C.S. Lewis on Faith and Feelings

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders

Have you ever known someone you wanted to totally agree with, but couldn’t? I respect C.S. Lewis, both the man and his work, but I can’t agree with everything he wrote about Christian doctrine. What you see below is one of his statements that I heartily agree with, and I wish every Christ-follower would read it and take it to heart.

“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 readings and churchgoing 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?”

From Mere Christianity

In my observations, Christianity seems to be polarized between two extremes: the emotional Pentecostal/Charismatic side, and the analytical scholarly side. Both extremes, of course, include vast numbers of variations, from Charismatics who love God’s Word and spend great portions of their time studying it, to Bible scholars who feel God’s love so deeply they can’t contain it.

“Follow Your Heart”

The recurring theme in Disney’s and others’ “family” movies is, “Follow your heart.” It’s based on the idea that anything that makes you happy couldn’t be bad. That idea, however, almost never works out. I’ve experienced its folly so many times that I hesitate to admit it. Just look at the things people do to themselves because they think it will make them happy: Alcohol, drugs, relationships, sex, cosmetic surgery, and accumulating money and power. If you allow any one of those things to run your life, it will ruin your life.

Nothing is wrong with strong feelings, about God or anything else. What is wrong is basing your life on those feelings. That is what Jesus was talking about when he delivered this parable:

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (25) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (26) “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

I’m sure the wise man felt like finishing his house quickly, just as the foolish man did. But the wise man built his foundation on solid rock (God’s word) despite his inclination to go the easy way. This may not present feelings the way we typically think of them, but it demonstrates the broad range of circumstances that feelings can influence.

Whether it concerns relationships or home-building methods, feelings aren’t facts, and they most certainly aren’t truth. Too often they work against both.


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