Lewis, Clive . $3. 00 1B, ,ber essays. race [I960] Soaples, q 113P- PUBLIC LIBRARY DATE DUE THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT AND OTHER ESSAYS ALSO BY C. S. LEWIS The Screwtape Letters Miracles The Problem of Pain Transposition The Pilgrim’s Regress The The Great Divorce George MacDonald: An Anthology Abolition of Man Mere Christianity Surprised by Joy Reflections on the Psalms For Children The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Prince Caspian The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The Silver Chair The Horse and His Boy The Magician’s Nephew The Last Battle Fiction Out of the Silent Planet Perelandra
That Hideous Strength Till We Have Faces The World’s Last Night AND OTHER ESSAYS BY C. S. Lewis Harcourt, Brace and Company New York 1952, i955> 1 9$> J 959> 1 9Q b7 c – s – Lewis “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” copyright 1959 by Helen Joy Lewis All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical means, including mimeograph and tape recorder, without permission in writing from the publisher. first edition appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (January, n Obstinacy in Belief,” a paper read to the Socratic Club, Oxford, in The Sewanee Review (Autumn, 1955); “Lilies That Fester” The 1 Efficacy of Prayer*’ ” 959) The Twentieth Century (April, 1955); “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” The Saturday Evening Post (December, 1959); “Good Work and Good Works” in Catholic Art Quarterly (Christmas, 1959); “Religion in in and Rocketry” Space? “) (as in Christian Herald (as “Will We Lose God in Outer (April, 1958); “The World’s Last Night” Its in Religion in Life “The Christian Hope Meaning for Today”) (Winter, 1952). Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60-5439 Printed in the United States of America CONTENTS ONE: THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER: 3 TWO: ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF’. 1$ 51 THREE: LILIES THAT FESTER:
FOUR: SCREWTAPE PROPOSES A TOAST; FIVE: SIX*. 51 ^1 GOOD WORK AND GOOD WORKS: RELIGION AND ROCKETRY: 83 SEVEN: THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT: 93 THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT AND OTHER ESSAYS ONE THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER years ago I got up one morning Intending to have my hair cut in preparation for a visit to London, and the first letter I opened made it clear I need not go to London. So I decided to put the haircut off too. But then there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, “Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut/* In the end I could stand it no longer. I went.
Now my barber at that time was a fellow Christian and a man of many he troubles whom my I brother and I been able said, to help. The moment had sometimes opened his shop door I “Oh, if I And in fact was praying you might come today/’ had come a day or so later I should have still. been of no use to him. It awed me; it awes me ber’s prayers But of course one cannot might be telepathy. It rigorously prove a causal connection between the bar- and my visit. It might be accident. I have stood by the bedside of a woman whose thighbone was eaten through with cancer and who had thriving colonies of the disease in any other bones as well. THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT took three people to move her In bed. The doctors the nurses (who often predicted a few months of life; It know better), a few weeks. A good man laid his hands on her and prayed. (uphill, too, A year later the patient was walking miraculous/’ who the man through rough woodland) and took the last X-ray photos was saying, “These as solid as rock. It’s bones are as all But once again no rigorous proof. Medicine, true doctors admit, is not an exact science. We there is need not invoke the supernatural to explain the falsification of its prophecies.
You need not, unless you choose, believe in a causal connection between the prayers and the recovery. “What sort of evidence question then arises, of prayer? ” The thing we pray would prove the efficacy The for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not the thing were indisgoing to happen anyway? Even if follow that the miracle putably miraculous it would not had occurred because of your prayers. surely is that a compulsive empirical have in the sciences can never be attained. The answer proof such as we Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity is established of our experiences.
The by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without obey it. Now even if all the things that people law of gravitation exception prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by For prayer is request. The from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of the efficacy of prayer. essence of request, as distinct THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable “success” in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. inite would prove something much more like magic a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, It the course of nature. There are, no doubt, passages in the New Testament which may seem at first sight to promise an invariable granting of our prayers. But that cannot be what they really mean. For in the very heart of the story we meet a glaring instance to the contrary. In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. After that the idea that prayer lible is recommended to us as a sort of infal- gimmick may be dismissed.
