I think
they would probably admit that no explanation will ever be quite adequate to
the reality. But as I said in the preface  to this book, I am only a layman,
and at  this point we are getting into  deep water. I can only tell you, for
what it is worth, how I, personally, look at the matter.
     On  my view the theories are not themselves the thing  you are asked to
accept. Many of you no doubt have read Jeans or Eddington. What they do when
they want to explain the atom,  or something of that sort, is  to give you a
description  out of which you can make a mental picture. But then  they warn
you that this picture is  not what the scientists actually believe. What the
scientists believe is a mathematical formula. The pictures are there only to
help you to understand the formula. They are not  really true in the way the
formula is; they  do not give you the real thing but only something more  or
less like it. They are  only meant to help, and if they do  not help you can
drop them. The thing itself  cannot  be pictured, it  can only  be expressed
mathematically. We are in  the same boat here. We believe that the  death of
Christ  is  just  that  point  in  history  at  which  something  absolutely
unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot
picture even the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not
going to be able to picture this. Indeed, if  we  found that  we could fully
understand  it,  that  very fact would show it was not what it professes  to
be-the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from  beyond nature, striking
down into nature  like lightning. You  may ask what good will it be to us if
we  do not understand  it.  But that  is easily answered. A man  can eat his
dinner without  understanding  exactly  how  food  nourishes  him. A man can
accept what  Christ  has  done without  knowing  how  it  works: indeed,  he
certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.
     We  are told that Christ was  killed for us, that His death  has washed
out  our sins,  and  that by  dying  He  disabled  death itself. That is the
formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories
we build up as  to how  Christ's death did all  this are, in my view,  quite
secondary: mere  plans or diagrams to  be left alone if they do not help us,
and, even if they do help us, not to  be confused with the thing itself. All
the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.
     The one most people have  heard is the one I mentioned before -the  one
about our being let  off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment
instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was
prepared  to  let us off,  why on earth did He not do so? And what  possible
point  could there be  in punishing an innocent person instead? None  at all
that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense.
On  the other hand, if you think  of a debt,  there is plenty of  point in a
person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if
you take "paying the penalty," not in the  sense of  being punished, but  in
the more general sense of "standing the racket" or "footing the bill," then,
of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got
himself into a  hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind
friend. Now what  was the sort  of "hole" man had  got  himself into? He had
tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other
words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement:
he  is  a  rebel  who  must lay  down  his  arms.  Laying  down  your  arms,
surrendering, saying you  are  sorry,  realising  that you have  been on the
wrong track  and  getting ready to  start  life  over again from the  ground
floor-that is the only  way out of a  "hole." This process of surrender-this
movement  full  speed  astern-is   what   Christians  call  repentance.  Now
repentance is  no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating
humble  pie. It means unlearning  all the self-conceit and self-will that we
have been training ourselves into for thousands  of years. It means  killing
part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs  a good  man
to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only
a good person  can repent perfectly.  The worse you are the more you need it
and the less you can  do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would
be a perfect person-and he would not need it.
     Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a
kind  of death, is not something God demands of you  before He will take you
back and which He could let  you off if He chose: it is simply a description
of what going back to Him is  like. If you ask God to take you  back without
it, you are really  asking  Him  to let you go  back without going back.  It
cannot hap pen. Very well,  then,  we  must go through with it. But the same
badness which makes us need  it, makes us unable to do it. Can we  do it  if
God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean  when  we talk of God helping us?  We
mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little
of His reasoning powers and that  is how we think: He puts  a little  of His
love  into  us and that is how  we  love one another. When you teach a child
writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the
letters  because you are forming them. We love  and reason because God loves
and  reasons and holds  our hand while we  do it.  Now if we had not fallen,
that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in
order to do  something which God, in His own  nature,  never does  at all-to
surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds
to this  process at  all.  So that the one road for  which we now need God's
leadership most of  all is a  road God, in His own nature, has never walked.
God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
     But supposing God became  a  man-suppose  our  human  nature which  can
suffer and  die  was amalgamated  with God's  nature in one person-then that
person  could help us. He could surrender  His  will, and  suffer  and  die,
because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and
I can go through this process only if  God does it in us; but  God can do it
only if He becomes  man. Our attempts at this dying  will succeed only if we
men  share in God's dying, just as our thinking can  succeed only because it
is a drop out of  the ocean of His  intelligence: but we cannot share  God's
dying unless God dies; and He cannot die  except by being a man. That is the
sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not
suffer at all.
     I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man,
then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, "because it must
have been so easy for him." Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude
and   ungraciousness   of   this   objection;  what   staggers   me  is  the
misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of  course, those who make it are
right.  They  have even understated their own  case. The perfect submission,
the  perfect  suffering, the perfect  death  were not  only  easier to Jesus
because He was God,  but were  possible only because He  was God. But surely
that is  a very odd reason for not  accepting them?  The  teacher is able to
form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how
to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher, and only because
it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because "it's
easy for grown-ups" and waited to learn writing from another child who could
not write  itself (and so  had  no "unfair" advantage), it would not get  on
very  quickly. If I am  drowning in a rapid  river,  a man who still has one
foot on the bank may give me  a hand which saves my  life. Ought  I to shout
back  (between my gasps) "No, it's not  fair! You have  an advantage! You're
keeping one  foot  on  the bank"? That  advantage-call  it "unfair"  if  you
like-is the  only reason  why  he can be of any use to me. To what  will you
look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?
     Such  is my own way of looking at  what Christians call the  Atonement.
But remember this is only one more picture. Do not  mistake it for the thing
itself: and if it does not help you, drop it

     The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect
because He was God,  surrender and humiliation  because He  was man. Now the
Christian belief is  that if  we somehow share the humility and suffering of
Christ we shall also  share  in His conquest for death and find  a new  life
after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly happy, creatures.
This  means something much  more  than our trying  to  follow  His teaching.
People often  ask  when  the  next step  in evolution-the  step to something
beyond  man-will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already.
In Christ a  new kind of man appeared: and the new  kind of life which began
in  Him is to be put into us. How is  this to be  done? Now, please remember
how we acquired  the old,  ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others,
from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent-and by
a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A  process you
would  never have guessed. Most of us  spend a good many  years in childhood
trying  to guess it: and  some children,  when they  are  first told, do not
believe it-and  I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the
God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges  how the new kind
of life-the Christ life-is  to be spread. We must be  prepared  for it being
odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us
either when He invented this.
     There  are three  things  that spread the  Christ life to us:  baptism,
belief,  and that  mysterious  action  which different  Christians  call  by
different names-Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord's Supper. At least, those
are  the  three ordinary methods. I  am  not saying there may not be special
cases where it is spread without one or more of these. I have not time to go
into special  cases, and I do not  know enough.  If you are trying  in a few
minutes to tell a man how to get  to Edinburgh you will tell him the trains:
he can,  it  is true, get  there by boat or by a plane, but you  will hardly
bring  that  in. And I  am not saying  anything  about which  of these three
things is the most essential. My Methodist friend would like  me to say more
about belief  and less (in proportion) about  the other  two.  But I am  not
going into  that. Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will,
in fact, tell you  to  use all  three,  and that  is enough for  our present
     I cannot myself  see why these things should be the conductors  of  the
new kind of life. But then, if  one did not happen to  know,  I should never
have  seen any  connection between a particular  physical  pleasure  and the
appearance of  a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it
comes to us: there is  no good  jabbering about what it ought  to be like or
what we should have expected it  to be like. But  though I cannot see why it
should be so, I can tell you why I believe it is  so. I have explained why I
have to  believe that Jesus was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter
of history that He  taught His followers that the new  life was communicated
in this way. In other words, I believe it on His authority. Do not be scared
by the  word authority. Believing  things on authority  only means believing
them  because  you have been told  them by  someone you  think  trustworthy.
Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe  are believed on authority. I
believe  there is  such  a place as New  York. I have not seen it  myself. I
could not prove by abstract  reasoning that there must  be such a  place.  I
believe it  because  reliable  people  have  told me  so.  The ordinary  man
believes  in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and  the circulation of the
blood on authority-because the scientists say so. Every historical statement
in the  world  is  believed  on  authority.  None of  us has seen the Norman
Conquest  or the defeat of the Armada. None of us could prove  them by  pure
logic  as  you prove a thing in mathematics. We  believe them simply because
people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them: in fact,
on authority. A man who jibbed at authority in  other things as  some people
do in religion would have to be content to know nothing all his life.
     Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief  and the Holy Communion
as things that will do instead of your  own attempts  to  copy  Christ. Your
natural  life  is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay
there if you do nothing  about it. You can  lose it by neglect,  or you  can
drive it  away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it:
but always remember  you are not  making it,  you are only keeping up a life
you  got from  someone  else.  In  the same  way  a  Christian can lose  the
Christ-life which has been  put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep
it.  But  even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting  on  his own
steam-he  is only nourishing  or  protecting  a  life  he could  never  have
acquired by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as
the  natural  life is in your  body, it will do a lot towards repairing that
body. Cut it, and up to a  point  it will heal, as a dead body would  not. A
live body is not one that never gets hurt, but  one that  can to some extent
repair  itself. In  the same  way a Christian is  not a  man who never  goes
wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over
again  after each  stumble-because the Christ-life  is inside him, repairing
him  all the  time, enabling  him  to repeat  (in  some degree) the  kind of
voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.
     That is why  the Christian is in a different position from other people
who are trying  to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there
is one; or-if they think there is not-at least they hope to deserve approval
from  good men.  But the Christian  thinks any good he does  comes from  the
Christ-life inside  him.  He does not think God will love  us because we are
good, but that God  will make us good  because He loves us; just as the roof
of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because  it is bright, but  becomes
bright because the sun shines on it.
     And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life
is  in  them,  they do not mean  simply something mental or moral. When they
speak of  being "in Christ" or of Christ being "in them," this is not simply
a  way of saying  that  they are  thinking about Christ or copying Him. They
mean that Christ is actually operating  through them; that the whole mass of
Christians are the physical organism  through which Christ acts-that we are.
His fingers and muscles, the  cells of His  body. And  perhaps that explains
one  or two things. It explains why  this  new  life is spread  not only  by
purely  mental acts  like  belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and  Holy
Communion.  It  is  not merely the  spreading of an idea;  it  is  more like
evolution-a biological or super-biological fact. There is no good trying  to
be more  spiritual than God.  God never meant man  to  be a purely spiritual
creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the
new life into us. We may think this rather  crude and unspiritual.  God does
not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.
     Here is  another  thing that used to  puzzle me. Is it not  frightfully
unfair that this new life should be  confined  to  people who  have heard of
Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us
what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can
be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who  know Him
can be saved through Him,  But in the meantime, if you are worried about the
people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can  do is to remain outside
yourself. Christians are Christ's body, the organism through which He works.
Every addition  to that  body enables  Him  to do more. If you want to  help
those outside you  must add your own  little cell to  the body of Christ who
alone can  help them. Cutting  off  a man's fingers would  be an  odd way of
getting him to do more work.
     Another  possible  objection  is  this. Why  is  God  landing  in  this
enemy-occupied  world in disguise  and starting a  sort of secret society to
undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it dial
He  is not strong enough?  Well,  Christians think  He is going to  land  in
force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to
give us the chance of joining His side  freely. I do  not  suppose you and I
would  have  thought  much of a Frenchman who  waited  till the Allies  were
marching  into Germany  and then announced  he was on  our  side.  God  will
invade.  But  I wonder whether  people  who ask  God to interfere openly and
directly in our world  quite realise what it will be like when He does. When
that happens,  it is  the end  of the world. When the author walks on to the
stage  the play is over.  God is going to invade, all right: but what is the
good  of saying  you are on  His side  then, when  you see the whole natural
universe melting away  like a dream and  something  else-something  it never
entered your head  to conceive-comes crashing in;  something so beautiful to
some of us  and so terrible to others that  none  of us will have any choice
left?  For  this  time  it  will  be  God  without  disguise;  something  so
overwhelming that  it will  strike either irresistible love  or irresistible
horror into every creature. It  will be too  late then to choose your  side.
There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it  has become impossible
to  stand  up. That will  not be the time for choosing: it will  be the time
when we  discover  which side we really have  chosen, whether we realised it
before or  not. Now, today, this moment,  is our chance to choose the  right
side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever.
We must take it or leave it.

     There is a story about a  schoolboy  who was asked what he  thought God
was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was "The sort of
person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and
then trying to stop it." And I am  afraid that is the sort of idea  that the
word  Morality  raises  in  a  good  many  people's  minds:  something  that
interferes, something that stops you having a good time.  In  reality, moral
rules  are  directions for running the human machine.  Every  moral  rule is
there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a  friction, in the running of
that  machine. That  is why  these  rules at  first  seem to  be  constantly
interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are  being taught how to
use any  machine,  the  instructor keeps on saying,  "No, don't do  it  like
that," because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right
and seem to you the natural way  of treating the machine, but do not  really
     Some people prefer to talk about moral "ideals" rather than moral rules
and  about  moral  "idealism" rather  than  moral  obedience. Now it  is, of
course, quite true that  moral perfection is an "ideal" in the sense that we
cannot achieve it. In that sense every kind of perfection is, for us humans,
an ideal; we cannot succeed in  being perfect car  drivers or perfect tennis
players or in drawing perfectly  straight  lines. But there is another sense
in which it is very misleading to call moral perfection an ideal. When a man
says that a certain  woman, or  house, or ship, or garden  is "his ideal" he
does not mean (unless he  is rather a fool) that everyone else ought to have
the same  ideal. In such  matters we are entitled  to have different  tastes
and, therefore, different ideals. But it is dangerous to describe a  man who
tries  very hard to  keep the moral law as a  "man of  high ideals," because
this might lead you to think  that  moral perfection was  a private taste of
his own  and that the rest of us were not called on to  share it. This would
be a disastrous mistake. Perfect behaviour may be as unattainable as perfect
gear-changing when we  drive; but it is a necessary ideal prescribed for all
men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear-changing is
an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars. And it would
be  even  more  dangerous  to think of oneself as a person "of high  ideals"
because one is trying to tell no lies at all (instead of only a few lies) or
never to commit adultery (instead of committing it only seldom) or not to be
a  bully (instead  of  being  only a moderate bully). It  might lead  you to
become a prig and to  think you were rather a special person who deserved to
be congratulated on his "idealism." In reality you might just as well expect
to  be congratulated because, whenever you do a sum, you try to get it quite
right. To be sure, perfect arithmetic is "an ideal"; you will certainly make
some mistakes in  some calculations.  But there  is nothing very fine  about
trying  to be quite accurate  at each step in each sum. It would be  idiotic
not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on. In the
same  way every moral failure is going  to cause trouble, probably to others
and certainly to yourself. By talking about rules  and obedience instead  of
"ideals" and "idealism" we help to remind ourselves of these facts.
     Now  let us go  a step further. There  are two ways in which the  human
machine  goes  wrong. One  is  when human individuals  drift  apart from one
another,  or else collide with  one another  and do  one  another damage, by
cheating  or  bullying. The  other  is  when  things  go  wrong  inside  the
individual-when the different  parts  of  him (his different  faculties  and
desires and so on) either drift apart or interfere with one another. You can
get  the  idea  plain  if  you  think of us as a fleet of  ships sailing  in
formation.  The  voyage  will  be a success only, in the first place, if the
ships  do not  collide and  get in one another's way; and, secondly, if each
ship is seaworthy  and has her  engines in good order. As a  matter of fact,
you cannot have either of  these two things without the other. If the  ships
keep on  having collisions  they will not remain seaworthy very long. On the
other hand, if their  steering gears are out of order they will not be  able
to avoid collisions.  Or, if you like, think of humanity as a band playing a
tune. To get a good result,  you need two things.  Each player's  individual
instrument must be in tune and also each must come in at the right moment so
as to combine with all the others.
     But there is one thing  we have not yet taken into account. We have not
asked where the fleet is  trying to get to,  or what piece of music the band
is trying to play. The  instruments might  be all in tune and might all come
in  at the right moment, but even so the performance  would not be a success
if they had been engaged  to provide dance music and actually played nothing
but Dead Marches.  And however  well the fleet sailed, its voyage would be a
failure if it were meant to reach New York and actually arrived at Calcutta.
     Morality, then, seems to  be concerned with three things. Firstly, with
fair play  and  harmony between  individuals.  Secondly, with what  might be
called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly,
with the  general purpose of human life as a whole: what man  was  made for:
what course the whole  fleet ought to  be on: what tune the conductor of the
band wants it to play.
     You  may have  noticed  that  modern people are nearly always  thinking
about  the first thing  and forgetting the other two. When people say in the
newspapers that we  are striving for Christian moral standards, they usually
mean that we are striving  for kindness and fair play  between  nations, and
classes,  and individuals; that  is, they are thinking  only  of  the  first
thing. When a man says  about  something he wants to do, "It can't  be wrong
because  it doesn't do anyone else any  harm,"  he is thinking only  of  the
first thing. He is thinking it does not matter what his  ship is like inside
provided that he does not run  into the  next ship. And it is quite natural,
when we start thinking about morality, to begin  with the first  thing, with
social relations. For one thing, the results of  bad morality in that sphere
are so obvious and press on us every day: war and poverty and graft and lies
and shoddy work. And also, as long as you stick to the first thing, there is
very little disagreement about morality. Almost all people at all times have
agreed (in theory) that human beings ought to be honest and kind and helpful
to  one another. But  though it  is natural to begin with all  that, if  our
thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well not  have thought
at all. Unless we go on to the second thing-the tidying up inside each human
being-we are only deceiving ourselves.
     What  is the good of telling  the ships how to  steer  so as  to  avoid
collisions if, in fact, they  are such  crazy old tubs  that  they cannot be
steered at  all? What is the good of drawing  up, on paper, rules for social
behaviour, if  we know that, in fact,  our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and
self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them?  I do not mean for a
moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our
social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be
mere  moonshine  unless  we  realise  that   nothing  but  the  courage  and
unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly.
It is easy enough  to remove the particular  kinds of graft or bullying that
go on under  the present system: but as  long as men are twisters or bullies
they will  find  some new way  of carrying  on the old  game  under the  new
system. You cannot make men good  by  law: and  without  good men you cannot
have a good society. That is why we must go on to think of the second thing:
of morality inside the individual.
     But I do not think we can stop there either. We are now  getting to the
point  at which  different beliefs  about  the universe  lead  to  different
behaviour.  And it would seem, at first sight,  very sensible to stop before
we got  there, and  just  carry  on  with those parts of morality  that  all
sensible people agree about. But can  we? Remember  that religion involves a
series  of statements  about  facts,  which must be either true or false. If
they are true, one set of conclusions will follow about the right sailing of
the human fleet: if  they are false, quite a different set. For example, let
us go back to the man who says that a thing cannot be wrong unless it  hurts
some other  human being.  He quite understands  that he must not damage  the
other ships in the  convoy, but he honestly thinks that  what he does to his
own ship is simply his own business. But does it not make a great difference
whether his ship is his  own  property or not?  Does it  not  make  a  great
difference whether I am, so to speak, the landlord of  my own mind and body,
or only a tenant, responsible  to the real  landlord? If  somebody else made
me, for his own purposes, then I  shall have a lot of duties which I  should
not have if I simply belonged to myself.
     Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human  being is going
to live  for ever, and this must  be either true or false.  Now there are  a
good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to
live only seventy years, but which I  had better bother about very seriously
if  I am going to live  for ever. Perhaps my  bad temper or my  jealousy are
gradually  getting  worse -so gradually  that the increase  in seventy years
will  not  be very noticeable. But it might be  absolute  hell  in a million
years:  in  fact, if  Christianity  is true, Hell is the  precisely  correct
technical  term  for what it  would  be.  And  immortality makes this  other
difference, which, by the by, has  a connection with the difference  between
totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live  only seventy years, then
a  state, or a nation, or  a  civilisation,  which  may last for a  thousand
years,  is more important than an  individual. But if Christianity is  true,
then  the individual  is  not  only  more  important  but incomparably  more
important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a  civilisation,
compared with his, is only a moment.
     It seems, then, that if we are to think  about  morality, we must think
of all three departments: relations  between man and man: things inside each
man: and relations between man and  the power that  made  him.  We  can  all
cooperate in  the first  one. Disagreements begin with the second and become
serious with the third.  It  is  in dealing  with  the third that  the  main
differences between Christian  and non-Christian morality come  out. For the
rest of this book I am going to assume the Christian point of view, and look
at the whole picture as it will be if Christianity is true.

