C.S. Lewis on faith as a habit

Christian Living

Last week I posted some of my thoughts about faith. C.S. Lewis, in his seminal work Mere Christianity, had this to say about faith, which I think sort of corrects or contradicts what I wrote before. I’ve added emphasis in a few places to help you see what I’m talking about:

Faith seems to be used by Christians in two senses or on two levels….In the first sense it means simply Believe – accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity.  That is fairly simple.  But what does puzzle people – at least it used to puzzle me – is the fact that Christians regard faith in this sense as a virtue.  I used to ask how on earth it can be a virtue – what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements?…What I did not see then – and a good many people do not see still – was this.  I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a things as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up.  In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason.  But that is not so….

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 Christianity looks very improbably; 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.

In my last post I said that if what I believe is true, it would essentially be stupid for me to be stressed out and fearful at what’s been happening in my life lately. But as Lewis points out, that would only be true if my heart and mind were completely ruled by reason. And as much as I might want that to be true, it isn’t.

Lewis’ definition of faith is great: the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. We all have changing moods; we must train ourselves to not be ruled by those moods. So in a sense, faith is a habit; it is the habit of trusting what we believe to be true in spite of the temptation not to.

Hiking LandscapeThe temptation not to could come in the form of a hardship that causes us to “give up” on God. It more commonly comes in the form of “I don’t want to do this thing God wants” or “I want to do this thing God doesn’t want.” Living by faith is trusting that God’s way is better, that God Himself is better. It’s not just trusting God is going to take care of you during hard times, it’s trusting that God is better during normal times. Developing the habit of faith is choosing, regularly, to act as if what God says is true. To believe Him, to believe His Word, rather than yourself. To act as if knowing Jesus is better than life itself. As if the path to joy comes not from avoiding God, but submitting to Him.

The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And then when the storm hits, you might find it easier to exercise faith that God is in control, that He loves you and is working for good in your life.

A storm is coming. Day by normal day, are you training the habit of faith, or the habit of following your moods?

2 comments… add one
  • Glenna Ritt Link Reply Avatar

    Thank you for this insightful, beautiful and well-written blog! God is using this time in your life to bring hope and a deeper love for Christ to many just as he has with your sermons. My family and I are praying for your complete recovery and for your family as well. Glenna

    • Jackson Link Reply Jackson

      Thanks Glenna! I’m glad this post somehow encouraged you. And thank you so much for your prayers.

Leave a Comment