Other things are proved not simply by experience but artificially by those contrived experiences which we call experiments. Could this be done about prayer? I will pass over the objection that no Christian could take part in such a project, because he has been forbidden it: “You must not try experiments on God, your Master. ” Forbidden or not, is the thing even possible? the I have seen it suggested that a team of people more the better should agree to pray as hard as they knew how, over a period of six weeks, for all the patients in Hospital A and none of those in Hospital B. Then ou would tot up the results and see if A had more cures and fewer deaths. And I suppose you would repeat the experiment at various times and places so as to eliminate the influence of irrelevant factors. THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT The trouble is that I do not see how any real prayer could go on under such conditions. “Words without the King in Hamlet. thoughts never to heaven go/’ says a team o Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise would serve as well as men for properly trained parrots our experiment. You cannot pray for the recovery of the sick unless the end you have in view is their recovhave no motive for desiring the recovery.
But you can and none of those ery of all the patients in one hospital in another. You are not doing it in order that suffering should be relieved; you are doing happens. it to find out what purpose and the nominal purpose of whatever your prayers are at variance. In other words, are not your tongue and teeth and knees may do, you The experiment demands an impossibility. The real praying. unobtainEmpirical proof and disproof are, then, able. But this conclusion will seem less depressing if we remember that prayer is request and compare it with other specimens of the same thing. ake requests of our fellow creatures as well as We of God: we ask for the salt, we ask a friend to feed the cat while ask for a raise in pay, we we are on our holidays, woman to marry us. Sometimes we get what we and sometimes not. But when we do, it is not nearly so easy as one might suppose to prove with sciwe ask a ask for entific certainty a causal connection between the ask- ing and the getting. Your neighbour may be a humane person who would not have let your cat starve even if you had forgotten to make any arrangement* Your employer is never so 6 THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER our request for a raise as when he is aware that you could get better money from a rival likely to grant a quite possibly intending to secure you by to marry raise in any case. As for the lady who consents firm and is you sure she had not decided to do so already? Your proposal, you know, might have been the result, y OU are not the cause, of her decision. A certain important conversation might never have taken place unless she had intended that it should. some measure the same doubt that hangs about the causal efficacy of our prayers to God hangs also about our prayers to man. Whatever we get we might have been going to get anyway.
But only, as I say, in some measure. Our friend, boss, and wife may tell us that they acted because we asked; and we may know Thus in them so well as to feel sure, first that they are saying what they believe to be true, and secondly that they understand their own motives well enough to be right. But notice that when this happens our assurance has not been gained by the methods of science. We do not try the control experiment of refusing the raise or breaking off the engagement and then making our request again under fresh conditions. Our assurance is quite different in kind from scientific knowledge.
It is born out of our relation to the other parties; not from knowpersonal from knowing them. ing things about them but that if we reach an assurance Our assurance God our prayers, and that always hears and sometimes grants are not merely fortuitous, can only apparent grantings come in the same sort of way. There can be no question THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT of tabulating successes and failures and trying to decide whether the successes are too numerous to be accounted know by chance. Those who best know a man best whether, when he did what they asked, he did it befor cause they asked. best I think those sent who best know God will now whether He till me to the barber’s shop be- cause the barber prayed. For up now we have been tackling the whole level. and on the wrong question in the wrong way The us in the wrong very question “Does prayer work? ” puts “Work’*: as if it were frame of mind from the outset. magic, or a machine matically. Prayer is something that functions auto- either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourconcrete Person. Prayer in the selves) and the utterly sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration sanctuary, the presence t; its and vision and enjoyment of it God its bread and wine. In prayers is God shows Himself to us.
That He answers a corollary not necessarily the most important one from that revelation. He does is learned from what He is. What and Petitionary prayer is, nonetheless, both allowed commanded doubt that to us: “Give us our daily bread/* And no it raises God a theoretical problem. Can we believe ever really modifies His action in response to of the suggestions men? For is infinite wisdom does goodness not need telling what best, needs no urging to do it. But neither does of those things that are and nfinite God need any whether done by 8 finite agents, THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER living or inanimate. chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food with- He could, if He out the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowlthe edge without the aid of learned men; or convert heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God/’ said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality/’ But not only prayer; is whenever we act at all
He lends us that dignity. not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers It should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed that is, His over-all purpose. But that purbe realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, o His creatures. For He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can God’s mind pose will / creatures. possibly delegate to His He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. He allows us to neglect what He would have us do, or to fail.
