[Note: Starting with this post, we’re deliberately using longer titles*.]


C. S. Lewis’s alleged quote that appears in many places,


“You do not have a soul.

You are a soul.

You have a body.”


is WRONGLY ascribed to Lewis!  He never said this…


[For MORE use the DOOR.]




…as far as printed records go. (If we’re proven wrong, we’ll retract this.)

What’s the point here?

Well, several respected people (e.g. Ravi Zacharias nd John Piper) have said that Lewis did make a point of this. And according to mereorthodoxy.com and several who have discussed or argued this (easily found on the Internet), if Lewis actually said these words, he left no record of them  in his many books that strongly argued for legitimacy and reasonableness of  the Christian faith.

It illustrates–especially for the English teacher in me–the necessity of  “checking facts” for key points you’re trying to make.

Two things about this that might seem trivial (but will help us review points we’ve made in earlier posts):

First: If not from Lewis (1898 – 1963), where did this–what some have called “New Age”–quote come from?

Well, probably from the Quaker George MacDonald (1824 – 1905), a Scottish novelist Lewis admired who once wrote in a Quaker periodical criticizing the excessive mourning at funerals:

“Never tell a child,” said MacDonald, ” ‘you have a soul. Teach him, you are a soul; you have a body.’ As we learn to think of things always in this order, that the body is but the temporary clothing of the soul, our views of death and the unbefittingness of customary mourning will approximate to those of Friends [or Quakers] of earlier generations.”¹

An interesting observation to think about.

Now “soul” is a word I rarely use, and I don’t believe I’ve ever used it on this website. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps because of its fuzziness and multiple meanings in English. In its place, I suppose, I’ve used mind or human consciousness (rightly or wrongly, an perhaps equally fuzzy) in what I consider the sense used by the philosopher Keith Ward–meaning that part of a person that is immaterial, never dies, and without which we can’t even do science or make sense of any kind of information we encounter.

Now if more than one professional philosopher is reading these posts, realize there’s no long line waiting behind him to hear my “middle level” (as I call it) spin on this. (Philosophers are too busy elsewhere, perhaps arguing with each other. They’re pretty sure something’s “out there,” but they’re not absolutely sure of how to fence it in…)

I suspect MacDonald is the one who “gave” Lewis the quote. But it doesn’t really matter. If we stand close to my (and, incidentally, OED’s) main definition of soul (or mind or human consciousness), I feel the idea ascribed to Lewis falsely is still most compelling. Or, as I might say to all those who “quote Lewis” (myself included) to bolster their arguments, “Good sermon, (probably) wrong text.”

Second  (of my “two points”): To say it very generally, a basic problem with what’s called “New Age” religion, other than it doesn’t properly recognize the God of the Bible, is that in this belief, or posture, it’s usually assumed that in life after death, if it exists, there’s a new peace and harmony of some kind that allows for freedom of some kind that presumes loss of body, individual recognition factors, etc.  (Seem vague? Well, there’s no–accepted–New Age Bible that’s been systematically investigated over the centuries.)

The Bible, however, seems to emphasize a bodily resurrection after physical death. We have in Scripture at least two “models” of what that means: Jesus and Lazarus (Jn 11). (Tradition says that Lazarus was a Christian martyr, and if so, he died twice.) I’ll resist going “on and on” here about details I’m no expert on (so I’ll just go “on”). Scripture gives us a few details about bodies after death. First, at the a judgment at the end of things, bodies will be reclaimed from graves and even  “the sea” is singled out to give up the dead in it (Rev. 20:13). Second, Jesus’ resurrected body could be clearly seen and touched (Jn.20:27). He also ate fish, or at least cooked it for his friends (Jn. 21.10-12). And his body could “pass through” locked doors (Jn. 20: 26). Further, our resurrected bodies will “resemble” His (1 Cor. 15:49). And our bodies will presumably last forever. And further, it’s widely presumed that we will recognize each other (At what age? Will we appear as “33”–Jesus’ age at resurrection?) in the hereafter…

Add to this what we know about human bodies on Earth: Physical decay changes our bodies into molecules that go into the soil and air to enrich plants that will be eaten by humans, and animals that humans will eat. Beheadings have torn apart whole bodies. And from martyrs who’ve been burned at the stake to modern cremations that quickly “scatter” (to the air) “body parts” leaving radically different “cremains” behind that are stored in urns or scattered in the wind. And add to that the molecules that we regularly exhale or excrete as waste, removing “used-up” molecules from body parts. Every living person contains or has contained molecules belonging to many who lived earlier–all the way back to the beginning. (Molecules are extremely small and that can spread around widely).

Cannibalism? Not hardly. The words of those who taught Lewis were right. Each person is a soul (or “mind” or “human consciousness”) that has a body. Details on body parts–reassembly or “replacement”?–are far from clear.

But, according to the Bible, bodies matter.

Sounds like grist for a future post…


¹ If you’re game, you can see more about this at: http://mereorthodoxy.com/you-dont-have-a-soul-cs-lewis-never-said-it/#sthash.1Qwq8b74.dpuf.