     The previous  section  was  originally composed to be given  as a short
talk on the air.
     If you are allowed to talk for only ten minutes, pretty well everything
else has to be sacrificed to brevity.  One of my  chief reasons for dividing
morality up  into three parts  (with  my  picture  of the ships  sailing  in
convoy) was that this seemed the shortest way of covering the ground. Here I
want to give some idea of another way in which the subject has been  divided
by old writers, which  was too long to use in  my talk, but which is a  very
good one.
     According to this longer scheme there are seven "virtues." Four of them
are  called   "Cardinal"   virtues,  and  the  remaining  three  are  called
"Theological"  virtues. The "Cardinal" ones  are those  which all  civilised
people  recognise:  the  "Theological"  are those which,  as  a  rule,  only
Christians know  about. I shall deal with the Theological ones  later on: at
present I am talking about the  four  Cardinal virtues. (The word "cardinal"
has nothing  to  do with  "Cardinals"  in the Roman Church. It comes  from a
Latin  word meaning  "the hinge  of  a door." These were  called  "cardinal"
virtues  because they are, as  we should say, "pivotal.") They are PRUDENCE,
     Prudence means practical common sense, taking  the trouble to think out
what you are doing and what is likely  to  come  of it. Nowadays most people
hardly think of  Prudence as one of the "virtues." In  fact,  because Christ
said  we  could  only  get into  His  world  by  being like  children,  many
Christians have the idea that, provided you are  "good," it  does not matter
being  a fool. But  that is a  misunderstanding.  In the  first  place, most
children show  plenty of  "prudence" about doing  the things they are really
interested in,  and think them out quite sensibly. In  the second place,  as
St, Paul points out,  Christ  never meant that we were to remain children in
intelligence: on  the contrary, He told  us to  be not  only "as harmless as
doves," but  also "as  wise as  serpents." He wants a  child's heart,  but a
grown-up's head. He  wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and
teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence
we have to  be alert  at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. The fact
that you are  giving money to a charity does not mean that you need  not try
to find out  whether that charity  is a fraud or not. The fact that what you
are thinking about is  God  Himself (for example, when you are praying) does
not mean that you can be  content with the  same babyish ideas which you had
when you were a  five-year-old. It is, of  course,  quite true that God will
not love you any the less, or have less use for you,  if you happen to  have
been born with a  very second-rate brain. He  has room for people  with very
little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper
motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever," but "Be good,
sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can."
God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you
are thinking  of becoming  a  Christian,  I warn you  you  are embarking  on
something which is going to  take the whole  of you,  brains and  all.  But,
fortunately, it works the other  way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to
be  a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one  of the
reasons  why  it  needs no  special education  to  be a  Christian  is  that
Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like
Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.
     Temperance is, unfortunately,  one of those words that has  changed its
meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the  days when the  second
Cardinal virtue was christened  "Temperance," it meant nothing  of the sort.
Temperance  referred not specially  to  drink, but to all  pleasures; and it
meant not  abstaining,  but going  the right length and no  further. It is a
mistake  to   think   that   Christians  ought  all  to   be   teetotallers;
Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is  the teetotal religion. Of course it may
be the duty of a  particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular
time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who
cannot  drink at all without drinking  too much, or because he wants to give
the  money  to the poor, or because he is  with  people  who are inclined to
drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself.  But  the whole
point is that he  is abstaining, for a good reason,  from something which he
does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the
marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself
without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.
An  individual  Christian  may see  fit to give up all sorts of  things  for
special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he
starts saying the things are  bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at
other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.
     One great piece of mischief has been done by the  modern restriction of
the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that
you can be just as intemperate about lots of other  things. A  man who makes
his golf or his motor-bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes
all  her  thoughts  to  clothes  or  bridge  or  her dog,  is  being just as
"intemperate"  as  someone who gets  drunk every evening. Of course, it does
not  show on the  outside so easily: bridge-mania  or golf-mania do not make
you  fall down in  the middle  of the  road.  But God  is  not  deceived  by
     Justice means  much  more than  the  sort of thing that goes on in  law
courts. It is the  old name for everything we should now call "fairness"; it
includes honesty,  give  and take, truthfulness, keeping  promises, and  all
that  side  of life. And  Fortitude includes  both kinds of courage-the kind
that faces danger as well as the kind that "sticks it" under pain. "Guts" is
perhaps  the nearest modern English. You will  notice, of  course, that  you
cannot practise any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one
into play.
     There is one further point about the virtues  that ought to be noticed.
There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action
and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not  a good  tennis player
may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is the man
whose eye and  muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable
good shots  that they can now  be  relied  on. They have  a  certain tone or
quality  which  is  there  even   when  he  is   not  playing,   just  as  a
mathematician's mind  has a certain habit  and outlook  which is there  even
when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way a man  who  perseveres  in
doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is
that quality rather than the particular actions  which we mean when  we talk
of "virtue."
     This  distinction is important for the following reason. If we  thought
only of the particular actions we might encourage three wrong ideas.
     (1) We might think that,  provided you did the right thing,  it did not
matter how or why you  did  it-whether you did it  willingly or unwillingly,
sulkily  or cheerfully, through fear of public opinion  or for its own sake.
But the truth is that right actions done for the wrong reason do not help to
build the internal quality or character  called  a "virtue," and  it is this
quality or  character  that  really matters.  (If the bad tennis player hits
very  hard, not  because he  sees that a very hard  stroke is required,  but
because he has lost his temper, his stroke might possibly, by luck, help him
to  win that  particular game; but  it will not be  helping him  to become a
reliable player.)
     (2)  We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules:
whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.
     (3)  We might think  that the "virtues" were  necessary  only for  this
present life-that in the other world we could stop being  just because there
is nothing to quarrel about and stop being brave because there is no danger.
Now  it is quite true that  there will probably be no  occasion  for just or
courageous acts in the  next  world,  but  there will  be every occasion for
being the sort of people that we can become only as the result of doing such
acts  here.  The  point is  not that God will refuse  you admission  to  His
eternal world if you  have not got certain qualities of character: the point
is  that if  people have not got at least the beginnings of  those qualities
inside them, then no possible external conditions could make  a "Heaven" for
them-that is,  could make them happy  with the deep, strong, unshakable kind
of happiness God intends for us.

     The first  thing to get clear about Christian morality  between man and
man is that in this department Christ did  not come to preach  any brand new
morality.  The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as you would be done by)
is  a summing  up of what everyone, at bottom, had always known to be right.
Really great moral teachers  never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks
and  cranks  who do that. As  Dr. Johnson  said, "People need to be reminded
more often  than they  need  to be  instructed." The real job of every moral
teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after  time,  to the old simple
principles  which we  are all so anxious not to see; like bringing  a  horse
back and back to the fence it has refused to jump  or bringing a  child back
and back to the bit in its lesson that it wants to shirk.
     The second thing  to get clear is that  Christianity has not, and  does
not profess to have, a detailed political programme  for applying "Do as you
would be done by" to  a particular society at a particular moment. It  could
not have. It is meant for all  men at all times and the particular programme
which suited one place or time would not suit another. And,  anyhow, that is
not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it does not
give  you lessons in cookery. When it  tells you  to  read the Scriptures it
does  not give you lessons  in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar.
It was never  intended to replace or supersede the  ordinary human  arts and
sciences: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs,
and a source of energy which will give them all  new life, if only they will
put themselves at its disposal.
     People say, "The Church ought to give us a  lead." That is true if they
mean it in the right way, but false if they mean it in the wrong way. By the
Church they ought to mean the whole body of practising Christians. And  when
they say that the Church should give us a lead, they ought to mean that some
Christians- those who happen to have the right talents- should be economists
and statesmen, and that all economists and statesmen should  be  Christians,
and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to
putting "Do as  you would be done by" into action. If  that happened, and if
we  others were really ready to take it, then  we should  find the Christian
solution for our own social problems pretty quickly.  But,  of  course, when
they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to
put  out  a  political  programme.  That  is  silly.  The clergy  are  those
particular people within the whole Church  who have  been  specially trained
and set aside to look after what concerns us as  creatures who  are going to
live for ever: and we are asking them to do a quite different job for  which
they  have not been trained. The job  is  really on us, on the  laymen.  The
application of Christian  principles,  say, to  trade unionism or education,
must come from Christian trade unionists  and Christian schoolmasters:  just
as Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and  dramatists  -not
from  the bench of bishops  getting together  and trying  to write plays and
novels in their spare time.
     All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a
pretty clear  hint of what a  fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps
it gives  us  more than we  can  take. It tells us  that there  are to be no
passengers  or parasites: if  man does not work, he ought not to  eat. Every
one is to work with his own hands, and what  is more, every one's work is to
produce something good: there will be no manufacture  of silly  luxuries and
then  of sillier advertisements  to persuade us to buy them. And there is to
be no "swank" or "side," no putting  on  airs. To that  extent  a  Christian
society would  be what  we now call Leftist. On the other hand, it is always
insisting on obedience-obedience (and outward marks  of respect) from all of
us  to properly appointed magistrates, from  children to parents, and  (I am
afraid this is going  to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly,
it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding
worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the
New Testament hates what it calls "busybodies."
     If there were such  a society in existence  and you  or I visited it, I
think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its
economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, "advanced,"  but that
its  family life and its code of  manners were  rather old-fashioned-perhaps
even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of  us  would like some bits  of it,
but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what
one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We
have  all departed  from that total plan  in different ways, and each  of us
wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan
itself. You will find  this  again  and again about anything that  is really
Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it  and wants to pick out those
bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is
why people who are  fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are
fighting for Christianity.
     Now another  point.  There is one  bit of  advice given to  us  by  the
ancient heathen Greeks,  and  by the Jews in  the Old Testament, and  by the
great Christian  teachers of  the  Middle  Ages, which  the  modern economic
system has  completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money
at  interest: and lending money at  interest-what we call  investment-is the
basis of  our  whole system. Now it may  not  absolutely  follow that we are
wrong.  Some  people say that  when  Moses and Aristotle and the  Christians
agreed in forbidding interest (or "usury" as they called it), they could not
foresee the  joint  stock  company,  and were  only dunking of  the  private
moneylender,  and that, therefore,  we need not bother about what they said.
That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do
not know whether the investment system is  responsible for the state  we are
in  or  not This is where we  want the Christian economist But I should  not
have been honest if I  had not  told you that three  great civilisations had
agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which
we have based our whole life.
     One more  point and I am done.  In the passage where the  New Testament
says  that every one must work, it gives  as  a reason "in order that he may
have something to give to those in need." Charity-giving  to the poor-is  an
essential part  of Christian morality: in the  frightening  parable  of  the
sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns. Some
people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of
giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no
poor to  give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce
that kind of society. But if anyone  thinks that, as a consequence,  you can
stop  giving in the meantime, then he has  parted company with all Christian
morality.  I do not believe one can  settle how much we ought to  give. I am
afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words,
if our expenditure  on comforts, luxuries, amusements,  etc,  is  up to  the
standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably
giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I
should say they are too small There ought  to be things we should like to do
and  cannot  do  because  our charitable  expenditure  excludes them.  I  am
speaking now of "charities" in the common  way. Particular cases of distress
among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it
were, forces upon your notice, may demand  much more: even to the  crippling
and endangering of  your  own position. For many of us the great obstacle to
charity lies not in  our luxurious living  or desire for more money, but  in
our fear-fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a  temptation.
Sometimes our  pride also hinders our charity; we are  tempted to spend more
than we ought  on the showy forms  of generosity (tipping, hospitality)  and
less than we ought on those who really need our help.
     And now, before  I end, I am going to venture on a guess as to how this
section  has  affected any who have  read it My guess is that there are some
Leftist people among them who are very angry that it has not gone further in
that direction, and some people of an opposite sort who  are  angry  because
they think  it has gone much too far. If so, that brings us right up against
the  real snag in all this drawing up of blueprints for a Christian society.
Most of us are not really approaching  the subject in order to find out what
Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from
Christianity  for  the  views of our own  party. We are looking for  an ally
where we are offered either a Master  or-a Judge. I am just the same.  There
are bits in this section that I wanted to leave out. And that is why nothing
whatever  is  going  to come of such talks unless we  go a  much longer  way
round.  A Christian  society  is not going to arrive until most of us really
want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian.  I
may repeat "Do as you would be done by"  till I am black in the  face, but I
cannot really carry it out till I love  my neighbour as myself: and I cannot
learn to love my  neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot
learn to love God except by learning  to obey Him. And so,  as I warned you,
we are driven on to  something more inward -driven on from social matters to
religious matters. For the longest way round is the shortest way home.

     I have said that we should never get a Christian society unless most of
us became Christian individuals. That does  not mean, of course, that we can
put  off  doing anything about society until some imaginary  date in the far
future. It means  that we must begin both jobs at once-(1) the job of seeing
how "Do as you would be done by" can be applied in detail to modern society,
and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who  really would apply it if
we saw  how.  I now want to  begin considering  what the Christian idea of a
good man is-the Christian specification for the human machine.
     Before  I  come  down  to details  there are  two more general points I
should like to make.  First of all,  since Christian morality claims to be a
technique for putting the human  machine  right, I  think you would  like to
know how it is  related  to  another technique which seems to make a similar
claim-namely, psychoanalysis.
     Now you want to distinguish very  clearly  between two  things: between
the  actual medical  theories and  technique of the psychoanalysts,  and the
general  philosophical  view  of the world which Freud and some others  have
gone on  to  add to this.  The second  thing-the philosophy  of Freud-is  in
direct  contradiction  to  Christianity: and also in direct contradiction to
the other great  psychologist, Jung. And  furthermore, when Freud is talking
about  how to  cure  neurotics  he is speaking as  a specialist  on his  own
subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an
amateur. It is therefore quite sensible to attend to him with respect in the
one case and not in the other-and that is what I do. I am all the readier to
do it because I have found that when  he  is talking off his own subject and
on  a  subject I  do know  something  about (namely,  languages) he  is very
ignorant.  But  psychoanalysis  itself,  apart from  all  the  philosophical
additions  that Freud  and  others  have  made to it, is not  in  the  least
contradictory  to  Christianity.  Its  technique  overlaps   with  Christian
morality at some points and it would not be a bad thing if every parson knew
something about it: but it does not run the same course all the way, for the
two techniques are doing rather different things.
     When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. One is the act
of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his
psychological  outfit presents him with, and which  are the raw material  of
his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what
we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common
to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things
that have  gone  wrong  in his subconscious.  Thus fear of  things that  are
really dangerous would be an example of the  first kind:  an irrational fear
of cats or spiders would be an  example  of the second kind. The desire of a
man for a woman  would  be of the first kind: the perverted  desire of a man
for a man would be of  the second. Now what psychoanalysis  undertakes to do
is to remove the  abnormal  feelings, that is, to give  the  man better  raw
material for  his acts of  choice: morality is  concerned with the  acts  of
choice themselves.
     Put it this  way. Imagine three men who go to war. One has the ordinary
natural fear of danger that  any man has  and he subdues it by  moral effort
and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result
of things in  their sub-consciousness, exaggerated, irrational  fears, which
no amount  of  moral  effort  can  do anything  about.  Now  suppose that  a
psychoanalyst comes  along  and cures these two:  that is, he puts them both
back in the  position  of the  first man. Well  it  is just  then  that  the
psychoanalytical problem is over and the moral problem begins.  Because, now
that they are  cured, these two  men  might  take quite different lines. The
first might  say, "Thank goodness I've  got rid of all those doodahs. Now at
last I can do what I always wanted to do-my duty  to the cause  of freedom."
But  the  other might say, "Well, I'm very glad that  I now feel  moderately
cool under fire, but, of course, that doesn't alter the fact that  I'm still
jolly well determined to look after Number One and let the other chap do the
dangerous job  whenever I can. Indeed  one of the good things about  feeling
less frightened is that  I can now  look  after myself much more efficiently
and can  be  much cleverer  at hiding  the fact from the  others."  Now this
difference is a purely moral one and psychoanalysis cannot do anything about
it.  However  much you improve the man's raw material, you  have  still  got
something else: the real, free choice of the man, on  the material presented
to him,  either to put his own advantage first or  to  put it last And this$
free choice is the only thing that morality is concerned with.
     The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease.  It does not
need  to  be  repented  of, but to  be cured. And  by the way, that is  very
important.  Human beings judge one another  by their  external  actions. God
judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who  has  a pathological
horror of cats  forces himself  to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is
quite possible that in God's eyes he  has shown more courage than  a healthy
man may have shown in  winning the  V.C. When  a man who has  been perverted
from his youth and  taught that  cruelty is the right thing, does some  tiny
little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he  might have committed, and
thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's
eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for  a
     It is as  well  to put this  the  other way round. Some of us  who seem
quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little  use of  a good heredity
and  a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as
fiends. Can  we be  quite certain how we should have behaved if we had  been
saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and
then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to
     We see  only  the results which a  man's choices  make  out of his  raw
material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what
he has done with it. Most of the man's psychological make-up is probably due
to his body:  when  his body dies all  that will fall off  him, and the real
central  man.  the thing that chose,  that made the best or the worst out of
this material, will  stand naked. All sorts of nice  things which we thought
our own, but  which were  really due to a good digestion, will fall off some
of  us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or  bad health
will fall off others. We shall then, for the first tune, see every one as he
really was. There will be surprises.
     And that  leads on to my second  point. People often think of Christian
morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules
I'll reward  you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing."  I do not think
that is the best way of looking at  it. I would much rather say  that  every
time you make a choice you are  turning the central part of you, the part of
you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your
life long you are slowly turning this central thing either  into  a heavenly
creature  or into a  hellish creature:  either into  a  creature that  is in
harmony with God, and  with other  creatures, and  with itself, or else into
one  that  is  in  a  state  of  war and  hatred  with  God,  and  with  its
fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven:
that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and  power. To be the other means
madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us
at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
     That  explains what always used to  puzzle me  about Christian writers;
they  seem to be so  very strict at one moment and so very free  and easy at
another. They  talk about  mere sins  of thought as if  they were  immensely
important:  and  then  they  talk  about  the  most  frightful  murders  and
treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all  would be forgiven. But
I have come to see that they are right. What they are  always thinking of is
the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees
in this life but which each of us will have to endure-or enjoy-for ever. One
man may  be  so  placed  that  his anger sheds  the blood of  thousands, and
another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But
the  little mark on the soul  may be much the  same in both. Each  has  done
something to himself  which,  unless he repents, will make it harder for him
to  keep  out  of the rage  next time he is  tempted, and will make the rage
worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God,
can have  that twist in the central  man straightened out again: each is, in
the long run, doomed if he will not. The  bigness or smallness of the thing,
seen from the outside, is not what really matters.
     One last point. Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not
only  to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands
more  and  more clearly the evil  that is still left in him.  When a  man is
getting  worse, he understands his own badness  less and less. A  moderately
bad  man knows he  is not very good: a  thoroughly bad man thinks he is  all
right. This  is  common sense,  really. You understand  sleep  when you  are
awake, not while you are sleeping.  You  can see mistakes in arithmetic when
your mind  is working  properly: while you are  making  them you cannot  see
them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness  when you are  sober, not
when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do
not know about either.

     We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians
call the virtue  of  chastity.  The Christian rule of  chastity must not  be
confused with the social rule of "modesty" (in one sense of that word); i.e.
propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays  down  how much  of
the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and
in what  words, according  to the  customs of a given social  circle.  Thus,
while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all  times, the
rule of propriety  changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any
clothes and a Victorian lady  completely covered in  clothes  might  both be
equally "modest," proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own
societies: and both, for all we  could tell by their dress, might be equally
chaste  (or equally unchaste). Some  of the language which chaste women used
in Shakespeare's time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by
a  woman completely  abandoned.  When  people  break the rule  of  propriety
current in their own time and place, if they  do so in order to excite  lust
in themselves  or  others, then they are offending  against chastity. But if
they break it through ignorance or carelessness they  are guilty only of bad
manners. When, as often happens, they break  it defiantly in  order to shock
or embarrass others,  they  are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are
being uncharitable: for it is  uncharitable to take pleasure in making other
people uncomfortable. I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of
propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it, and I therefore regard
the great relaxation and simplifying of the rule which has taken place in my
own  lifetime as a  good  thing.  At its present stage, however, it has this
inconvenience, that people of different ages  and different types do not all
acknowledge the  same standard,  and we hardly know where we are. While this
confusion  lasts I  think that old, or old-fashioned,  people should be very
careful  not  to  assume  that  young  or  "emancipated"  people are corrupt
whenever they are (by the old standard) improper; and, in return, that young
people  should not call their elders  prudes or puritans because they do not
easily adopt the new standard. A real desire to believe all the good you can
of  others and to make others as comfortable as  you can  will solve most of
the problems.
     Chastity is the  most unpopular of  the Christian  virtues. There is no
getting  away  from  it: the old  Christian rule is,  "Either marriage, with
complete  faithfulness to your partner,  or else total abstinence." Now this
is so  difficult  and  so  contrary to our instincts, that  obviously either
Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it  now is, has gone wrong.
One or the other. Of course, being  a Christian, I think it  is the instinct
which has gone wrong.
     But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex
is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body.
Now  if we eat whenever we feel inclined  and just as much as we want, it is
quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much.
One man  may  eat enough for two, but he does not  eat enough for  ten.  The
appetite goes  a little beyond its biological purpose,  but  not enormously.
But  if  a healthy  young man indulged his sexual  appetite whenever he felt
inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily
populate  a  small village. This appetite is  in  ludicrous and preposterous
excess of its function.
     Or  take it  another  way. You  can get a large audience together for a
strip-tease act-that is,  to watch  a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose
you came to a country  where you could fill a  theatre  by simply bringing a
covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let
every one see, just before the lights went out, that  it  contained a mutton
chop or a bit of bacon, would you  not think  that in that country something
had  gone wrong  with the  appetite  for food? And would  not anyone who had
grown up in  a different world think there was something equally queer about
the state of the sex instinct among us?
     One  critic said  that if he  found a  country in which such striptease
acts  with  food  were  popular,  he would conclude that the people  of that
country were starving. He meant, of course, to imply that such things as the
strip-tease  act  resulted  not  from  sexual  corruption  but  from  sexual
starvation. I agree with him that if,  in  some strange land, we found  that
similar  acts  with  mutton  chops  were   popular,  one   of  the  possible
explanations  which would  occur to me  would  be famine. But the  next step
would be to  test our hypothesis by finding out  whether,  in fact,  much or
little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed  that
a good deal was being eaten, then of  course we  should  have to abandon the
hypothesis  of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same  way,
before  accepting sexual starvation  as  the cause of  the  strip-tease,  we
should  have  to  look  for  evidence  that  there is in  fact  more  sexual
abstinence in our age  than in those ages when  things like  the strip-tease
were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made
sexual  indulgence far less costly within marriage  and far safer outside it
than ever  before, and public opinion is  less hostile to illicit unions and
even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the hypothesis
of "starvation" the only one we can imagine. Everyone knows that  the sexual
appetite, like our other  appetites, grows by indulgence.  Starving men  may
think much  about  food, but so  do gluttons;  the  gorged, as  well  as the
famished, like titillations.
     Here is a third  point. You find very few people who want to eat things
that  really are not food or  to do other things with food instead of eating
it.  In  other  words,  perversions  of  the food  appetite  are  rare.  But
perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I
am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why  I
must is  that you and  I,  for the last twenty years, have been  fed all day
long on  good solid lies about  sex. We have been told,  till one is sick of
hearing  it, that  sexual desire  is in the  same state as any  of our other
natural desires and that if only we abandon  the silly old Victorian idea of
hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not  true. The
moment you look at the facts, and away  from the propaganda, you see that it
is not.
     They tell you sex  has become a  mess because it was hushed up. But for
the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about
all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of
the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it
is  the other way  round. I think  the  human race originally  hushed it  up
because it had become such a mess.  Modern people are always saying, "Sex is
nothing to be ashamed of." They may mean two things. They may mean "There is
nothing to be ashamed of in  the fact  that the human race reproduces itself
in a  certain way, nor  in the  fact that it  gives pleasure." If they  mean
that, they are right. Christianity  says the same. It  is not the thing, nor
the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers  said  that if
man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now,
would actually have been greater. I  know some muddle-headed Christians have
talked as if Christianity thought that sex,  or the body,  or pleasure, were
bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is  almost the only one
of the great religions which thoroughly approves  of the body-which believes
that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a  human body,  that some
kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an
essential  part of our happiness,  our beauty,  and our energy. Christianity
has glorified marriage  more  than  any other religion: and  nearly  all the
greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone
says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But,
of course, when people say, "Sex is nothing to be ashamed of," they may mean
"the  state into  which the sexual  instinct  has now  got is  nothing to be
ashamed of."
     If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I  think it is everything to
be ashamed of. There is nothing  to be ashamed  of  in enjoying  your  food:
there would  be everything  to be ashamed of if half the world made food the
main  interest  of  their lives and spent their time looking at  pictures of
food  and dribbling and  smacking their lips.  I do not say  you  and I  are
individually  responsible  for the  present  situation. Our  ancestors  have
handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up
surrounded by propaganda in favour of unchastity. There  are people who want
to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because,
of  course,  a  man  with  an  obsession  is  a  man  who  has  very  little
sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had
no difficulties to  overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance
of our will to overcome them.
     Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.  Those who really wish
for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult.
It is easy to think that  we want something when we do not really want it. A
famous Christian long ago  told us  that when he was a  young man  he prayed
constantly for chastity; but years later he realised that while his lips had
been saying, "Oh Lord,  make me chaste," his heart had been secretly adding,
"But please don't do  it just yet."  This may  happen in  prayers for  other
virtues too; but there are three  reasons why  it is now specially difficult
for us to desire-let alone to achieve-complete chastity.
     In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all
the contemporary propaganda  for lust,  combine to  make us  feel  that  the
desires we are resisting are so "natural," so  "healthy," and so reasonable,
that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster,
film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual  indulgence
with the ideas of health, normality, youth,  frankness, and good humour. Now
this  association  is  a  lie.  Like all  powerful  lies, it is  based  on a
truth-the  truth,  acknowledged  above, that  sex in  itself (apart from the
excesses and obsessions that have grown round it) is "normal" and "healthy,"
and all the rest of it. The lie  consists in  the suggestion that any sexual
act to which you are tempted at the moment  is also healthy  and normal. Now
this, on  any conceivable  view, and quite apart from Christianity, must  be
nonsense.  Surrender  to  all our  desires  obviously  leads  to  impotence,
disease,  jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that  is the reverse
of  health, good  humour,  and frankness. For any happiness,  even  in  this
world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so  the claim made
by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for
nothing.  Every sane  and civilised man must have some  set of principles by
which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man
does  this on  Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another
on sociological principles.  The real  conflict is not between  Christianity
and "nature," but between  Christian principle and other  principles in  the
control of "nature." For "nature" (in the sense of natural desire) will have
to be  controlled anyway, unless you are going to  ruin your whole life. The
Christian principles are, admittedly, stricter than the others;  but then we
think you will get help towards obeying them which you will  not get towards
obeying the others.
     In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting
Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible.
But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility
or impossibility.  Faced with an optional question  in an examination paper,
one considers  whether  one  can  do  it or  not:  faced with  a  compulsory
question, one  must do the best one can. You  may get some marks for  a very
imperfect  answer:  you  will  certainly  get none  for leaving the question
alone. Not  only in examinations  but  in  war,  in  mountain  climbing,  in
learning to skate, or  swim, or ride a bicycle,  even  in fastening a  stiff
collar  with  cold  fingers, people  quite often do what  seemed  impossible
before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.
     We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity-like perfect charity-will
not  be attained by  any merely human efforts. You must ask for God's  help.
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help,
or less help than you need, is being  given. Never mind. After each failure,
ask forgiveness, pick yourself up,  and try again. Very often what God first
helps  us towards is  not  the virtue  itself but just this  power of always
trying  again. For however important chastity (or  courage, or truthfulness,
or any other virtue) may be, this  process trains  us in habits  of the soul
which are more important  still.  It cures our illusions about ourselves and
teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust
ourselves  even  in our best moments, and, on  the  other, that we  need not
despair even in  our  worst, for our failures are  forgiven. The  only fatal
thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.
     Thirdly,  people often  misunderstand  what  psychology  teaches  about
"repressions."  It  teaches  us  that  "repressed"  sex  is  dangerous.  But
"repressed" is here a technical term: it  does not mean "suppressed" in  the
sense of "denied" or  "resisted." A repressed desire or thought is one which
has been thrust  into the subconscious (usually at a very early age) and can
now  come  before  the mind  only in  a disguised  and unrecognisable  form.
Repressed sexuality  does not appear to the patient to be sexuality  at all.
When an adolescent or  an adult is engaged in  resisting a conscious desire,
he  is  not dealing with  a  repression nor  is he  in  the  least danger of
creating a repression. On  the contrary, those  who are seriously attempting
chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their own
sexuality than  anyone  else. They come to know  their desires as Wellington
knew Napoleon, or  as Sherlock Holmes knew Moriarty; as  a rat-catcher knows
rats  or   a  plumber  knows   about  leaky  pipes.   Virtue-even  attempted
virtue-brings light; indulgence brings fog.
     Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to
make it as clear as  I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is
not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard  unchastity as the supreme
vice, he is quite  wrong. The sins  of the  flesh are  bad, but they are the
least  bad  of all sins.  All the worst  pleasures are purely spiritual: the
pleasure of  putting other  people  in the wrong, of bossing and patronising
and spoiling  sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For
there are two things inside me, competing  with the human self which  I must
try  to  become. They  are the Animal self, and  the  Diabolical  self.  The
Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is  why a cold, self-righteous
prig  who  goes  regularly  to church  may  be  far  nearer  to hell  than a
prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

