C. S. Lewis Did Not Like Church

CS Lewis on ChurchI have been trying to read through everything that C. S. Lewis wrote, and in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, I was surprised to discover what he thought about going to church.

It made me laugh out loud, because it so closely matched my own sentiments.

Here is what he wrote:

The idea of churchmanship was to be wholly unattractive. I was not in the least anticlerical, but I was deeply antiecclesiastical.

…But though I liked clergymen as I liked bears, I had as little wish to be in the Church as in the zoo.

It was, to begin with, a kind of collective; a wearisome “get-together” affair. I couldn’t yet see how a concern of that sort should have anything to do with one’s spiritual life. To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk of spiritual matters.

And then the fussy, time-wasting botheration of it all! The bells, the crowds, the umbrellas, the notices, the bustle, the perpetual arranging and organizing. Hymns were (and are) extremely disagreeable to me. Of all musical instruments I liked (and like) the organ least. I have, too, a sort of spiritual gaucherie which makes me unapt to participate in any rite.

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  1. says

    C.S. is most interesting, is he not? Many consider him to be the foremost theologian of the 20th Century.

    I read parts of “Surprised By Joy” many years ago, but now plan to read it completely. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just released a hardback reprint of “Surprised by Joy” and “The Four Loves”(I have a tape of Lewis himself reading “The Four Loves” if you want to borrow it Jeremy) , which I just received from Amazon (along with “Till We Have Faces”), and plan to begin reading this evening.

    As our little group passed by multi million dollar church properties Saturday afternoon on our way to spend some time with the homeless in downtown San Diego, I thought about Lewis’ comments about church. How did we ever move from Jesus’ example and teachings to forming a religion that needs such facilities, yet largely ignores the cold, wet people nearby who just spent the night getting soaked to the skin in a freezing rain?

    • says

      I have that tape of CS Lewis somewhere also. It is always so amazing to me how he can say so much with simple, clear words, and yet inspire the imagination and creativity, and break through difficult problems so easily.

      I really, really wish I had known him.

    • Ian Rineer says

      That last question I guess was rhetorical, but I would love to know the answer to that as well. I’m apart of a newer smaller branch-off of a church in my area, and it’s great, but I look online and in the news on people spending millions of dollars on huge, hi-tech church buildings, while there are homeless, hungry people right down the street from those buildings, and they could care less as a ‘church.’ I can’t be one to judge because I’m flawed, but in the general sense I agree with you.

      • says

        The original Sam says: Yes, Ian, that last question is probably pretty much rhetorical. However, we have figured out that lots of people area afraid of the homeless. When we ask them to join us when we visit the homeless they say they’re afraid they might catch a disease or be assaulted.

        Then there is also the dynamic that if we notice them, we might feel guilty if we don’t help them. If we start helping them, we have to admit that homelessness is a big problem that really needs lots of resources, resources that we have been directing elsewhere. There is also the issue that homelessness seems to be an unsolvable problem no matter how many resources we might pour into it.

        Our question: Are these valid concerns, or excuses to overlook the homeless and put our resources elsewhere?

  2. Bill Myers says

    I respect CS Lewis and appreciate much of what he wrote but when commenting on the church, one needs to look at what the Bible says about the church of Jesus Christ.

    Matthew 16:18 NIV
    And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

    Acts 11
    22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

    Acts 11:26
    and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

    Acts 13:1
    In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.

    Acts 14:23
    Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

    Acts 14:27
    On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

    Acts 15:4 NIV
    When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

    Acts 15:30 NIV
    The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter.

    Many more verses could be part of this list especially from the book of Acts that show that as followers of Christ we are called to be part of a local fellowship of believers. Sorry Mr Lewis we are not called to live our Christian life solo, no matter how good of an author one might be.

    “It was, to begin with, a kind of collective; a wearisome “get-together” affair. I couldn’t yet see how a concern of that sort should have anything to do with one’s spiritual life. To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk of spiritual matters”

    In fact, you being a part of a gathering of believers gives you the opportunity to serve other people who you may not have a natural affinity for. Isn’t this the call for us as believers to serve others. If you chose to hang out (meeting by twos and threes)with just those people you like, not much different than what the world chooses.

    Being a part of a local gathering of believers – the church – has everything to do with “one’s spiritual life”.

