Two churches located across the street from each other. At least the Catholics have a sense of humor. lol
…Do the Presbyterians think Rocks are animals?
…Do the Presbyterians think Rocks are animals?
We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.
- CS Lewis from The Problem of Pain
In the book I use an example of Mel Gibson, who made these antisemitic rants when he was drunk and then afterward wrote these letters of apology that seemed to be genuine. Everybody was arguing about whether he is an anti-semite or not an anti-semite. What I say in the book is, even though his behavior was despicable, are we obliged to think somebody is or is not something? Isn’t it possible for somebody to have both racist and non-racist parts of their brain that can be coexisting in a single person — where he might say things at one point and feel bad about it at another point?
To say that somebody has true colors — that there’s sort of one thing this person is — isn’t nuanced enough with our understanding of modern neuroscience.
For a while now I’ve been enjoying the brief philosophy-for-dummies sort of podcasts at Philosophy Bites. In this one, David Eagleman discusses how cognitive science discoveries are shedding some light on moral issues involving a person’s freedom to choose. I really enjoy a lot of what Eagleman has to say, but he probably overstates the importance of the new scientific research (as scientists are wont to do…). Still, I find it interesting how cognitive science and ancient theological topics are starting to intersect. In this clip he talks about the human temptation to choose a short term pleasure that is ultimately destructive over a choice that, though harder in the short term, ultimately brings more long term pleasure.
Isn’t this basically for moral choice that has faced humans since they became human? I find this theme to be absolutely central to my own moral life, and over such a broad portion of my life. Lots of cake and ice cream would be more pleasurable than healthy eating, but not in the long run. Lots of new sex with lots of different people looks like it might be fun in the short term, but I’ll never build a great marriage and a happy family by going that route.
You can basically apply the same principle to any appetite - food, sex, money, power, you name it. Immediate over-indulgence of your appetites is good in the short term, but it doesn’t bring about lasting health, wholeness, love, community - all the stuff that is really considered “good.”
There’s a theme that runs throughout Lewis’s works about humankind emerging from its animal origins, toward a divine endpoint. It’s a God-ordained progression - that of course involves a lot of freedom - but one that is ultimately intended to invite humankind to God-likeness. To ignore self-denial and always just give in to your appetites is to remain in the realm of the animal. To reign them in, finding balance in the enjoyment of creation while not being controlled by its pleasures, is to move in God’s direction.
Listen to the whole episode (and subscribe to the podcast) at the link below.
In the spirit of Amazon’s new imprint Kindle Singles (which they describe as “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length”), I have adapted the research from my thesis work into a “single” of its own. It’s too long to be an article, but probably not enough for a book. Perfect for the short-attention-span age we are living in, no?
Is someone trying to tell me something?
I’ve been running into this theme a lot lately. I can’t say I am that attracted to the Eastern Orthodox church - I actually kinda like that cheezy sort of rock ‘n roll contemporary church culture with its simple sing-it-again choruses.
But theologically, I have found repeatedly that the conclusions I come to are either very close to or an exact reflection of what the Orthodox already believe. But Orthodoxy seems a long way off for a Mennonite boy. Maybe I should check it out. I drive by the one and only Orthodox church in my city every day on the way to work.
With all this in mind, the post I stumbled upon today was extra-interesting. He says that C.S. Lewis led him to Orthodoxy. So Lewis is the path, eh? I am on this path too?
But, many of you have read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity without realizing just how much Orthodox theology was embedded in this book. In fact, it is Lewis’ capability to take complex theological language and turn it into mere Christianity that makes him so beloved by so many.
It’s an interesting post. And it links to a number of other ones relating Lewis to Orthodoxy. Enjoy.
“Reason erects a stop sign to this prejudice. You must find out why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted? And if so, by whom? Where? And how conclusively? Or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this one passes to the realization that our own age is also a period, and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so engrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.“
(Lewis gives Owen Barfield credit for teaching him this all-important principle.)