     The last chapter  was  mainly negative. I discussed what was wrong with
the sexual impulse in man, but said very little about  its  right working-in
other words, about Christian marriage. There are  two  reasons  why I do not
particularly  want  to deal with marriage. The first  is  that the Christian
doctrines on this subject are extremely unpopular. The second is that I have
never been  married  myself, and, therefore, can  speak only at second hand.
But in  spite of  that, I feel I  can  hardly leave  the subject out  in  an
account of  Christian morals.  The Christian  idea of  marriage is based  on
Christ's  words  that a  man  and  wife  are  to  be  regarded  as  a single
organism-for that is what the words "one flesh" would  be in modern English.
And the Christians believe that when He said this  He was  not  expressing a
sentiment  but stating  a fact-just as  one is stating a fact when  one says
that a lock and  its key are one mechanism, or that a  violin and  a bow are
one  musical instrument.  The inventor of  the human machine was  telling us
that  its two  halves,  the male and  the female,  were made to be  combined
together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The
monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge
in it  are trying  to isolate one  kind  of union (the sexual) from all  the
other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the
total  union. The Christian  attitude does not  mean that there  is anything
wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the  pleasure of eating. It
means that  you must not isolate that pleasure and  try to get it by itself,
any  more than  you  ought to try to  get  the  pleasures  of taste  without
swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.
     As a consequence, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There
is,  of course, a difference  here  between  different Churches: some do not
admit divorce at all; some allow it reluctantly in very special cases. It is
a great pity that Christians should disagree about such  a question; but for
an ordinary layman the thing  to notice is that Churches all agree with  one
another about  marriage a great deal more than  any of them  agrees with the
outside world. I mean,  they all regard divorce as something like cutting up
a  living  body, as  a kind of surgical  operation. Some of them  think  the
operation so violent that it cannot be done  at  all; others admit  it  as a
desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are  all agreed that it is more like
having  both your legs  cut  off  than it  is  like  dissolving  a  business
partnership or even deserting  a regiment What they all disagree with is the
modern view that  it  is  a  simple  readjustment of  partners,  to  be made
whenever people  feel they are  no  longer in love with one another, or when
either of them falls in love with someone else.
     Before we  consider this modern  view in its relation  to  chastity, we
must  not  forget  to  consider it in  relation  to  another  virtue, namely
justice. Justice, as I said before, includes the keeping  of  promises.  Now
everyone who has  been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise
to  stick  to his (or her)  partner  till death.  The duty  of keeping  that
promise has no special connection  with sexual morality: it  is  in the same
position  as any other promise.  If, as modern people are always telling us,
the sexual impulse is just like all our  other impulses, then it ought to be
treated  like all  our other impulses; and as their indulgence is controlled
by our promises, so  should its be. If, as I think,  it is not like all  our
other impulses,  but  is  morbidly  inflamed,  then we should be  especially
careful not to let it lead us into dishonesty.
     To this someone may reply that he regarded  the promise made in  church
as a mere formality and never intended to keep it. Whom, then, was he trying
to deceive when he made  it? God? That was really very unwise. Himself? That
was not  very much wiser. The bride,  or bridegroom, or the  "in-laws"? That
was treacherous.  Most often,  I think, the couple (or one of them) hoped to
deceive the  public. They  wanted  the  respectability  that is attached  to
marriage without intending to pay  the price:  that is, they were imposters,
they cheated.  If they are  still contented cheats, I have nothing to say to
them: who would urge the high and  hard duty of chastity on  people who have
not  yet wished  to be merely honest? If they have now  come to their senses
and want to  be honest, their  promise,  already made, constrains  them. And
this,  you  will  see, comes  under  the  heading  of justice, not  that  of
chastity. If  people do  not believe in  permanent marriage,  it  is perhaps
better that they should live together unmarried  than that they should  make
vows  they do not mean to  keep. It is true that by living  together without
marriage they  will be  guilty (in  Christian  eyes) of fornication. But one
fault  is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding
     The idea that "being in love" is the only reason for remaining  married
really leaves no room for marriage as a  contract or promise at all. If love
is the  whole  thing, then  the  promise can add  nothing;  and if  it  adds
nothing,  then  it should  not be made. The curious  thing  is  that  lovers
themselves, while they remain  really in  love, know this better than  those
who talk about love. As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a
natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over  the
world are  full of  vows  of  eternal constancy.  The Christian  law  is not
forcing  upon  the  passion  of  love  something which  is  foreign  to that
passion's own nature:  it is  demanding  that lovers  should take  seriously
something which their passion of itself impels them to do.
     And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in
love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits one to being true
even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do,
about  actions:  no one can promise to go on feeling in  a certain  way.  He
might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry. But
what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are
no longer in love? There are several  sound, social  reasons;  to  provide a
home for their  children, to protect  the woman (who has probably sacrificed
or damaged  her own career by  getting  married) from being dropped whenever
the man is tired of her. But there is also another reason of which I am very
sure, though I find it a little hard to explain.
     It is  hard because so  many people cannot be brought  to realise  that
when B is better than C, A may be  even better than B. They like thinking in
terms of  good  and bad,  not of good, better, and best, or  bad, worse  and
worst. They want  to know whether you think patriotism a good thing:  if you
reply  that it is, of  course,  far  better than individual selfishness, but
that it  is  inferior to universal charity  and  should always  give  way to
universal charity when the  two conflict,  they think you are being evasive.
They  ask what you  think of dueling. If you reply that it is far better  to
forgive  a man than to fight a duel with him, but that even  a duel might be
better  than a lifelong enmity which expresses itself in  secret  efforts to
"do the man down," they go away complaining that  you would not give  them a
straight answer.  I hope no one  will make this mistake  about what I am now
going to say.
     What we call "being in love" is a glorious state, and, in several ways,
good for us. It helps to make us generous  and courageous, it opens our eyes
not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates
(especially  at first) our merely  animal  sexuality; in that sense, love is
the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would  deny that being  in
love is far better than either  common sensuality or cold  self-centredness.
But, as I said  before, "the  most dangerous thing you can do is to take any
one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow
at all  costs." Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing.
There are  many  things below it, but  there are also things  above it.  You
cannot  make it the basis of a whole  life. It is a noble feeling, but it is
still  a feeling. Now  no  feeling  can be  relied  on  to last in its  full
intensity, or even to last at all.  Knowledge can last, principles can last,
habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say,
the state called "being in love" usually does not last. If the old fairytale
ending "They lived happily ever after" is taken to mean  "They  felt for the
next  fifty years  exactly as  they felt  the day before they were married,"
then it says what probably  never  was  nor ever could be true, and would be
highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for
even five years? What would become of your work,  your appetite, your sleep,
your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to  be "in  love"  need  not  mean
ceasing to love. Love in this second  sense-love as distinct  from "being in
love" is not merely  a feeling.  It is a deep unity, maintained by  the will
and  deliberately  strengthened  by  habit;  reinforced   by  (in  Christian
marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can
have  this love for each other  even at those moments when they do not  like
each other; as you  love yourself even when you do  not  like yourself. They
can  retain  this  love  even  when  each  would  easily,  if  they  allowed
themselves, be "in love" with someone else. "Being in love" first moved them
to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep  the promise. It
is on  this love  that the engine of marriage is run:  being in love was the
explosion that started it.
     If you disagree with me, of course,  you will  say,  "He knows  nothing
about it, he is  not  married."  You may quite possibly be right. But before
you say  that,  make  quite sure that you are judging me by what you  really
know from your own experience  and from watching the  lives of your friends,
and not by ideas you have derived from novels and films. This is not so easy
to do as people think.  Our  experience  is coloured through and through  by
books  and  plays  and  the  cinema,  and it takes  patience  and  skill  to
disentangle the things we have really learned from life for ourselves.
     People  get  from  books the idea  that if  you have married  the right
person you may expect to go on "being in  love" for ever. As a result,  when
they find they are not,  they think this proves they have made a mistake and
are  entitled to a  change-not realising that,  when  they have changed, the
glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old
one.  In this department of life, as  in every  other,  thrills come  at the
beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of
flying will not go on when  he  has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning
to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some  delightful place dies away
when you really  go to live there. Does this mean it would  be better not to
learn to fly  and not to  live in the beautiful place?  By no means. In both
cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be
compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more
(and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this),  it is
just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle
down to the sober interest, who are then  most likely to meet new thrills in
some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and becomes a
good  pilot will suddenly discover music; the man  who has  settled down  to
live in the beauty spot will discover gardening.
     This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a
thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying
to keep any thrill: that is the  very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill
go-let it  die away-go on through that  period  of  death  into the  quieter
interest and happiness that  follow -and you will find you are  living  in a
world of new thrills all the time. But if you  decide  to  make thrills your
regular diet and try to prolong them  artificially, they will all get weaker
and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and  you will be a bored, disillusioned old
man for the rest of your  life.  It is because so few people understand this
that you  find many  middle-aged  men and  women maundering about their lost
youth, at the very age when new horizons ought to be appearing and new doors
opening all round them. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on
endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get  back the feeling you had when  you
first went paddling as a small boy.
     Another  notion  we get from novels and plays is that "falling in love"
is  something quite irresistible; something that just  happens to one,  like
measles. And  because they  believe  this,  some married people throw up the
sponge  and  give  in  when  they  find  themselves  attracted  by   a   new
acquaintance. But I  am inclined to think  that these  irresistible passions
are much rarer in real life than in books, at any rate when one is grown up.
When we  meet someone beautiful  and clever  and  sympathetic, of course  we
ought, in one sense, to admire and love these good qualities. But  is it not
very  largely in our own choice whether this love shall,  or shall not, turn
into what we call "being in love"? No doubt, if our minds are full of novels
and  plays and  sentimental songs, and  our bodies full of alcohol, we shall
turn  any love we feel into that kind  of love: just as if you have a rut in
your path all the rainwater will run into  that rut, and  if you  wear  blue
spectacles everything  you see  will turn  blue. But  that  will be  our own
     Before leaving the question  of divorce, I  should  like to distinguish
two  things which  are  very often  confused.  The  Christian conception  of
marriage  is  one:  the  other  is  the  quite  different  question-now  far
Christians,  if  they  are  voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to
force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them
in the  divorce laws.  A great many  people seem to think that if you are  a
Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I
do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans
tried to prevent the  rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the
Churches should frankly recognise  that the majority of the  British  people
are  not Christians  and,  therefore,  cannot be expected to live  Christian
lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the
State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the  Church
with rules enforced by her  on her own members. The distinction  ought to be
quite sharp,  so that  a man knows which  couples are married in a Christian
sense and which are not
     So much  for the Christian  doctrine  about the permanence of marriage.
Something  else, even more unpopular, remains  to  be dealt  with. Christian
wives promise to obey their husbands. In Christian marriage the man  is said
to  be the "head." Two  questions obviously arise here, (1) Why should there
be a head at all -why not equality? (2) Why should it be the man?
     (1) The  need  for some head  follows  from the  idea that marriage  is
permanent Of course, as long as the husband and wife are agreed, no question
of a head need arise; and we may hope that this will  be the normal state of
affairs in a Christian marriage. But when there is a real disagreement, what
is to happen? Talk it over, of course; but I am assuming they have done that
and still failed to reach agreement What do they do next? They cannot decide
by a  majority  vote,  for  in a council of two  there  can be  no majority.
Surely,  only  one  or other of  two things  can happen:  either  they  must
separate  and  go their own  ways or else  one or other of them must  have a
casting vote. If marriage is permanent, one or other party must, in the last
resort,  have the power of  deciding the  family policy.  You  cannot have a
permanent association without a constitution.
     (2) If there  must be a head, why the man? Well, firstly, is there  any
very serious  wish  that  it  should be the woman? As I have said,  I am not
married myself, but  as far as 1 can  see, even a woman who wants to be  the
head of her own house does not usually  admire the same state of things when
she finds it going on next door. She is much more likely to say "Poor Mr. X!
Why  he allows that appalling woman to boss  him about  the  way she does is
more than I can imagine." I do not think she is even very nattered if anyone
mentions the fact of her own "headship."  There must be something  unnatural
about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half
ashamed  of  it and despise  the husbands whom  they rule. But there is also
another  reason; and here I speak quite frankly as a bachelor, because it is
a  reason  you  can  see  from outside even  better  than  from inside.  The
relations of the family to the outer world-what might be  called its foreign
policy-must  depend, in the  last resort, upon the  man,  because he  always
ought to be, and  usually is, much more just  to  the  outsiders. A woman is
primarily fighting for her  own children and husband against the rest of the
world. Naturally, almost, in  a  sense, rightly,  their claims override, for
her, all  other  claims. She is the special trustee of their interests.  The
function of  the  husband is to see that this natural  preference of hers is
not given its head. He  has the last word in order  to  protect other people
from the intense family  patriotism of the wife. If anyone  doubts this, let
me ask a simple  question. If your dog has bitten the child next door, or if
your child has hurt the dog next  door,  which would you sooner have to deal
with, the master of that house or the mistress? Or,  if  you  are a  married
woman, let me ask you this question. Much as  you admire your husband, would
you not say  that his chief failing is his tendency not to  stick up for his
rights and yours against the neighbours as vigorously as you  would  like? A
bit of an Appeaser?

     I said in a previous  chapter  that  chastity was the most unpopular of
the Christian virtues. But I am not sure  I was  right  I believe  the one I
have to  talk of  today  is even more unpopular:  the Christian  rule, "Thou
shalt  love thy  neighbour  as thyself." Because  hi Christian  morals  "thy
neighbour" includes  "thy  enemy," and so we  come  up against this terrible
duty of forgiving our enemies. Every one says forgiveness is  a lovely idea,
until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to
mention the  subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger.  It is not
that  people  think this too  high and  difficult a virtue: it is that  they
think it hateful and contemptible. "That sort of talk makes them sick," they
say. And half of you  already want to ask me, "I wonder how you'd feel about
forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?"
     So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells  me that I
must  not  deny my religion even  to  save myself from death  by torture,  I
wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying
to  tell  you in this book what I  could  do-I can do  precious  little-I am
telling  you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right  in
the  middle of it, I find "Forgive us our sins as we forgive  those that sin
against  us."  There  is  no  slightest   suggestion  that  we  are  offered
forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly dear  that if we do not
forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no  two  ways about it. What are
we to do?
     It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things
we can do to make  it easier. When you start mathematics  you  do  not begin
with the  calculus; you begin with simple  addition.  In the same way, if we
really want  (but all  depends on really wanting) to learn  how to  forgive,
perhaps  we  had better start  with something easier than  the  Gestapo. One
might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children, or
the nearest N.C.O., for something they  have done or said in the last  week.
That will probably keep us  busy for the  moment. And secondly, we might try
to  understand exactly what loving  your neighbour as yourself means. I have
to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?
     Now that I come to think of it,  I have  not  exactly  got a feeling of
fondness or  affection for myself,  and  1 do  not  even always enjoy my own
society. So  apparently  "Love your neighbour"  does not mean  "feel fond of
him" or "find him attractive." I ought to have seen that before, because, of
course, you cannot feel  fond of a person  by  trying. Do 1  think  well  of
myself, think myself  a nice chap?  Well, I  am afraid  I  sometimes do (and
those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In
fact it,  is the  other  way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice,
but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does
not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an  enormous  relief.
For a good many people  imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out
that they are  really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain
that they are. Go  a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only
do  I not think myself a nice man, but I know that  I am a very nasty one. I
can  look  at  some  of the things I have done with horror and loathing.  So
apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do.
Now that I come to think of it,  I remember Christian  teachers  telling  me
long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or,
as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.
     For  a  long  time I  used  to  think  this  a  silly,  straw-splitting
distinction:  how  could you hate what  a man did and  not hate the man? But
years later it  occurred to  me  that there was one man to whom  I  had been
doing  this all my  life-namely myself. However much  I might dislike my own
cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been
the  slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very  reason why I hated the
things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to
find  that I was  the  sort of  man  who  did  those  things.  Consequently,
Christianity does not want us to reduce by one  atom  the hatred we feel for
cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them.  Not one word of  what we have
said about them needs to be  unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the
same way in  which  we  hate things in ourselves: being  sorry that the  man
should have  done  such things, and  hoping, if it is anyway  possible, that
somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again.
     The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story  of  filthy atrocities
in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story
might not be quite true, or not  quite so  bad as it was made out. Is  one's
first feeling, "Thank  God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it
a feeling of disappointment,  and even a determination to cling to the first
story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If
it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which,
if followed to the end, will  make us into devils. You see, one is beginning
to  wish  that black was a little  blacker. If we  give that wish  its head,
later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as
black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything-God and our friends and
ourselves  included-as bad, and not  be able to stop doing it:  we  shall be
fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
     Now  a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No,
for  loving  myself does not  mean that  I ought not  to subject  myself  to
punishment-even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian
thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is,
therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian  judge to sentence
a  man  to death or  a Christian soldier  to  kill an enemy.  I always  have
thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and  long before the war, and I
still think so now that we are at peace. It  is no good quoting "Thou  shalt
not kill." There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word
to murder. And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in
all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same
distinction in  Hebrew. All killing is  not murder  any more than all sexual
intercourse is  adultery. When soldiers came to St.  John the Baptist asking
what to do, he never  remotely suggested that  they ought to leave the army:
nor  did  Christ  when  He met a  Roman  sergeant-major-what  they called  a
centurion. The idea of the knight-the Christian in arms for the defence of a
good cause-is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, and
I can respect an honest pacifist, though  I think he is  entirely  mistaken.
What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays which
gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with
a long face  and as if you were  ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs
lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of  something they have
a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment  of courage- a kind
of gaity and wholeheartedness.
     I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served
in  the  first  world  war, I  and some young  German had killed  each other
simultaneously  and  found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot
imagine that  either of  us  would  have  felt any  resentment or  even  any
embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.
     I imagine  somebody will say,  "Well,  if one is allowed to condemn the
enemy's acts, and punish him, and kill him,  what difference is left between
Christian morality and the ordinary  view?" All the difference in the world.
Remember,  we Christians think  man  lives  for ever. Therefore, what really
matters is  those little marks  or twists on the central, inside part of the
soul  which are  going  to turn  it, in the long run,  into  a heavenly or a
hellish creature.  We may kill if  necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy
hating. We may  punish  if necessary, but  we must  not enjoy  it.  In other
words,  something inside  us, the feeling of  resentment, the  feeling  that
wants to get one's own  back,  must  be simply  killed.  I do  not mean that
anyone can decide this moment  that he will never feel it any more. That  is
not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after
day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit  it on the head. It is
hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. Even  while we kill and punish
we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves- to wish that
he were not bad. to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in
fact, to wish his good.  That  is what is meant  in the Bible by loving him:
wishing his good, jot feeling fond of him nor  saving he  is nice when he is
     I admit that  this means loving people who have nothing  lovable  about
them. But then, has oneself anything  lovable about  it? You love  it simply
because it is yourself, God  intends  us to love all selves in the same  way
and for the same reason: but He has given us the sum ready worked out on our
own case to show us  how it works. We have then to go on and apply  the rule
to all the other selves. Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that
is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have,
but just because we  are  the things  called  selves.  For  really there  is
nothing  else in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such
a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco. ...

