Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mr. Chambers and Mr. Chesterton on the Joy of the Lord

The following is from Mr. Chambers' book He Will Glorify Me:

"We have the notion of joy that arises from good spirits or good health, but the miracle of joy of God has nothing to do with our lives or circumstances or the condition we're in. Jesus does not come to us and say, 'Cheer up.' He plants within us the miracle of the joy of God's own nature. The stronghold of the Christian faith is the joy of God, not my joy in God. It is a great thing for one to have faith in the joy of God, to know that nothing alters the fact of God's joy. God reigns and rules and rejoices, and His joy is our strength. The miracle of the Christian life is that God can give a person joy in the midst of external misery, a joy which gives him or her power to work until the misery is removed. Joy is different from happiness, because happiness depends on what happens. There are elements in our circumstances we cannot help; joy is independent of them all."

The following is from Mr. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy:

"The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial...Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man's ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this: that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick-room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels...There was something that [Christ] hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

The following is from Mr. Chambers' book The Place of Help:

"The external character of the life of our Lord was that of radiant sociability; so much so that the popular scandal-mongering about Him was that He was 'a glutton and winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' [John 15:11] The fundamental reason for our Lord's sociability was other than they knew; but His whole life was characterized with a radiant fullness, it was not an exhausted type of life. 'Unless you are converted and become as little children...' If a little child is not full of the spontaneity of life, there is something wrong. The bounding life and restlessness is a sign of health, not of naughtiness. Jesus said, 'I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.' Be filled with the life Jesus came to give. People who are radiantly healthy, physically and spiritually, cannot be crushed. They are like the cedars of Lebanon, which have such superabounding vitality in their sap that they intoxicate to death any parasites that try to live on them."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Statement on the Direction of a Certain Liberal Arts College

Author's Note: The proceeding was written on paper over a month ago, after a passionate, enlightening discussion with some friends of mine. Since then, certain things have set in motion within this certain liberal arts college that may mean good changes in the future. Therefore, some of what is said here may be a little dated by now. Nevertheless, what was written is still true and, seeing as how the changes are still up in the air, still relevant to the discussion. I name no names here, but merely speak my heart. Take from it what you will. It may be that other colleges are experiencing a similar crisis.

The Thesis: The current administration of this certain liberal arts college is destroying my school by hijacking it with its urban ministry agenda. This college is a center for higher learner, i.e., a school. It is not a headquarters for ministry and missionary work, i.e., a church. This college is to equip young Christians with the knowledge and thinking skills necessary to engage the multiple facets of thought in the world with the gospel. In short, this college was to make us think critically, grow spiritually, and change our world.

The Change: Under the current administration's agenda driven school, the college's purpose has changed, and that to its detriment:
  • "Think Critically," unless it interferes with school ministry, then it's okay to flunk a class for the sake of ministry. Besides being a flagrant violation of Ecclesiastes 9:10, Romans 12:11, Ephesians 6:6, and Colossians 3:22, 23 (all work done unto God), if you think it's okay to just flunk a class at the drop of a hat, then don't go to college. When you come to a college, your primary concern in the college is to learn. If you want to minister, then go to a church, or a ministerial organization or charity; but don't come around here and play school.
  • "Grow Spiritually," as long as your spiritual growth is seen solely through the lens of racism and racial reconciliation. This is a sure fire way to completely stunt the growth of a Christian. There is more to our spiritual growth than racial reconciliation. If you want to make that a part of our growth,that's wonderful (for racism is an evil). Do not, however, channel all our spiritual growth through this one dimension, and do not cram it down our throats in every class: what in the world does racial reconciliation have to do with learning Greek?
  • "Change your world," i.e., change the inner city. Lord knows our city needs spiritual renewal (or overhaul), but this minimalistic tunnel vision that focuses solely on the inner city is nothing more than blinders in the long run. We here talk of "reaching our world," but it is ultimately just talk. The current agenda driven school is focused squarely and solely on the inner city. Ask yourself: what use is urban studies to someone whose calling is not in cities at all? What use is a sole focus on racial reconciliation when your calling is not focused on racism? These things, though wonderful and good to the right people (i.e., people called to do those things), are absolutely useless to the other people, yet it is crammed down their throats in every class.
The New Segregation: Another thing that this administration's agenda driven school has produced is a new segregation between those who "get on board" with the hijacking agenda, and those who do not agree with its direction, tactics, or methods; between those who "catch the vision," and those who hold to the old vision, i.e., that this certain college is a liberal arts center of higher learner meant to equip Christians to engage the world on any level. Those who "catch the vision" and "get on board" are considered to be (by the administration) exemplary Christians and a true example of Christ-likeness. Those who disagree are dubbed "racist," "cloistered," "snobs," "Pharisees," "bad Christians," and (ironically) "divisive." The last one is ironic because it is those who "catch the vision" who treat this disagreement as "divisive," and therefore it is they who divide the student body into those who get with it and those who do not. The one's who disagree with the agenda see this disagreement as their Christian responsibility as salt and light (see Matthew 5:13-16; our "works" are to cleanse corruption and reveal the truth) to point out, address, and try to correct what is wrong or in error. As it stands, the college is firmly in the grasp of the administrative agenda; you either get with it or get run over an marginalized by it. If change does not occur, then the old college, the college of academic excellence and well-rounded faith, will fade into the twilight.

A Prediction: I make a prediction. If nothing changes, then within ten years, this certain college will be no more. There may be a building with some sort of activity going on, but it won't be the old college. It won't even be a "college." It will be the "Urban Ministry Center of the City," or "The City Seminary of Urban Ministries," but it will not be the college anymore. Whatever the name, it will be a church posing as a school, or a school posing as a church. Either way, this certain college, the Christian liberal arts school that stressed multifaceted critical thinking, well-rounded and grounded faith, and a true vision for the world, will be no more. It will have been replaced by an academically dormant, spiritually stunted, cloistered shell of an institution.

For the Record: Those who created, started, and support this agenda are moral, wonderful people with excellent character and hearts for God (generally speaking). However, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and they are (inadvertently or otherwise) laying more bricks on the road to this certain college's destruction. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, with good intentions they inadvertently destroy all that they desire. The same is happening at this school. Pray that it stops soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Having Your Cake and Eating Too: Part II