Perhaps we do not so to call it, of enabling finite fully realize the problem, with Omnipotence. It seems to infree wills to co-exist volve at every moment almost a sort of divine abdicaare are not mere recipients or spectators. tion. We We either privileged to share in the game or compelled to collaborate in the work, “to wield our little tridents/’ amazing process simply Creation going on before our eyes? This is how (no light matter) God makes something indeed, makes gods out of nothing. Is this 9 THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT So at least it seems to me. But what I have offered only a mental model or symbol.
All that we say on such subjects must be merely analogical and parabolic. The reality is doubtless not compre- can be, at the very best, any rate try to bad parables. Prayer is not a expel bad analogies and machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God. must not, any more than all our Our act, when we hensible by our faculties. But at we can pray, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate. It would be even worse to think of those who get what other acts, who they pray for as a sort of court favorites, people refused prayer of have influence with the throne.
The answer enough to that. And I dare not leave out the hard saying which I once heard from an experienced Christian: “I have seen many strikChrist in Gethsernane is that I thought ing answers to prayer and more than one miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning: before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic. ” just those Does God then forsake Well, who serve Him best? His tor- He who served Him Man, best of all said, near tured death, “Why at hast thou forsaken e? ” is When God least becomes man, forted that of all others, com- by God, His greatest need. There if I is a mystery here which, even the courage to you and me, if little people like our prayers are sometimes granted, be- had the power, explore. Meanwhile, 10 I might not have THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, yond all with far less help, to defend far in the great battle. desperate posts sent, we might be more 11
TWO – ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF CAPERS have more than nce been read to the Socratic Club at Oxford in which a contrast was drawn between a supposedly Christian attitude and a supposedly scientific attitude to belief. We have been told that the scientist thinks it his duty to proportion the strength of his belief exactly to the evidence; to believe less as there is less evidence and to withdraw belief altogether when reliable adverse evi- dence turns up. lieve We have been told that, on the contrary, it as the Christian regards positively praiseworthy to be- without evidence, or in excess of the evidence, or to maintain his belief unmodified in the teeth of stead- ily ncreasing evidence against it. Thus a “faith that has stood firm,” which appears to mean a belief immune from the assaults of reality, is commended. If this were a fair statement of the case, then the coall existence within the same species of such scientists and such Christians would be a very staggering phenomenon. The fact that the two classes appear to overlap, as they do, would be quite inexplicable. Certainly all discussion between creatures so different would be hope- THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT that things are purpose of this essay is to show that. The sense in which scireally not quite so bad as less. The entists he evidence, and the proportion their belief to sense in fined which Christians do closely. not, both more My hope is that when need to be dethis has been done, though disagreement between the two parties may remain, they will not be left staring at one another in wholly dumb and a And first, word desperate incomprehension. about belief in general. I do not see anything that the state of “proportioning belief to evidence” is like so common in the scientific life as has been claimed. Scientists are mainly concerned not with beout. And no one, lieving things but with finding things to the best of knowledge, uses the word “believe” y about things he has found out. The doctor says he “believes” a man was poisoned before he has examined the man was poibody; after the examination, he says the soned. table. No one says No one who man is, that he believes the multiplication believes that catches a thief red-handed says he was stealing. The scientist, when at is labouring to esinto knowledge. Of course cape from belief and unbelief or supposals. I do not think these are he uses hypotheses beliefs. We must look, then, for the scientist’s behaviour work, that when he a scientist, is about belief not to his hours. scientific life but to his leisure
In actual modern English usage the verb “believe/’ a except for two special usages, generally expresses very weak degree of opinion. to “Where is Tom? ” “Gone London, I ‘believe/’ The speaker would be only ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF mildly surprised if Tom had not gone to London after all. “What was the date? ” “430 B. C. , I believe/’ The sure. It is the same speaker means that he is far from with the negative if it is put in the form “I believe not. ” this term? ” “I believe not/’) But (“Is Jones coming up the negative is put in a different form it then becomes one of the special usages I mentioned a moment ago. if This still is f course the form “I don’t believe it,” or the it” stronger “I don’t believe you/’ “I don’t believe is far stronger on the negative side than “I believe” is on the positive. “Where is Mrs. Jones? ” “Eloped with the butler, cially if I believe/’ “I don’t believe it/’ This, espe- said with anger, may imply a conviction which to distinguish in subjective certitude might be hard is from knowledge by experience. “I believe” as uttered by a Christian. There is no hardened materialist ungreat difficulty in making the derstand, however little he approves, the sort of mental attitude ist The other special usage which this “I believe” expresses.
