The Gospel Coalition

It can be discouraging to discover that some of our favorite quotes attributed to some of our favorite theologians were not actually said by them. One example that comes to mind is Luther's statement:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Except he probably didn't say or write that.

The most-abused apocryphal-theological quote is probably St. Francis of Assis's  "Preach the gospel; use words if necessary"---as Mark Galli points out, the quote is fine, other than being unbiblical and not something that Francis said, believed, or practiced!

It can be enjoyable and edifying to track down the originals, which are often fairly close and which have also been uttered by less famous people---as is the case with Bunyan's "Run, John, Run" poem or Luther's statement about the church standing or falling on the doctrine of justification or the original form of the TULIP acronym.

At the Mere Orthodoxy blog, they look today at the origin of the saying, ""You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." It turns out this actually comes from the pen of George MacDonald, not C. S. Lewis.

At its worst, this quote could be used in defense of what Randy Alcorn has called Christoplatonism, with its suspicion of the body. However, I think the quote could be defensible, insofar as the soul can survive without the body (in the intermediate state which longs for the consummation and the reunion of soul and body), but the body cannot survive without the soul.

Matt Anderson has a good nuanced response to all of this:
We should be careful not to simply be reactionary against uncareful statements like the above.  Theology is ever in danger of reductionism, and it's ever possible that our own contemporary reaction against the concept of the soul is too deflationary an account of human persons.

That said, out of context-which is how the legions of people who pass it around Facebook and Twitter generally see it-the quote really does express a stunted vision of the human person in light of the resurrection.  My own intuition is to say something along the lines of, "You are a body.  But you're a soul too.  And your human flourishing is contingent upon being a soul-bodied thing."


Brandon E.

July 9, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Ya, "God-shaped vacuum" is more of a paraphrase than a quote, but the thought is there in Pensees:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.


July 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Another quote misattributed to Blaise Pascal: "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man..."


July 6, 2012 at 09:13 AM

I imagine people get confused because Lewis *does* have a section in "Mere Christianity" (I think...could have been "The Problem of Pain") about how we consider physical things to be more real than spiritual things and yet the physical things, like furniture in his example, are the temporary stuff and the spiritual is what will go on forever.

Todd Van Voorst

July 6, 2012 at 08:18 AM

Amen, Mr. Taylor. The Law is recognized from within, but the Good News only comes from without. Our good deeds may give men reason to praise God as His coming, but some of our good deeds are seen as foolishness to those for whom the Cross is an offense. For that matter, the Good News is an offense to those who are offended by the Christ and His Cross. But it is the mechanism by which God has called us to announce His good deeds and the fulfillment thereof complete in Christ.

Todd Van Voorst

July 6, 2012 at 08:14 AM

I wonder what things I will have "said" after I die. Granted, the nuanced memories will be limited to my sphere of influence, so likely not as exaggerate or prolific as misquoting Mr. C.S.


MK @ Teach Sunday School

July 6, 2012 at 08:13 AM

It kind of breaks my heart to find out that some of my favorite quotes weren't actually said by the people that they are attributed to—but I guess that's just the way of the world, isn't it? This was a very interesting blog post that I think a good number of my fellow ministers will enjoy reading. Thank you for sharing!

kurt bennett

July 6, 2012 at 08:04 PM

Great post. I have to admit, after reading this, I immediately dug up an old blog post and corrected a quote.

Thanks for keeping us accountable and accurate!


July 6, 2012 at 06:51 PM

It can be equally discouraging when the Bible is mis-quoted & mis- used...It seems to be a constant activity within the church to re align teaching & context as it battles with the flesh & worldly philosophy.It was one of the things Jesus & the Apostles were busy doing...

Guarding the truth & being truthful...

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God..."