Other than trying to create brand new categories of existence without one shred of evidence (see Part I), the typical atheist trump card when faced with the nagging question, "Why are there physical laws," was stated well by this atheist blog entry: "At the end of the day it is certainly not the domain of science to dabble in metaphysics." Absolutely correct: that which is outside science is untouchable by science. Lewis mentioned that as well in his essay "Religion and Science" (from God in the Dock).
I must say, it is a convenient trump card to have, especially seeing as how it is true. Whenever annoying supernaturalist ask their annoying "WHY?" question, one can simply say, "That question is outside of science, so there." I agree on that point. I also agree with this other atheist post, which points out that supernaturalist should not try and turn known scientific facts into supernatural elements just because those facts sound "magical." All well and good.
However, the latter post jogged my memory about anther trump card atheist love to use. Whenever a supernaturalist tries to give an answer to the metaphysical question of "Why," atheist are the first to shout, "That goes against science, you fool!" Here we have a Schaefferian "point of tension".
You see, if you ask an atheist "why," they will tell you that science cannot touch that subject. However, if you (God forbid) try to provide the metaphysical solution that they cannot, they turn right around and claim that science debunks it. Again, they want to have their cake and eat it too: they want science to be free from answering the "why" question, and allow science to tear down any answer to the "why" question. Well folks, does science have any say in metaphysics or does it not? Atheist, apparently, cannot make up their minds. Their two trump cards ("Science cannot touch metaphysics," and "Science is the ultimate standard of truth") cannot coexist, yet atheist need both. Dear me, what a mess!
Atheist Joe (as I call him), in his post showing science's inadequacies in regards to metaphysics, makes some statements that are quite odd:
  1. "Why can't we take physicists at their word when they say that the question [of "why"] is outside the domain of science?" We do. We're not the problem. You are, because you just do not like people actually trying to find the answer without science; but how else can we answer the question that is outside science if we do not go outside science?
  2. "Any being or cause to which we might look as a possible solution will always invite us to go one step further. For example, to decide that God is the original ground of the laws of physics -- indeed of the universe itself -- is to put God into the set of causes and effects." Only in a purely naturalistic world can a supernatural element become natural by being the grounds for nature, and by claiming that their is something outside science (i.e., metaphysics) betrays that even Atheist Joe believes that the world is not purely naturalistic. And if it is not purely naturalistic, than his statement is a non sequitur: it does not at all follow that a supernatural element will suddenly become natural somehow simply because it is the grounds for that which is natural.
However, the oddest statement of all is the third and final atheist trump card: "Heidegger considered this question [of "why"] to be 'originary,' a philosophical brain teaser that pushed beyond the limits of being itself. [He] argued that the scope of the question was so broad that it pushed beyond the bounds of what can be thought. We cannot answer the question...because we can never exceed it." In other words, if science cannot answer it, then their is no answer. Thus we come to atheism's ultimate flaw, said nicely by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: "Atheism turns out to be too simple...[it is] a boys' philosophy." Whereas Christians are free to view the world through all facets possible (Science, Art, Religion, Philosophy, etc.) in their search for the truth, atheists are stuck viewing the world through only one facet, i.e., Science. Everything that is not within the realm of science (though they may look and sound pretty or noble) is ultimately bunk. Thus, they handicap their ability to perceive the whole of the universe (both what is inside and outside science), and are forced to rest their views on trump cards that are hopeless contradictions in the end.

A Comment to Master Jenkins on Psychological Screw Jobs

In regards to psychological profit from frisson.

Chesterton once said (in "Orthodoxy") that humans have a paradoxical need for both security and adventure. Perhaps in Modern Christendom Suburbia, this boils down to a tension between laziness and restlessness, a strange desire to be content and create change.
So what typically happens? Do people actually seek out what's actually wrong and actually change it, and actually seek out what's actually true and actually rest therein? No; they start up fancy movements "touring in eleven cities" that cost a hundred smackers to see, which skim the surface of the issues, give pet answers, pump up self-esteem ("You're all okay!"), and leave everybody without real change (so they still feel content) but with the illusion of having done something (so they feel like they satiated their need for change).
Real contentment is too irrelevant, and real change is to costly. Instead, we get a huge psychological screw job under the auspice of a "Christian" seal of approval.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Lengthy Comment to Master Jenkins on Temples of Self-Worship

In regards to "J-Mime".

First of all, how is this "miming" any different from ad hoc worship interpretive dancing? Does changing the rhetoric without changing the form make this a NEW ministry? A NEW thing? Something relevant and chic? Was ad hoc dancing going out of style that fast?
Second of all, to what purpose did the girls in the background serve? They just stood there. Do they represent something about the prayer of Jabez? What exactly? If this crap is supposed to be "Christian art" then the form must match the theme entirely, not partially.
Third of all, what is the "Ministering Prayer of Jabez" really saying? "God enlarge my territory, God I pray for increase in my anointing, I pray for increase in my ministry, I pray for increase in my finances.. Oh God Bless Me Indeed!!!" THAT is what "enlarge my territory" means? Let's break it down:
  • Increased anointing? I thought the Holy Spirit is given to us completely at salvation, not in installments.
  • Increased ministry? What happens when God lets your ministry die? Did you not pray hard enough? Did you not have enough faith? They are not allowing God the room He needs to be God, which includes wounding you for your own good (see The Great Physician).
  • Increased finances? Oh, of course. Fill me up with the fleeting things of this world. Such a "blessing" is purely materialistic and has nothing to do with true Christianity. What if God lets your finances fail? What then? Like "increasing ministry," there is no room allowed for God to be God.
The really sad part of all this is that it is so hard to discuss this stuff without feeling like you'll offend someone's feelings or be accused of racism. Let it be said here that the ridiculous and the blasphemous cuts through all churches of every color and culture. That Christians choose to let Christianity be filtered through their own personal emotive and/or political filters is a sad sign of the state of the Church, and that state is this: we have a whole lot of religious people and very few regenerated people. There are few people in it to know God, but a whole lot of people in it for themselves.
Too many churches are clogged with people "doing religion" for emotional, psychological, political, and/or cultural reasons. Very few are the people who come seeking a relationship with God, to walk with Him in EVERY circumstance (good, bad, and ugly) and see His hand draw you closer into Himself through every circumstance. Instead, it all becomes about what you can get out of it.
Churches, of all denominations, traditions, and cultures have become temples of self-worship. Even "traditional" churches who abstain from Praise and Worship blasphemous fluff can still be havens for people who go to church to gratify themselves emotionally, psychologically, politically, and/or culturally. Remember this fact: Modern Christendom always points to self, but Christianity always points to God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Having Cake and Eating it Too

In this article, an atheist attempts to debunk the basic Lewisian argument that Naturalism is self-contradictory because it cannot account for abstract entities (such as logic, or thoughts in general), and yet needs them in order to be valid (or verifiable). He does his debunking in a most peculiar manner. He basically states that abstract entities (namely, laws of logic) are, in fact, neither abstract nor concrete: "[Logic] is not a physical thing. But it is not a non-physical thing either." What exactly is it then? "It is a rule that can be expressed in the form of a hypothetical imperative."
What has happened here is this: As a good atheist, Bob (as I will dub him) cannot allow for abstract anything because it would violate his basic naturalistic assumption that there is nothing in the universe but "matter in motion." However, any fool can see that logic is not a physical anything. There is nothing you can point to and say, "That is logic." You can point to its effects, results, or representations (i.e., hypothetical imperatives), but you cannot point to the thing itself. Now, Bob (being a good atheist) is no fool; he sees the conundrum quite clearly: logic clearly isn't physical, but he (being a good naturalist) cannot allow it to be non-physical. What, then, can logic be? His answer is brilliant in its necessity: create a whole new category besides "physical" and "nonphysical" called "a rule."
Questions abound, however. What exactly defines this third category simply titled "a rule"? How can it be not physical and not non-physical? What exactly does it mean to be both not physical and not non-physical? Unfortunately, Bob gives no answer, which is unfortunate. You'd think someone who just announced a third category of physical existence would be kind enough to explain the particulars (or even generalities) of his new found discovery. Bob, however, does not. He gives no ground whatsoever to the validity or verifiability of this brand new third category, and therefore gives us no reason to believe his conclusion, i.e., logic doesn't need transcendent grounding (i.e., God) because logic is