    • Cheryl says

      Bill, I think you are confusing the word “church” as being synonymous to a building and ceremony rather than the “church” or better, Ekklesia, being the people in Christ.

      • Bill Myers says

        Appreciate your comment but in each one of these verses there is no mention of building or ceremony but rather exactly what you say “people in Christ”. That’s why in my last comment I stated ” a local gathering of believers” not where they were meeting.

        Where in my comment do you feel like I am confusing church with building with people?

        Appreciate your feedback.

        • Colin says

          Hi Bill,

          There is a problem (mostly in the western church I must agree) that most of the mainstream churches covering large areas have completely moved away from any biblical leadership, doctrines have been compromised and the believers who attend these churches are “spiritually starving to death!”

          You may disagree with that assumption but I for one can quote many departures from scripture…

          1. Church of England now ordains women – women ordinates are now running the show more so than men in small church gatherings…completely unscriptual..

          2. No. 1 above is happening in baptist churches too.

          3. I attended a church which one sunday morning the pastor said that “Some people may be saved even though they never hear the gospel!”…Other things had been said before this that really rocked the boat a little but that was the final straw for me.

          4. I went to the methodist church which now teams up locally with the anglican church and believe in baptising babies (1pet3:21 – tell me how does a baby confess Christ)…If you think that is not so big a problem then try and witness to people on the street, like I have, and hear (many times) that they are “okay because they have been christened so I am fine”…

          5. The reformed churches then swing the other way…for example “We only sing organ/piano music because other instruments are not biblical” and “Sunday is the new Sabbath” – both teachings contrary to scripture…

          Believers in Christ want to “Worship Jesus”, “Spread the gospel” and love one another in “Spirit” and “IN TRUTH” – but the vast number of churches are so compromised with traditions of men that anyone who vaguely mentions what the scriptures teach is cast off as a pharisee…

          All of the problems are becoming so oppressive just about everywhere that its becoming extremely hard to fellowship in these places because they have become “luke warm” – True believers are left out to “starve” while every sin under the sky is tolerated with no rebuking whatsoever…its becoming a shambles…so

          people move away from the “once a week meet on Sunday” churches to doing what Jesus asked and guess what – you get mainstream denominations attacking believers who are just gathering to do what Jesus asked them to do…Jesus said “Where two or more are gathered in my name there I AM in the midst of them” – If Jesus is in the midst of us when we meet then “That is church!” – Anyone saying that it isn’t church “when Jesus says He is in the midst of them” is really way out in left field…Jesus said “Let the least amongst you be your leader” – because he didn’t want the church to be “lorded over” – look at the RC – thats so against scripture that I just can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind cannot discern that it is against the teaching of Jesus…

          Go and tell the under ground churches in North Korea, Iran and Chine where they are baptising at night time so that don’t get killed…are they the church?

          Lets remember that you won’t find the words “go to church” in the bible – its was “The church met” together!. We are the church and they church spread through people meeting in homes, fellowshipping, loving one another and being obedient to the word of God…A far cry from the current state of affairs in the west at the moment!

          Please forgive my ranting…i have just been so oppressed in church buildings by men and women who refuse to even read the word … they just take it completely out of context and oppress the lambs and the sheep…something Jesus Christ was completely against…We now have to get permission to speak at the front of the church…yet the bible tells us to “all have something to share – a revelation, psalm…etc” – Control, Control, Control is what the denominations are about…if I turn up and put my tithe in the box and stand up and sit down when asked around 99% of western churches in this day and age will be fine with that and never call round to talk to you in the week or ask how you are going on…soon as you stop attending church (after some weeks) you might get the odd phone call, you voice your concern, they kinda listen, you go back…nothing changes…the merry go round starts all over again…no real fellowship, no love, no discipleship just one big conveyor belt of hurting sheep being placed on the rollers to roll straight off the end…and the church goes on and on trying to win souls with marketing methods instead of just giving the plain “Gospel”…

          Again sorry for my rant…but most people will know what I am talking about here…We need to fellowship! When believers met together they had a meal and talked through one another problems…prayed together, sang songs together without having to sit down in a “service” – they were family but with the word of God in the center of their lives to guide them on the “narrow path” – but that narrow path has now “widened” to allow “Christians” to go on sinning when they no full well that they need to repent – its all seeker sensitive but no obedience, its about “I” and not “Jesus Christ”…We need to get back to “Jesus Christ” the only way, the truth and the life…and then we need to start doing Isaiah 58 and discipling with 1john…Tell me when was 1Thes read out to your congregation…all of it? Because at the end of it Paul gives an explicit command for the epistle to be “read out” to all of the congregation…but you won’t hear today because – its against some of the teachings of the church – so they pick and choose those things they like to teach upon but ignore the rest.