July 5, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I've always heard, "I am a spirit, I have a soul, and I am housed in a body." While not diminishing the importance and place of each, I do see the three separately listed by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. I know this isn't the topic of the post, but just thought I'd mention it. Great post though! Thanks.

mark mcculley

July 5, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross, p5---"The most common story we tell about ourselves is what we call the glory story. We came from glory and are bound for glory. Usually the subject of the story is 'the soul'. The basic scheme is what Paul Ricoeur has called the 'myth of the exiled soul'.

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!---
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

So said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet laureate of American
sentimentality, in "A Psalm of Life". The cross of course can be
neatly assimilated into the story as that which makes the return of
the soul possible."

mark mccculley: Forde goes on to talk about the distinction between a theology of the cross, and a "theology of glory" where freewill and human immortality are assumed.

David Houston

July 5, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Thought this was interesting. I read this blog post earlier today before turning to my readings on the resurrection, an article from James Dunn and - lo and behold! - he had this to say about the use of 'soma' in Paul: 'A better way of characterizing its more typical connotation would be embodiment: It is not a part of the person, something which the person can strip off or leave behind. In Paul's most characteristic usage *soma* is *the person as embodied*. [here's the interesting part!] To quote Bultmann's famous observation: for Paul "man does not have a soma; he is soma." Very similar to our spurious Lewis quote!

Richard Carwile

July 5, 2012 at 12:25 PM

"I find that quotes on Twitter and Facebook are falsely attributed 90% of the time." - Thomas Jefferson


July 5, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Speaking of apocryphal quotes, I was trying to figure out this morning where it was that Charles Spurgeon said, "I take my text and make a beeline to the cross." Some very reputable people have put this quote in print, but I can't find any reference to where Spurgeon actually said it. The closest I found was a footnote that led to an article in Preaching Magazine from 1991, but then that article did not cite any source. As much as I like the quote and want it to be Spurgeon's, it now smells Apocryphal to me.

Does anyone know of a credible reference to Spurgeon having actually said this "beeline to the cross" quote?

Phil Long

July 5, 2012 at 12:11 PM

We are more than a carbon-based anomaly experiencing the illusion of meaning
—more than the culmination of random particles streaming
—more than a biological accumulation dreaming
—more than a brilliant beast with a taste for plans and scheming

We're more than decomposing star parts making new suggestions
—more than spontaneous combustion asking ultimate questions

We're more than a mind, blindly, considering reality
—more than a thought fading into hopeless finality

We're more than matter, matter-of-factly stumbling into thought
—more than voices in the night who say that we are not

We're more than conscious awareness squandered on survival
—more than constant competition with every other rival

We're more than holding what we must to guarantee security
—more than finding what we trust is destined for obscurity

We're more than subatomic calculations
—more than diatomic combinations
—more than anatomic manipulation

We're more than merely mindless matter molded into brilliant patterns

We're more than science will ever find since science exists within our minds

We're more than wonder, love, and beauty
—more than effort, desire, or duty 

We're more than hoping, more than working
—more than finding, more than searching

We're more than knowing we are more,

We're more than we can see

We're living souls—contained in dust—who crave eternity.

mark mcculley

July 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM

There won't be a lot of nuance to this reply. Perhaps it's deflationary to say that humans have no "freewill" (defined as power to the contrary). But they don't. Perhaps it's deflationary to say that humans don't have some part of them which is inherently immortal. But they don't. Only God is immortal, and God shall only give immortality to the elect, those God loves.

Genesis 2:7 teaches us that God's breath/life with dust/body results in "living soul". What Bible text defines "soul" in such a way that the "soul" survives the death of the body? That we are to fear Him who can destroy both body and soul does not mean that the "soul" is immaterial or inherently immortal. To the contrary, God can and will destroy the non-elect when they are raised (not by inherent "surviving") for judgment. We do not fear other humans in that way because we know that other humans cannot prevent people from being raised by God for that last judgment.


