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The Eagle and Child, where C.S. Lewis and friends gathered to drink, smoke and discuss spiritual truths.

Your Pastor In A Pub?

So your pastor preaches a great sermon on Sunday morning. He is clearly in touch with God and his delivery of God's word touches your life. You find yourself drawn into a deeper walk with the Lord.

Then you go to lunch and there's your pastor sitting in the bar, smoking a cigar and drinking a beer.

Uh oh.

If you're in a mainstream evangelical church, this would be scandalous. Yet in many of these same churches, C.S. Lewis is quoted, adored and celebrated. With The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe showing in theaters, Lewis mania has peaked.

But here are a couple of C.S. Lewis quotes you'll never hear in most churches:

"I have always in my books been concerned simply to put forward 'mere' Christianity, and am no guide on these (most regrettable) 'inter-denominational' questions. I do however strongly object to the tyrannical and unscriptural insolence of anything that calls itself a Church and makes teetotalism a condition of membership. Apart from the more serious objection (that Our Lord Himself turned water into wine and made wine the medium of the only rite He imposed on all His followers), it is so provincial (what I believe you people call 'small town'). Don't they realize that Christianity arose in the Mediterranean world where, then as now, wine was as much a part of the normal diet as bread?"

- Letters of C.S. Lewis

"Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism... [In the past,] temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.

"Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who use them, he has taken the wrong turning."

- Mere Christianity

Lewis never advocated drunkenness or addiction. Instead, he maintained a balanced -- and dare I say Biblical? -- view of everything, including drinking. He defended it as ferociously and artfully as such essential Christian behaviors as forgiveness and charity. (He had a harder time defending smoking and tried, unsuccessfully, to give it up, but he never castigated it as "sin.")

Lewis is arguably the most influential modern-day disciple. His writings provoke deep thought. They encourage a more meaningful relationship with God. They have even led many hardened skeptics to a spiritual conversion. But his personal behavior remains puzzling to some Christians.

So next time you hear someone praising or quoting C.S. Lewis, picture the man who sat in a pub drinking, smoking, and penning some of the most powerful words since Paul wrote his letters to the early church.

Douglas Gresham, Lewis' stepson, summed up his famous father's attitude recently in an interview with Christianity Today:

"The problem with evangelical Christianity in America today, a large majority of you have sacrificed the essential for the sake of the trivial. You concentrate on the trivialities--not smoking, not drinking, not using bad language, not dressing inappropriately in church, and so on. Jesus doesn't give two hoots for that sort of bulls**t. If you go out and DO Christianity, you can smoke if you want, you can drink if you want--though not to excess, in either case."

So put that in your pipe and smoke it!