          Yes…I can understand why people want to meet in small groups?!?

    • says

      But he did want to gather in twos and threes. How many qualify as a “local gathering of believers?” If 2 or 3 is not sufficient, do you need five? Ten? Twenty? 100? 1000?

      • Bill Myers says

        Good followup –
        How many qualify as a ‘local gathering of believers’?

        when using the term ‘local gathering of believers’ I was referring to the church as the word is used in Acts especially.

        CS Lewis comment “To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk of spiritual matters.” seems to imply that he is referring to the church. In fact he is using it to describe a small Bible study or prayer group not the church. I agree with CS Lewis that our faith in Christ should include meeting in 2’s and 3’s to talk of spiritual matters. I did that this morning in a men’s Bible Study. Lewis can use a group of 2 or 3 to refer to ones practice of their faith in Christ but he cannot use it to refer to the church of Christ.

        If he truly believes this then CS Lewis does not understand the book of ACTS and the church described there.

        Back to the verses I shared from ACTS that give us insight into what the church is and how many people make up the church (not building but people wherever they happen to meet)

        Acts 11:26
        and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

        I count here Barnabas and Saul – 2 plus the church (great numbers of people) definitely more than 3.

        Acts 13:1
        In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. I count here. prophets teachers plus the church.. definitely more than 2 or 3 here.

        Acts 14:23
        Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

        Again here more than 2 or 3. Elders in the church. Elders means at least 2 plus believers. I think I can correctly assume more than 1 believer which would take us beyond 3 again as CS Lewis implies is a sufficient number to function as a church.

        Acts 14:27
        On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

        Given there is no specific number mentioned here but when the reference is made “gathering the church together” to me implies a number of people greater than 2 or 3 if one has to gather them.

        Acts 15:4 NIV
        When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

        Here more than 3 – the church, apostles and elders

        This is to say “2 or 3″ do not make up a church as CS Lewis seems to imply. The church of Jesus Christ needs elders and believers.

        I will give CS Lewis this though.. in his gathering of 2 or 3 if he has one elder and 2 believers .. then yes the church is meeting. But in these verses one would be hard pressed to say these are gatherings of 2 or 3 people.

        • says

          So you believe that a gathering of believers is not part of the church unless there are at least three people, and one of them must be an elder?

          This is a highly problematic understanding of church on numerous levels: biblical, theological, and practical.

          Nevertheless, even if this were true, CS Lewis would certainly qualify as an “elder” (more so than many church elders today), and so his gatherings where there were three would still fit that definition.

          • Steve says

            Actually he would not qualify as an ‘elder’ – an elder is a presbyter, meaning ‘priest’. This requires and apostolic succession of ordination. You cannot call yourself an elder, nor become one on a whim.

          • Bill Myers says

            I absolutely agree that any gathering of believers is “part” of the church.

            As far as CS Lewis functioning as an “elder” in his meetings with 2 or 3, we would have to ask him if that is how he saw himself functioning that way.

            There might be more in his book about what he did in his meetings but according to his book he met to “talk of spiritual matters”.

            An elder certainly does that but so much more.

            I Peter 5:2 calls an elder to shepherd the flock of God. I believe it is a stretch to call CS Lewis meeting discussing spiritual matters shepherding the flock of God. Did he also reprove, rebuke, go visit, support the flock of God he was looking over?

          • Bill Myers says

            Could you explain your comment with verses on Biblical, theological, and practical?

            Also I appreciate the comments in the interchange going on here but in a posting of comments where those commenting believe they understand The Truth – I am surprised there is so little reference to Biblical text to support one’s comments.

          • says


            “Elder” comes from the Greek word “presbuteros” which is where we get the word “presbyter.” In no case did it ever mean “priest.”