In his essay ”Historicism“, Lewis calls chronological snobbery ”the vulgarest of all vulgar errors, that of idolizing as the goddess History what manlier ages belaboured as the strumpet Fortune. Chronological snobbery is self-defeating, for the more up-to-date the look is, the sooner it will be dated.
In “An Experiment in Criticism” Lewis asks the avant-garde critic, “If you take your stand on the prevalent view, how long do you suppose it will prevail? …All that you can really say about my taste is that it is old-fashioned; yours will soon be the same.” Lewis freely confesses in a letter, that “in talking to me you must beware, because I am conscious of a partly pathological hostility to what is fashionable.”
Peter Kreeft. “How to Save Western Civilization“, C.S Lewis for the Third Millennium.
So there was a 7.4 last night again, almost in the same spot as the first one. I can’t say I noticed it though. I was fast asleep and maybe I’m getting used to them as it took a phone call from a radio station back home to rouse me. “Are you ok? What’s your read on the last quake?” says they. I respond with, “Huh? Wha? What time is it? There was another quake?” And honestly their tone was so urgent that I wondered if I should be jumping up to get the kids. That has been a huge problem throughout this whole thing. Japanese reporting is measured and calm, focusing on facts. Western reporting seems really prone to screeching “Oh my God!!! How are you feeling about all this!??!?” And then somehow somebody’s opinion or feelings get warped into a news story that presents itself as fact. And then boom, I’ve got worried parents telling me to come home.
But hey, I actually do have a C.S Lewis related point to report in the blog. The Quakebook project is doing well and looks like it is going to raise a good chunk of money for the victims. In the song I wrote to accompany the book (previous post), the verse in the middle where I attempt a lyrical stroll into the the area of theodicy, the first two lines (Some say that pain is right / Like a medicine that goes down hard) were influenced very much by The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. The second two lines (But some say in darkest times / We will rage against the dying light) were a hat tip to that little bit of atheist in me that still worries, along with the Dylan Thomas poem I’m alluding to, that this life really is all there is.
The events of the last two week have wiped out my blogging and all thoughts about Mr. Lewis. Some thoughts I jotted down in the first week:
The quake hit on Friday, and at first it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. We are two hours south of Tokyo and initial reports were all very conservative, talking about death tolls under 500 people. We were actually kind of impressed, considering the death toll in Haiti not so very long ago.
But that has all turned out to be very very wrong. I suppose the death tolls are still relatively low, but nothing feels low about 10,000 people, especially when people you know are crying because of lost relatives and friends in the north. Everyone is trying to do the “life as usual” thing but it’s not so easy to do. Today we had a graduation ceremony at my son’s school. As soon as the speaker mentioned the disaster, half the place was in tears. The Japanese are very good at “gaman” (enduring hardship) but as an emotion-expressing foreigner, I kind of hate that at times. Seems like a national cry might be a better idea.
Personally I find it hard to escape a certain sense of dread, like a dark voice in the back of my head that mocks my faith in light of the apparent meaningless of something like this. You can’t blame terrorists or human evil. Sometimes the earth just up and kills all kinds of people at random, and like Shusaku Endo repeated so many times in that haunting novel of his, God is silent.
I find myself reverting to a sort of fairy tale to make some sense of it. I would like to believe that the only problem is that our communicators are broken - that once long ago in a unfallen time, God had such an intimate relationship with his creation that we would know long beforehand about any natural irregularities, and always be safely out of the way. Maybe we are just crippled by our inability to hear the Creator, and we live out of step with his creation because of it.
I know some people will be offended by my telling of such children’s stories at a time like this, so I will stop. Today the panic seems to be getting worse instead of better. No one is sure whether or not we will be running from a radioactive cloud within the next few days or not. Frankly, I start to think that Twitter and Facebook are more interesting as a study in human psychology than they are useful for getting clear and true information. You have your fear-mongers and your under-staters, and everyone in between. And CNN can be even worse with their “possible scenarios”.
The question “What is Truth?” confronts me on so many levels in a crisis like this.