The material- need only picture himself replying, of a miracle, “I don’t believe it,” to some report and then Imagine this same degree of conviction on the opposite side. He knows that he cannot, there and then, produce a refutation of the miracle which would have the certainty of mathematical demonstration; but the formal possibility that the miracle might after all have occurred does not more than a fear that really trouble him any and O. Similarly, the Christian not be water H might claim does not necessarily have demonstrative proof; but the formal possibility that God might not exist is to THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT ot necessarily present in the form of the least actual doubt. Of course there are Christians who hold that such demonstrative proof exists, just as there may be materialists who hold that there is demonstrative dis- But then, whichever of them is right (if either is) while he retained the proof or disproof would be not proof. speaking believing or disbelieving but knowing. of belief and disbelief in the strongest degree, but not of knowledge. Belief, in this sense, seems to me to be assent to a proposition which we think so overwhelmof is a psychological exclusion ingly probable that there doubt, though not a logical exclusion of dispute.
It lief) We are may be asked whether belief (and of course disbeof this sort ever attaches to any but theologi- cal propositions. I think that many beliefs approximate to it; that is, many probabilities seem to us so strong that the absence of logical certainty does not induce in us the least shade of doubt. The scientific beliefs of those who are not themselves scientists often have this character, Most of our beliefs about other people are of the same sort. The scientist especially among the uneducated. himself, or he beliefs who was a scientist in the laboratory, has bout his wife and friends which he holds, not indeed without evidence, but with more certitude than the evidence, if weighed in the laboratory manner, would justify. Most of my generation had a belief in world and of other people the if reality of the external you prefer it, of our strongest arguments. It may be true, as they now arose from category mistakes say, that the whole thing 16 a disbelief in solipsism far in excess ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF and was a pseudo-problem; but then we didn’t know that In the twenties. Yet we managed to disbelieve in solipsism all the same.
There is, of course, no question so far of belief withmust beware of confusion between the out evidence. We which a Christian first assents to certain proposiand the way in which he afterwards adheres to them. These must be carefully distinguished. Of the second it is true, in a sense, to say that Christians do rec- way in tions ommend a certain discounting of apparent contrary I evidence, and so far as 1 will later attempt to explain why. it is But know not expected that a man should assent to these propositions in the first place without evidence or in the teeth of the evidence. At any rate, if any- one expects hat, I certainly do not. And in fact, the man who accepts Christianity always thinks he had good evidence; whether, like Dante, fisici e metafisici argomenti, or historical evidence, or the evidence of reli- or all these together. For gious experience, or authority, of course authority, however we may value it in this or that particular instance, is a kind of evidence. All of our historical beliefs, most of our geographical beliefs, many daily of our beliefs about matters that concern us in life, are accepted on the authority of other human are Christians, Atheists, Scientists, or beings, whether we Men-in-the-Street. f this essay to weigh the eviIt is not the purpose dence, of whatever kind, on which Christians base their belief. To do that would be to write a full-dress apolothat I need do here is to point out that, at the gia. All 17 THE WORLD’S LAST NIGHT be so weak as to warvery worst, this evidence cannot rant the view that all whom it convinces are indifferent to evidence. The history of thought seems to make this quite plain. We know, in fact, that believers are not cut off from unbelievers by any portentous inferior- or any perverse refusal to think. ity of intelligence Many of them have been people of powerful minds.