            Same for “bishop” or “overseer.” Both come from the Greek “episkopos” which is generally equivalent to presbuteros.

            Of course, there is major disagreement among churches on the meaning and usage of these terms, and how they apply to church government. A vast segment of Christianity, for example, does not believe the Scriptures teach apostolic succession.

            So are you denying that those groups which do not not have priests and bishops are therefore not part of “the church”?

          • says

            Regarding Scripture, it is easy to quote dozens, if not hundreds, of passages to support any view one comes up with. I have dealt elsewhere on this blog with numerous key passages of Scripture.

            But nevertheless, the key is not quoting Bible verses, but properly understanding them in context.

            Take 1 Peter 5:2 as an example. While Peter does write about shepherding the flock of God, in this immediate context, he does not define this as reproving, rebuking, visiting, or supporting the flock of God. Two of those ideas come out of 2 Timothy 4:2, which, although that passage also deals with elders, is written by a different author, to a different audience, for a different reason. As such, while it might be worthwhile to look at 2 Tim 4:2 later, during the initial study of 1 Peter 5:2, we have no business going immediately to 2 Tim 4:2 for what it means to “shepherd the flock of God.” We must stick with 1 Peter 5 first.

            The immediately following phrase defines what Peter means. Shepherding the flock means serving as an overseer. How does one serve? Peter provides a few contrasts to explain how.

            Not under compulsion, but willingly.
            Not for dishonest gain, but eagerly.
            Not lording it over others, but as an example.

            Each one of these three contrasting statements is not crystal clear either. Take the second for example. Is it “dishonest gain” for an overseer to take a salary? Some might argue so, and if this view is correct, then this means that anyone who takes a salary from the flock to serve as an overseer is disqualified. Some argue that no, this means not getting paid too much. But how much is “too much”? And we could study and debate that forever as well.

            And on and on it goes. This comment is already way too long, and we really have not looked at the text at all, let alone discussed hermeneutical paradigms, cultural backgrounds, grammatical constructions, Greek word usage, or any of the other elements that goes into proper exegesis.

            But this is the sort of research and discussion that needs to take place on each and every passage that a person can quote.

            When all we do is quote Bible verses which we think defends our view and disproves the views of others, we really only reveal a mistaken belief that the other person is unaware of this text, and if they would just read it, they would “come around” to our point of view.

            The reality, however, is that the other person is very aware of all these texts, but simply has a different interpretation and understanding of them.

            So while you can quote 2 Peter 5:2 and all those verses from Acts to support your view, I can quote all of these same verses to support my view. Does that get us anywhere?

            So what is needed is not quoting Bible verses, but studying and discussing them. What is needed is careful exegesis of each individual text. But as this comment reveals, that is not something that is best accomplished in blog comments.

    • Brandon says

      I think it’s important to note that Lewis was part of the Church of England which I would imagine attendance was as much about politics and tradition as it was about teaching the bible. Most of my adolescents I went to church for social reasons, and learned more in small bible studies and Sunday school than I did in a church service. I can relate to Lewis, although I am at a church I enjoy going to, I still think I learn more in small groups than in a service.

      • says

        Thanks for the comment. I agree. This is true of the Anglican church, and most churches in general. There is often a social and political element to all such gatherings. I am not sure this is all bad.

        But yes, it is true that almost everyone learns more in a small group discussion than in a large-group setting.

        Of course, even then, learning about the Bible is not the only (or even the primary) purpose of the church.

        • Steve says

          However, the Church of England has something strictly called for in the Bible: priest, deacons and bishops. The Church is not a designer accessory you pick out just because it makes you feel good.

          • Ben says

            I would like to see where in the Bible is states that a “Church” MUST have Priests, Deacons, and Bishops, especially since they are human creations and not Biblical at all

          • says


            Steve is using the traditional interpretation of the Greek words “episkopos” and “presbuteros.” We often translate them as “overseers” and “elders” today, but some in the past translated these as “bishops” and “priests.”

    • says

      Bill, I absolutely agree that gathering with other believers is important. But what I see in Lewis’ statement I agree with.