July 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Doh! I had scheduled this quote on my Church Facebook page today. What are the chances!!

rc sproul jr

July 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Thanks for this. I am not a soul in a body, but a soul and a body. Jesus came to redeem both. And both will be redeemed

The Jones

July 5, 2012 at 10:14 AM

I always liked this quote, but always knew it wasn't C.S. Lewis who said it, because on the internet it was always attributed to Mere Christianity, but I've read that book multiple times, skimmed it several times over looking for the quote to no avail. Even though it's not C.S. Lewis, it's still useful.

I also think the reaction against "Christoplatonism, with its suspicion of the body," is over-reaction. I don't have a suspicion of the body. I have a suspicion of "the flesh" just like the apostle Paul does in Romans 7:5 through 8:14, Romans 13:14, 2 Corinthians 5:16, Galatians 5:16-26, and elsewhere. I'm not a Christoplatonist if I have a revusion from the flesh. I'm a Christian:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17)

I use a different illustration with this Probably-George-MacDonald-and-definitely-not-C.S.-Lewis quote to make a Christian meaning clear, and I think it's in line with what George MacDonald was thinking, assuming George MacDonald is a biblically orthodox Christian:

I have a hand, but I am not a hand. If my hand is cut off, my hand didn't lose a body, but my body lost its hand. You don't place your identity on an appendage, you place your identity with the real core of who you are. Christians should know the core of who they are is not their body, but their soul (or spirit. Pick your terminology, it doesn't matter). However, just like no body is complete without its hand, no soul is complete without its body. Christ will restore both, and make all complete. Don't identify with the part of you that is dead, full of gangrene, and killing the rest of you. Be suspicious of it. Cut it off. Be dead to it, even if it makes you feel incomplete or out of place. Christians aren't supposed to feel in their place in this world. However, Christ does more than remove bad appendages full of gangrene. He makes them grow back, and grow back stronger than they were in the first place.

You don't have a soul: you are a soul. You have a body, and Christ is making all things new, both body and soul, each in its time.

[...] He Never Said That — One of my biggest pet peeves are “apocryphal” quotes, which are sayings commonly attributed to someone who never actually said them. One of the most famous are variations on “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words“, usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. This article looks at a fake C.S. Lewis quotation: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” You might also like to click over to this Mere Orthodoxy article which goes in to more detail. [...]

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

July 5, 2012 at 06:47 PM

Isn't that amazing! That our bodies shall someday be redeemed!

Could it be that even after death, in heaven, we may long to be reunited with our bodies. Is that too much of a stretch?

Justin Taylor

July 5, 2012 at 04:03 PM

Happy to step down when someone can show me biblically that the verbal dimension of broadcasting/publishing/proclaiming "news" is non-essential—instead of just showing that confirmatory action and practice is crucial.


July 5, 2012 at 03:19 PM

Love that you call the St. Francis quote "unbiblical." when are you and DeYoung ever stepping down from that platform?

David Houston

July 18, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Sorry, Ben. I saw your response on my phone when I was too busy to respond and promptly forgot about it! :S

I appreciate to keep the bonds of peace but, I'm happy to inform you, the bonds of peace were never broken! I wasn't offended by your comments. I was (am!) just concerned that you were downplaying an important part of the gospel.

God bless,


Ben Thorp

July 12, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Andrew Wilson also uncovered a phantom quote in his book "If God, Then What?" - GK Chesterton was said to have replied to a question in the Times newspaper "What's wrong with the world?" with simply "I am". Sadly, The Times have absolutely no record of this question ever being asked, nor the letter ever being received.

rc sproul jr

July 11, 2012 at 10:24 AM


I really do appreciate your zeal and passion for the glorious truth that in Christ we are reconciled with God our Father. And I certainly would rather spend an eternity disembodied and beloved of God than have a body and be at enmity with him (which is what the damned await. They too will have their bodies resurrected when Christ comes back, and bodily suffering will be added to their souls's suffering). But to recognize that glory x is brighter than glory y isn't to say glory y is unimportant, insignificant, a trifle. We do not increase the glory of x by diminishing the glory of y. I suppose we are addressing different errors from different perspectives, you dealing with those who are under-excited about reconciliation, me dealing with those under excited about the resurrection of the body (and the redemption of the creation.) God bless

rc sproul jr

July 10, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Ben, the physical is by no means temporary. We will be physical beings forever. Jesus came to redeem us, body and soul. When He returns we will receive incorruptible bodies, just like the one Jesus now has. That's not hairsplitting, but the very hope of the gospel.


