Friday, October 15, 2010

Learning In War-Time

As if the essay The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis wasn't worth the price of getting the book of essays titled The Weight of Glory, then the second essay in the book, Learning In War-Time, should send you over to Amazon double quick.

It was given as a sermon at Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin on October 22, 1939.  It is a beautiful treatise as to why Christians should not give up their intellectual and cultural pursuits even in times of war, crises, and other mishaps of life. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

But to a Christian the true tragedy of Nero must be not that he fiddled while the city was on fire but that he fiddled on the brink of hell.

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.  Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.  If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.

If you attempted, in either case, to suspend your whole intellectual and aesthetic activity, you would only succeed in substituting a worse cultural life for a better.  You are not, in fact going to read nothing, either in the Church or in the line [of battle]:  if you don't read good books, you will read bad ones.  If you don't go on thinking rationally, you will think irrationally.  If you reject aesthetic satisfactions, you will fall into sensual satisfactions.

He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God:  himself.

There is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities as such.  Thus the omnipresence of obedience to God in a Christian's life is, in a way, analogous to the omnipresence of God in space.  God does not fill space as a body fills it, in the sense that parts of Him are in different parts of space, excluding other objects from them.  Yet He is everywhere--totally present at every point of space--according to good theologians.

The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable.  Favourable conditions never come.

The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

I would quote the whole essay if I could!  If you find yourself thinking that it's senseless to read St. Augustine while the kiddos are napping or that it's silly to practice your art because it's not very practical, and besides you're "just a mom,"  I think you will find Learning In War-Time a great boost of encouragement.  C. S. Lewis gives sound reasoning for all of us to develop our talents and intellect whether or not they seem "spiritual" or of any civil significance.  If God has given you the gift, use it.


  1. Amen! How can we instill a love of learning in our kids if we are not into learning ourselves? Thanks for the great quotes!