      I don’t see how the ‘going through the motions’ ritualized traditions of 4 songs, an offering, a homily and spying on your neighbor to see who is out of line has much to benefit spiritual growth or relationship with God. Worse, many American ‘churches’ are devolved into nothing more than a business enterprise to finance the kingdoms of men. I don’t see much resemblance there to what is described in Acts.

      Many people are not even allowed to participate in such places because they don’t make enough money, don’t look appealing enough…don’t fit the desired demographic…don’t agree with every doctrinal point. In my own experience, I had to walk away from the ‘church’ to preserve my spiritual life.

  3. Bill Myers says

    I think we need to be careful that what we like to do defines what the church of Jesus Christ should be and how it should function. Just because we don’t get it right doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t get it right.

    • says

      I’m not fully sure what you’re saying here, but if I understand you correctly, I completely agree.

      I think you are saying that we must avoid letting personal preferences define what the church is supposed to be and do, and instead follow the guidance of Jesus?

      • Sam says

        I think part of the problem is that today’s church – from the services themselves to the often elaborate buildings, is unlike what the church was in the biblical days. They gathered where they could. Their communities and knowing who was who was important. They didn’t have TV’s, telephones, newspapers. I personally feel today’s church is more about routine and who has the largest church mentality. Today, our ‘elders’ generally aren’t over a community, instead they hover over a single church. I wonder, back then did they pass by people in need and instead go buy $100’s worth of sunday best clothing? I personally would rather gather with a few people at a home and study bible and then go out and help someone in need.

        • says

          Welcome to another Sam! You must be new to the blog, since I don’t remember another Sam since I’ve been commenting on here.

          Yes, the church has changed over the centuries and the discussion tends to revolve around whether or not it has changed for the better or the worse.

          Perhaps we need some way to distinguish between us. Since I get accused of heresy and worse from time to time, you may want to somehow distinguish yourself from me.

      • Bill Myers says

        I believe that some of our difficulties in our replies in this posting is that church has different meanings in one’s mind when writing a comment:

        : church as CS Lewis thought out it
        : church as experienced in big churches with big programs and expensive buildings
        : church as experienced in small home group settings
        : church as the scriptures define it

        and other people could add their own idea of what one thinks of when the word “church” is uttered.

        I am glad that we might get it wrong
        Jesus never did and never will.

        • says

          Yes, you are absolutely right.

          I read through my long comment above and saw that it sounded kind of harsh. I did not intend that at all. Sorry about that.

          It does come down to a large degree in how we define “church” and you are right that Jesus never got it wrong.

  4. Steve says

    This only confirms that while CS Lewis was on the right path, he wasn’t there yet. He made many statements that had hints of heresy. His spiritual mentor, GK Chesterton, was a sound Churchman (the kind with the buildings) and is far Lewis’ superior in thought.
    Most of the notions of what young people and non-denominalationists call ‘church’ these days was inherited from a heretical sect called the Cathars: the rejection of buildings, tradition, ‘real-presence’, ritual, many of the authentic books of the Bible (I could go on). While they believed that the essence of the true church was a few ‘good men’ and ‘believers’ (yes they even used the same terms), the true philosophical basis of their religion was heavily based on Pre-destinationalism, radical dualism, and on an almost magical reading of the text of the Bible as something that ‘spoke to them alone’ outside of any historical and traditional context. All of these things the Cathars inherited from the heretical sect called the Manichaeans.
    Like much of modern society and modern Christianity, the Cathars created a heretical religion by systematically denying the substance of reality and all the evidence in between. They were Idealists: that by denying reality they could create an idealized one that better suited themselves. It seemed innocent, yet it committed the worst slander of all – it rejected all that God had made and intended to be Holy.
    I would ask you commentators who believe that Lewis’ comment is profound: how do you know you are right? How can you be so sure the traditional Church is the heresy and you are not? How do you come to that conclusion without an ad hoc denial of facts by replacing them with what you and your friends believe certainly must be the truth?
    In short, what if you’re wrong and you’ve just denied Christ’s Church in favor of your own whimsical idea of what certainly must be the truth?
    Do the research. What you will find is that what you think is the truth is really propaganda – it just fits what you want to believe better because it’s easy. It’s also Gnostic.

    • says


      From your comment, I suspect that you are a new reader of this blog.

      First of all, welcome!

      Second, everything you accuse me of believing, I don’t believe at all, as most of my posts reveal.