Another curious statement: "Do we need a transcendent ground or supernatural basis to justify or validate [logic]? No, all we need is to recognize the futility of rejecting it." Question: Doesn't something necessarily need some sort of grounds in order for us to recognize the futility of rejecting it? If logic has no grounds, if it is just some "third thing" that is not physical nor non-physical, then how do we know it is futile to reject it?
Bob seems to answer by falling back on practical experience, i.e., we know it works because we see it work. Fair enough. However, we still have no answer to "What is/are the ground(s) for Logic?" Seeing it work and knowing why it works are two completely different things, and Bob's only explanation for why it works is to...well, he doesn't give an explanation. That's the problem. He merely puts logic into a brand new form of existence without a shred of backing for doing so. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: allow logic to be not non-physical, and not physical at the same time, which is a contradiction, unless he can prove his "third category," which he does not. Therefore, his argument is nonsensical. Poor Bob.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thoughts on the Nature of "Relevancy" to Master Jenkins

In regards to the failure of relevancy movements.

How did Dorothy Sayers put it? "Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ."

The main flaw with "relevancy" movements is that they treat Christ Himself as fundamentally irrelevant. Thus, He must be "updated" to something new and chic, as though the timeless Word were bound to first century Jerusalem, or the Middle Ages, or the 1950s.
Perhaps now people will begin to see relevancy movements for what they truly are: blasphemy of the highest order, a deliberate denial of the timelessness of Christ and the gospel.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Thought to Master Jenkins on "The Next Big Thing"

In regards to "Christian Fads":

Christian fads (generally speaking) are good things gone bad. Before Praise and Worship became a sentiment, fluffy, self-centered type of self-worship, it was a true movement of God-centered worship in the seventies and eighties. The next big fad is probably already among us as a good thing. We just have to wait until it goes sour.

On Personality

God is a person. His name is "I AM THAT I AM," the ultimate statement of being and personality. That God is a person means that you can only know Him in the way you know any other person--through a personal relationship with Him.
"God is a living person, not a metaphysical principle. Evidences may point to God, but God Himself must be encountered in the dynamic of personal fellowship," says apologist Edward John Carnell. This is the crux that the issue of proving God swings upon. I am sick to no end of well meaning idiots who constantly demand empirical proof that God exists. They do not know what they are asking. They think they are asking, "Show we that this formula reaches a correct answer," or "Give me tested data that produces a logical conclusion." Such thinking is totally off track and therefore completely nonsensical, because in reality, "Prove to me empirically that God exists" is the same as saying, "Prove to me empirically that you're in love." It cannot be done. Love is not something you prove, love is something you know. The same is with God: all the evidence in the world can point to evidences for God (or a god, or something), but God is only "proved" in the same way you "prove" someone is in love--you experience it yourself.
"Experience" is a word that atheists and skeptics revolt against (rather violently), but there is no other way to know a person. Empirical veracity is thrown out of court from the get-go. This is because in an empirical test, you need a "control" that stands as the standard to which what your testing can be measured; and that is the problem. There is nothing to serve as God's "control" except Himself; He is the only standard for Himself. This is mainly because (1) He is the highest standard, and would need the highest standard (i.e., Himself) to measure Himself against; and (2) He is a person, and you cannot use empirical testing on a person in order to know that person, because there is no control for a person except that person. I do not get to know my brother by finding a "control" for him and measuring his results against the control, because there is no other person exactly like his person other than his person. I know him like I would anyone else--experience his person in the dynamic of a personal relationship through personal fellowship. The same is with God: He is not a substance that you measure; He is a personality that you experience.
Personality eliminates empirical testing. God is a person. Therefore, you cannot know God through empirical testing. You know Him like any other person--experience Him yourself.
(Side note: That Christ is the only way a fallen being can experience God is a subject frequented many times on my other blog).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mr. Chambers and Mr. Chesterton on God's Atheism

The following is from Mr. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy:

"When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist."

The following is from Mr. Chamber's book The Philosophy of Sin:

"The cry of the cross is unfathomable to us. The only ones--and I want to say this very deliberately--the only ones who come near the threshold of understanding the cry of Jesus are not the martyrs; they knew that God had not forsaken them, His presence was so wonderful; not the lonely missionaries who are killed or forsaken, they experience exultant joy, for God is with them when men forsake them. The only ones who come near the threshold of understanding the experience of God-forsakenness are men like Cain, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear,' men like Esau, 'exceedingly great and bitter cry,' men like Judas. Jesus Christ knew and tasted to a fuller depth than any man could ever taste what it is to be separated from God by sin. If Jesus Christ was a martyr, our salvation is a myth. We have followed cunningly devised fables if Jesus Christ is not all that this cry represents Him to be--the Incarnate God becoming identified with sin in order to save men from hell and damnation. The depth of this cry of Jesus is deeper than any man can go because it is a cry from the heart of God. The height and depth of our salvation are only measured by God Almighty on His throne and Jesus Christ in the heart of hell."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fool Hath Said: Part 2

