I Don’t Have All of the Answers, or Even All of the Questions

mr-clever-Hype-SU36-LgThose of you who know me know that I have a certain kind of spark. I feel passionately about a number of things, and I feel called to do something about that. This means I end up trying to teach, which also means that I end up talking a lot. This has good and bad effects, one of the bad ones being that I can come across as arrogant. Now, I’ve always realized this perception while also resenting its existence. “But I’m not!” I would always say. I don’t think I’m always right. I don’t think I have all of the answers.

But I have thought in the past that I had all of the questions. Continue reading

Pro-Life Principles- The Ethical Questions

As we noted in the previous post, the abortion discussion can be divided into two parts: the ethical and the political.  These are not unrelated questions, but they are distinct.  So first, the ethical-

Is abortion moral? 

This question is the elephant in the room.  Almost no one in the pro-choice camp is willing to answer in the affirmative.  They will always say that abortion is to be regretted, yet there are other influential factors that may make certain abortions morally justifiable.

We can already anticipate more questions, but we must not run off just yet.  Let’s stick to this one question.  Is abortion moral?  Or rather, is it moral to end the life of (kill) a human entity (person?  being?  life?) prior to its birth? Continue reading

Biblical Astrology

The past month was very busy, and I haven’t quite been able to pull myself back into blogging.  Hopefully that will change with this month, and I have at least one significant project I plan on starting.  In the meanwhile, I was struck by this passage from Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia and wanted to share it here:

It must be emphasised that the pre-Copernican model of the cosmos was a Christian model for all its acceptance of astrological influence. As Lewis points out in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, astrology and astronomy were not really distinguishable until the Copernican revolution and no Christian theologian before that time had denied the general theory of planetary influences or the significances of constellation. Continue reading

The Death and Resurrection of Love

God is love.  We might say this is a universal affirmative statement.  “A” on the square of opposition.  And as any basic student of logic knows, A statements cannot be conversed.  God is love, but love is not God.

C. S. Lewis wrote that whenever we make love into a god it becomes a demon.  This is true.  Our entire culture of love is demonic in this respect, sacrificing at the altar of “true love.”  Reacting against a mythical Puritanism, as well as the ghost of Victorian England and her ideological grandchild, the 1950’s, we now live in the most worldly, fleshly, society ever imagined.

I am not speaking of the deviants we so often read about and see on the news (and if it is FOX News, we see quite a bit of it, often in excessive detail), the easy prey of moral reproach.  Rather, I mean that which is supposed normal.  I mean passionate love.

Our world has been divinized once more, but this time the Christians are as much to blame as any.  Contrary to popular belief, Galileo did not lower mankind when he decentralized our planet.  Instead he elevated us into the heavens.  He says as much himself:

As for the earth, we seek rather to ennoble and perfect it when we strive to make it like the celestial bodies, and, as it were, place it in heaven, from which your philosophers have banished it.[1]

Everything is divine now.  All worldly pleasures are endorsed.  Anyone can grow up to do- or perhaps be- whatever they want.  Age can be defied.  Treasures can be won.  Women can become men, and men can become women.  Children can be had or not, all on a scheduled basis.

And it is at just this time that preachers show up to warn us against the evils of Gnosticism, asceticism, and escapism.  Health and wealth, your best life now, is on the more juvenile slide of the continuum, while “incarnational” and “liberation” theology appears on the more intellectual end.  Even pietism shows back up to join in the fun whenever contrarian personalities decide that overly-optimistic sermons “no longer meet their needs.”  They get a kick out of being beaten down.  It makes them “feel” better.  Perhaps it simply makes them feel.

And so here we are.  Love.  It dominates us.  It tyrannizes us.  We must have it.  Denis De Rougemont has written of this tyranny. Continue reading

Mrs. Fidget

In The Four Loves, C S Lewis explains one particular perversion of affection.  This sort of “love” turns the posture of giving into an idol.  The giver has to give in order to feel necessary.  The giving itself makes demands.  It lords generosity over others.   It fulfills its own need by giving, and indeed, the gift nearly destroys those it is given to.  Lewis illustrates this through the character of Mrs. Fidget:

Mrs. Fidget very often said that she lived for her family.  And it was not untrue.  Everyone in the neighborhood knew it.  “She lives for her family,” they said; “what a wife and mother!”  She did all the washing; true, she did it badly, and they could have afforded to send it out to a laundry, and they frequently begged her not to do it.  But she did.  There was always a hot lunch for anyone who was at home and always a hot meal at night (even in midsummer).  They implored her not to provide this.  They protested almost with tears in their eyes (and with truth) that they liked cold meals.  It made no difference.  She was living for her family.  She always sat up to “welcome” you home if you were out late at night; two or three in the morning, it made no odds; you would always find the frail, pale, weary face awaiting you like a silent accusation.  Which meant of course that you couldn’t with any decency go out very often.  She was always making things too; being in her own estimation (I’m no judge myself) an excellent amateur dressmaker and a great knitter.  And of course, unless you were a heartless brute, you had to wear the things.  (The Vicar tells me that, since her death, the contributions of that family alone to the “sales of work” outweigh those of all his other parishioners put together.)  And then her care for their health!  She bore the whole burden of that daughter’s “delicacy” alone.  The Doctor- an old friend, and it was not being done on National Health- was never allowed to discuss matters with his patient.  After the briefest examination of her, he was taken into another room by the mother.  The girl was to have no worries, no responsibility for her own health.  Only loving care, caress, special foods, horrible tonic wines, and breakfast in bed.  For Mrs. Fidget, as she so often said, would “work her fingers to the bone” for her family.  They couldn’t stop her.  Nor could they- being decent people- quietly sit still and watch her do it.  They had to help.  Indeed they were always having to help.  That is, they did things for her to help her do things for them which they didn’t want done.  As for the dear dog, it was to her, she said, “Just like one of the children.”  It was in fact, as like one of them as she could make it.  But since it had no scruples it got on rather better than they, and though vetted, dieted and guarded within an inch of its life, contrived sometimes to reach the dustbin or the dog next door.

The Vicar says Mrs. Fidget is now at rest.  Let us hope she is.  What’s quite certain is that her family are.

~pg. 50

This sort of affection is very common among “strong” families.  It takes the form of genuine love, but what becomes clear is that the Mrs. Fidgets of the world are exacting a daunting price from their families.  They make their families despise this form of “love” and often end up alienating those which they are supposedly doing so much for.

I believe this is why the Bible spends the time that it does on joy and contentment.  It is true that Christianity requires a radical moral discipline.  It avoids dour moralism, however, by equally emphasizing happiness.  This theme is widespread throughout the Bible, and limiting ourselves to a subset of the Pauline literature we find these instructions:

Rom. 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Rom. 14:17-18   For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

Philippians 1: 25-26 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

1 Thes. 5:16 Be joyful always.

So the moral to our story today is to lighten up!

Christianity Is Not a Means

Our Faith is not primarily intended as a way to create a great culture. It is not primarily a way to run for political office. It is not primarily a way to advance literature, poetry, or song. All of these things are great effects of our faith, but they are not the reason to become interested in Jesus.

So too, we ought not go searching for churches based on which ones have the great pieces of literature or the more “beautiful” experience of worship. This method may seem like a step-up from the buffet-style Christianity you just left, but it is only a small step. Now you’re at the organic foods grocery. You’re still shopping.

Lewis nails this as well. He wasn’t opposed to a religion that created a “culture.” Of course not. He wasn’t disinterested in politics or the human condition. Of course not. He did, however, have his priorities in order.

Through Screwtape’s mouth we again get a gem:

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that ‘only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and birth new civilizations’. You see the little rift? ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.

~ Letter 23

“World and life view” folks (of which I am one), be convicted.

Nothing is Naturally Evil

Screwtape complains:

He has filled His world full of pleasures.  There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least– sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working.  Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.  We fight under cruel disadvantages.  Nothing is naturally on our side.

~ Letter 22

This is better than a theology that emphasizes “common grace.”  This is a theology that emphasizes creation.

All things are naturally good because all things come from God.

So, this ought to influence our approach to culture.  We don’t have to drastically alter the natural state of things.  All we need to do is remove the evil that may have infected them.  Remove the evil from rock music, and that which is left will simply be “Christian rock.”  No need to add extra sugar on top.

Remove any evil that may be in our practice of Logic and Math, and the leftover will be “Christian Logic” and “Christian Math.”

This is important because unbelievers didn’t invent these things.  God did.

And that’s what will separate the good from the bad&ugly “worldviews.”

Love and Being in Lewis

In Lewis’ Screwtape Letters we read from the pen of Uncle Screwtape:

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self.  My good is my good and your good is yours.  What one gains another loses.  Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them.  A self does the same.  With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger.  ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

Now the Enemy’s philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt to evade this very obvious truth.  He aims at a contradiction.  Things are to be many, yet somehow also one.  The good of one self is to be the good of another.  This impossibility He calls love, and this same monotonous panacea can be detected under all He does and even all He is- or claims to be.  Thus He is not content, even Himself, to be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that this nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature.

~ Letter 18

That Lewis is able to so easily and pastorally interact with Heidegger is impressive in its own right.  That he also manages to bolster Augustine’s concept of the unity of Trinity as love is icing on the cake.

Reforming the Reformed with Lewis

I have so many new interests, many of which I need to mull over for a long time, but the one thing that I can say with real confidence is that we need more C. S. Lewis.  Having just finished The Screwtape Letters with my class, I am a changed man for the better.  Lewis’ vision is positive, traditional, and just plain Jesus-esque.  He’s already the patron saint of Evangelicalism.  Now we just need to push that home in the Reformed World.

I’ll try to post some important snippets in the future, and I will certainly be reading as much of Lewis’ body of work as I can.