      Do the research. Before you accuse people of being heretics, at least take some time to figure out what they believe.

      • Jesse says

        Just a few questions to help me clarify the issue.

        Did C.S. Lewis stay with his antiecclesial attitudes or was that just a stage of his conversion? Even if Lewis did keep that sentiment, did he think it was a healthy sentiment or was he just commenting on a particular attitude that he felt important to overcome? Did Lewis attend Church services regularly? If so, why?

        • says


          My understanding is that he attended church for pretty much his entire adult life. But these were his sentiments during most of that time.

          But I could be wrong about this.

          This quote comes from his autobiography, which recounts his early years and conversion from atheism to Christianity. The story does not continue much after that. However, he wrote the book later in life, and there is nothing in the context of this quote which would lead one to believe that he changed his view later in life.

    • Ben says

      Easy, look at what is considered a Congregation or Church in the Bible, look at what’s called “Church” now a days, they are 100% in the opposite direction of what Christ and his Disciples were doing

  5. Jesse says

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this line but when Lewis says “I couldn’t yet see how a concern of that sort should have anything to do with one’s spiritual life.”
    Doesn’t this sentence imply that at some point he did realize how a concern of that sort should have something to do with one’s spiritual life?

    • says

      That’s a good point. It is rather vague. I did some research, and it appears he did slightly “come around” later in life. At one place, he was asked this question:

      “Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?”

      Here is is his reply:

      “That’s a question which I cannot answer. My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and Gospel Halls; and then later I found that it was the only way of flying your flag; and, of course, I found that this meant being a target. It is extraordinary how inconvenient to your family it becomes for you to get up early to go to Church. It doesn’t matter so much if you get up early for anything else, but if you get up early to go to Church it’s very selfish of you and you upset the house. If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament which is in the nature of a command, it is that you are obliged to take the Sacrament, and you can’t do it without going to Church. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.” (God in the Dock, pp. 61-62.)

      What does that all mean? It appears that he thinks “going to church” is a good way to root out pride, arrogance, and solitary conceit, and that it is the only way to receive “the sacrament.”

    • says

      I found something else.

      “This is an order and must be obeyed. The other services are, I take it, traditional and might lawfully be altered. But the New Testament does not envision
      solitary religion; some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted in the Epistles. So we must be regular practicing members
      of the Church.” (Letters of C. S. Lewis)

      “We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Christianity is already institutional in the earliest of its documents. The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are members of one another.” (The Weight of Glory).

  6. says

    Actually, Lewis is only here mentioning the more benign problems with church. Far more serious are the toxic effects it has on genuine faith in Christ.

    Church says, “Hey, if you want to serve Christ, serve me. If you want to come to Christ, come to me. If you want to be faithful to Christ, be faithful to me.” Church has thus usurped the role of Christ in the same way that the Pharisees usurped the role of Moses (Matt 23:2).

    Lewis’ remarks therefore stop short of the sort of indictment churchgoing deserves. Instead of seeking church we ought to be seeking the kingdom of God.

    • Colin says

      I whole heartedly agree with you. I couldn’t say it better. There seems to be a kind of “fear” attached with Chritians when they don’t attend a “denominationaly named church” – “Baptist, Anglican…etc”.

      Yet, they may go out and help the poor, pray daily for the lost, serve the community and worship in a small gathering and all the time denominations will say that they are not a church.

      What constitutes a church? Every church denomination that I have attended has always had a laity barrier – a kind of them and us mentality. This barrier filters and bludgeons the Spirit filled believer…lets really look at it…truthfully…

      Most of the time this is what happens…

      Once a week people will gather together and one man or women (most of the time it will be the same man or women) will give a talk on what they believe is the correct interpretation of a piece of scripture. You will sing five or so songs picked by the same person…the same person will pray for everyone, most of the time, and some of the “laity” will throw in a small prayer – when prompted – by the same person at the appropriate time. There will be a group of elders (some youth workers) made up of young and old – men and women (not based on the teachings of Paul at all…let us remember that it was Jesus Christ who gave him those commandments to give to the churches!)

      This goes on week in and week out – any ministry that you do have in this church will be something to do with what a small part of the church have “decided” to do and not through the whole church gathering in prayer to “Ask and seek God” what to do.