     Today I come to that  part  of Christian  morals where they differ most
sharply  from  all  other morals.  There is one vice of which no man in  the
world  is  free;  which  every one  in the world loathes  when he sees it in
someone  else; and  of  which  hardly any  people, except  Christians,  ever
imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they
are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink,
or  even  that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who
was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have
very seldom  met anyone, who was not  a Christian, who showed  the slightest
mercy  to it in others. There is  no fault which makes a man more unpopular,
and no fault which We are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the  more we
have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.
     The vice I  am  talking  of  is Pride or Self-Conceit: and  the  virtue
opposite to  it, in Christian morals,  is called Humility. You may remember,
when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned  you  that the  centre of
Christian morals  did not lie there. Well,  now, we have come to the centre.
According to Christian  teachers,  the essential  vice, the utmost  evil, is
Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed,  drunkenness,  and  all that, are mere flea
bites  in comparison:  it was through Pride that the devil became the devil:
Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
     Does this seem  to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out
a moment  ago  that the more pride one had, the more one  disliked pride  in
others. In fact, if you  want to find out how  proud you are the easiest way
is to ask yourself, "How much do I dislike  it when other people snub me, or
refuse to take any  notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or
show off?"  The point it that each person's  pride  is  in  competition with
every  one else's pride. It is  because I wanted to be the big noise at  the
party that I am  so annoyed at someone else  being  the  big noise. Two of a
trade never  agree.  Now what  you  want  to  get  clear  is that  Pride  is
essentially  competitive-is competitive by its very nature-while  the  other
vices  are competitive only, so to speak, by accident Pride gets no pleasure
out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We
say that people are  proud of being  rich,  or clever,  or good-looking, but
they are not  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking
than  others.  If  every  one  else  became  equally  rich,  or  clever,  or
good-looking there  would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison
that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element
of  competition has gone, pride has gone. That is  why I  say  that Pride is
essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse
may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl  But that
is only  by accident; they might  just as  likely  have wanted two different
girls. But a proud man  will take your girl from you,  not because  he wants
her, but  just to prove to himself  that he is a better  man than you. Greed
may drive men into competition if there is  not enough to go  round; but the
proud  man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to
get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world
which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result
of Pride.
     Take it with money. Greed will certainly make a man want money, for the
sake of a better house, better holidays, better things to eat and drink. But
only up to a point What is it dial makes a man  with  ?10,000 a year anxious
to get ?20,000 a year? It  is  not the greed for more pleasure. ?10,000 will
give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride-the wish to
be richer than  some other rich man,  and (still more) the  wish  for power.
For, of course, power  is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a
man feel so  superior to others  as  being  able to move them about like toy
soldiers.  What  makes  a  pretty  girl spread misery  wherever she goes  by
collecting admirers? Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is
quite often sexually frigid. It is Pride. What is it that makes  a political
leader or a whole nation go on and on, demanding more and more? Pride again.
Pride is competitive by its very nature: that is why it goes on and on. If I
am a proud man, then,  as long as there  is one  man in the whole world more
powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.
     The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of
misery in every nation  and  every family since the world began. Other vices
may  sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes
and friendliness among drunken people  or unchaste people.  But Pride always
means  enmity-it  is  enmity.  And not only enmity  between man and man, but
enmity to God.
     In  God  you  come  up  against  something  which  is in every  respect
immeasurably  superior  to  yourself.  Unless  you  know  God  as  that-and,
therefore, know yourself as nothing  in comparison-  you do  not know God at
all.  As  long as  you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is  always
looking  down on  things and people: and, of  course, as  long  as  you  are
looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
     That  raises a terrible question. How is it that people  who are  quite
obviously  eaten up with Pride  can  say they believe in God  and appear  to
themselves very  religious? I am  afraid it  means they  are  worshipping an
imaginary God.  They  theoretically admit themselves  to be  nothing  in the
presence of this phantom God,  but are really all  the time imagining how He
approves  of them and thinks them  far better than ordinary people: that is,
they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility  to  Him  and get  out  of it  a
pound's worth of Pride towards  their  fellow-men. I suppose it was of those
people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and
cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He
had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap.
Luckily,  we have a test Whenever  we find that our religious life is making
us feel  that we are good-above all,  that we are better than someone else-I
think we may  be  sure that we are  being acted on,  not by  God, but by the
devil  The  real test of being  in the presence  of  God is that you  either
forget about  yourself altogether  or see yourself as a small, dirty object.
It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
     It is a terrible thing  that  the worst of  all  the vices  can smuggle
itself  into the very centre of our religious life. But you can see why. The
other,  and  less bad, vices  come from the devil working on us  through our
animal nature. But  this does  not come through our animal nature  at all It
comes direct from Hell. It is  purely spiritual: consequently it is far more
subtle and deadly. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down
the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact,  often appeal to a boy's Pride, or, as
they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave  decently: many a man has
overcome cowardice, or lust, or  ill-temper by learning to  think that  they
are beneath his dignity-that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly
content to see you becoming chaste  and brave and self-con trolled provided,
all the time,  he is setting  up in you the Dictatorship of Pride-just as he
would be quite content  to see your chilblains cured if he was  allowed,  in
return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual  cancer:  it eats up  the
very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
     Before  leaving  this  subject  I  must  guard  against  some  possible
     (1)  Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on
the back  for doing a lesson well, the woman  whose beauty is praised by her
lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says "Well done," are pleased and ought
to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the  fact  that
you  have  pleased someone you wanted (and rightly  wanted)  to  please. The
trouble  begins when you pass from thinking,  "I have  pleased  him;  all is
well," to thinking, "What a fine person I must be to have done it." The more
you  delight in  yourself and the less you delight in the  praise, the worse
you are becoming. When you delight wholly in yourself and  do not care about
the praise  at all, you have reached the bottom. That is why vanity,  though
it is the sort of Pride which shows most on the surface, is really the least
bad  and most  pardonable  sort.  The  vain  person  wants praise, applause,
admiration, too much  and  is always  angling for  it. It is a fault,  but a
childlike and even (in an odd way) a humble fault. It shows that you are not
yet completely contented with  your own admiration.  You  value other people
enough to want them to look at you. You are, in fact, still human. The  real
black, diabolical Pride comes when  you look down on others so much that you
do not care what they think of you.  Of course, it is very right,  and often
our duty,  not to  care what people think of us, if we do  so  for the right
reason; namely, because we care  so incomparably  more what God  thinks. But
the Proud man has a different reason  for not  caring. He says "Why should I
care for  the  applause  of  that rabble  as  if their  opinion  were  worth
anything? And even if their opinions were of value, am  I the sort of man to
blush  with pleasure at a  compliment like some  chit of a girl at her first
dance?  No, I am  an integrated, adult personality. All I have done has been
done to satisfy my own ideals-or my artistic conscience-or the traditions of
my family- or, in a word, because I'm That Kind of Chap. If the mob like it,
let them. They're nothing to me." In this  way real  thoroughgoing Pride may
act  as a check on vanity;  for, as I  said a  moment ago, the  devil  loves
"curing"  a  small fault by giving you a great  one. We must try not  to  be
vain, but we must  never call  in our Pride  to  cure our vanity; better the
frying-pan than the fire.
     (2) We say in English that a man is "proud" of  his son, or his father,
or his school, or  regiment,  and it may  be  asked whether "pride" in  this
sense  is a sin. I think it depends on what, exactly, we mean by "proud of."
Very  often,  in  such  sentences, the phrase  "is  proud of" means  "has  a
warm-hearted admiration for." Such  an  admiration  is, of  course, very far
from being a sin. But it  might,  perhaps, mean that the  person in question
gives  himself airs on the ground of his distinguished father, or because he
belongs to a famous  regiment. This would,  clearly,  be a fault;  but  even
then,  it would  be better than being proud simply  of  himself. To love and
admire  anything  outside  yourself  is to  take  one step away  from  utter
spiritual ruin;  though we  shall not be  well so long as we love and admire
anything more than we love and admire God.
     (3)  We  must  not  think Pride is something  God forbids because He is
offended at it, or that  Humility is something He  demands as due to His own
dignity-as if God Himself  was  proud. He is not in the  least worried about
His  dignity. The  point is,  He wants you to know  Him; wants to  give  you
Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get
into any kind of touch  with  Him  you will, in fact, be  humble-delightedly
humble,  feeling the  infinite relief of having for once got rid of all  the
silly nonsense about  your  own  dignity  which  has  made you restless  and
unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this
moment  possible: trying to take off a lot  of  silly, ugly, fancy-dress  in
which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about  like the  little
idiots we  are. I wish  I had  got a bit further with humility myself: if  I
had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking
the fancy-dress off-getting rid of the false self, with all its "Look at me"
and  "Aren't  I a good  boy?"  and all its posing and posturing. To get even
near it,  even for  a moment, is like a drink of cold water  to  a man in  a
     (4) Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what
most people call "humble" nowadays: he  will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy
person,  who is always telling you that, of course, he is  nobody.  Probably
all you will  think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap
who took a real interest in what you  said  to him. If you do dislike him it
will be because you feel  a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life
so easily. He will not be thinking about humility:  he will not be  thinking
about himself at all.
     If anyone  would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the
first step.  The  first step is to realise  that one is proud. And a biggish
step, too. At  least,  nothing whatever  can be done before it. If you think
you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

     I said in an  earlier chapter that  there were  four "Cardinal" virtues
and three "Theological" virtues. The three Theological ones are Faith, Hope,
and Charity.  Faith is  going  to  be  dealt with  in the last two chapters.
Charity was partly dealt with in Chapter 7, but there I concentrated on that
part  of Charity which is  called Forgiveness.  I now want to add  a  little
     First,  as to the meaning of  the word. "Charity" now means simply what
used  to be called "alms"-that is, giving to  the  poor. Originally it had a
much wider  meaning. (You can see how  it got the modern sense. If a man has
"charity," giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and
so people  came to talk as if that were the whole of charity.  In  the  same
way, "rhyme" is the  most obvious thing about poetry, and  so people come to
mean by "poetry" simply rhyme and nothing more.) Charity means "Love, in the
Christian  sense."  But love,  in  the  Christian  sense, does  not mean  an
emotion.  It is a state not  of the  feelings but of the will; that state of
the will  which we  have naturally about  ourselves,  and must learn to have
about other people.
     I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves
does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In
the  same  way  Christian Love (or  Charity)  for our  neighbours is quite a
different thing from liking or affection.  We "like" or  are "fond  of" some
people, and  not of others. It is important  to understand that this natural
"liking" is  neither  a  sin  nor a virtue,  any more  than  your likes  and
dislikes in  food are a sin or a virtue. It is just a fact  But,  of course,
what we do about it is either sinful or virtuous.
     Natural  liking  or  affection  for  people  makes   it  easier  to  be
"charitable" towards  them. It is,  therefore,  normally a duty to encourage
our affections-to "like"  people as much as we can  (just as it is often our
duty  to encourage our  liking for exercise or wholesome  food)-not  because
this liking is itself  the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it
On  the  other hand, it is also  necessary to keep a very sharp look-out for
fear our liking  for some  one person makes us uncharitable, or even unfair,
to someone  else. There are even cases  where our liking  conflicts with our
charity towards  the person we like. For example,  a  doting  mother may  be
tempted by  natural affection to "spoil" her  child; that is, to gratify her
own affectionate impulses at the expense of the child's real happiness later
     But though natural  likings should  normally be encouraged, it would be
quite wrong  to think that the way to become charitable  is to sit trying to
manufacture  affectionate feelings. Some  people are  "cold" by temperament;
that may be a misfortune for them, but it is no more a sin than having a bad
digestion is a  sin; and it does not cut them out from the chance, or excuse
them from the duty, of learning charity. The rule for all of us is perfectly
simple. Do  not waste time bothering  whether you "love" your neighbour; act
as if  you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When
you  are behaving  as if you loved someone, you will presently  come to love
him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him
more. If  you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.
There is,  indeed, one exception. If  you do  him a good turn, not to please
God and obey the law of charity, but to show him  what a fine forgiving chap
you are, and to put  him  in  your debt, and then sit  down to wait  for his
"gratitude," you will  probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they
have  a  very quick eye for  anything like showing off, or  patronage.)  But
whenever we do  good to  another self, just because it is a self, made (like
us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall  have
learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.
     Consequently,  though Christian  charity  sounds  a  very cold thing to
people  whose  heads  are full of sentimentality, and  though  it  is  quite
distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a
Christian and a  worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections
or "likings" and the Christian  has only  "charity." The  worldly man treats
certain  people kindly because he  "likes"  them: the  Christian,  trying to
treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes
on-including people  he could  not even have imagined himself liking  at the
     This same spiritual  law works terribly in the opposite  direction. The
Germans, perhaps, at  first ill-treated the  Jews because they  hated  them:
afterwards they hated  them much more because they had ill-treated them. The
more cruel you are, the  more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more
cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle for ever.
     Good  and  evil both  increase at  compound interest.  That is  why the
little decisions you and I make every day are  of such infinite  importance.
The smallest good act today is the  capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later,  you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed
of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a
ridge  or railway line or bridgehead  from  which the  enemy  may  launch an
attack otherwise impossible.
     Some writers use the word charity to  describe  not only Christian love
between human beings, but  also God's love for  man and man's love  for God.
About the second  of these two, people are often worried. They are told they
ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are
they to do? The answer is the same as before.  Act as if you did. Do not sit
trying to  manufacture feelings. Ask yourself,  "If I were sure that I loved
God, what would I do?" When you have found the answer, go and do it.
     On the whole, God's love for us is a much  safer subject to think about
than  our love for Him. Nobody can  always have devout feelings: and even if
we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love,
either towards  God  or  towards man, is an  affair of the will. If  we  are
trying to do His  will  we are obeying the commandment, "Thou shalt love the
Lord  thy  God." He will  give us feelings of love if  He pleases. We cannot
create them for  ourselves, and we must not  demand them as a right. But the
great thing  to remember is that, though our feelings come and go,  His love
for us  does not. It  is not wearied  by our sins, or our indifference; and,
therefore,  it  is  quite relentless in its  determination that we  shall be
cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

     Hope  is  one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a  continual
looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern  people think) a
form  of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian  is
meant to do. It does  not mean that we are  to leave the present world as it
is. If  you read history you will find that the  Christians who did most for
the present world were just those who thought  most of the next The Apostles
themselves, who  set  on foot the conversion of  the Roman Empire, the great
men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the
Slave  Trade, all left  their  mark on Earth, precisely because their  minds
were occupied with  Heaven.  It  is since  Christians have largely ceased to
think of the other world  that  they have become so ineffective in this. Aim
at Heaven and you will get  earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get
neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at  work
in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health
one of your  main, direct  objects you start becoming a crank and  imagining
there  is  something  wrong  with  you. You are  only  likely to get  health
provided  you want other things more -food, games,  work,  fun, open air. In
the same  way, we shall  never save civilisation as long as  civilisation is
our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.
     Most of us find it very difficult  to want "Heaven" at all-except in so
far as "Heaven" means meeting  again our  friends who  have died. One reason
for this difficulty  is  that we have  not been trained: our whole education
tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason  is that when the  real
want for Heaven is  present in us,  we do  not recognise it Most  people, if
they had really learned to look  into their own hearts, would know that they
do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There
are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they
never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first
fall in love, or first  think of some foreign country, or first take up some
subject  that excites  us,  are longings which no marriage,  no  travel,  no
learning,  can  really  satisfy.  I  am not now speaking of  what  would  be
ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I
am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in
that first moment of longing, which  just fades away in the reality. I think
everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the  hotels and
scenery  may  have been excellent,  and chemistry may be  a very interesting
job:  but something  has evaded us. Now there are  two wrong ways of dealing
with this fact, and one right one.
     (1) The Fool's Way.-He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes
on all  his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a
more expensive holiday, or whatever  it is, then, this time, he really would
catch  the  mysterious  something  we  are  all  after. Most of  the  bored,
discontented,  rich people in the  world are of this type.  They spend their
whole lives trotting from woman  to woman (through the divorce courts), from
continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest
is "the Real Thing" at last, and always disappointed.
     (2) The Way of  the Disillusioned "Sensible Man."-He soon decides  that
the whole thing was moonshine. "Of  course,"  he says, "one feels  like that
when one's young. But by the time you get  to my age you've given up chasing
the rainbow's end." And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much
and represses the part of himself which used,  as he would say, "to cry  for
the moon." This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a
man much happier, and less of a  nuisance to society. It tends to make him a
prig (he is apt to be rather  superior towards what he calls "adolescents"),
but, on the whole,  he rubs along  fairly comfortably. It would be the  best
line  we could take  if man did not  live for  ever.  But supposing infinite
happiness  really is  there, waiting for us? Supposing one  really can reach
the rainbow's end? In that case it would be  a pity to find out too  late (a
moment  after death) that by our supposed  "common sense" we had  stifled in
ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.
     (3) The Christian Way.-The Christian says, "Creatures are not born with
desires unless satisfaction  for  those desires exists. A  baby feels hunger
well, there is such a  thing as food. A duckling  wants to swim: well, there
is such a thing as water. Men feel  sexual  desire: well,  there is  such  a
thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world
can satisfy, the most probable explanation is  that I  was made for  another
world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that  does not prove that
the universe is  a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures  were  never  meant to
satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so,
I must take  care, on the  one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for,
these earthly blessings, and  on the  other, never  to mistake them  for the
something else  of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I
must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I  shall not
find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside;
I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and
to help others to do the same."
     There is no  need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the
Christian  hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying they do not want  "to spend
eternity playing harps."  The answer  to such people is that if they  cannot
understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All
the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of  course, a  merely
symbolical  attempt  to  express the inexpressible. Musical instruments  are
mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in  the
present life  which most strongly suggests ecstasy and  infinity. Crowns are
mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity
share His  splendour and power  and joy. Gold  is  mentioned to suggest  the
timelessness of  Heaven (gold  does not rust) and  the  preciousness  of  it
People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ
told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.

     I  must talk in  this chapter  about what the  Christians  call  Faith.
Roughly  speaking,  the  word Faith seems to be used by  Christians  in  two
senses or on two levels, and I will take them in turn. In the first sense it
means  simply  Belief-accepting  or  regarding  as  true  the  doctrines  of
Christianity. That is fairly simple. But what does puzzle people-at least it
used to puzzle me-is the fact that Christians  regard faith in this sense as
a virtue, I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue-what  is there moral
or immoral about believing or not believing a set  of statements? Obviously,
I  used to say, a sane man accepts or rejects any statement, not  because he
wants  or does not want to,  but because the evidence  seems to him  good or
bad. If he were  mistaken about the goodness or badness of the evidence that
would not mean he was a bad  man, but  only that he was not very clever. And
if  he  thought the evidence bad  but  tried to force himself to  believe in
spite of it, that would be merely stupid.
     Well, I think I still take that view.  But what I did not see then- and
a  good many people do  not see still-was  this. I was  assuming that if the
human  mind once  accepts a  thing  as true  it  will  automatically  go  on
regarding it as true, until some real reason for  reconsidering it turns up.
In fact, I was assuming that the  human mind is completely ruled  by reason.
But that is not so.  For  example, my reason  is perfectly convinced by good
evidence  that  anaesthetics  do  not smother me and that  properly  trained
surgeons do  not start operating until I am unconscious.  But that  does not
alter  the  fact  that when they have me down on  the table  and clap  their
horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic  begins inside me. I start
thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start  cutting me up
before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics.
It is not reason that is taking away my faith:  on the contrary, my faith is
based on reason. It  is my imagination  and emotions. The battle  is between
faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.
     When  you think of it you will  see lots  of instances of  this.  A man
knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is
a liar  and  cannot keep a secret  and ought not to be trusted;  but when he
finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and
he  starts thinking,  "Perhaps she'll be different this time," and once more
makes a fool of himself and tells  her something  he ought not to  have told
her. His senses  and  emotions  have destroyed  his faith in what  he really
knows to be true. Or take a boy learning to swim. His reason knows perfectly
well that an unsupported human body will  not necessarily sink in  water: he
has seen dozens of people float and swim. But the whole question is  whether
he  will be able to go on  believing this when the instructor takes away his
hand  and  leaves  him unsupported in the water-or whether he  will suddenly
cease to believe it and get in a fright and go down.
     Now  just  the same thing happens about  Christianity. I  am not asking
anyone  to accept  Christianity  if his best reasoning  tells  him that  the
weight of the evidence  is against it. That is not the  point at which Faith
comes in.  But supposing a  man's reason once decides that the weight of the
evidence is  for it.  I can tell that man what is going to happen  to him in
the next few weeks. There  will come a moment when there is bad  news, or he
is in trouble, or is living  among a lot of other people who  do not believe
it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of  blitz
on his belief.  Or else there will come a moment when  he wants a  woman, or
wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of
making a little money in some  way that is not perfectly fair: some  moment,
in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.
And once  again his  wishes  and desires will carry  out  a blitz. I am  not
talking of moments at  which any real new  reasons against Christianity turn
up.  Those have  to  be faced and that  is a different matter. I am  talking
about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.
     Now Faith, in the sense in which I  am here using the  word, is the art
of holding on  to things your  reason  has once accepted,  in spite of  your
changing moods. For  moods will change, whatever  view your  reason takes. I
know that by experience.  Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which
the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods
in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods
against your real self is going to come anyway. That  is why Faith is such a
necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods "where they  get off," you can
never  be either  a sound Christian  or  even a  sound atheist, but  just  a
creature dithering to  and  fro,  with  its beliefs really dependent  on the
weather and  the  state  of its digestion. Consequently one must  train  the
habit of Faith.
     The first  step is to recognise the  fact that  your moods change.  The
next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some
of its main doctrines shall be  deliberately held before your mind  for some
time every day. That  is why daily  prayers and religious reading and church
going are  necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be  continually
reminded  of  what  we  believe.  Neither  this belief  nor any  other  will
automatically  remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.  And as a matter of
fact,  if  you examined  a  hundred  people  who  had  lost  their faith  in
Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned
out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?
     Now I must turn to Faith in the second or higher sense: and this is the
most difficult thing I have tackled yet. I want to approach it by going back
to the  subject  of  Humility.  You may remember I said that  the first step
towards humility was  to  realise that one is proud. I want to  add now that
the next step  is to make  some serious attempt to  practise  the  Christian
virtues. A week  is not enough. Things  often  go  swimmingly for the  first
week.  Try six weeks. By that time, having,  as far as one can  see,  fallen
back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will
have discovered  some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he  is till
he has tried very  hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people
do not know what  temptation means. This is an  obvious lie. Only those  who
try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you  find out the
strength of the German army by fighting  against  it, not by  giving in. You
find out the  strength of a wind by trying to walk against it,  not by lying
down. A man  who  gives in to temptation after five minutes simply  does not
know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people,  in
one sense, know very little about badness. They have  lived a sheltered life
by  always  giving in.  We never find out the strength of  the evil  impulse
inside us until we  try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man
who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the  full
what temptation means-the only complete realist.  Very well, then. The  main
thing  we learn from a serious  attempt to practise the Christian virtues is
that we fail. If  there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam, and
that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If
there was any idea  of a sort  of bargain-any idea that we could perform our
side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him,
in mere justice, to perform His side-that has to be wiped out.
     I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he  becomes a
Christian, has the idea  of an exam,  or of a bargain in his mind. The first
result  of real Christianity is to blow that idea into  bits. When they find
it  blown  into bits, some  people think this means  that Christianity is  a
failure and give up. They seem to imagine that God is very simple-minded! In
fact,  of  course,  He  knows  all  about  this.  One  of  the  very  things
Christianity was designed  to do was to blow this idea to bits. God has been
waiting for  the moment at which you  discover that there is no question  of
earning a pass mark in this exam, or putting Him in your debt.
     Then comes  another discovery.  Every faculty  you have,  your power of
thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God.
If you devoted  every moment of  your whole life exclusively  to His service
you could not give Him anything  that was not in a sense His own already. So
that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God,
I will tell you what  it is really  like. It is like a small child going  to
its  father and  saying, "Daddy,  give  me  sixpence to buy you  a  birthday
present." Of course, the  father  does, and he  is pleased with the  child's
present. It is all very nice and proper,  but only an idiot would think that
the father  is sixpence to the good on  the transaction. When a man has made
these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real
life begins. The  man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the
second sense.