July 10, 2012 at 12:12 PM

There seems to be a good deal of hairsplitting here. From my perspective the point of the quote is to get people thinking about the eternal over the temporal. All these things we see will pass away. That doesn't mean the physical is evil or worthless, just that it's temporary, like the grass that withers.

Anything that moves me from thinking in human terms to heavenly terms is goodness in my book, so I like the quote. Oh and by the way, if George MacDonald truly said that, then Lewis would have been tickled to hear it attributed to him I bet.


July 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM

I never meant to downplay the role of bodily resurrection in the Gospel. All I'm saying is that the body we're raised in isn't what's important. What's important is the perfected relationship that we will have with God after we are raised. The glorified body is just a means to that end. The body we have now is just a means to the end of glorifying God as well. We tend it and care for it to the end that we can use it to glorify God.

Matter (of which the body is part) is not the point of life, it's a tool. So I have no problem with the idea that I'm a Soul not a body. I don't follow Plato, I follow Jesus. I have a body that I use to glorify Him to the best that I can. I don't distrust matter or think matter is evil or that it's an illusion. Matter is good in and of itself (because God made it) and we can use it as we see fit because God gave us dominion over it.

I'm sorry if I've not been clear and I really didn't mean to troll with the hairsplitting comment, though clearly I offended you with it, David.

David J. Houston

July 10, 2012 at 05:33 PM


I understand that you're trying to emphasize that Christ is the gospel but you can’t take that out of the context of what that means for us. Why is it good news that Jesus died? Or that he rose? What does that mean to me? These are questions that bring out the heart of the gospel.

Take a look at 1 Cor. 15:1-2. Paul tells them that what he is about to say is the very heart of the gospel. The proclamation of good news consists in this:

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

When Paul refers to Christ’s burial and resurrection on the third day as being in accordance with the Scriptures he almost certainly had Psalm 16:8-11. This was seen as a Messianic psalm with Jesus as it’s fulfillment by the early church. So the bodily resurrection of Christ has just as much claim to being the heart of the gospel as his crucifixion. But we shouldn’t separate them. Both are required.

But why is a *bodily* resurrection so important? The place to begin an answer is, as always, in Genesis. God with his eternal power created the world out of nothing and with his divine wisdom he arranged it. As the master artist he took his blank canvas and before long it was swimming with sights, and sounds, and smells, bringing all that he had made into perfect harmony. When he had completed his work he took a step back, looked at it, and declared that it was ‘very good’. This view of the physical world is at the core of the Christian worldview. It is God’s world and it is fantastic!

Man was made in God’s image in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness and was given dominion over the creatures. He was set apart as a kind of king over the earth. But, tragically, we fell when Adam sinned so God’s good world became corrupted. The penalty for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was exile from the Garden of Eden and death.

But the story does not end there. God embarks on a rescue mission to restore his creation. He makes a covenant with Abraham saying “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 22:17-18) His plan is for all the nations of the earth to be blessed through Abraham’s descendants. He makes a covenant with Moses and in Deuteronomy 28 covenant blessings are promised if Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, keep this covenant and covenant curses are threatened if they do not. These blessings and curses have a very earth flavor to them. They could only apply to people living on the earth. But this raises a problem.

As the writer of Job notes, there are many righteous people whose days are filled with sorrow and there are many evil people whose lives are filled with pleasure, and riches, and land. So where is God in all of this?