Fool's assertion #2: Lewis' arguments are meant to convince Christians, but not atheist. "Lewis concludes the 'Preface' by saying that the he sees Christianity as a great house with a large hall. Different rooms leading off the hall are the different denominations. He said that he is not primarily concerned about which room Christians occupy, but he is concerned about getting them into the hall. The Fool realized [upon seconding reading] that Lewis might have been writing to the people in the rooms, and possibly even to those in the hall, but the Fool found no convincing reasons to move into the hall from outside the house, and certainly nor into any of the rooms, on the book's account...Most of Mere Christianity is devoted to what Christians believe, to Christian behavior, and to Christian homilies that may be of interest to Christians, but are only incidentally so to the Fool."
Fool's reasoning for assertion #2:
  1. There is no such thing as "mere" Christianity. "For instance, either the Virgin Birth is valid or it is not. Either it is essential to Christian Belief or it is not. Lewis discusses and then avoids conclusions about such issues as being too controversial. If he believes in historical Christianity, then he must take a stand one way or the other and be willing to justify and/or explain the reasons for his conclusions."
  2. Lewis' "Jesus Argument" is too limited. "The Fool finds that Lewis' comments about what one must believe about Jesus to be not at all persuasive. He gives only two options in a crucial sentence on page 41. 'Either this man (Jesus) was, and is, the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.' Even the Fool knows that there are so many more options than these two that he can only be sorrowful for the maker of such an oversimplified and dogmatic statement.
  3. Lewis' reasoning and rhetoric is shoddy. "Take for example the first paragraph in the chapter on 'The Rival Conceptions of God'...This writing is very seductive, but the stinger is deceptively buried in the last sentence, 'There is only right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong.' Just because the 'majority' that Lewis speaks of in the next paragraph 'believe in some kind of God or gods,' does not indicate anything other than that all of the different ideologies of the 'majority,' except possibly one, are themselves wrong.
  4. Lewis' reasoning for God is not convincing. "The Fool is not persuaded by the childish anecdotes in Lewis' attempt to establish a 'Law of Human Nature' somehow based on 'The Law of Nature' which leads to a 'power' that is soon spoken of as a 'Life-Force,' but which finally is to be called 'God.'"
  5. Lewis' view of God is contradictory. "This thing Lewis calls God is then defined in double-talk: 'God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.' This kind of argument has no meaning to the Fool..."
Vowell's movement for assertion #2: This "hall" image by Lewis was not meant to set up the tone of the book, but merely clear up any confusion regarding the book's purpose: "The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian 'denominations'. You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic." His reason for this is quite obvious: "Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." Lewis clearly states that Mere Christianity is meant for a explanation and defense to unbelievers (which includes atheist), an explanation and defense that doesn't get them bogged down in "points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated except by real experts." Lewis' point should be clear: he is not trying to give some sort of theological treatise covering every minute detail and nuance of Christendom. He is talking to the everyman, the common man. Thus, he is giving the basics of the basics. The Fool doth protest too much; his assertion reveals a clear misunderstanding of Lewis' intention for this book. The Fool was looking for a deep well but found only still waters, which is just as refreshing even though it is not as deep.
Vowell's movement for the reasoning of assertion #2:
  1. Yes there is a "mere" Christianity, and Lewis already stated it: "the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." For the Fool to claim that Lewis "avoids" the issue of the Virgin Birth is flatly dishonest. Lewis did not avoid discussing the Virgin Birth for the sake of the Virgin Birth. He avoided discussing the Virgin Birth for the sake of the Roman Catholic idea of the "Blessed Virgin". Lewis explains: "Some people draw unwarranted conclusions from the fact that I never say more about the Blessed Virgin Mary than is involved in asserting the Virgin Birth of Christ. But surely my reason for not doing so is obvious? To say more would take me at once into highly controversial regions. And there is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this. The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordinary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake. It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Monotheism whatever. To radical Protestants it seems that the distinction between Creator and creature (however holy) is imperilled: that Polytheism is risen again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you will not appear something worse than a heretic--a Pagan. If any topic could be relied upon to wreck a book about 'mere' Christianity--if any topic makes utterly unprofitable reading for those who do not yet believe that the Virgin's son is God--surely this is it." Though the Virgin Birth is an essential "Christian" belief, it is not an essential "mere Christian" belief. Remember what Lewis is trying to do: speak the basics of the basics. Whether Jesus' earthly mother was divine or not is a matter of "high Theology." That God came in the flesh is "mere Christianity," and Lewis gives a great bit of the book to the Incarnation. For the sake of clarity for the common man, he is trying to avoid "side eddys."
  2. First of all, the Fool says that Lewis only gives "two" options when he actually gives three: "Son of God," "madman," and "something worse." But let's not quibble over small potatoes. The real problem with the Fool's statement is that he claims that "there are so many more options than these two [or three]," but he never gives any of those other options. I've noticed that atheist do this a lot when they address Lewis' Jesus Argument, and it bugs the fool at of me.
  3. The Fool mistakenly believes that Lewis, by lumping Christianity into the "majority" of religions, is claiming that Christianity is right because it is in the majority. This is not what Lewis is doing. Again, he is trying to explain "what Christian's believe" (as the section of the book implies) and to do that he most start with the "basics of the basics". He is saying what Christianity is, not whether it is true. Whether it is true or not is an assumption the reader makes after they read the book. Also, the Fool avoids Lewis' major points to atheists in that chapter, such as an atheist's restricted ability to view religion ("If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.") and their inability to explain morality wholly ("My argument against God [as an atheist] was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless -I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.") Lewis would actually agree with the Fool that just because the majority believes something, doesn't make that something true. Therefore, the Fool ignored crucial issues, and instead prattled on about absolutely nothing. (The Fool did try to claim that "the similarity of all of the theistic beliefs in making assertions that can not be proved" means that they are wrong, but this ridiculous assumption was wonderfully addressed in Lewis' book Surprised by Joy and the essay "Myth Became Fact," among other things)
  4. If he's not persuaded, then that's just too bad. It should be said that Lewis' moving from moral ideals to personal ideals to a personal Ideal and then to a personal God is a compression of his entire journey to the faith (from atheism to idealism to pantheism to monotheism to theism to Christian). If you want the full flow of this reasoning, read Surprised by Joy along with Mere Christianity (also, read The Pilgrim's Regress).
  5. Lewis' view of God is paradoxical, which can look like contradictions (or "double-talk") to a fool. A paradox is an apparent contradiction that expresses truth. If you want to know how Lewis' "double-talk" actually makes sense, then read the book again (and read it carefully this time). That God's nature is paradoxical is a bedrock Christian belief, a well thought out belief that has never shaken the faith of any Christian who has understood them.
All in all, the Fool is what he says he is. His approach to Lewis' book was assumptive, dismissive, shoddy, and far too simple. We should not be surprised, however; for as Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, "Atheism is too is a boy's philosophy." To quote Bunyan, "A child in the faith could answer such questions as these." A child can, but not a Fool.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Fool Hath Said: Part 1

I found this review of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity done by an atheist who calls himself "the Fool". Naturally curious as to what an atheist would say to the words of a former atheist, I decided to take a peak. After reading his (I'm assuming it's a "he") somewhat short review of C.S. Lewis' book, I give my review of the review:

Fool's assertion #1: Lewis was never a true atheist. "The Fool doubts that Lewis ever was a convinced and dedicated agnostic or atheist."
Fool's reasoning for assertion #1:
  1. Lewis' atheism was immature. "It is true that while still a young man, he professed to have no religion and maintained that 'All religions, that is all mythologies, to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention - Christ as much as Loki.' (C.S. Lewis, A Biography , p. 48), but the tone of his objection to religions seems more the schoolboy realization of religious errors and inconsistencies than that of a mature thinker who has considered the atheist or agnostic positions extensively and sympathetically and who accepts the inevitability of one or the other of both positions."
  2. Lewis showed a sympathy for religious thought through his love of mythology. "As a youth he had an apparent fascination with elaborate systems of mythology, and his later fiction, the Narnia saga and stories of the planets, is filled with poetic symbols of power and morality."
  3. Sympathy can easily leads to concession. "It is a small step from contemplating a deity to bowing before it."
  4. Therefore, if Lewis had been a mature atheist, he would never have conceded. "In one account of his conversion, he said, 'In 1929 I gave in and admitted that God is God.' Had Lewis been a comfortable atheist or committed agnostic, he would not have had anything to 'give in' to."
Vowell's movement for assertion #1: Far be it for me to take exception for bold statements, and it should be recognized that the Fool did proceed to explain (in a manner) why he made his assertion. Nevertheless, the Fool begins by questioning Lewis' integrity, and is assuming that he was either dishonest or ignorant about himself.
Vowell's movement for the reasoning of assertion #1:
  1. It needs to be stated up front that this reasoning is a huge assumption, not a fact. Furthermore, his example for proving his immaturity is (at best) an opinion, and (at worst) a ridiculous reading. When you hear Lewis' statement, "All religions, that is all mythologies, to give them their proper name, are merely man's own invention - Christ as much as Loki," does that seem like an immature or mature statement, the words of an immature or mature thinker? Would you see a child (i.e., "schoolboy") saying such a thing and understanding it? Would you see a child connect mythology with religion on any level, not just "their proper name"? Would you see a child even know who "Loki" is, or how Loki can be compared to Christ? The Fool is assuming a lot about what is an immature thought and an immature thinker (note: we can correctly assume that the Fool sees Lewis' statement as an immature thought because he juxtaposed and contrasted such thinking with the phrase "a mature thinker").
  2. The Fool is making another assumption here, viz., that fascination equals sympathy. One can be quite fascinated with something and still conclude it's rubbish. One's aesthetic taste does not necessarily determine one's logical conclusion. (I love Catholic art, but I am not a Catholic).
  3. Another huge assumption, viz., sympathy leads to concession. I may feel sympathy for a crying child and still not concede to him eating dessert before dinner. In addition, there is another assumption made here, i.e., that there is "a small step" between sympathy and concession. I may have sympathy to Marx's ideas on economy or Derrida's ideas on language, but it in no way follows that I am anywhere near agreeing with them. In between sympathy and concession are the monstrous steps of logic, reason, inquiry, and (in the case of religion) faith. Other things can come in between as well, such as cultural, social, political, and historical elements (e.g., does it necessarily follow that a Muslim who has sympathy and/or a fascination with Judaism is one small step away from conceding to their beliefs?).
  4. That Lewis was not a mature atheist is nothing more than another opinionated assumption. That if Lewis was a mature atheist he would not have conceded to religion is yet another opinionated assumption. See this for further review and inquiry on whether or not "mature" atheist can concede to religion. The Fool is making assumptions about not only Lewis, but also atheist in general.
As a side note, I would say that if I had to pick, I'd prefer to be a "committed agnostic" as opposed to a "comfortable atheist." If an atheist is "comfortable," then he has stopped thinking. If an agnostic is "committed," then he never stops seeking and asking. Thus, if Lewis was a "comfortable atheist," of course he would never "give in"; he would have gone intellectually cold on the issue a long time ago. In addition, it does not follow at all that a "committed agnostic" would never reach the same conclusion that Lewis did (i.e., "God is God."). The Fool seems to be assuming that an agnostic is one who ceaselessly questions without seeking for an answer, a direct contradiction to how he later describes agnostics: "...[one who] does not want to come to any conclusions without adequate evidence..."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mr. Lewis on Glory

From Mr. Lewis' essay "The Weight of Glory," to be read in conjunction with blog entry "Righteousness and Peace":

"Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants, I have begun to learn better what I really wanted. When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as "the journey homeward to habitual self." You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belong to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go if we please, we may stay if we can: "Nobody marks us."
A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare ask that any notice be take of ourselves.
But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last...
"Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honor beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache."

Mr Chambers on the Forgiveness of God

The following is from Mr. Chamber's book Shadow of an Agony:

"Forgiveness means not merely that I am saved from sin and made right for heaven (no man would accept forgiveness on such a level); forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a recreated relationship, into identification with God in Christ.
"The background of God's forgiveness is holiness. If God were not holy, there would be nothing in His forgiveness. There is no such thing as God overlooking sin; therefore if God does forgive, there must be a reason that justifies His doing so. If I am forgiven without being altered by the forgiveness, forgiveness is a damage to me and a sign of the unmitigated weakness of God. When a man is convicted of sin, he knows God dare not forgive him; if He did, it would mean that man has a bigger sense of justice than God. God, in forgiving a man, gives him the heredity of His own Son, that is, He turns him into the standard of the Forgiver. Forgiveness is a revelation--hope for the hopeless; that is the message of the gospel."

God's holiness means that He has to deal with sin, not overlook it. Christ's atonement is the only way God could forgive sin and remain holy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


As a follow up to "Nitpickyism," here are my picks for worst theological invention ever:
  1. Gnosticism, i.e., God only speaks to special people in private.
  2. Deism, i.e., God is not intimate with His creation (which rules out the Incarnation).
  3. Monotheism (Islam), i.e., God is one (as opposed to Trinitarian, i.e., God is three in one).
  4. Atheism, i.e., God is not. I don't know how much worse you can get.

Friday, October 5, 2007


This was an interesting article. In a nutshell, the guy is having a contest of sorts as to what is the worst theological invention of all time. Some of the suggestions I found to be good choices, such as: papal infallibility, prosperity gospel, limited atonement, predestination, original sin that makes all our sexual desires to be evil, the Purpose Driven anything.
There were some that, though I did not agree with them, I found them to be inevitable and interesting, such as: the rapture, Congregationalism, Christian Zionism, King James Onlyism (that was my favorite).

However, there were some that boggled my mind, and made me wonder if these people commenting on this blog entry knew any ounce of theology at all. This are the main ones:
  1. Penal Substitutionary Atonement; so I'm guessing by the addition of the word "penal" that we are dealing with what my brother called "squishy people," or people like Dorothy Sayers mentioned in her essay "The Dogma is the Drama," i.e., people who think this doctrine treats God as a sadist and Christ as the innocent victim. If this is what they are thinking, then they need to read Romans again (actually, they probably need to read all of the Pauline epistles again).
  2. Biblical Inerrancy; I'm not sure what they mean here. Somebody mentioned something about "19th century Victorian conservative reactionism," so I'm guessing what they mean is somebody in the 19th century pointed out something like the writer of First Samuel said, "500,000 soldiers," but the writer of First Kings said, "300,000 men," but the writer of First Chronicles said, "a great host." Seeing as how the writers all disagree, then the Bible has an error in it; and since it has an error in it, the it is not inerrant (or infallible, as some put it). I'm not sure if the people who listed "biblical inerrancy" realize the Pandora's box that is "the bible has errors in minor details, therefore it is not all true." Biblical inerrancy/infallibility means (as I understand it) that the truths that the Bible speaks are true, because it is the word of God, and God cannot lie.
  3. Bodily Resurrection; Whose bodily resurrection? If ours, then you have no understanding of the context of Jewish tradition and the role it played in Christian belief (in other words, you have never read the New Testament...or the Old). If Christ's, then you clearly haven't read the gospels, especially the end of the Gospel of Luke.
  4. Hell; Part of my wanted to place this under the "I should have expected this" category, but I just couldn't. How can anybody who reads the Bible (if they are awake) not grasp that their is some sort of necessary retribution for sin? What is this wussy Christianity that denies God's justice and holiness. On the other hand, do these people simply mean "literal hell," as in literal fire and such?
  5. Sola Scriptura; Am I sensing some disgruntled Catholics? Are these people saying that the Bible isn't our finally authority? Perhaps this ties in with "biblical inerrancy"?
  6. Sola Fide; If salvation is not "by grace through faith," then what is it through?
A question I must ask myself is, "What would I have posted as my nomination?" I'm not sure about "theological invention," but I have one for "worst Christian invention." I call it "Nitpickyism." The nominations posted were primarily examples of "Nitpickyism" for the following reasons:
  1. NONE of the nominations were theological inventions. I think one person nominated "Arianism," i.e., the belief that God created Jesus, and therefore Jesus is not God. Even that, however, is more Christological than theological. In short, nobody actually met the contest's requirement: provide a theological invention. One or two people noticed this trend (one commenter said people were just spouting their "hate lists"), but their concern fell on deaf ears. Apparently, no one was getting that this was about nominating a true theological disaster, not their opinions on what belief they believe is bullcrap or not.
  2. MOST of the nominations given were nothing but pathetic potshots: Demonology (of the Frank Peretti kind), "Jesus as my personal Saviour," all forms of Protestantism, Jack Chick Comics, people saying "Amen" and "Preach it Brother" during services, and so on. Even Christian Zionism, the superiority of the KJV, and the Rapture boiled down into unChristlike mudslinging.
This is "Nitpickyism": sweating over your opinion of the minor details instead of dealing with the larger truths (i.e., throwing potshots at Jack Chick instead of seriously considering horrible theological inventions). It affects all traditions and sects, and is another one of those things that makes Modern Christendom so dad gum annoying.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mr. Chambers on Dust and Deity

