The way in which C.S. Lewis wrote makes the Narnia author extremely quotable. There’s a reason I did a list of 50 C.S. Lewis quotes and had trouble choosing only those.
Due to the amount of quality Lewis quotes, his unparalleled level of respect across every spectrum of Christianity and, if we are totally honest, the number of gullible people on the internet, there are many quotes attributed to the Oxford don that don’t belong to him.
Here are seven quotes from C.S. Lewis that have different meanings than their popular usage or that the famous author never even said.
“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Lewis actually did say this, but not in the context it is so often used. It is not some trite expression of optimism about the future. He was not giving some syrupy graduation speech to tell you all your dreams will come true. It was written to a woman facing a looming death.
In Letters to an American Lady, Lewis wrote these words to Mary Willis Shelburne who, being old and frail, was discussing the end of her life. Unbeknownst to him, Lewis was only five months away from his own death.
The question immediately before this line gives a better understanding of what Lewis means with this statement. “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret?” He wrote those words to remind her of the glory that would be hers after she walked through the valley of death.
“The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
This is one of those of those quotes where it takes a general idea of something Lewis said, but rewords it in such a way as to expand the thought beyond what he actually said.
He wrote something similar in “Christian Apologetics,” an essay included in God in the Dock. The actual quote is, “What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.”
So Lewis’ point is not necessarily about Christians writing good literature, but Christians writing well about a host of subjects with their faith influencing what they have to say about the various topics. This, he argues, is the type of “apologetic” literature most likely to influence culture and change individuals’ thinking.
“The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”
“The devil … the prowde spirite … cannot endure to be mocked.”
These two quotes do appear in a C.S. Lewis book, but it was Lewis quoting Martin Luther (the first) and Thomas More (the second) before the preface on the opening pages of The Screwtape Letters.
They sound like Lewis (other than More’s old English spelling), but much of Lewis’ direct discussion of Satan was written from the demonic perspective of Screwtape.
“We read to know we’re not alone.”
That quote actually comes from Shadowlands, a film about C.S. Lewis. Obviously, Lewis said a lot about reading and books, but he never said this.
In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he describes growing up in a home full of books. And while he often sought solace in books and was deeply moved by things that he read, he also enjoyed the company of others outside of reading.
In The Four Loves, he wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
If this quote had ended after the first two sentences, I would say it would reflect Lewis’ belief somewhat. But that last sentence gives it away. It comes across as some quasi-gnostic attitude toward the physical body.
Lewis understood that the material was not necessarily bad. It had merely been corrupted with the fall. The body and the soul are both part of who were are as a human.
In “God in the Dock“ the essay from the book of the same name, Lewis wrote, “As image and apprehension are in organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.”
“You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.”
This is an anonymous quote that has popped up as a Lewis quote sometime in the last decade. Some of the major quote sites do not help, as they include this as originating from him.
While Lewis did achieve many of his successes later in life, not to mention his finding love and marrying much later than normal, this quote, much like the earlier one, comes across as too saccharine.
But regardless of whether it sounds like Lewis or not, he never said it. And that’s the important thing. Truth matters.
This is what Lewis had to say about being concerned about truth in his writing. From Mere Christianity:
… 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.
Lewis was true and original. These quotes are not.