     I want  to  start by  saying  something that I would like  everyone  to
notice  carefully.  It is this. If this chapter  means nothing to you, if it
seems to  be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do
not bother about  it  at all. There are certain things in Christianity  that
can be understood from the outside,  before you have become a Christian. But
there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have
gone a certain distance  along the Christian  road.  These things are purely
practical, though they do not look as if  they were. They are directions for
dealing with particular cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do
not make sense  until a man has reached those places. Whenever you find  any
statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry.
Leave it alone. There  will  come  a  day,  perhaps  years later,  when  you
suddenly see what  it meant If one could understand it now, it would only do
one harm.
     Of course all this tells against me as much as anyone else. The thing I
am going  to try to  explain in this  chapter  may be ahead  of me. I may be
thinking  I  have got there when I  have not.  I  can  only  ask  instructed
Christians to watch  very carefully, and tell me when I go wrong; and others
to take what I  say with a grain of  salt- as something offered, because  it
may be a help, not because I am certain that I am right.
     I am  trying to talk about Faith in the second sense, the higher sense.
I said last week that the question of Faith in this sense arises after a man
has tried his level best to  practise the Christian virtues, and found  that
he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God
what was already  God's  own. In other words, he  discovers  his bankruptcy.
Now, once  again, what  God cares  about is not exactly our actions. What he
cares about is that we should be creatures of a certain kind or quality- the
kind  of creatures He  intended us to  be-creatures  related to Himself in a
certain way.  I do not  add "and related to one  another  in a certain way,"
because  that  is included: if you are right with Him you will inevitably be
right with all your  fellow-creatures, just as if all the  spokes of a wheel
are fitted rightly  into  the hub and  the  rim they  are bound to be in the
right  positions to one another. And  as long as a man is thinking of God as
an examiner  who has set him a sort of paper to do, or as the opposite party
in a  sort of bargain-as long as he is thinking  of claims and counterclaims
between himself and  God-he is  not yet in the right relation to Him. He  is
misunderstanding  what he  is  and what God is.  And he cannot  get into the
right relation until he has discovered the fact of our bankruptcy.
     When I say  "discovered," I  mean really discovered: not simply said it
parrot-fashion. Of  course, any child, if given a  certain kind of religious
education, will  soon learn to say that we have nothing to offer to God that
is not already His own and that we find ourselves failing to offer even that
without keeping something back. But I am talking of really discovering this:
really finding out by experience that it is true.
     Now  we cannot, in that sense,  discover our failure to keep God's  law
except by trying our  very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try,
whatever we say there will always be at the back  of our minds the idea that
if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good.  Thus,
in one  sense,  the  road back to God is a road  of moral effort,  of trying
harder and harder. But in another sense it is not  trying that is ever going
to bring us home. All this trying  leads up to the vital moment at which you
turn  to  God and say, "You must  do this. I can't." Do not,  I implore you,
start asking  yourselves, "Have I reached that  moment?" Do not sit down and
start watching your own mind to see if it is  coming along.  That puts a man
quite on the wrong track. When the most important  things in our life happen
we quite often do not know, at the  moment, what is going on. A man does not
always say to himself,  "Hullo! I'm  growing up." It is  often only  when he
looks back  that he realises  what has  happened and recognises it  as  what
people call "growing up." You can see it even in  simple matters.  A man who
starts anxiously watching to see whether he is going to sleep is very likely
to remain wide awake. As well, the thing I  am talking of now may not happen
to every one in a sudden flash-as  it did to St Paul or Bunyan: it may be so
gradual  that no  one  could  ever point to  a  particular  hour  or even  a
particular year. And what matters is the nature of the change in itself, not
how we  feel while  it is happening.  It is the change from  being confident
about our own efforts to the state in which we despair of doing anything for
ourselves and leave it to God.
     I know the words "leave it to God"  can be misunderstood, but they must
stay for the moment. The sense in which a Christian leaves it to God is that
he puts all his trust in Christ: trusts that Christ  will somehow share with
him  the perfect human obedience which He carried out  from His birth to His
crucifixion:  that  Christ  will make the  man more  like Himself  and, in a
sense, make good his deficiencies.  In Christian language, He will share His
"sonship"  with us, will make us, like Himself, "Sons of God": in Book  IV I
shall attempt to analyse the meaning of those words a little further. If you
like to put it that way, Christ offers something for nothing: He even offers
everything for nothing.  In a  sense, the whole Christian  life consists  in
accepting that very  remarkable offer. But  the difficulty is  to reach  the
point of recognising that  all we  have done and can do is nothing. What  we
should have liked would  be for God to count our good  points and ignore our
bad ones. Again, in a sense, you may say that no temptation is ever overcome
until we stop trying to overcome it- throw up the sponge. But then you could
not  "stop trying" in the right  way and for the  right reason until you had
tried your very hardest. And, in yet another sense,  handing everything over
to  Christ does  not, of  course, mean that you  stop  trying.  To trust Him
means, of course,  trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in
saying you trusted a person if you  would not take  his advice. Thus  if you
have really handed yourself over to Him, it must  follow that you are trying
to obey Him. But  trying  in a new way, a less  worried way. Not doing these
things in  order to be saved, but because He has begun  to save you already.
Not hoping to  get to  Heaven as  a  reward for your actions, but inevitably
wanting to  act  in a  certain  way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is
already inside you.
     Christians have often disputed as  to whether  what leads the Christian
home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on
such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in
a  pair of scissors  is  most necessary.  A serious moral effort is the only
thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up  the sponge. Faith
in  Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out
of that Faith in  Him  good  actions  must inevitably  come.  There are  two
parodies of the truth which different sets  of Christians have, in the past,
been  accused by other  Christians of  believing: perhaps they  may make the
truth clearer. One set were accused of  saying, "Good actions  are all  that
matters. The best good action is charity. The best kind of charity is giving
money. The best thing  to  give money  to  is  the Church.  So hand  us over
?10,000 and  we  will see  you through."  The answer  to  that  nonsense, of
course, would be that good  actions done for that motive, done with the idea
that  Heaven  can be  bought, would  not be good  actions at  all,  but only
commercial speculations. The other set were accused of saying, "Faith is all
that matters.  Consequently, if you have  faith, it doesn't  matter what you
do. Sin away, my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that it makes
no difference  in the end." The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you
call your "faith" in Christ does not  involve taking the slightest notice of
what He says, then it is  not Faith at all-not faith or  trust in  Him,  but
only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.
     The Bible really seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things
together into one amazing sentence. The  first  half is, "Work out  your own
salvation  with fear and trembling"-which looks as if everything depended on
us and  our good actions:  but the  second half goes on, "For it is  God who
worketh in you"- which looks  as if God did everything  and we nothing. I am
afraid  that is  the sort of thing we  come up against in Christianity. I am
puzzled, but I am not surprised. You see, we are  now trying to  understand,
and  to  separate into  water-tight compartments, what  exactly God does and
what man does  when God  and  man are working together. And,  of course,  we
begin by  thinking  it is like two men  working together, so  that you could
say, "He did this bit and I did that." But this way of thinking breaks down.
God is not like that. He is inside  you as well as outside: even if we could
understand  who  did  what,  I do not  think  human language  could properly
express it. In  the attempt to express it  different Churches  say different
things.  But you will find that even those who insist  most strongly  on the
importance of good actions tell  you  you  need Faith;  and  even those  who
insist most strongly on Faith tell you to do good actions. At any  rate that
is as far as I go.
     I think  all Christians  would agree  with me  if  I  said  that though
Christianity seems at first to  be all about morality, all  about duties and
rules  and guilt  and virtue, yet it leads  you on, out of  all  that,  into
something beyond. One has a glimpse of  a  country where they do not talk of
those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled  full with
what  we  should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light But  they do
not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of
it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is
near  the stage  where  the road passes over the rim  of our world. No one's
eyes can see very far beyond that:  lots of  people's eyes can  see  further
than mine.

     Everyone  has warned me not to tell you what I am  going to tell you in
this last book.  They  all say "the ordinary reader does  not want Theology;
give  him plain practical religion." I  have rejected their advice. I do not
think the  ordinary reader  is  such  a fool. Theology means "the science of
God," and I think any man who wants to think about God at all  would like to
have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You
are not children: why should you be treated like children?
     In a way I quite  understand why some people are put off by Theology. I
remember  once  when  I  had  been giving  a  talk  to  the  RA.F., an  old,
hard-bitten officer got  up and said, "I've no use  for all that stuff. But,
mind you,  I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out
alone in the desert at night: the tremendous  mystery. And that's just why I
don't believe all your neat little  dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone
who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"
     Now in a  sense I quite agreed  with that man.  I think he had probably
had a real experience of God in  the  desert.  And when he  turned from that
experience  to  the  Christian creeds, I think  he really was  turning  from
something real to something less real.  In the same  way,  if a man has once
looked at the Atlantic  from the beach,  and then goes and looks at a map of
the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real  to something less
real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the
point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but  there are  two things
you  have  to remember about  it. In the  first place,  it is  based on what
hundreds  and  thousands  of  people  have found  out  by  sailing the  real
Atlantic. In that way it  has behind it masses of experience just as real as
the one you could have  from the  beach; only, while yours would be a single
isolated glimpse, the map fits all those  different experiences together. In
the  second  place,  if  you want  to  go  anywhere,  the  map is absolutely
necessary. As long  as  you are  content with walks on  the beach,  your own
glimpses are far more fun than  looking at a map. But the map is going to be
more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
     Now, Theology  is like the  map. Merely learning and thinking about the
Christian doctrines, if  you stop there, is less real and less exciting than
the sort  of thing my friend got  in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they
are only a  kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds
of people who really were  in touch with God-experiences compared with which
any thrills or  pious feelings you and I  are likely to  get on our own  are
very  elementary  and  very  confused. And  secondly, if you want to get any
further, you  must  use the map. You  see, what  happened to that man in the
desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes  of
it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it In fact, that  is just
why  a vague  religion-all  about feeling God  in nature,  and so  on-is  so
attractive. It is all  thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the
beach. But you will not get to  Newfoundland  by studying  the Atlantic that
way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God
in  flowers or music. Neither  will  you  get anywhere  by looking  at  maps
without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if  you go to sea  without a
     In  other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In Ac old days,
when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get
on with  a very few simple ideas about God. But it  is not  so now. Everyone
reads, everyone hears things discussed.  Consequently,  if you do not listen
to Theology, that will not mean  that  you have no  ideas about God. It will
mean that you have a lot  of wrong ones-bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For
a great many of the ideas  about  God which  are  trotted out  as  novelties
today, are  simply  the ones which real  Theologians tried centuries ago and
rejected.  To   believe  in  the  popular  religion  of  modern  England  is
retrogression-like believing the earth is fiat.
     For when you get down  to it, is not the  popular  idea of Christianity
simply this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we
took his advice we might be able to  establish  a  better  social  order and
avoid another war? Now, mind you, that  is quite true. But it tells you much
less than  the  whole  truth  about  Christianity  and  it has no  practical
importance at all.
     It  is quite true  that if we  took Christ's advice we  should  soon be
living in a happier world. You need not even  go as far as Christ. If we did
all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should  get on  a great
deal better than we do. And so what? We never have followed  the  advice  of
the great  teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why  are we more likely
to  follow  Christ  than any of the  others? Because he  is the  best  moral
teacher? But that makes it even less likely that  we shall follow him. If we
cannot  take the elementary lessons, is  it likely we  are going to take the
most advanced one? If Christianity  only means one  more bit of good advice,
then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice
for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.
     But as soon as  you look at any real Christian writings,  you find that
they are talking about something quite different from this popular religion.
They say that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that  means). They say that
those who give Him  their confidence can also become Sons  of God  (whatever
that means). They say that His death saved  us from our sins (whatever  that
     There  is no  good  complaining that  these  statements  are  difficult
Christianity  claims  to be  telling us about another world, about something
behind the  world we  can touch and  hear  and see. You may think  the claim
false;  but  if  it  were  true, what  it  tells us  would be  bound  to  be
difficult-at least as difficult as modern Physics, and for the same reason.
     Now the point in Christianity which gives us the greatest  shock is the
statement that by  attaching ourselves to  Christ, we  can  "become Sons  of
God." One asks "Aren't we Sons of God  already? Surely the fatherhood of God
is one of  the main Christian ideas?" Well, in a certain sense, no doubt  we
are sons of God already. I mean, God has brought us into existence and loves
us and looks after us, and in that way is  like a father. But when the Bible
talks  of our  "becoming" Sons of  God, obviously  it  must  mean  something
different. And that brings us up against the very centre of Theology.
     One  of  the creeds  says that Christ is the Son of God "begotten,  not
created"; and it  adds  "begotten by his Father before all worlds." Will you
please get it quite clear  that this has  nothing  to do  with the fact that
when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We
are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth. We are thinking about something
that happened before  Nature was created at all, before time  began. "Before
all worlds" Christ is begotten, not created. What does it mean?
     We  don't use the words  begetting or  begotten much in modern English,
but  everyone still  knows  what they mean. To beget is to become the father
of:  to create is  to make. And the difference is this. When  you beget, you
beget something of  the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies,  a
beaver begets  little  beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little
birds. But when  you  make,  you make  something  of a  different  kind from
yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless
set-or he  may make  something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a
statue. If he is a clever enough carver  he may make  a statue which is very
like a man indeed. But, of  course, it is not a real man; it only looks like
one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.
     Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets  is God; just
as  what man begets is man.  What God creates  is not God; just as  what man
makes is not man. That is  why men are not Sons of  God in  the  sense  that
Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things  of
the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.
     A statue  has the shape of a man but  it is not alive. In the same way,
man has  (in a sense I am going to explain) the "shape" or  likeness of God,
but he has  not got the kind of  life  God has. Let us  take the first point
(man's resemblance to God)  first. Everything God has made has some likeness
to Himself. Space is like  Him in  its  hugeness: not that the  greatness of
space is the same  kind of greatness as God's, but it is a sort of symbol of
it, or a translation of it into non-spiritual terms. Matter is  like  God in
having energy: though, again, of course, physical energy is a different kind
of thing from the power of God. The vegetable world  is like Him because  it
is alive, and He is the "living God." But life, in this biological sense, is
not the same as the  life there is in God:  it is only  a kind of  symbol or
shadow  of it.  When we  come  on  to the  animals, we find  other  kinds of
resemblance  in  addition  to  biological life.  The  intense  activity  and
fertility of the insects, for  example, is a first  dim  resemblance to  the
unceasing activity and the creativeness of God. In the higher mammals we get
the beginnings of instinctive  affection. That is not  the same thing as the
love that exists in God: but it is like it-rather in the  way that a picture
drawn on a flat piece of  paper can nevertheless be "like" a landscape. When
we  come  to  man,  the  highest  of  the animals,  we  get  the  completest
resemblance to God which we know of. (There may be creatures in other worlds
who are more like God  than man is, but we  do not know about them.) Man not
only lives, but loves and reasons: biological life reaches its highest known
level in him.
     But what  man,  in  his natural condition,  has not  got, is  Spiritual
life-the  higher and different sort of life that exists in God.  We use  the
same word life for both: but  if you thought that both must therefore be the
same  sort  of  thing, that would be like thinking  that the  "greatness" of
space  and  the  "greatness" of  God  were  the  same  sort of greatness. In
reality, the  difference between  Biological  life and spiritual life  is so
important that  I  am  going to give them two distinct names. The Biological
sort which comes  to us through Nature, and  which (like  everything else in
Nature) is always  tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept
up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc.,
is Bios. The Spiritual life  which is in  God from  all eternity, and  which
made the whole natural  universe, is Zoe. Bios has,  to  be sure, a  certain
shadowy or  symbolic resemblance  to  Zoe: but only  the sort of resemblance
there is between a photo  and  a  place, or  a statue  and a man. A  man who
changed from  having Bios  to having Zoe  would have gone through  as big  a
change as a statue which changed from being  a carved stone to being  a real
     And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great
sculptor's  shop. We are the  statues and there is a  rumour going round the
shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.

     The last chapter was about the difference between begetting and making.
A man begets a child, but  he only makes a statue. God begets Christ  but He
only makes men. But by saying that, I have  illustrated only one point about
God, namely, that  what God the Father begets is God, something of  the same
kind as Himself.  In that  way it  is  like a human father begetting a human
son. But not quite like it. So I must try to explain a little more.
     A good many  people  nowadays say,  "I believe in a  God, but not in  a
personal God."  They feel that the mysterious something which is behind  all
other things must be more than a person. Now the Christians quite agree. But
the Christians are the only  people who offer any idea of  what a being that
is beyond personality could be like.  All the other people, though  they say
that God is beyond personality, really think of Him as something impersonal:
that  is, as something less than personal. If you are looking  for something
super-personal,  something more than a person, then it is not  a question of
choosing between the Christian  idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea
is the only one on the market.
     Again, some people think that after this life, or perhaps after several
lives, human souls will be "absorbed" into God. But when they try to explain
what they  mean, they seem to be  thinking of our being absorbed into God as
one  material thing is absorbed into  another. They say it is like a drop of
water slipping into the sea.  But of course  that is the end of the drop. If
that  is what  happens to us, then being absorbed  is the same as ceasing to
exist. It is only the Christians who have any idea of how human souls can be
taken into the life of God and yet remain  themselves-in fact, be very  much
more themselves than they were before.
     I warned you that Theology is practical. The whole purpose for which we
exist is to be thus taken into the life of God. Wrong ideas about what  that
life is, will make it harder. And now, for a few minutes, I must ask  you to
follow rather carefully.
     You know  that in space  you can move in three  ways-to left or  right,
backwards or  forwards,  up or down.  Every direction is either one of these
three or a  compromise between  them. They are called the  three Dimensions.
Now notice this. If you are using only one dimension, you could draw only  a
straight line. If you are using two, you could draw a figure: say, a square.
And a  square is made up of four straight lines. Now  a step further. If you
have three dimensions, you can then build what we call a solid body, say,  a
cube-a thing like a dice or a lump of  sugar. And a  cube  is made up of six
     Do  you see the  point? A world of  one dimension would be  a  straight
line. In  a  two-dimensional world, you  still  get straight lines, but many
lines make  one  figure. In a three-dimensional world, you still get figures
but many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more
real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you
found on  the simpler  levels:  you still  have them,  but  combined in  new
ways-in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.
     Now the Christian account of God involves just the same  principle. The
human  level is  a simple and  rather empty  level. On  the human level  one
person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings-just as, in
two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper)  one square is one figure, and
any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find
personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who
do not live on that  level, cannot imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak,
you find  a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being,  just as a
cube is  six squares  while remaining  one cube. Of course we  cannot  fully
conceive a Being like that: just as,  if we were so  made that we  perceived
only  two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we
can  get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are  then, for the
first  time in  our  lives,  getting some positive idea,  however  faint, of
something super-personal-something  more  than a person. It  is something we
could never have guessed, and yet,  once we have been told, one almost feels
one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in  so well with all
the things we know already.
     You  may ask, "If we cannot imagine a three-personal Being, what is the
good of talking about Him?" Well,  there isn't  any  good talking about Him.
The  thing that matters  is being  actually  drawn into  that three-personal
life, and that may begin any time -tonight, if you like.
     What I mean is this. An ordinary  simple  Christian  kneels down to say
his prayers.  He  is  trying to get  into  touch  with God. But if he  is  a
Christian he knows  that  what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so
to speak, inside  him. But he also knows that all  his real knowledge of God
comes through Christ, the  Man  who  was  God-that Christ is standing beside
him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is
the thing to which he is praying-the goal he is trying to reach. God is also
the thing inside  him which is pushing him on-the motive power. God is  also
the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to  that goal. So that the
whole  threefold life of the  three-personal Being  is actually  going on in
that ordinary  little bedroom where an ordinary  man is saying his  prayers.
The man is being caught up into the higher kind of life-what I called Zoe or
spiritual life: he is being pulled  into God, by God,  while still remaining
     And that  is  how  Theology started. People already knew about God in a
vague way.  Then came a man who claimed to  be God; and yet he was  not  the
sort of man you could dismiss as a  lunatic. He made  them believe Him. They
met Him again after they had seen Him killed. And then, after they had  been
formed into  a  little society or community,  they found  God somehow inside
them as well: directing them, making  them able to do things they could  not
do before.  And when they worked  it all out  they found they had arrived at
the Christian definition of the three-personal God.
     This  definition is  not  something we have made up;  Theology is, in a
sense, experimental  knowledge.  It  is  the  simple religions that are  the
made-up ones. When  I say it is an experimental science "in a sense," I mean
that  it is like  the other experimental sciences in  some ways,  but not in
all. If you  are a geologist studying  rocks,  you  have to go and  find the
rocks.  They  will not  come to you, and if you go to them  they  cannot run
away.  The initiative lies  all on your side.  They  cannot  either  help or
hinder.  But  suppose you  are a zoologist and want  to take  photos of wild
animals in their native haunts. That is a bit different from studying rocks.
The wild animals  will  not come to  you:  but they can run  away from  you.
Unless you keep  very  quiet, they will. There  is  beginning to be  a  tiny
little trace of initiative on their side.
     Now a stage higher; suppose you want to get to know a human  person. If
he is  determined not to let you, you will not  get to know him. You have to
win his confidence. In this  case the initiative is equally divided-it takes
two to make a friendship.
     When  you come to knowing God, the  initiative lies on  His side. If He
does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to  find Him. And,
in fact, He shows much more of  Himself to some people  than  to  others-not
because  He has  favourites, but because it  is  impossible for Him  to show
Himself to a man whose whole  mind and character are in the wrong condition.
Just  as  sunlight,  though it has  no favourites, cannot be reflected  in a
dusty mirror as clearly as a clean one.
     You can put this another way by saying that while in other sciences the
instruments you use are things external to yourself (things like microscopes
and telescopes),  the instrument through which  you  see God  is  your whole
self. And if  a man's self is not kept clean and  bright, his glimpse of God
will be  blurred-like the Moon seen through a  dirty telescope. That  is why
horrible nations  have  horrible religions:  they have been looking  at  God
through a dirty lens.
     God can show Himself as He really  is only to  real men. And that means
not  simply  to  men who are  individually good,  but to  men who are united
together in  a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to
one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in
one band, or organs in one body.
     Consequently,  the one really adequate instrument  for  learning  about
God,  is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him  together. Christian
brotherhood is, so  to speak, the  technical equipment  for this science-the
laboratory outfit That is why all these people  who  turn up every few years
with some patent simplified religion of  their  own as a substitute  for the
Christian  tradition  are  really  wasting  time.  Like  a man  who  has  no
instrument but an old parr of field glasses setting out to put all  the real
astronomers right.  He may be a clever chap-he may be cleverer than some  of
the real astronomers, but he is not  giving himself  a chance. And two years
later everyone has forgotten  all about him,  but the real science is  still
going on.
     If Christianity  was something we  were making up,  of course  we could
make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people
who are inventing religions.  How could we?  We  are dealing  with  Fact. Of
course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.