The following is from Mr. Chamber's book Shade of His Hand:

(Note: My emphasis is in bold)

"God made human beings a mixture of dust and deity (Genesis 2:7). The dust of a man's body is his glory, not his shame. Jesus Christ manifested Himself in that dust, and He claims that He can presence anyone with His own divinity. The New Testament teaches how to keep the body under and make it a servant.
"Drudgery is the outcome of sin, but it has no right to be the rule of life. It becomes the rule of life because we ignore the fact that the dust of the earth belongs to God, and that man's chief end is to glorify God. Unless we can maintain the presence of divinity in our dust, life becomes a miserable drudgery. If one lives to hoard up the means of living, he does not live at all; he has no time to, he is taken up with one form of drudgery or another to keep things going."

To "maintain the presence of divinity in our dust" is the outcome of a strong and growing relationship with God in Christ. When life becomes all about survival and not about a romance of becoming one with God, it becomes the mediocre drudgery that survival is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Word is Alive

"The word of God is alive..." Hebrews 4:12
  1. By Inspiration: "The word is given by inspiration of God..." (II Timothy 3:16) In the beginning of creation, man was but the dust of the ground. It was not until God breathed into man His divine breath that man become a "living soul" (Genesis 2:7). So too, this sacred book that we hold in our hands is only so much useless ink and paper if it were not that God has breathed His divine breath upon it, mingling His presence with the ink and paper, and the book became and is a living word. That the word is alive, i.e., inspired by God, means it carries the life and light of God in it.
  2. By Incarnation: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14) In the beginning before creation, before there even was a beginning, there was the Word, the living being of God's second person. When sin corrupted all flesh and poisoned the innermost dispositions of creation, another mingling occurred. Where sin separated the divinely breathed life of God from man, the Word mingled with our dust, danced with the dirt, and in doing so sanctified it, and made it holy. That the Word is alive, i.e., in the flesh, means that God's presence has revealed Himself to His creation.
  3. By Resurrection: "[The Word] rose again the third day..." (I Corinthians 15:4) In the beginning of the third day, the life and light of men (John 1:4) loosed the pains of death (Acts 2:24), and through death destroyed the Devil (Hebrews 2:14, 15) and his works (I John 3:8). That the Word is alive, i.e., risen from the dead, means that the life of God can return to the innermost of His creation (Galatians 2:20).
"The Word is Alive,
And it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of Life to the hopeless and afraid
Breathing Life into all who believe.
The Word is Alive,
And the world and its gloried will fade
But this truth, it will not pass away. It remains.
Yesterday and forever the same.
The Word is Alive."

-Casting Crowns, "The Word is Alive" (from The Altar and the Door)

Mr. Chambers on the Loss of Pious Pretense

The following is from Mr. Chamber's book Biblical Ethics:

"When we hear Jesus say, "Blessed are the pure in heart," our answer, if we are awake, is, "My God, how am I going to be pure in heart? If ever I am to be blameless down to the deepest recesses of my intentions, You must do something mighty in me." That is exactly what Jesus Christ came to do. He did not come to tell us to be holy, but to make us holy, undeserving of censure in the sight of God. If any man or woman gets there it is by the sheer supernatural grace of God. You can't indulge in pious pretense when you come to the atmosphere of the Bible. If there is one thing the Spirit of God does it is to purge us from all sanctimonious show; there is no room for it."

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Word of Warning

A common mantra that floats around the inner circles of most liberally educated Christians is "All truth is God's truth." Such a dogma is true (pun intended). From modern Catholics such as G.K. Chesterton saying that Christianity is to embrace every facet of truth, to old Protestants like John Calvin declaring that all truth is from God regardless of whose mouth it came forth from, Christians who look at the world and all its facets seriously have long held that everything that is true is from God. It is indeed a wise approach to life, a wonderful way to broaden your knowledge, imagination, and soul in general.
However, a word of warning must be said. "All truth is God's truth" is not a license to believe whatever we want. This is a trap too many "liberated" Christians fall into, too many use this mantra as an excuse to believe in anything that is wise, noble, logical, pithy, clever, but not true. Often you find "liberated" Christians desperately scrambling for anything that supports their opinions, and "All truth is God's truth" becomes a floodgate for using anything to bolster one's congenial preferences.
The reasons behind this error are surely complex, but fundamentally they can be broken down into the following formula:
  1. A certain unChrist-like so-and-so does a very unChrist-like such-and-such to Christian A.
  2. Christian A, though strong enough to not abandon his/her faith over this incident, is not strong enough to see the unChrist-like so-and-so as separate from the unChrist-like so-and-so's denomination, tradition, bible and music preference, political stance, theological stance, philosophical stance, etc, etc.
  3. Thoroughly "burned out," Christian A henceforth proceeds to scrap together every bit of "truth" that goes against unChrist-like so-and-so's denomination, tradition, etc., etc., using "All truth is God's truth" as a smokescreen to allow all manner of thought and belief to slip in the back door, with the only real requirement being that it must bolster one's opinions against unChrist-like so-and-so.
This formula occurs often, is devastating each time, and none are immune to it. We all are susceptible to the same travesty, to treating "All truth is God's truth" as a license to believe anything and everything so long as it is "truth" in that it goes against that which we despise. That what we despise could have some truth of its own buried under all its error is never consider, and thus we ironically betray our own mantra: "All truth is what bolsters my opinion and sooths my hurt feelings."
Get it straight so you won't fall into this trap. "All truth is God's truth" simply means that everything that is true is of God. That is not license, that is limitation, and truth is the limit. These days, we are not bound to the truth like we ought to be. Everybody's too busy trying to be right.