And supposing you’re a righteous Jew living and dying in exile under pagan oppressors? What of God’s promises then? How do God’s promises fit with the martyr who remains faithful to the point of death at the hands of wicked pagan nations? How will God reward his followers for their faithfulness with a long and peaceful life on Yahweh’s very good earth when all they will know in this life is exile and death? The answer: resurrection.

Throughout the Scriptures there are hints of a glorious future for the people of God. We’ve already looked briefly at Psalm 16 which speaks of the faithful one not seeing decay but there are other passages such as Psalm 49:13-15, Isaiah 26:19, Isaiah 53:10-11, and especially Daniel 12:2-3.

Now, and this is important, everyone, including it seems the writers of the Old Testament, believed that everyone would be resurrected at the same time. But during Jesus’ earthly ministry he claimed that he would rise from the dead three days after his crucifixion. The apostles took Jesus to be fulfilling the passage in Isaiah 53 where the suffering servant died for the sins of the people and was raised. In essence, Jesus ministry and teaching was proved to be true, was vindicated, by his resurrection from the dead. It is the evidence that Jesus sacrifice was accepted by the Father and is the assurance of the Christian hope that we will all likewise be resurrected to live in Yahweh’s very good creation forever! Just read the rest of 1 Corinthians 15 to see the importance that Paul gives to the resurrection. We can only say that Christ has gained a complete victory over the powers of darkness because he has defeated death and the curse that is upon our mortal physical bodies which will one day be reversed so that our bodies are redeemed – rendered incorruptible and imperishable. (1 Cor. 15:50-55 cf. Rom. 8:18-25)

Resurrection is at the heart of the gospel. There’s no getting around it. In fact, if you don’t view it this way then you’re out of step with the Scriptures. You accused us of theological hairsplitting but – with all due respect and brotherly love – you’re the one guilty of hairsplitting. There is no separation between the gospel as reconciliation and the gospel as the resurrection because resurrection means the reconciliation of our bodies to Christ so that he can “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col. 1:20) Rather than placing the future hope to the side it is to be a part of our daily walks. We are to do our work here on earth so that Christ’s kingdom, which will be consummated at the return of Christ, will be made manifest even in the present. Far from being an impractical doctrine it informs everything we do!

I hope that makes sense! Let me know if you need elaboration or clarification on any point or if you’d just like to push back on anything.

God bless,


Heather E. Carrillo

July 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM

Well, this is good news because I hate this quote. I mean, it implies such a horrible attitude toward God's creation. Although, George MacDonald did have a lot of influence on C.S. Lewis. I wonder if maybe Lewis quoted MacDonald saying that at some point?


July 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM

Wouldn't you agree that the work of perfecting our bodies pales in comparison to the work of reconciling us to himself? I mean, with out reconciliation, I would have no need for a perfected body. That's what I mean by this is hair splitting. The body I have in heaven may be glorified, and that's a good thing. (Don't get me wrong here!) What I'm saying is that it isn't anywhere near the most important thing. I'm essentially arguing that we shouldn't be very concerned about this issue.

The hope of the gospel for me is that Jesus died on a Roman cross to reconcile me to God and rose from the dead to show his mastery over the grave. The body I have when I rise, Lord willing, is of almost no concern to me when compared to those truths.

rc sproul jr

July 10, 2012 at 02:40 PM

Appreciate the sentiment, but not quite sure how it is honoring to Jesus to denigrate His work. I hope you come to a point in your walk where you give thanks for all that He accomplishes, and see them for what they are, reflections of His glory that you rightly delight in. I pray you will delight to walk with Him, to see Him, to sup with Him, to bow before Him, all with your redeemed body


July 10, 2012 at 02:32 PM

Nope, the hope of the gospel is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I hope to come to a point in my walk where I don't care one whit what Heaven looks like or feels like as long as Jesus is there. The body being glorified is not even a bonus. Jesus is all.


July 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM

It's not that the verbal is non-essential, it's that no one will listen until you're behaving like Jesus.