Many them of to them have been scientists. We may suppose have been mistaken, but we must suppose that might, indeed, the multitude and was, merely from not against it. For there is religion, their error was at least plausible. We conclude that it diversity of the arguments one case against Capaneus in Statius, that it tive fears, primus in orbe decs fecit timor: others, with Euhemerus, that it is all a “plant” put up by wicked with Tylor, that it kings, priests, or capitalists; others, comes from dreams about the dead; others, with Frazer, that it is it but many. Some say, like is a projection of our primi- that by-product of agriculture; others, like Freud, is a complex; the moderns that it is a category various mistake. I will never believe that an error against which so many and defensive weapons have been outset, wholly lacking in All this “post haste and rummage in the plausibility. land” obviously implies a respectable enemy. There are of course people in our own day to whom found necessary was, from the the whole situation seems altered by the doctrine of the concealed wish. They will admit that men, otherwise the arguapparently rational, have been deceived by will say that they have been ments for religion.
But they 18 ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF deceived first by their own desires and produced the ar- guments afterwards as a rationalization: that these arguments have never been intrinsically even plausible, but have seemed so because they were secretly weighted by our wishes. Now I do not doubt that this sort of thing happens in thinking about religion as in about other things; but as a general explanathinking tion of religious assent it seems to me quite useless. On that issue our wishes may if favour either side or both. The assumption Christianity terous. If is that every man would be pleased, and nothing but pleased, rue, is Freud only he could conclude that appears to me to be simply preposright about the Oedipus complex, the universal pressure of the wish that exist God should not ad- must be enormous, and atheism must be an mirable gratification to one of our strongest suppressed impulses. This argument, in fact, could be used on the theistic side. But I have no intention of so using is it. It will not really help either party. It fatally ambivalent. is fear-fulfil- Men ment wish on both sides: and again, there and hypochondriac temperaments will always tend to think true what they most wish to be false.
Thus instead of the one predicament on which our opponents sometimes concentrate there are as well as wish-fulfilment, in fact four. A man may be a Christian because he wants Christianity to be true. He may be an atheist because he wants atheism to be true. He may be an atheist because he wants Christianity to be true. He may be a Christian because he wants atheism to be true. Surely these possibilities cancel one another out? They may be 19 THE WORLD of S LAST NIGHT some use in analysing a particular instance of belief or disbelief, where we know the case history, but as a general explanation of either they will not help us.
I do not think they overthrow the view that there is evi- dence both for and against the Christian propositions which fully rational minds, working honestly, can assess differently. I therefore ask you to substitute a different and began. In less it, you retidy picture for that with which we member, two different kinds of men, scientists, who proportioned their belief to the evidence, and Christians, who did not, were left facing one another across a chasm. alike, The picture I should prefer is like this. All men from on questions which interest them, escape an, the region of belief into that of knowledge when they and if they succeed in knowing, they no longer say they believe. The questions in which mathematicians are interested admit of treatment by a particularly clear and own Those of the scientist have their which is not quite the same. Those of technique, the historian and the judge are different again. The strict technique. mathematician’s proof (at least so we laymen suppose) is by reasoning, the scientist’s by experiment, the historian’s by documents, the judge’s by concurring sworn testimony.
But side their all these men, as men, on questions out- disciplines, have numerous beliefs to which they do not normally apply the methods of their own disciplines. It would indeed carry some suspicion own of morbidity and even of insanity if they did. These beliefs vary in strength from weak opinion to complete ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF of such beliefs at their subjective certitude. Specimens “I believe” and the constrongest are the Christian’s JJ vinced atheist’s “I don’t believe a word of it. The particular subject-matter n which these two disagree does are not, of course, necessarily involve such strength of belief and disbelief. is, There is that there or not, a God. is belief or disbelief liefs, free weak or strong, are some who moderately opine But there are others whose from doubt. And all these bebased on what appears to the holders to be evidence; but the strong believers or disbelievers of course think they have very strong evidence. There side. is We no need to suppose need only suppose stark unreason error. on either