     It is a very silly idea that in reading  a book  you must never "skip."
All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they  find
is going to  be no use to them. In  this  chapter  I am  going to talk about
something which may be helpful to some readers, but which may seem to others
merely  an  unnecessary complication. If you are  one of the second sort  of
readers,  then I advise you not  to  bother about this chapter at all but to
turn on to the next.
     In the last chapter I had to touch  on the subject of prayer, and while
that  is still fresh in  your mind and  my own, I should like to deal with a
difficulty that  some people find about the whole idea of prayer. A man  put
it  to me  by saying  "I can believe in God  all  right, but  what  I cannot
swallow is the idea of Him attending to several hundred million human beings
who are all addressing Him at  the same moment." And I have found that quite
a lot of people feel this.
     Now, the first thing to notice  is that the whole sting of it comes  in
the words at the same moment.  Most  of us can imagine God  attending to any
number of applicants if only they came one by one and He had an endless time
to do it in. So what is really at the back of this difficulty is the idea of
God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.
     Well that is of course what happens to us. Our life comes to  us moment
by moment One moment disappears  before  the next  comes along: and there is
room for very little in each. That is what  Time  is like. And of course you
and I tend to take it for granted  that this Time series-this arrangement of
past, present and future-is not simply  the way life comes to us but the way
all  things really exist We tend to assume that  the  whole universe and God
Himself are  always moving on from past  to future just as we  do.  But many
learned men do not agree with that. It was the Theologians who first started
the idea that some  things are  not in  Time  at all: later the Philosophers
took it over: and now some of the scientists are doing the same.
     Almost certainly  God  is  not in  Time. His life  does not consist  of
moments following  one another. If  a million  people are praying to  Him at
ten-thirty tonight,  He  need not  listen  to  them  all in that  one little
snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty-and every other moment from the
beginning of  the world-is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it
that  way,  He has all eternity in  which to  listen to the split  second of
prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.
     That is difficult, I know.  Let me try to give something, not the same,
but a bit like it. Suppose I am writing a novel. I write "Mary laid down her
work; next moment came a knock at the door!" For Mary who has to live in the
imaginary  time of my story  there is no  interval between  putting down the
work and hearing the knock. But I, who am  Mary's maker, do not live in that
imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half  of  that sentence and
the  second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary.
I could think about Mary as if she were the  only character in the  book and
for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear
in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all.
     This is not a perfect  illustration, of course. But it may give  just a
glimpse of what I believe  to be  the truth. God is not hurried along in the
Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the
imaginary  time of his own novel He has infinite attention to spare for each
one of  us. He does not have  to deal  with us in the mass.  You are as much
alone  with Him as if you were the  only  being He  had  ever created.  When
Christ died,  He died for you individually just as much  as  if you had been
the only man in the world.
     The way in  which my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author
gets out of one Time-series (that of the novel)  only  by going into another
Time-series  (the  real one).  But  God,  I  believe,  does  not live  in  a
Time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours:
with Him it is,  so to speak,  still 1920 and already 1960. For  His life is
     If you picture Time as  a straight line along which we  have to travel,
then you must picture God as the whole page on which the  line  is drawn. We
come to the parts  of the line one by one: we have  to leave A behind before
we get to B, and  cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or
outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.
     The idea is worth  trying  to grasp because it  removes  some  apparent
difficulties  in  Christianity.  Before  I  became  a  Christian  one of  my
objections was as follows.  The  Christians said that the eternal God who is
everywhere and keeps the whole  universe going,  once became a human  being.
Well  then, said I, how  did the  whole universe keep  going while He was  a
baby, or while He was asleep? How could He at the same time be God who knows
everything  and also a man asking his  disciples "Who  touched me?" You will
notice that  the sting lay in  the time  words: "While  He was a  baby"-"How
could He at the same time?" In other words I was assuming that Christ's life
as God  was in time, and that  His  life as the man Jesus in Palestine was a
shorter period taken out of that  time-just as my service in  the army was a
shorter period  taken  out  of my total life.  And  that is how  most of  us
perhaps tend to think about it.  We picture God living through a period when
His human life was still in  the future: then coming to a period when it was
present: then  going  on  to a period when  He could  look  back  on  it  as
something in the past. But probably these ideas correspond to nothing in the
actual  facts.  You cannot  fit Christ's earthly life  in Palestine into any
time-relations with His life as God beyond all space and time. It is really,
I  suggest,  a timeless  truth about  God that human nature,  and  the human
experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance, are somehow included in  His
whole divine  life.  This  human life  in  God is  from our  point of view a
particular period in  the history of our world (from  the year A.D. one till
the Crucifixion). We therefore imagine it is also a period in the history of
God's  own  existence.  But God  has  no  history. He is too completely  and
utterly real to  have one. For, of  course,  to have a  history means losing
part of your reality (because it had already slipped away into the past) and
not  yet  having another part  (because it is still in the  future): in fact
having nothing but  the tiny  little  present, which has gone before you can
speak about it. God forbid we should think God was  like that.  Even  we may
hope not to be always rationed in that way.
     Another difficulty  we get if we believe God  to  be  in time  is this.
Everyone  who believes in God at all believes that He knows what  you and  I
are  going  to do  tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how
can  I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again,  the difficulty comes
from thinking  that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only
difference being  that He can see ahead and we cannot.  Well,  if that  were
true, if God  foresaw our acts,  it would be very hard  to understand how we
could be  free not  to  do  them. But suppose  God is outside and above  the
Time-line. In that case, what we call  "tomorrow" is visible to  Him in just
the same way as what  we call "today."  All the days  are "Now" for Him.  He
does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them,
because, though you have lost yesterday. He has  not. He does not  "foresee"
you doing  things tomorrow;  He simply sees you doing  them: because, though
tomorrow  is not yet  there for you, it is for Him.  You never supposed that
your actions at this moment were any less  free because God  knows what  you
are  doing.  Well,  He  knows  your  tomorrow's  actions  in just  the  same
way-because He  is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense,
He does not know your action  till you have done it: but then the moment  at
which you have done it is already "Now" for Him.
     This idea  has helped me a good deal. If it does not help you, leave it
alone. It is a "Christian idea" in the sense that great  and wise Christians
have  held it and there is nothing in it contrary to Christianity. But it is
not in the Bible or any of the creeds. You can be a perfectly good Christian
without accepting it, or indeed without thinking of the matter at all

     I  begin this chapter by asking you to  get a  certain picture clear in
your  minds. Imagine  two books lying  on a table  one on  top of the other.
Obviously the bottom  book is  keeping the other one up-supporting it. It is
because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say,  two inches
from the surface of the table instead of touching the table. Let us call the
underneath  book  A  and the top  one B.  The position  of  A is causing the
position of B. That is clear? Now let us imagine-it could not really happen,
of course, but it will do for an illustration-let us imagine that both books
have  been in that position  for  ever and ever. In  that  case B's position
would  always have  been resulting from A's position.  But all the same, A's
position  would  not have existed  before B's position.  In other  words the
result does not come after the cause. Of course, results usually do: you eat
the  cucumber  first  and have the  indigestion afterwards. But it is not so
with all causes,  and  results. You  will see in  a  moment why I think this
     I said  a few  pages  back  that God  is a  Being  which contains three
Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube contains six squares while
remaining one  body. But as  soon  as I begin  trying  to  explain how these
Persons  are connected I have to use words which make it sound as if  one of
them was there before the  others. The First Person is called the Father and
the Second the Son. We say  that the First begets or produces the second; we
call it begetting, not making, because what He produces is  of the same kind
as  Himself.  In  that way the word Father  is  the only  word to  use.  But
unfortunately  it suggests  that  He  is there first-just as a human  father
exists before  his son. But that is  not so. There  is  no before and  after
about it. And that  is why I have spent some time  trying  to make clear how
one  thing can be the source, or cause, or origin,  of another without being
there before  it. The Son  exists because the Father exists: but there never
was a tune before the Father produced the Son.
     Perhaps the best way  to think of it  is this.  I asked you just now to
imagine those two books, and probably most of you  did. That is, you made an
act of imagination and as a result you had a mental picture. Quite obviously
your act of  imagining was the cause and the mental picture  the result. But
that does not  mean  that  you  first  did  the  imagining and then got  the
picture. The moment you did it, the picture was there. Your will was keeping
the picture before  you all  the time.  Yet that act of will and the picture
began at exactly the same moment and ended at the same moment. If there were
a  Being who had always existed and had always been imagining one thing, his
act would always have been producing a mental picture; but the picture would
be just as eternal as the act.
     In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming
forth from  the  Father, like  light from a lamp, or heat  from a  fire,  or
thoughts  from  a  mind.  He is the  self-expression  of the Father-what the
Father has to say. And there never was a time when He was not saying it. But
have you noticed what is happening? All these  pictures of light or heat are
making it  sound  as if the  Father and Son were  two things  instead of two
Persons. So that after all, the New Testament picture of  a Father and a Son
turns out to be much more accurate than anything we try to substitute for it
That is what always happens when you go away from the words of the Bible. It
is  quite right to go away  from them for  a moment  in  order  to make some
special point clear. But you must always go back. Naturally God knows how to
describe Himself much better than we know how to describe Him. He knows that
Father and Son is  more like  the  relation  between  the First  and  Second
Persons than anything else we can think of. Much the most important thing to
know  is that  it is a relation of love. The Father delights in His Son; the
Son looks up to His Father.
     Before going on, notice the practical importance  of this. All sorts of
people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that "God is love," But
they seem  not  to notice that the words "God is love" have  no real meaning
unless God contains at least two Persons. Love  is something that one person
has for another person. If  God was  a single person, then before the  world
was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean  when  they say
that God is love is often something quite different: they really  mean "Love
is God."  They really mean that  our feelings of love,  however and wherever
they arise,  and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great
respect. Perhaps they are: but  that is something quite different from  what
Christians mean  by  the  statement "God is  love."  They  believe that  the
living, dynamic activity of love has been going  on in  God for ever and has
created everything else.
     And that, by the  way, is perhaps the most important difference between
Christianity and  all other  religions:  that  in Christianity God is not  a
static thing-not  even  a  person-but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life,
almost a kind  of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind
of dance. The union between the Father and Son is such a live concrete thing
that   this  union  itself  is  also  a  Person.  I  know   this  is  almost
inconceivable, but look at it  thus. You know that among human beings,  when
they  get together in a family,  or  a club, or  a trade union,  people talk
about the "spirit" of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk  about
its "spirit"  because  the individual  members, when  they  are together, do
really  develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not
have if they were apart. (*)
     [*] This corporate behaviour may, of course, be either better or  worse
than their individual behaviour.
     It  is  as  if a sort of  communal personality came into existence.  Of
course, it is not a real  person:  it is only rather like a person. But that
is just one of the  differences between God  and us. What  grows out of  the
joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is  in  fact the Third of
the three Persons who are God.
     This third Person is called, in  technical language, the Holy Ghost  or
the "spirit" of God. Do not be worried or surprised if  you find it (or Him)
rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there
is a  reason why that must be so. In the Christian  life you are not usually
looking at Him: He is always acting through you. If you think  of the Father
as something "out  there,"  in  front of you,  and  of the  Son  as  someone
standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you  into another
son, then you have to think of the third Person as something  inside you, or
behind you. Perhaps some people might find it easier to begin with the third
Person  and  work  backwards.  God is  love,  and  that  love  works through
men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of
love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and Son.
     And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in
the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life
is  to be played out in each one of  us: or (putting it the other way round)
each one of us has got to  enter that pattern, take his place in that dance.
There is no other way to  the happiness for which we were made. Good  things
as well  as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to
get warm you must  stand near the fire:  if you want to be  wet you must get
into the water. If you want joy,  power, peace,  eternal life, you must  get
close to, or  even into, the  thing that has  them. They are not  a  sort of
prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand  out to anyone.  They  are  a
great  fountain of energy and  beauty  spurting up at  the  very  centre  of
reality. If you are dose to it, the spray will  wet you: if you are not, you
will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?
     But  how  is  he to be united  to God? How is it possible  for us to be
taken into the three-Personal life?
     You remember what I said in Chapter II about  begetting  and making. We
are not  begotten by God, we  are only made by Him: in our  natural state we
are  not  sons  of God, only (so to speak)  statues. We have  not got Zoe or
spiritual life: only Bios or biological life which is presently going to run
down and die. Now the whole offer  which Christianity makes is this: that we
can, if we let God have His way, come to share  in the life of Christ. If we
do, we shall  then be  sharing a life  which  was begotten,  not made, which
always has  existed and  always will exist Christ  is the Son of God. If  we
share in this kind of  life we also shall be sons of God.  We shall love the
Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world
and became  a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has-by
what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little  Christ.
The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.

     The Son of God  became a man to enable men to become sons of God. We do
not  know-anyway,  I  do not know-how things would have worked if the  human
race had  never rebelled against God and joined the enemy. Perhaps every man
would have been "in Christ," would have  shared the life of the Son of  God,
from  the moment he  was born. Perhaps the  Bios or natural  life would have
been  drawn up into the Zoe, the uncreated life, at once and as a matter  of
course. But that is guesswork. You and I  are concerned  with the way things
work now.
     And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are  now
not only different  (they would always have been that) but actually opposed.
The  natural life  in each of us is something self-centred,  something  that
wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit
the whole universe. And especially it wants to be  left to  itself: to  keep
well away from anything better or stronger or higher  than it, anything that
might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual
world, just as people who have been  brought  up to be dirty are afraid of a
bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that  if the  spiritual life
gets hold  of it,  all its  self-centredness  and self-will  are going to be
killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that
     Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your
toys could come to life? Well suppose you  could really have brought them to
life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve
turning the tin  into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did  not like it He
is not interested  in flesh;  all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He
thinks you are killing him. He will do everything  he can to prevent you. He
will not be made into a man if he can help it.
     What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what
God did about us was this.  The Second Person in God, the Son, became  human
Himself: was born into the world as an actual man-a real man of a particular
height, with  hair of a  particular  colour, speaking a particular language,
weighing  so many  stone.  The Eternal Being, who knows  everything  and who
created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before  that) a baby,
and before that a foetus inside a Woman's body.  If you want to get the hang
of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
     The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all
men were intended to be: one man in whom the created  life, derived from his
Mother,  allowed  itself to  be  completely  and  perfectly turned into  the
begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the
divine  Son. Thus in one instance  humanity had,  so to  speak, arrived: had
passed into the life of Christ.  And because the whole  difficulty for us is
that  the natural life has to be, in a sense,  "killed," He chose an earthly
career  which   involved  the   killing  of  His  human  desires   at  every
turn-poverty, misunderstanding  from His own family, betrayal by  one of His
intimate  friends,  being  jeered  at  and  manhandled by  the  Police,  and
execution by torture. And then, after  being thus killed-killed every day in
a sense-the human creature in  Him, because it was united to the divine Son,
came to life again. The Man in  Christ rose again: not only the God. That is
the whole point For the  first time we saw a real man. One tin  soldier-real
tin, just like the rest-had come fully and splendidly alive.
     And  here, of course, we come to the point where  my illustration about
the tin soldier breaks down. In the case of real toy soldiers or statues, if
one  came to life, it would obviously  make  no difference to the rest. They
are  all separate. But human beings  are not. They look separate because you
see diem walking about separately. But then, we are  so made that we can see
only  the present  moment. If we could see the past, then of course it would
look different. For there was a time when every man  was part of his mother,
and (earlier still) part of his  father as well: and when they  were part of
his grandparents. If you could see humanity spread out in time, as  God sees
it, it  would not look like a lot of separate things dotted about. It  would
look  like  one single growing thing-  rather like a  very complicated tree.
Every individual would appear connected with every other. And not only that.
Individuals are not really separate from God any more than from one another.
Every man, woman, and child  all over the world is  feeling and breathing at
this moment only because God, so to speak, is "keeping him going."
     Consequently, when Christ becomes man it  is not really as if you could
become one particular  tin soldier. It  is as if  something  which is always
affecting  the whole human mass begins, at one point,  to  affect that whole
human  mass in  a  new way. From that  point the effect  spreads through all
mankind. It makes a difference to people who lived before  Christ as well as
to  people who lived after  Him.  It makes  a  difference to people who have
never heard of Him. It  is  like dropping into a glass of water one drop  of
something which gives a new taste or a  new colour to the whole lot. But, of
course, none of these illustrations really  works perfectly. In the long run
God is no one  but Himself and what He does is like nothing else.  You could
hardly expect it to be.
     What,  then, is the  difference  which  He has made to the whole  human
mass? It is just this; that the business of becoming a son of God, of  being
turned from  a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the
temporary biological life into timeless "spiritual" life, has been done  for
us.  Humanity  is  already  "saved" in  principle. We  individuals  have  to
appropriate that salvation. But the  really tough work-the bit we  could not
have  done for  ourselves-has been  done  for us. We have not  got to try to
climb  up into spiritual life  by our own  efforts; it has already come down
into the human race. If we will  only lay  ourselves open to the one  Man in
whom it was fully  present, and  who, in  spite of being God, is also a real
man,  He will  do it in  us and for  us. Remember what  I said  about  "good
infection." One of our own race has this new life: if we get close to Him we
shall catch it from Him.
     Of course, you can express this in all sorts of different ways. You can
say that Christ died for our  sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven
us because Christ has done for us what  we ought to  have done. You may  say
that we are  washed in the blood  of  the Lamb. You may say that  Christ has
defeated death. They  are  all true. If any of them do not  appeal  to  you,
leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you  do,
do not start  quarrelling with other people because  they  use  a  different
formula from yours.

     In order  to avoid  misunderstanding I  here add  notes  on  two points
arising out of the last chapter.
     (1) One sensible critic wrote asking me why, if God wanted sons instead
of "toy soldiers," He did not beget many sons at the outset instead of first
making toy soldiers and  then bringing them to life by such a difficult  and
painful process. One part of the answer to this question is fairly easy: the
other  part is probably beyond all human  knowledge. The easy  part is this.
The process of being turned from a creature into a  son  would not have been
difficult  or  painful if  the  human  race  had  not turned  away  from God
centuries ago. They  were able to do this because He gave them free will: He
gave them free will because  a world of mere  automata could never  love and
therefore never know infinite happiness. The  difficult part  is  this.  All
Christians are  agreed  that there  is, in the full and original sense, only
one "Son  of God."  If we insist on asking "But could there have been many?"
we find ourselves in very deep  water. Have the  words "Could have been" any
sense at  all when  applied to  God? You can say that one  particular finite
thing "could have been" different from  what it  is,  because it  would have
been different if something else had been  different, and the something else
would have been different if some third thing had been different, and so on.
(The letters on this page would have  been red  if the printer  had used red
ink, and  he would have used red ink  if he had been instructed  to, and  so
on.) But  when you  are  talking  about  God-i.e.  about  the  rock  bottom,
irreducible Fact on  which all other facts depend- it is nonsensical  to ask
if  It  could  have been otherwise. It is what It is, and there is an end of
the matter. But quite apart  from  this, I find a  difficulty about the very
idea of  the  Father begetting  many sons from all eternity.  In order to be
many they would have  to be somehow different  from one another. Two pennies
have  the  same shape. How are  they two? By  occupying different places and
containing different atoms.  In other words, to think of them  as different,
we have had  to  bring in space and matter; in fact we have  had to bring in
"Nature"  or the  created universe. I can understand the distinction between
the Father and the Son without bringing in space or matter, because the  one
begets  and the other is begotten.  The  Father's relation to the Son is not
the same as the Son's relation to the Father. But if there were several sons
they would all be related to one another and to the Father in  the same way.
How would they differ from one another? One  does  not notice the difficulty
at first, of course. One thinks one can form the idea of several "sons." But
when  I think closely, I find that the  idea seemed possible only because  I
was vaguely imagining  them as human forms standing  about together  in some
kind of space.  In  other words, though I  pretended  to  be  thinking about
something that exists  before any universe was made,  I was really smuggling
in the picture of a universe  and putting  that something inside  it. When I
stop doing that and still  try to think of  the Father begetting  many  sons
"before all worlds" I find  I am not really  thinking of anything. The  idea
fades away into mere words. (Was Nature-space  and  time and  matter-created
precisely in order to make manyness possible? Is there perhaps no  other way
of  getting many  eternal  spirits  except  by  first  making  many  natural
creatures, in a universe,  and then spiritualising them?  But  of course all
this is guesswork.)
     (2) The idea that  the whole human race is,  in a sense, one thing -one
huge organism,  like  a  tree-must  not  be  confused  with  the  idea  that
individual differences do not matter or that real people,  Tom and Nobby and
Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races,
and so forth. Indeed the two ideas are opposites. Things  which are parts of
a single organism  may be very different  from one another: things which are
not, may be very alike. Six pennies are  quite  separate and very alike:  my
nose and my lungs  are very different but they are only alive at all because
they are parts of my  body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of
human individuals not as mere members of a group  or items in a list, but as
organs  in  a body-different from one  another and each contributing what no
other  could.  When  you  find  yourself wanting to  turn your children,  or
pupils, or even your neighbours, into people exactly like yourself, remember
that God probably  never meant them to be that.  You  and they are different
organs, intended  to do different things.  On the  other hand, when  you are
tempted not  to bother about someone else's  troubles because  they are  "no
business of yours," remember that though he is different from you he is part
of the same  organism  as you.  If you forget that he  belongs  to  the same
organism as yourself you will become an Individualist. If you forget that he
is a different organ from you, if you want to  suppress differences and make
people all alike, you will  become a Totalitarian. But a Christian must  not
be either a Totalitarian or an Individualist.
     I feel  a  strong desire to  tell you-and I  expect  you  feel a strong
desire to tell me-which of these two  errors is the worse. That is the devil
getting at  us.  He always  sends  errors into  the  world in pairs-pairs of
opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which
is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the
one  error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be
fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between
both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.

