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Questions and Answers From Children About God

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Theo: Wait a minute, I don’t think we’re quite on the same page here. I think what you’re really asking me is whether there is anything more than what this world has to offer, and I answered you that there is no more to this world than, naturally enough, this world.

Des: I see. Because you’re a believer in Jesus, you don’t mind not getting much out of life, since you think it will all be made up to you in the afterlife. That’s all very well if you believe in that, but you know I don’t. And even if you do, why should we have to go through an entire life here longing for something we can’t get, in the vague hope that we might get it later?

Theo: Well, for the important things of life, we often hope for them before we have them. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:24-25).

Des: I see. But what if there isn’t anything to hope for? Isn’t it just wishful thinking that keeps us from being satisfied with what we have?

Theo: Well, if there isn’t anything to hope for, you’re absolutely right. People who believe that this world is all there is are never satisfied with what they have. And so one of two things happens: what C.S. Lewis called “The Fool’s Way” and “The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’”.

Des: Interesting descriptions! Do tell me what he meant by them.

Theo: I’d be glad to—it so happens that this is one of my favorite passages that Lewis ever wrote, due to its penetrating insight into our human situation. The Fool’s Way of dealing with reality is to “[put] the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he…went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after”. But the fatal flaw here is that, eventually, people run out of things to try. As long as someone is still trying to become, say, a movie star, they still think that once they get there, they’ll be satisfied. It’s once people have achieved the utmost success the world has to offer—whether it be in sports, culture, politics, making money, or even in family life and relationships—that they suddenly realize that it hasn’t fulfilled their deepest longings, after all. And if they go the Fool’s Way, they’ll assume that they just tried the wrong career, or wrong relationship, and pick another one that will ultimately turn out to be just as unsatisfactory. Worldly things can’t satisfy spiritual desires; to assume they can is “wishful thinking” indeed, “always thinking that the latest is ‘the Real Thing’ at last, and always disappointed”.3

Des: Well, what about the “The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man,’”? Is that one any better?

Theo: Actually, I think it can be even more dangerous, in its way. And most people today seem to be more inclined to follow this path, especially since we can see so plainly how “The Fool’s Way” has turned out in the lives of so many celebrities, and so be warned away from it—not that there aren’t still plenty of others who fall into that trap, too.

Des: So, what is “Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’ Way,” and what’s its danger?

Theo: The danger you are presently in, Desmond. You don’t want to indulge in “wishful thinking” of any kind. When someone decides that, “[h]e soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine… And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, ‘to cry for the moon’”. Now, Lewis himself said this was “a much better way than the first”, and its dangers are not so immediately apparent. I’m not sure Lewis lived to see the consequences of this attitude fulfilled to their utmost extent, which is the depression and cynicism and, well, laziness so prevalent in our generation. People in our culture don’t appreciate or admire the best of what this world has to offer as an example of something even better to come. Nowadays people are suspicious of idealism and only too ready to accuse those who seek the highest good with having selfish motives, especially when it comes to the ideals of past or foreign cultures. Of course we will never attain those ideals in this world, in any society, perfectly…

Des: So what is the point of chasing after them? I think Lewis was right in thinking this “disillusioned” way was better than the first, “fool’s” way.

Theo: Well, “[i]t would be the best line we could take if man did not live forever. But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? The Christian says,‘…Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water… If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage… I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’ ” That’s why I think the loss of ideals is as great a danger as idolatry is. Thinking that earthly examples of goodness and truth and beauty and hard work can’t point us to the ultimate fulfillment of our desires for them, is just as dangerous as thinking that those earthly examples can satisfy those desires completely, even in their best guises. No wonder the Bible tells us to “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5). “The Christian Way” is the middle way between these two corrupted extremes.

Des: I see. So the question here, really, is simply whether or not people really can live forever; whether the Christian faith is in fact true. If it is, we have something to hope for and a right to really enjoy and find proper fulfillment in the pleasures here on earth. If not, life is just as depressing as I once thought.

Theo: “Once thought?” Then maybe you’re on your way to finding that hope yourself, Desmond!

Ask your children

What do you think about Theo’s answers to Desmond’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give, if someone asked them a question like Desmond’s.


1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 50th Anniversary ed. (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002), p. 135-136.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid. p. 136
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid, pp. 136-137.
7 Ibid, p. 136.

C.S. Lewis Institute

C.S. Lewis Institute, In the legacy of C. S. Lewis, we develop wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ who will articulate, defend, share, and live their faith in personal and public life.


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