C.S. Lewis’ ‘Christmas Sermon’ Warned of a World that No Longer Believed in Right and Wrong

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A 77-year-old magazine article by C.S. Lewis is receiving renewed attention in American culture for its discussion of a world that does not know right from wrong and that seems — at least to some readers — as a prophetic column about 2023 society.

The article, A Christmas Sermon for Pagans, was published in 1946 by the British publication Strand Magazine and was written by the Christian apologist at a time when he believed society’s moral framework was coming apart.  

“The ‘Christmas Sermon’ has trended on social media,” Fox News Digital noted. “Discussions of Lewis’ concepts of moral certainty have appeared in recent scholarly articles and in discussions among Christians and Americans of other faiths.”

Lewis asserted that there are three kinds of people in the world: “those who are sick and don’t know it (the post-Christians),” “those who are sick and know it (Pagans),” and “those who have found the cure” (Christians).

For the post-Christian, he wrote, “There is no objective Right or Wrong: each race or class can invent its own code or ‘ideology’ just as it pleases.”

Lewis then listed the logical problem with the post-Christian worldview.

“If there is no real Wrong and Right, nothing good or bad in itself, none of these ideologies can be better or worse than another,” he wrote. “For a better moral code can only mean one which comes nearer to some real or absolute code. One map of New York can be better than another only if there is a real New York for it to be truer to. If there is no objective standard, then our choice between one ideology and another becomes a matter of arbitrary taste. 

“Our battle for democratic ideals against Nazi ideals has been a waste of time because the one is no better than the other,” Lewis wrote. His column was published one year after World War II ended. “Nor can there ever be any real improvement or deterioration: if there is no real goal, you can’t get either nearer to it or farther from it. In fact, there is no real reason for doing anything at all.”

The sermon, Fox News Digital’s Kerry J. Byrne wrote, “addresses, with almost startling prescience, many of the same culture-war issues simmering for years in the United States and exploding across the nation after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks on Israel.”

Lewis’ column ended with a word of hope for non-Christians in the audience. 

“All over the world (even in Japan, even in Russia), men and women will meet on December 25th to do what is a very old-fashioned and, if you like, a very Pagan thing — to sing and feast because a God has been born,” Lewis wrote. “You are uncertain whether it is more than a myth. Well, if it is, then our last hope is gone. But is the opposite explanation not worth trying? Who knows but that here, and here alone, lies your way back not only to Heaven but to Earth too, and to the great human family whose oldest hopes are confirmed by this story that does not die?”

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/John Chillingworth/Stringer

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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