     May I once again start  by putting two pictures, or two stories rather,
into your minds? One is  the story you  have all read called Beauty and  the
Beast. The girl, you remember,  had to marry a  monster for some reason. And
she did. She kissed it as if it were a man. And then, much to her relief, it
really turned into a man and all went well. The other story is about someone
who had to wear a mask; a mask which made him look much nicer than he really
was. He had to wear it for  year.  And  when he took it off he found his own
face had grown to fit it. He was  now really  beautiful.  What had begun  as
disguise had become a reality. I think both these stories may (in a fanciful
way,  of course)  help to illustrate what I have to say in this chapter.  Up
till  now, I have been trying to describe  facts-what God is and what He has
done. Now I want  to talk about practice-what do we do next? What difference
does  all this  theology make? It can start  making a difference tonight. If
you are interested enough to have read thus  far you are probably interested
enough to  make a  shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever  else you say,
you will probably say the Lord's Prayer.
     Its  very  first words are Our Father. Do you now  see what those words
mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of
a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like,
you  are  pretending.  Because, of  course, the  moment you realise what the
words mean, you  realise  that you  are not a son of God.  You are not being
like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at  one with those  of the
Father: you  are a bundle of self-centred fears,  hopes, greeds, jealousies,
and self-conceit,  all doomed to death.  So that, in a way, this dressing up
as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek.  But  the odd thing is that He has
ordered us to do it.
     Why? What is the good of pretending  to be what you are not? Well, even
on the human  level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a
bad kind, where the pretence is  there instead of  the real thing; as when a
man pretends he is  going  to help  you instead of  really  helping you. But
there  is also a good  kind,  where the pretence leads up to the real thing.
When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the
best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave
as if you  were a nicer person than you  actually are. And in a few minutes,
as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.
Very often the only way to get a quality in  reality is to start behaving as
if you had it  already.  That is why children's games are so important. They
are  always  pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers,  playing shop. But
all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so
that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.
     Now, the moment  you realise "Here I am, dressing up as Christ," it  is
extremely  likely that you will  see at once some way in which  at that very
moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence  and more of a reality.
You will find several  things going on in your mind which would not be going
on there  if  you were really a son  of  God.  Well,  stop  them. Or you may
realise  that, instead  of saying your  prayers, you ought to be  downstairs
writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash-up. Well, go and do it.
     You  see what  is happening. The Christ Himself, the Son of God who  is
man  (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side
and  is  already  at that  moment  beginning to turn  your  pretence into  a
reality. This  is not  merely a fancy  way of saying that your conscience is
telling you  what  to do. If  you simply ask your  conscience, you  get  one
result:  if you  remember that you are  dressing  up as  Christ,  you get  a
different one. There are lots of things which your conscience might not call
definitely wrong (specially things in  your mind)  but which you will see at
once you cannot go on doing if you are seriously trying to  be like  Christ.
For you are no longer thinking  simply about right and wrong; you are trying
to  catch  the  good  infection  from  a Person. It is more like  painting a
portrait than like  obeying  a set of rules. And the odd thing is that while
in one way it  is much harder than keeping  rules,  in another way it is far
     The real Son of  God is at your side.  He is beginning to turn you into
the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to "inject"
His kind of life  and thought, His Zoe, into you; beginning  to turn the tin
soldier into a live man. The part of  you that does not like it  is the part
that is still tin.
     Some of you may feel that this is very unlike your  own experience. You
may say "I've  never had  the sense  of being helped by an invisible Christ,
but I often have been helped by other human beings." That is rather like the
woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage it would
not bother  her  house because they always ate toast. If there is  no  bread
there will be no toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no
help from other human beings. He works on us in all sorts of  ways: not only
through what we think our "religious life." He works through Nature, through
our  own bodies, through books, sometimes through experiences which seem (at
the time) anti-Christian. When a young man who has been going to church in a
routine way honestly realises that he does not  believe in  Christianity and
stops going-provided he does it for honesty's sake and not just to annoy his
parents-the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was
before. But above all, He works on us through each other.
     Men  are mirrors,  or "carriers"  of Christ  to  other  men.  Sometimes
unconscious carriers. This "good infection" can be carried by those who have
not got it themselves. People  who were not Christians themselves  helped me
to  Christianity.  But usually it is those  who know Him  that bring  Him to
others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing  Him to
one another, is so important.  You might  say  that when  two Christians are
following Christ together there is not  twice as  much Christianity as  when
they are apart, but sixteen times as much.
     But do  not forget this. At first it is  natural for a baby to take its
mother's  milk without knowing  its mother. It  is equally natural for us to
see the man who helps us without seeing  Christ behind him. But we  must not
remain babies. We must go on to recognise the  real Giver. It is madness not
to. Because, if we  do not, we shall be relying on human beings. And that is
going to let us down. The best of them will  make mistakes; all of them will
die. We must  be thankful  to all the  people  who  have helped  us, we must
honour  them  and love them. But never, never  pin your whole  faith on  any
human being: not if he  is the best and wisest in the whole world. There are
lots of nice things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on
     And now we begin to see  what  it is that  the New Testament is  always
talking about. It talks about Christians  "being born again"; it talks about
them "putting on  Christ";  about Christ "being  formed  in us";  about  our
coming to "have the mind of Christ."
     Put  right out  of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of
saying  that Christians  are to read what Christ said and  try to  carry  it
out-as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try  to carry it out. They
mean something much  more than  that. They mean  that a real Person, Christ,
here and now, in that  very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing
things to  you.  It is not a  question of a good man who died  two  thousand
years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much
God as He was when He created the world, really  coming and interfering with
your very self; killing the old natural  self  in you and  replacing it with
the  kind  of  self  He has. At first,  only for moments.  Then  for  longer
periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different
sort  of  thing; into  a new little Christ, a being  which, in its own small
way,  has the  same  kind of  life as God; which  shares in His power,  joy,
knowledge and eternity. And soon we make two other discoveries.
     (1)  We  begin  to notice,  besides  our  particular  sinful acts,  our
sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we
are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my
own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of
the day, nine  times out of ten the  most  obvious  one is  some sin against
charity; I have sulked  or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the
excuse  that immediately  springs to my mind is that the provocation was  so
sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had  not time to collect
myself.  Now  that may  be  an extenuating  circumstance  as  regards  those
particular  acts: they would obviously be worse if they had  been deliberate
and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken
off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what
pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there
are rats  in  a cellar you  are most  likely  to see them if you go  in very
suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them
from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make
me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I  am. The
rats are  always there  in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily
they will have taken  cover before you switch  on  the light. Apparently the
rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always  there in  the cellar of my
soul. Now that cellar is out of reach of  my conscious will.  I can  to some
extent control my acts: I have no direct control over my temperament. And if
(as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do-if, indeed,
what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what  we are-then it  follows that
the change which I most  need to undergo  is a  change  that my  own direct,
voluntary  efforts cannot bring  about  And this applies to  my good actions
too. How many of  them were done for the right  motive? How many for fear of
public opinion,  or a desire to show off? How  many from a sort of obstinacy
or sense of superiority which, in different circumstances, might equally had
led to some very bad act? But I cannot, by direct moral effort,  give myself
new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that
everything which really needs  to  be done in our  souls can be done only by
God. And that brings  us to  something which has been  very misleading in my
language up to now.
     (2)  I  have been talking  as  if it  were  we  who  did everything. In
reality, of course, it is God who does everything. We, at most, allow  it to
be done to us.  In a  sense  you  might  even say it  is God  who  does  the
pretending. The Three-Personal God,  so to speak, sees before Him in  fact a
self-centred, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human animal.  But  He says "Let
us pretend that this is not  a mere creature, but our Son. It is like Christ
in so far as it is  a Man, for He became Man. Let us pretend that it is also
like Him in  Spirit. Let us treat it as if it  were what  in fact it is not.
Let us pretend in order to make the pretence  into a reality."  God looks at
you  as  if  you were a  little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you
into one. I daresay this idea of a divine make-believe sounds rather strange
at  first. But,  is it so strange  really? Is not that how  the higher thing
always raises the lower? A mother teaches her baby to  talk by talking to it
as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they
were "almost  human":  that is why they really become "almost  human" in the

     In the last chapter we were considering  the Christian idea of "putting
on Christ,"  or  first "dressing up" as a son of God in order  that you  may
finally become a real son. What I want to make clear is that this is not one
among many jobs  a Christian has  to  do; and it is not  a  sort  of special
exercise for  the top class.  It is  the whole of Christianity. Christianity
offers  nothing else at all. And I should  like  to point out how it differs
from ordinary ideas of "morality" and "being good."
     The ordinary idea which we  all  have before  we become  Christians  is
this. We  take as starting point  our ordinary self with its various desires
and interests. We then admit  that  something  else  call it  "morality"  or
"decent behaviour," or "the good of society" has claims on this self: claims
which interfere with its own desires. What we mean by "being good" is giving
in to those claims. Some  of the things the ordinary self wanted to do  turn
out to be what we  call "wrong": well, we  must give  them up. Other things,
which  the self did  not want to do, turn  out to be  what we call  "right":
well, we shall have to do them. But we are hoping all the time that when all
the  demands  have  been  met, the  poor natural  self  will still have some
chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it  likes. In
fact,  we  are  very like an honest man  paying  his taxes. He pays them all
right, but he does  hope that there will be enough left over for him to live
on. Because we are still taking our natural self as the starting point.
     As long as  we are thinking  that  way, one or other of two  results is
likely  to follow. Either we give up trying  to be  good, or  else we become
very unhappy indeed. For, make no mistake: if you are really going to try to
meet all the demands made  on the natural self, it will not have enough left
over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience
will  demand of you. And your natural  self, which is thus being starved and
hampered and worried at every turn, will  get  angrier  and angrier. In  the
end, you will either give up trying to be  good, or else become one of those
people who, as they  say, "live  for  others" but always  in a discontented,
grumbling  way-always wondering why  the  others  do not notice it more  and
always making a martyr of yourself.  And once you have become that  you will
be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have
been if you had remained frankly selfish.
     The Christian way  is different: harder, and easier. Christ says  "Give
me All. I don't want so much of your time and so  much of  your money and so
much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self,
but to kill  it. No half-measures are any good. I  don't want  to cut off  a
branch  here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't
want to drill the tooth, or  crown it, or  stop it, but to have it out. Hand
over  the whole natural self,  all the desires  which  you think innocent as
well  as  the ones  you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new
self  instead.  In fact, I  will give you Myself: my own  will  shall become
     Both harder  and easier than what  we  are all trying  to  do. You have
noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way
as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, "Take up your Cross"-in other
words,  it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next
minute  he says, "My yoke  is easy  and my burden light." He means both. And
one can just see why both are true.
     Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who
works hardest  in the end. They mean this.  If you  give two  boys,  say,  a
proposition in geometry to do, the  one who is prepared to take trouble will
try to understand  it. The lazy boy will  try to learn it by heart  because,
for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months  later, when they are
preparing for an exam., that lazy boy is doing  hours and hours of miserable
drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys,  in a
few minutes. Laziness  means  more work in the long run. Or look  at it this
way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it
takes  a lot  of  pluck to do;  but it is also, in  the long run, the safest
thing to do. If you  funk  it, you will  find yourself, hours  later, in far
worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.
     It  is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing,
is to hand over your whole self-all  your wishes and  precautions-to Christ.
But it is far  easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we
are  trying to  do is to remain what  we call "ourselves," to  keep personal
happiness as  our  great aim in life, and yet at the same time be "good." We
are all trying to let  our mind and heart go their  own way-centred on money
or pleasure or ambition-and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and
chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not
do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains
nothing  but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may  keep
it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce
wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and
     That  is why the real  problem of the Christian life comes where people
do not usually  look  for it. It  comes  the  very moment  you wake  up each
morning.  All  your  wishes  and  hopes  for the day  rush at  you like wild
animals. And the first  job each morning consists simply in shoving them all
back;  in listening  to that other voice, taking that  other point  of view,
letting that other larger, stronger,  quieter life come flowing  in.  And so
on, all day. Standing back from all  your natural  fussings  and  frettings;
coming in out of the wind.
     We can only do it  for moments at first. But from those moments the new
sort  of  life  will be  spreading through  our system: because now  we  are
letting  Him work at  the right part  of  us.  It is  the difference between
paint, which is merely  laid on the surface,  and a dye or stain which soaks
right through. He  never talked vague,  idealistic  gas. When he  said,  "Be
perfect," He meant it. He meant that  we must go  in for the full treatment.
It is  hard; but  the  sort  of compromise we  are all  hankering  after  is
harder-in fact,  it is impossible. It may be hard  for an egg to turn into a
bird: it would  be a  jolly  sight  harder  for  it to  learn  to fly  while
remaining an  egg.  We are  like eggs  at  present. And  you  cannot  go  on
indefinitely being just  an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched  or  go
     May  I  come  back  to  what  I  said  before?  This  is the  whole  of
Christianity. There  is  nothing else.  It  is so easy  to get muddled about
that.  It  is  easy  to  think  that  the  Church  has  a  lot of  different
objects-education, building, missions,  holding services. Just as it is easy
to  think  the  State  has a lot of different  objects-military,  political,
economic, and what  not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The
State exists  simply to promote  and to  protect  the ordinary happiness  of
human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple
of  friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own
room or digging in his own garden-that is  what the State  is there for. And
unless they are  helping to increase  and prolong and protect  such moments,
all  the  laws,  parliaments, armies, courts,  police, economics, etc.,  are
simply a waste of  time. In the same way the Church exists for  nothing else
but to draw men  into Christ, to make them little  Christs.  If they are not
doing that,  all  the cathedrals, clergy,  missions, sermons, even the Bible
itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.  It
is  even doubtful, you know, whether  the whole universe was created for any
other purpose. It says in the Bible  that  the whole  universe  was made for
Christ  and that  everything  is to be  gathered together in Him.  I do  not
suppose any  of us can  understand how this will happen as regards the whole
universe.  We do not know  what (if anything) lives in the parts of it  that
are millions of miles away from this Earth. Even on  this Earth  we  do  not
know how it  applies to things other than men. After all, that  is  what you
would expect. We  have been shown the plan  only  in so far as  it  concerns
     I  sometimes like to imagine that  I can just see how it might apply to
other things. I  think I can see how the higher animals are in a sense drawn
into  Man  when he loves them and makes them (as he  does)  much more nearly
human than they would otherwise be. I can even see a sense in which the dead
things  and  plants are  drawn  into  Man  as he studies them and  uses  and
appreciates  them. And if there  were  intelligent creatures in other worlds
they might do the  same with their worlds. It might be that when intelligent
creatures entered into  Christ they would, in that way, bring all the  other
things in along with them. But I do not know: it is only a guess.
     What we  have  been told is how we men can be  drawn  into Christ  -can
become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe
wants to offer to  His Father-that present which is Himself and therefore us
in  Him.  It is  the  only thing  we were made for. And  there  are strange,
exciting  hints in the Bible that when we are  drawn in, a great many  other
things in  Nature will begin to  come right. The bad dream will be over:  it
will be morning.

     I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said in the last
chapter about Our Lord's words, "Be  ye  perfect." Some people seem to think
this means "Unless you are perfect, I will not help you";  and as  we cannot
be perfect, then, if He meant  that, our position is hopeless. But  I do not
think He did mean that. I think He  meant "The only help I will give is help
to become  perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing
     Let me explain. When I was a child I  often  had  toothache, and I knew
that if I went to my mother she  would give me  something which would deaden
the pain  for that night and let  me get to sleep.  But I did not  go to  my
mother-at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not
go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the  aspirin; but  I knew she
would also  do something else. I  knew she would take me to the dentist next
morning. I could not get  what I wanted out of her without getting something
more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could
not get it without having  my teeth set permanently right. And I  knew those
dentists; I knew they started  fiddling about with all  sorts of other teeth
which had not yet  begun to ache. They would not let sleeping  dogs  lie; if
you gave them an inch they took an ell.
     Now,  if  I may put it  that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you
give Him  an inch, He  will take an  ell. Dozens  of people go to Him to  be
cured  of  some  one  particular  sin  which   they  are  ashamed  of  (like
masturbation or  physical  cowardice) or  which is obviously  spoiling daily
life  (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but
He will not stop there. That may be  all you asked; but if once you call Him
in, He will give you the full treatment.
     That  is  why He warned people  to  "count  the  cost"  before becoming
Christians. "Make no  mistake,"  He says, "if  you let  me, I will make  you
perfect. The moment  you put yourself in My hands, that is  what you are  in
for. Nothing less,  or other,  than that. You have  free  will,  and  if you
choose, you can push Me away. But if  you  do  not  push Me away, understand
that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost  you
in  your earthly life, whatever  inconceivable purification it  may cost you
after death, whatever  it costs Me, I  will never  rest, nor  let you  rest,
until you are literally perfect-until my Father can  say without reservation
that He is well pleased with you, as He said  He  was  well pleased with me.
This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less."
     And yet-this is the other and equally important side of it- this Helper
who  will,  in the long run,  be satisfied with nothing  less than  absolute
perfection, will also be delighted with the  first feeble,  stumbling effort
you make  tomorrow  to do  the simplest  duty. As  a great  Christian writer
(George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is  pleased at the baby's first
attempt to walk: no  father  would  be  satisfied with  anything less than a
firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said,  "God is
easy to please, but hard to satisfy."
     The  practical  upshot  is  this.  On the  one hand,  God's demand  for
perfection need not  discourage you in the least in your present attempts to
be  good, or even in your present failures. Each time  you fall He will pick
you up  again. And He knows perfectly well that your own  efforts  are never
going  to bring you  anywhere near perfection. On  the other hand,  you must
realise from the outset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide
you is absolute  perfection; and no  power in the whole universe, except you
yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are
in for.  And it is very important to realise that. If we do not, then we are
very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I
think that  many of us, when Christ has enabled  us  to overcome one or  two
sins that  were an obvious  nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not
out it into words) that we  are now good  enough. He  has done all we wanted
Him  to do, and we should be obliged if He would  now leave us  alone. As we
say "I never expected  to be a saint, I only wanted to  be a decent ordinary
chap." And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.
     But this is the fatal mistake. Of  course  we never  wanted, and  never
asked, to be made into the sort of  creatures  He is going to make us  into.
But the  question  is  not what  we  intended  ourselves to be,  but what He
intended us to  be  when  He  made us.  He is the inventor,  we are only the
machine. He is the painter, we are only the picture. How should we know what
He  means us  to  be like? You see,  He has already  made us  something very
different from what  we  were.  Long ago, before we were born, when  we were
inside our mothers'  bodies, we passed through various stages. We  were once
rather like vegetables, and once rather like  fish; it  was only at  a later
stage  that  we  became like  human babies.  And if we had been conscious at
those earlier stages, I  daresay we should have been quite contented to stay
as vegetables or fish-should not have wanted to be made into babies. But all
the  time  He knew His  plan  for us and  was determined  to  carry  it out.
Something the same is now happening at a higher level. We may be content  to
remain  what we call "ordinary people": but He is determined to  carry out a
quite different  plan.  To shrink back from that plan is not humility; it is
laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is
     Here is another  way of putting the two  sides of the truth. On the one
hand we must never imagine that our own unaided  efforts can be relied on to
carry us even through the next  twenty-four hours as "decent" people. If  He
does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other
hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded
of the greatest saints  is beyond what He  is determined to produce in every
one of  us in  the end. The job will not  be completed in  this life: but He
means to get us as far as possible before death.
     That is why we must  not  be surprised if we are in  for a rough  time.
When a man turns to Christ and seems to be  getting  on pretty well  (in the
sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it
would  now be natural if  things went  fairly  smoothly. When  troubles come
along-illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation-he is disappointed.
These things, he feels, might have been  necessary to rouse him and make him
repent in his  bad old days; but why  now? Because God is forcing him on, or
up, to a higher  level: putting him into situations where he will have to be
very much braver, or more  patient, or  more loving, than he ever dreamed of
being before.  It seems  to us all unnecessary: but that is because we  have
not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of
     I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine
yourself as a  living house. God comes in to rebuild  that house. At  first,
perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right
and  stopping the leaks  in  the roof and  so on: you knew  that those  jobs
needed doing and so you  are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking
the  house about  in a way that hurts  abominably and  does not seem to make
sense.  What on earth is He up  to? The  explanation is  that He is building
quite a different house from the one you thought of- throwing out a new wing
here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made  into a decent little  cottage: but He
is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
     The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to
do the impossible.  He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that
command. He said (in the Bible) that we were  "gods" and He is going to make
good His words. If  we let Him-for we can prevent Him, if we  choose-He will
make the feeblest and  filthiest of  us  into a god or  goddess, a dazzling,
radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through  with  such energy and joy
and wisdom  and love as we cannot now  imagine,  a bright  stainless  mirror
which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale)
His own boundless power and delight  and goodness.  The process will be long
and in parts very painful; but that is what we  are in for. Nothing less. He
meant what He said.