Mr. Chambers on the Primary Objection to the Gospel

The following is from Mr. Chamber's books The Servant as His Lord and The Philosophy of Sin:

"When the Spirit of God come in, we begin to realize what it means--everything that is not of God has to be turned clean out...We soon find why the gospel can never be welcome. As long as we speak winsomely about meek and gentle Jesus, and the beautiful ideas the Holy Spirit produces when He comes in, people are captivated, but that is not the gospel. The gospel does away with any other ground to stand on than that of the atonement. Speak about the peace of heaven and the joy of the Lord, and people will listen to you; but tell them that the Holy Spirit has to come in and turn out their claim to their rights to themselves, and instantly there is resentment...The majority of people are not scoundrels and criminals, living in external sin; they are clean-living and respectable, and it is to such that the scourge of God is the most terrible thing because it reveals that the natural virtues may be in idolatrous opposition to God."

"The first thing in salvation is the element of destruction, and it is this that people object to. With this thought in mind, recall what our Lord said about His own mission: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Our Lord reveals Himself as the destroyer of all peace and happiness, and of ignorance, wherever these are the cloak for sin. It sounds a startling and amazing thing to say that Jesus did not come to bring peace, but He said He did not. The one thing Jesus Christ is after is the destruction of everything that would hinder the emancipation of men and women. The fact that people are happy and peaceful and prosperous is no sign that they are protected from the sword of God. If their happiness and peace and well-being and complacency rest on an undelivered life, they will meet the sword before long, and all their peace and rest and joy will be destroyed."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Chambers on the "The Primacy of Being"

These entries can be found in Mr. Chamber's book My Utmost for His Highest. My Jesa Juva entry, "The Primacy of Being," can be found here.
(Note: My emphasis is in bold.)

From the October 19th entry entitled "The Unheeded Secret":

The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God. The emphasis is put on the wrong thing. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observations, for lo the kingdom of God is within you," a hidden, obscure thing. An active Christian worker too often lives in the shop windows. It is the innermost of the innermost that reveals the power of the life.
We have to get rid of the plague of the spirit of the religious age in which we live. In our Lord's life there was none of the press and rush of tremendous activity that we regard so highly, and the disciple is to be as His Master. The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men.
It is not its practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College, its whole strength lies in the fact that here you are put into soak before God.
You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you wither at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens.

From the December 18th entry entitled "The Test of Loyalty":

Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing we "stick at" today. We will be loyal to work, service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers. The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us.

Finally, from the October 9th entry entitled "Pull Yourself Together":

I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot atone for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot make right what is wrong, pure what is impure, holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. have I faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made a perfect Atonement, am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The great need is not to do things, but to believe things.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Thought on "Unnecessary Divorces" to Master Jenkins

In regards to "Memoryless Christianity"

The book review mentioned can be found here.

What irked me was the reviewer (and author) making the issue an "attractional versus missional" thing. Why is it "versus"? Why is it not BOTH? Why does the church not PULL IN as well as GO OUT? If the institutional church merely "pulled in," is not merely "going out" just restating the same problem with different words? Why is there this unnecessary divorce? Why is it an oppositional relationship and not a complimentary one? Why do we, as Christians, in regards to many things (worship, missions, church structure and service etc.) keep making there unnecessary divorces? Why is that when we slowly slip into letting one thing dominate one area of Christendom that we suddenly (and with much panic) run completely the other way and commit the same fallacy on the other end of the spectrum?
It's like this: we're standing on a bar held up by a thin pole. When we stray to far to one side and are in danger of completely flipping over, we think we solve the problem by running completely to the other side. It's like no one in the Church understands BALANCE anymore. These unnecessary divorces are the cause of much confusion, division and chaos in the Church today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Church vs. Chapel

This blog is based off what was said at the Crichton Chapel on 8-22-07:

I would say that our speaker was amazing today. His brilliantly sarcastic approach delivered with thunderous yet easy impact the truth about the difference between Christianity and religion, a favorite subject of mine. His point (paraphrased): Christ came to give us life, not religion. Don't be religious. As he put it, "Religion will make you so stuffy that your own mother won't want to be around you." Oh, and did I mention that he called Paul a "religious smartass" before meeting Christ on the road? That was hilarious in its wonderful mixture of honesty and truthfulness.
I would say all of that...but I cannot, because (according to A.T.) the point of chapel is not the message.
Before we were delighted to our guest speaker's wondrous discourse, A.T. had a statement to make. Apparently (God knows who), some people are under the horrid delusion that chapel is supposed to be like church. Well guess what: it's not. That was A.T.'s point: chapel is not church. And exactly what makes chapel "not-church"? These were A.T.'s qualifications:
  1. There is a time of music and worship, but that is not the point of chapel.
  2. There is a message, but that is not the point of chapel.
  3. Chapel is to glorify Christ.
  4. Chapel is to reconcile people to each other through glorifying Christ in what is said and done during chapel.

Points one and two are bizarre by themselves: if the music and message are pointless, if our time of worship and edification (of giving back to and receiving from God) are fundamentally irrelevant to chapel, then what is their purpose? Are they subterfuge? Are they cliche? Are they just there? Since the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church, we can assume that giving to and receiving from God are meaningful in church, but in chapel they are...what? There is no answer given.

Point three is mind-boggling. Remember: the context of these qualifications is in regards to how chapel differs from church. If the point of chapel is to "glorify Christ," we are left to assume by inference that the point of church is not to glorify Christ. This makes absolutely no sense.

Point four is a complete contradiction of the whole set of qualifications. How exactly can we glorify Christ through what is "said and done" in chapel if what is "said and done" in chapel (i.e., the music and/or the message) is irrelevant? There lies the contradiction: points one and two have already established that what is said and done in chapel is irrelevant to the purpose of chapel, and yet point four says that the purpose of chapel is to reconcile ourselves to each other by glorifying Christ through what is said and done. That completely negates what was previously said.

The larger issue here, of course, is a question that has plagued this school for years now: what is chapel? According to what A.T.'s statement, it is and is not about what is said and done, and (as opposed to church) is about glorifying Christ. Um...what?

I am surprised that such a school as Crichton, which hails that it challenges its students to "Think Critically, Grow Spiritually, Change the World" is not thinking critically about this. If we were in a class room setting with one of our illustrious professors, and the question was presented "What is chapel," there would be a required reading of the history of the word and idea of chapel as well as the history of the usage of chapel throughout church history: how did chapel originate? How did the Church use it? What did the Church Fathers or authorities say its use was? How did they differentiate it from a regular church service? Did they differentiate it from a regular church service? What biblical backing is there for such conclusions? What has church history and authority said about chapel? If we came back to said professor with a response like A.T.'s, we would flunk, and flunk hard.

As a disclaimer, I should say that it is possible that A.T. was told to say something at the last minute, and that he tried to articulate what is very hard to say, i.e., what is chapel. What this incident demonstrates, however, is that the answer to that question is not as easy as some would assume. Any attempt to make a simple, cliche answer results in a quick slide into the ridiculous.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"It was a beautiful letdown..."