      If you want to share anything it first needs to be “vetted” by the pastor or a small panel (again not taught in scripture at all) and if just want to read something like 1 timothy 4 or 1 corinthians 14 you first need to be taught that these particular scriptures don’t actually mean what they say so be careful how you “read them”.

      The church of today is using a pair of scissors with the scriptures.

      The church in acts was overseen by a plurality of elders (all male – biblical). Anyone wanting to follow what the bible says will, in this day and age, be called a male chauvinist or a pharisee…forget that Jesus taught this to Paul to keep His church on a firm footing…the church must be right and Paul of course was just talking about the “culture of the time”…wasn’t he?

      I fear not – let me say that again – I “fear” not.

      When the persecution really kicks off in the west against the church, then the house church will be the only place for you to fellowship in “Spirit and in Truth”, because like China – it will be regulated in the “state church”.

      I feel strongly about this because, in this day and age, a Christian can’t have conviction and zealousness for Jesus Christ. If you show any signs of that then you are touted as a “fanatic”…Well lets get fantical about it…

      Jesus *doesn’t* say “I will spew you out of my mouth for being fanatical about me”. Lets get fanatical, lets “wake up!” and get out there and share the gospel – The world gets fanatical about winning the lottery – bits of paper and they jump up and down like they have entered heaven…we have the message that can bring everyone who hears it – “eternal life” – and each Sunday we stand up, sit down, stand up and then go home to talk about all the drivel of the world…give me the fanatics…give me those that want to preach the gospel like its the last day on earth…that what I call watching for Jesus…get fanatical…

  7. Courtney says

    The gathering of believers in Acts was much closer to what we do in small groups or an interdenominational Christian organization like Campus Crusade than what you find in organized religion. People gathered together of their own accord throughout the week and shared everything with each other, and there were no denominations, no confessions or catechism, and no pope or other figurehead.

    Although I would agree with those above me that church is important and integral to “one’s spiritual life,” I would like to provide a plausible defense for Mr. Lewis. He compares going to church to going to the zoo and declares his dislike of religious rites because rites is all church was in a world dominated by the Church of England. There was no community, no small group Bible studies, no Sunday night pot lucks, no youth groups…all of the fellowship we associate with church did not exist in the world of C.S. Lewis. It was all about sacraments partaken with a smattering of hymns and scriptures written in an extinct dialect. People went to church and set silently to fulfill their spiritual duty, then they quickly fled and gave no thought to spiritual matters for the rest of the week. To top it all off, Lewis had to fight the church for the right to marry his wife because she had divorced her first husband and fled America with her sons to get away from him. Under the circumstances, I don’t believe I would have a high opinion of the church, either.

    Lewis did believe in fellowship, and he spent a lot of time with other Christians, Tolkien being among them. He also spent time in prayer and studying the scriptures.

    • says


      It is certainly true that church today is very different than church in the days of CS Lewis!

      Yet I wonder if he would be more in favor of church the way it today, or less?

      You are right that Lewis spent a lot of time in study and fellowship. I think he viewed this just as much a part of “church” as actually going to the service on Sunday.

  8. Steven McDade says

    I’m not an introvert, though my wife is. I got sucked up into the whole “worship” thing, even so far as to lead and write some modern Christ songs, but I just eventually found that this is all just a show and if I’m gonna give 10 percent of my income to it, well it better be worth it. Unfortunately, it is not worth it after a certain point in your life. When you are called INTO the world by Christ, you don’t have much time for ceremony and/or rituals.

  9. Dennis Wilson says

    No JRR Tolkien was Catholic, Lewis was Church of England and I have never read anything except that Lewis felt that the church was like a big house with many rooms, each room having its own special place in the house. Now that does not sound to me like a guy who hated church.

  10. Paul Shrier says

    He did have groups of Christians who he met with regularly, including Christians in his writing group. So, we need to define “church.” Christianity is never an individual activity – individual Christianity is an oxymoron. However, church does not have be comprised of the stereotype we see in our heads when the word is used.

    • says

      Absolutely right. What we see in our heads when we say “church” is usually a brick building on the corner. I have tried to address several of these issues in my books, including “Skeleton Church” and “Church is more than Bodies, Bucks, and Bricks”

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