     He  meant what He  said. Those  who put  themselves  in His  hands will
become perfect, as He  is perfect-perfect in  love, wisdom, joy, beauty, and
immortality. The change will not be completed in this life, for death is  an
important  part of the  treatment. How far the change will  have gone before
death in any particular Christian is uncertain.
     I think this is the right moment to consider  a question which is often
asked: If Christianity is true why are  not  all Christians  obviously nicer
than all  non-Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something
very reasonable  and partly something  that is  not reasonable at  all.  The
reasonable part is this. If conversion to  Christianity makes no improvement
in a  man's outward actions -if he continues  to  be  just  as  snobbish  or
spiteful  or envious  or ambitious as he was  before-then  I  think we  must
suspect  that his  "conversion"  was  largely  imaginary;  and  after  one's
original conversion, every  time one thinks one has made an advance, that is
the  test  to  apply.  Fine  feelings,  new  insights, greater  interest  in
"religion"  mean nothing unless they  make our actual behaviour better; just
as in an illness "feeling better" is not much good if the thermometer  shows
that your temperature  is  still going up. In  that sense the outer world is
quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ told us to judge by
results.  A  tree is known by its fruit;  or,  as we say,  the proof  of the
pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave
well, we are  making Christianity  unbelievable to  the outside  world.  The
wartime  posters told us that Careless Talk costs  Lives. It is equally true
that  Careless Lives  cost Talk.  Our  careless lives  set the  outer  world
talking; and we give them grounds for  talking in a way that throws doubt on
the truth of Christianity itself.
     But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer  world
may  be quite  illogical.  They may demand not merely that  each  man's life
should improve if he becomes a Christian:  they may also demand  before they
believe in Christianity that they should see the  whole world neatly divided
into two camps -Christian  and  non-Christian-and that all the people in the
first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people
in the second. This is unreasonable on several grounds.
     (1)  In the first place the situation in the actual world is  much more
complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christians
and 100 per cent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who
are slowly  ceasing to be Christians but who  still call  themselves by that
name: some  of  them  are clergymen.  There are other people  who are slowly
becoming  Christians  though they  do not yet call themselves so. There  are
people who do not  accept the full Christian doctrine  about Christ but  who
are so strongly attracted by Him that they  are  His in a much deeper  sense
than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are
being led by God's secret influence to concentrate  on  those parts of their
religion which are in agreement with  Christianity, and who  thus  belong to
Christ without  knowing it. For example,  a Buddhist of good will may be led
to concentrate more and more  on  the Buddhist  teaching about  mercy and to
leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist
teaching  on  certain  other  points. Many of the  good  Pagans  long before
Christ's  birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there
are  a  great many people who are just  confused in mind and have  a lot  of
inconsistent beliefs all  jumbled up together. Consequently, it  is not much
use trying to make  judgments  about  Christians and  non-Christians in  the
mass. It is some use comparing cats and dogs, or even men and women, in  the
mass, because there  one knows definitely which is  which. Also,  an  animal
does not turn (either slowly or suddenly) from a dog into a cat. But when we
are comparing Christians in  general with non-Christians in general, we  are
usually not  thinking about real people whom we know at all, but  only about
two vague ideas which we have got from novels and newspapers. If you want to
compare the bad Christian and  the good  Atheist,  you must  think about two
real specimens  whom  you  have actually met. Unless  we come down to  brass
tacks in that way, we shall only be wasting time.
     (2) Suppose  we have  come down to  brass tacks and are now talking not
about an imaginary Christian  and an imaginary  non-Christian, but about two
real  people  in our own neighbourhood. Even then we  must be careful to ask
the right question. If Christianity is true then it ought to follow (a) That
any Christian will be nicer than the  same person would be if he were not  a
Christian.  (b)  That any man who  becomes a Christian will be nicer than he
was before.  Just in the same  way,  if the  advertisements of White-smile's
toothpaste are true it ought to follow (a) That anyone who uses it will have
better teeth than the same person would have if  he did not use it. (b) That
if anyone begins to use it his teeth will improve. But to point  out that I,
who  use  Whitesmile's  (and  also  have inherited  bad  teeth from  both my
parents), have not got  as fine a set as some healthy young  Negro who never
used  toothpaste at  all, does not, by itself, prove that the advertisements
are  untrue.  Christian  Miss  Bates  may  have  an  unkinder  tongue   than
unbelieving  Dick  Firkin.  That,  by  itself,  does  not  tell  us  whether
Christianity works.  The question is what Miss Bates's tongue would  be like
if she were not a Christian and what Dick's  would be like if he became one.
Miss Bates  and  Dick, as a result  of natural  causes and early upbringing,
have  certain  temperaments: Christianity professes to put both temperaments
under new  management if they will allow it to  do so. What you have a right
to ask  is whether  that  management, if  allowed to take over, improves the
concern. Everyone knows that what is being  managed in Dick Firkin's case is
much "nicer" than  what is being managed in  Miss  Bates's. That is  not the
point. To  judge the management of a factory, you must consider not only the
output but the plant. Considering the plant at Factory A it  may be a wonder
that it turns out anything  at  all; considering the  first-class outfit  at
Factory  B its output, though high, may be a great deal lower than  it ought
to be.  No  doubt the  good manager  at  Factory  A is going to  put  in new
machinery as soon as he can, but that takes time. In the meantime low output
does not prove that he is a failure.
     (3) And now, let us go  a little deeper. The manager is going to put in
new machinery: before  Christ has  finished with Miss Bates, she is going to
be very "nice" indeed. But if we left it  at  that, it would sound as though
Christ's only aim was to pull Miss Bates  up to the same level on which Dick
had  been all  along. We have been talking,  in  fact, as  if Dick  were all
right; as if Christianity was something  nasty  people needed and  nice ones
could afford to do without;  and  as  if niceness was all that God demanded.
But this would  be a fatal  mistake.  The  truth is that in God's  eyes Dick
Firkin needs "saving" every bit as much as Miss Bates. In one  sense (I will
explain what sense in a moment) niceness hardly comes into the question.
     You cannot expect God to look at  Dick's  placid  temper  and  friendly
disposition  exactly as  we do. They  result  from  natural causes which God
Himself creates.  Being merely  temperamental,  they will  all disappear  if
Dick's digestion alters. The niceness,  in fact,  is God's gift to Dick, not
Dick's gift to God. In the same way, God has allowed natural causes, working
in a world spoiled by centuries of sin, to  produce in Miss Bates the narrow
mind and jangled nerves which account for most of her nastiness. He intends,
in His own  good time, to set that  part  of her right. But that is not, for
God, the critical part of the business. It presents  no difficulties.  It is
not what He is  anxious about.  What He is watching  and waiting and working
for is something that is not easy even for God, because, from the nature  of
the case, even  He  cannot produce it by a mere act  of power. He is waiting
and watching for it both  in Miss Bates and in  Dick Firkin. It is something
they can freely give  Him or freely refuse  to Him. Will they, or  will they
not, turn  to  Him and  thus  fulfil  the only purpose  for which  they were
created?  Their free will is  trembling  inside  them  like the needle  of a
compass. But  this is a needle  that  can choose. It can  point to its  true
North; but it need not. Will  the needle swing round,  and settle, and point
to God?
     He can help it to do  so. He cannot force it. He  cannot, so to  speak,
put out His own hand and pull it into the right position,  for then it would
not be  free  will  any more. Will it  point North?  That is the question on
which all hangs. Will Miss Bates and  Dick  offer their natures to God?  The
question  whether the  natures they offer  or withhold are, at  that moment,
nice or nasty ones, is of secondary importance. God  can see to that part of
the problem.
     Do not misunderstand me. Of course God  regards a nasty nature as a bad
and deplorable  thing. And, of course,  He regards a  nice nature as a  good
thing-good  like bread, or sunshine, or water. But these are the good things
which He  gives  and  we receive. He  created Dick's sound nerves  and  good
digestion,  and there  is  plenty  more where  they  came from. It costs God
nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious
wills  cost Him crucifixion. And because  they  are  wills they can-in  nice
people just as much as  in nasty ones-refuse His request.  And then, because
that niceness in Dick was merely part of nature, it will all go to pieces in
the end. Nature herself will all pass away. Natural causes  come together in
Dick to make a pleasant psychological pattern, just as they come together in
a sunset to make a  pleasant  pattern of colours. Presently (for that is how
nature works) they will fall apart again and the pattern in both  cases will
disappear. Dick has had the chance to turn (or rather, to allow God to turn)
that momentary pattern into the beauty of an eternal spirit: and  he has not
taken it.
     There is a  paradox here.  As  long as Dick  does  not turn to  God, he
thinks his  niceness is his own,  and just as  long as he thinks that, it is
not his own. It is when Dick realises that his niceness is not his own but a
gift from  God,  and when he offers it back to God-  it is just then that it
begins  to be really  his own. For  now Dick is beginning to take a share in
his own creation. The only things we can keep  are the things we freely give
to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.
     We must,  therefore, not  be surprised if we  find among the Christians
some people who  are still nasty. There is even, when  you come to  think it
over,  a reason  why nasty people might  be expected to  turn to  Christ  in
greater numbers  than nice  ones. That was what  people  objected  to  about
Christ during His life on  earth:  He seemed to attract "such awful people."
That  is what people still  object to, and always will. Do you not  see why?
Christ said '"Blessed are the poor" and  "How hard  it  is  for  the rich to
enter  the Kingdom,"  and  no doubt He primarily meant the economically rich
and economically poor.  But do not His words  also apply to another  kind of
riches  and poverty? One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you
may  be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money  can give  and  so
fail to realise your need  for  God.  If everything  seems to come simply by
signing  checks,  you  may  forget  that you  are at  every  moment  totally
dependent on God. Now quite plainly, natural gifts carry with them a similar
danger. If you have sound nerves  and intelligence and health and popularity
and a  good  upbringing,  you are likely to  be  quite  satisfied with  your
character as it is. "Why drag God into it?" you may ask. A certain level  of
good conduct comes  fairly easily to you. You  are not one of those wretched
creatures  who  are  always  being  tripped up  by  sex,  or dipsomania,  or
nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a  nice chap  and (between
ourselves) you  agree  with  them. You are quite  likely to believe dial all
this niceness is your own  doing: and you may easily not  feel the need  for
any  better kind of  goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds
of  goodness  cannot  be brought to recognise  their need for Christ  at all
until,  one  day,  the   natural  goodness   lets  them   down   and   their
self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are
"rich" in this sense to enter the Kingdom.
     It  is  very different  for  the nasty people-the  little, low,  timid,
warped,  thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced
people. If they make any attempt at  goodness at all, they learn, in  double
quick time,  that they  need  help. It is  Christ or nothing for them. It is
taking  up the cross and following-or else despair. They are the lost sheep;
He  came specially to  find  them. They  are (in one  very real and terrible
sense) the "poor": He blessed diem. They are  the "awful set" he goes  about
with-and of course the Pharisees say still, as they said from the first, "If
there were anything in Christianity those people would not be Christians."
     There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us.
If  you  are  a nice person-if virtue  comes easily to you  beware! Much  is
expected from those to  whom  much is  given. If  you  mistake for your  own
merits what are really God's gifts to you  through  nature,  and if you  are
contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts
will  only  make your fall more terrible, your corruption  more complicated,
your bad  example more  disastrous.  The Devil  was  an archangel once;  his
natural  gifts  were  as  far  above  yours as  yours are  above  those of a
     But if you are a poor  creature-poisoned  by  a wretched upbringing  in
some house full of vulgar jealousies  and senseless quarrels-saddled,  by no
choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion-nagged day  in and
day  out  by  an  inferiority  complex  that  makes you  snap  at  your best
friends-do not despair. He knows  all about it. You are one of the poor whom
He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying  to drive.  Keep
on.  Do what you can. One  day (perhaps in another  world,  but  perhaps far
sooner than that) he will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one.
And then you  may astonish  us all-not least yourself: for you  have learned
your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be  first and some  of
the first will be last.)
     "Niceness"-wholesome, integrated personality-is an excellent  thing. We
must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our
power, to  produce a world where as many people as  possible grow up "nice";
just  as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we
must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should
have  saved  their souls.  A  world  of  nice people,  content in  their own
niceness,  looking no  further,  turned  away  from God,  would be  just  as
desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world-and might even be more
difficult to save.
     For  mere  improvement  is  not redemption,  though  redemption  always
improves  people even here and  now and will, in  the end, improve them to a
degree  we cannot  yet imagine.  God became man to turn creatures into sons:
not simply to  produce better  men of the old kind but to produce a new kind
of man. It is not like teaching a  horse to jump better and  better but like
turning a  horse  into a winged  creature.  Of  course, once it has  got its
wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been  jumped and thus
beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the
wings are just  beginning  to grow, when it cannot do so:  and at that stage
the  lumps on  the shoulders-no one could tell by  looking at them that they
are going to be wings-may even give it an awkward appearance.
     But perhaps we have  already spent too long  on  this question. If what
you want  is  an  argument  against  Christianity (and I  well remember  how
eagerly I looked for such arguments when I began  to be afraid it was  true)
you can easily  find some stupid  and unsatisfactory Christian  and say, "So
there's your boasted  new  man! Give  me the old kind." But if once you have
begun  to see that Christianity  is on other grounds probable, you will know
in your heart that this is only evading the issue. What can you  ever really
know  of  other  people's souls-of  their  temptations, their opportunities,
their  struggles? One soul in the whole creation  you do know: and it is the
only one  whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in
a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your
next door neighbours  or memories of what  you have read in books. What will
all that chatter and hearsay count (will you  even  be able to remember it?)
when the anaesthetic  fog which we call "nature" or  "the real world"  fades
away and  the Presence  in which  you  have  always  stood becomes palpable,
immediate, and unavoidable?

     In the last chapter I compared Christ's  work of making New Men to  the
process of turning a horse  into  a  winged creature.  I  used that  extreme
example in order to emphasise the point that it is not mere improvement  but
Transformation. The  nearest parallel to it in the  world of nature is to be
found in the  remarkable transformations  we can make in insects by applying
certain  rays to  them. Some  people think this is how Evolution worked. The
alterations in creatures on  which it all depends may  have been produced by
rays  coming  from outer  space. (Of course  once the alterations are there,
what  they  call "Natural Selection" gets to work on them: i.e.,  the useful
alterations survive and the other ones get weeded out.)
     Perhaps a modern man can understand the Christian idea best if he takes
it in connection with Evolution. Everyone now knows about Evolution (though,
of course, some educated people  disbelieve it): everyone has been told that
man has evolved from lower types  of life. Consequently, people often wonder
"What is  the  next  step? When is the  thing  beyond man going  to appear?"
Imaginative  writers try sometimes to  picture this next step-the "Superman"
as they call him; but they usually only succeed in picturing someone a  good
deal  nastier  than  man as we know him and then try to make up for that  by
sticking  on  extra  legs  or arms. But supposing  the next  step was  to be
something even  more different from the earlier steps than they ever dreamed
of? And is it not very likely it would be? Thousands of centuries  ago huge,
very heavily armoured  creatures were  evolved. If anyone  had  at that time
been watching  the course of Evolution  he would probably have expected that
it was going to go on to  heavier and heavier armour. But he would have been
wrong. The future had a card up  its sleeve which nothing at that time would
have  led him  to  expect.  It was  going to  spring  on him  little, naked,
unarmoured animals which  had better brains: and with those brains they were
going  to master the whole planet. They were not  merely going  to have more
power than the prehistoric monsters,  they were going to have  a new kind of
power. The next step was not only going to be different, but different  with
a new kind of difference. The stream of  Evolution was  not going to flow on
in the direction in which he saw it flowing: it  was in fact going to take a
sharp bend.
     Now it seems to  me that most of the  popular  guesses at the Next Step
are making just the  same sort  of mistake. People see (or at any rate  they
think they  see)  men developing greater  brains and getting greater mastery
over nature. And because they think the stream is flowing in that direction,
they imagine  it will go on flowing in  that  direction. But  I cannot  help
thinking  that  the  Next Step will  be  really new; it  will  go  off  in a
direction you could never have dreamed  of. It would hardly be worth calling
a New  Step unless it did.  I should expect  not merely difference but a new
kind  of difference. I should expect not merely  change but a  new method of
producing the change. Or, to make an Irish  bull, I should expect  the  next
stage in Evolution not to be a stage in Evolution at  all: should expect the
Evolution itself  as a method  of producing change,  will be superseded. And
finally,  I should not be surprised  if, when  the thing happened, very  few
people noticed that it was happening.
     Now,  if  you care  to talk  in  these  terms, the  Christian  view  is
precisely that the Next Step  has already appeared. And it is really new. It
is not a  change from brainy  men to brainier men: it  is a change that goes
off in a totally different direction-a change from being creatures of God to
being sons of  God.  The  first  instance appeared in Palestine two thousand
years ago. In  a sense, the change is not "Evolution" at all,  because it is
not something arising out of the natural  process  of  events but  something
coming  into  nature  from  outside. But that  is what I should  expect.  We
arrived at our idea of "Evolution" from studying the past. If there are real
novelties in  store  then of course our  idea,  based on the past,  will not
really cover them. And in fact this New Step differs from all previous  ones
not only in coming from outside nature but in several other ways as well.
     (1)  It is not carried on by sexual reproduction. Need we  be surprised
at that? There was a time before sex had appeared; development used to go on
by different methods. Consequently, we might  have expected that there would
come a  time when  sex  disappeared,  or  else (which  is  what  is actually
happening) a time  when sex, though it continued to exist, ceased to  be the
main channel of development.
     (2) At the earlier stages living organisms have had either no choice or
very little choice about taking the  new step. Progress  was,  in the  main,
something  that happened to them, not  something that they  did. But the new
step, the  step from being creatures to being sons,  is voluntary. At least,
voluntary  in one  sense.  It  is  not  voluntary in  the sense  that we, of
ourselves, could have chosen to take it or could even have imagined  it; but
it is voluntary in the sense that when it is offered to us we can refuse it.
We  can, if we  please, shrink back: we can dig in our heels and let the new
Humanity go on without us.
     (3)  I  have called  Christ the "first instance" of the new man. But of
course He is something much more than  that. He is not merely a new man, one
specimen of the species, but the  new  man. He  is the origin and centre and
life of all the new men. He came into the created universe, of His own will,
bringing with Him  the Zoe, the new  life. (I mean  new to us, of course: in
its own place Zoe has existed for ever and ever.) And He transmits it not by
heredity but by what I have called "good  infection." Everyone  who  gets it
gets it  by personal contact with Him.  Other men become "new" by  being "in
     (4) This step  is taken  at a different  speed  from the previous ones.
Compared  with the development of man  on  this  planet,  the  diffusion  of
Christianity  over the human race seems to go  like a flash of lightning-for
two thousand years is almost nothing in the history  of the universe. (Never
forget that we are all  still "the early Christians." The present wicked and
wasteful divisions between us are, let us hope, a disease of infancy: we are
still  teething.  The outer  world, no doubt,  thinks just the  opposite. It
thinks we are dying  of  old age. But it has drought that  so  often before!
Again and again it has thought Christianity was dying, dying by persecutions
from without or corruptions from  within, by the rise of Mohammedanism,  the
rise   of  the  physical   sciences,  the  rise   of   great  anti-Christian
revolutionary movements. But every time the world has been disappointed. Its
first disappointment was over  the crucifixion. The Man came to  life again.
In a  sense-and  I  quite realise how  frightfully  unfair  it must seem  to
them-that has been happening ever since. They keep on killing the thing that
He started: and each time, just as  they are  patting down the  earth on its
grave, they suddenly  hear that it is still alive and has even broken out in
some new place. No wonder they hate us.)
     (5)  The  stakes are  higher.  By falling back at  the earlier steps  a
creature lost, at the worst, its few years of life on this earth: very often
it  did not lose  even  that. By falling back at this  step  we lose a prize
which is (in the strictest sense of the word) infinite. For now the critical
moment has arrived. Century by century God has guided nature up to the point
of producing  creatures which  can (if  they will) be  taken  right  out  of
nature,  turned  into  "gods." Will  they allow themselves to be taken? In a
way, it is like the crisis of birth. Until  we rise and follow Christ we are
still parts of Nature, still  in the womb of our great mother. Her pregnancy
has been long and painful and anxious, but  it has reached its  climax.  The
great moment has come. Everything is ready. The Doctor has arrived. Will the
birth "go off all right"? But of course it differs from an ordinary birth in
one important respect. In an ordinary birth the  baby  has not  much choice:
here it has. I wonder what an ordinary baby  would do if it  had the choice.
It might prefer to stay in the dark and warmth  and safety of  the womb. For
of course it would  think the womb meant safety. That would be just where it
was wrong; for if it stays there it will die.
     On this view the thing has happened: the new step has been taken and is
being taken. Already  the new men  are dotted here  and  there all over  the
earth. Some, as I have  admitted, are still  hardly recognisable: but others
can be recognised. Every now and then one  meets them. Their very voices and
faces  are different from  ours;  stronger, quieter,  happier, more radiant.
They begin where most of us leave off.  They  are, I say, recognisable;  but
you  must know  what to look  for.  They will not  be very like the  idea of
"religious people" which you have formed from your  general reading. They do
not draw  attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind
to them when they are  really  being  kind to  you. They love  you more than
other men  do,  but  they need  you less. (We must get over  wanting  to  be
needed: in  some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all
temptations to  resist.) They will usually seem to have  a lot of  time: you
will wonder  where  it comes from. When you have recognised one of them, you
will  recognise the next one much more easily. And  I  strongly suspect (but
how  should  I  know?)  that  they recognise  one  another  immediately  and
infallibly,  across  every barrier of  colour, sex, class, age, and even  of
creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society.
To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun.
     But you must not imagine  that the new men are,  in the ordinary sense,
all  alike. A good deal of what I  have been saying in this  last book might
make  you  suppose  that  that  was bound to be so. To become new  men means
losing what we now call "ourselves." Out of ourselves,  into Christ, we must
go. His will is to become ours and  we are to  think His  thoughts, to "have
the mind of Christ" as the Bible  says. And if  Christ is  one, and if He is
thus to be  "in"  us  all,  shall we  not be  exactly the same? It certainly
sounds like it; but in fact it is not so.
     It is difficult here to get a good illustration; because, of course, no
other two things are related to each other just as the Creator is related to
one of His creatures.  But I will try two very imperfect illustrations which
may give a hint of  the truth. Imagine a lot of people who have always lived
in the dark. You  come and try to describe to them  what  light is like. You
might tell them that if they come into the light  that same light would fall
on  them  all  and they  would all reflect it and thus become  what we  call
visible. Is it not  quite possible that they would imagine that, since  they
were  all receiving  the same light, and all  reacting to it in the same way
(i.e., all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know
that the light will in  fact bring out, or show up, how different they  are.
Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch
to taste and he experiences a particular  strong, sharp taste. You then tell
him that in your country people use  salt in all their cookery. Might he not
reply  "In  that case I  suppose  all your dishes taste  exactly  the  same:
because the taste of that  stuff you have just given me is so strong that it
will kill the taste of  everything else."  But you and I know that the  real
effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the
egg and the tripe and  the cabbage,  it actually brings it  out. They do not
show their real taste till you have  added the salt. (Of course, as I warned
you, this is  not really a  very  good illustration, because you can,  after
all, kill the other  tastes by putting in too much salt, whereas  you cannot
kill the  taste of a human  personality by putting in too much  Christ. I am
doing the best I can.)
     It is something like that with Christ  and us. The more  we get what we
now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly
ourselves we become. There  is so much  of Him that millions and millions of
"little Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully.
He made them all. He invented-as an author invents characters in a novel-all
the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real
selves are all waiting for  us in Him. It is  no good trying to  "be myself"
without Him.  The  more I resist Him and  try to  live on my own, the more I
become dominated  by  my own heredity and  upbringing  and surroundings  and
natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call "Myself" becomes  merely the
meeting place for trains of events which I never  started and which I cannot
stop.  What I call "My  wishes" become merely  the desires thrown up  by  my
physical  organism  or  pumped  into  me  by other men's  thoughts  or  even
suggested to me by devils. Eggs and alcohol and a good night's sleep will be
the real  origins  of what I flatter  myself  by regarding as my own  highly
personal and discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me
in the railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard
as  my own personal political  ideals, I am not, in my natural state, nearly
so much of a person as  I like to believe: most  of what I call "me" can  be
very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to
His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own. At
the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now.
There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until  you have given up your
self  to Him you will not have a  real self.  Sameness is to  be  found most
among the most "natural" men, not among  those who surrender to Christ.  How
monotonously alike  all  the great  tyrants  and conquerors have  been:  how
gloriously different are the saints.
     But there must  be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away
"blindly" so to speak. Christ will indeed give  you a real  personality: but
you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality
is what you  are bothering  about you are not going to Him at  all. The very
first step is  to  try to forget  about the self altogether.  Your real, new
self (which is  Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it  is  His)
will  not come as  long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are
looking for Him. Does  that sound  strange?  The  same  principle holds, you
know, for more everyday  matters. Even in social life, you will never make a
good impression on other  people until you stop thinking about what  sort of
impression  you are making.  Even in literature and art,  no man who bothers
about originality  will ever be original: whereas if you  simply try to tell
the truth (without caring twopence how  often it  has  been told before) you
will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up  your  self,
and you will  find  your  real self.  Lose  your life and  you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your  ambitions and favourite wishes every day and
death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of  your being,
and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not
given away will ever be  really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will
ever be  raised from  the dead. Look for  yourself, and you will find in the
long run only hatred,  loneliness, despair,  rage, ruin, and decay. But look
for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

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