One paradox of the Christian walk is that there is comfort in the unknown. As long as we know what to do, we are standing firmly on ourselves: our wits and understanding, our ability to organize and control, our powers to manipulate and plan. This is, of course, a fragile house of cards that is sure to tumble at the slightest divine wind; indeed, divine reality checks come often to the self-confident.
Of course, one problem is that, in the moment, we do not know that we are being self-confident. At certain times, when we stop to take a breather, we say things like, "Let me pray about this," or "I'm just going to trust God," or "Lord, Thy will be done," and we think we are being fully dependent upon God. Those moments, however, are pure abstractions; when we go back into the practical and the nitty-gritty of circumstances, we immediately, completely naturally, assume the position as master and commander of our own little universe. God steps in and shakes the house of cards, letting us know that our feet are firmly planted on nothing.
"It was a beautiful letdown, when I crashed and burned," sings Switchfoot, and they are right. That is the paradox. For anyone else, having your tightly orchestrated and thought out plans and devices blow up in your face is a devastating and despairing scenario. Who else is there to turn to but themselves? For the Christian, however, it is not so. It is only when we "crash and burn" that we get a healthy grasp on desperation; and when we have that grasp, trusting God is no mere abstraction anymore: it has become an actuality, because our reality is that we are lost down here, and we need someone to save us.
There is surprising freedom in reaching the point where you can honestly say, "I don't know what to do." I am always reminded of the movie Volcano for some reason. Through 95% of the movie, Tommy Lee Jones' character has all the answers to the disasters surrounding him. It is not until the climax of the film that he puts his head down and confesses, "Well, I don't know what to do." At that moment, the answer came, and it was an unexpected answer. It is a truth we too often miss: God cannot help us if we can help ourselves. As long as we "know" what to do, we will never know what to do; that is the paradox. Our answers come only when all we have are questions. Until we can arrive at the most humiliating position of all, the quiet desperation that is "I don't know," we will never have an answer. Until we know--truly, practically know--that we need help, we will never receive it. God does not help those who help themselves; He helps those who know they need help, those who cry, "Oh God, I find no hope in me!"
God's divine reality checks will make sure that our foolish pride forever lets us down, but what a beautiful letdown it is. Everything suddenly becomes clear, the peace and the answers come suddenly, as though from outside ourselves, and the beauty comes from knowing, "God has meet me here."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Condescension of God

This blog is based off what was said at the Crichton Chapel on 8-15-07:

I must admit: A.T. is becoming a good speaker; he improves every time he steps before us. Although sometimes it felt like he was struggling for words a bit, I understood and appreciated his point: the condescension of Christ.
Here's the gist of it: Christ, being God, was not lower than man and therefore our servant. He was greater than man, and therefore He chose to become a servant (Philippians 2:5-7). He was the higher willingly becoming the lower. As C.S. Lewis put it in Miracles, God went down to the depths so He could bring all that was there up with Him: He descended so that we could ascend with Him. Christ is the condescension of God.
The word "condescend" carries with it many negative connotations in our anti-establishment generation today, which is a shame. To "condescend" means for the higher to willingly reach down to the lower. We focus too much on the "higher/lower" part and less on the "reach down" part, which is far more important. For a king to reach down into the world of the peasant is not an act of arrogance, but of love, or at least of great magnanimity. With God it is the same. God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were vile sinners, He reached down into our lower state, became a man, and died for us (Romans 5:8). As Christians, because Christ did this for us, and now that Christ lives in us, we too have the power to "condescend," to reach down into the lowest depths and bring others up with us, to descend into trials and tribulations and ascend purer than gold.
The condescension of God is the gospel. The condescension of God also has meaning for people into living after salvation That is what was preached in chapel today, and if that is what our first chapel was, then I am excited about what will happen later on in the semester.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On Food

It seems that nobody gets food right. Everybody gets it wrong.
On the one hand, the gluttons have it wrong, because they see food as mere pleasure, and who doesn't want to keep filling up on pleasure over and above what is proper and good? By seeing it as mere pleasure, there are no limits or boundaries set in their minds.
However, the diet Nazis of the world have it wrong too, because they see food as mere fuel. This is why all health food taste like crap when compared to regular food. In their minds, food's only function is to propel, not satisfy aesthetically or emotionally. By seeing it as mere fuel, food has no soul anymore.
The soul of food is the person who cooks it. Every creation has a touch of its creator, and you can tell when a creator likes what it creates. Someone who finds pleasure in food always makes the best food (and far too much). Someone who sees food as merely energy to be consumed (or worse, as an evil in and of itself), makes the worst food (with the proper amount). Regular food is (typically) soulful but in excess, while diet food is moderation in action but void of life. Neither way is correct on its own; they both need each other.
My philosophy professor once said, "Just enjoy food." I believe what he meant is to have the proper vision of food, for you cannot truly enjoy something good unless you truly see all that it is first. You do not truly enjoy a sunset unless you take in all of its aspects; you do not truly enjoy art unless you catch sight of its every layer; you do not truly enjoy another person unless you take in all that they are. There is need for a whole and proper perspective when viewing something before you can truly and fully enjoy it (which is why wide screen movies are better than full screen!).
There is no proper perspective for food from either gluttons or diet nuts. Gluttons see it merely as pleasure; diet freaks see it merely as fuel. The correct and whole view is to see it as both, i.e., as pleasure and fuel. Food is meant to please as well as energize, and both work together (for pleasure is a way to energize). Only by seeing it as both will you be able to eat good soul-filled food and set limitations and boundaries on it. It is then you will truly be able to enjoy food for what it is: pleasure and propulsion, ecstasy and energy. May God help us to eat of His bounty with a whole and proper vision.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Recently, I was flipping through my latest Time magazine when two letters to the editor caught my eye. I have omitted their names for privacy reasons.
The first one was in regards to a Time article on the Democratic Party and faith. Apparently, there was a poll taken in regards to what religious position most voters prefer their candidates to be. This person was not pleased:

"As a young atheist who was brought up in a Catholic household, I was appalled to see that being atheist was the worst possible position for a presidential candidate. Atheists are not soulless people without morals. One does not need to have faith in order to know right from wrong--it's called common humanity. It seems the only reason our nation looks for faith within ourselves and in our leaders is that we unfortunately have faith in neither."

First of all, if you are "young," then you are not an atheist. Come back when you're eighty years old and have spent 90% of your life searching for God. If you come back empty handed, then you can call yourself an atheist. Right now, you simple do not like the concept of God (some all-powerful so-and-so bossing me around!).
Second of all, this "young atheist" is under two delusions: (1) being religious gives you a soul, and (2) being religious gives you morality. I cannot speak for all religions, but I'm pretty sure that none of the ones that are supposed to be from God say that man gets a soul be being religious. Man has a soul because he is created by God and in His image; God is a soul, therefore His creation would be souls as well. (That's another thing: this person acts like a soul is something you possess. Lewis' quote should suffice here: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.") As to morality being innate (I guess that's what "common humanity" means), he is right...and the Bible says He is right (see Romans 2:14, 15), so what's his problem again? Of course, without God, you have no real answer as to where our morality comes from, nor why we should follow it (again, Lewis' sums it up nicely, but you will have to read the first five chapters of Mere Christianity to get it).
Finally, what the heck is that last sentence supposed to mean? "It seems the only reason our nation looks for faith within ourselves and in our leaders is that we unfortunately have faith in neither." Faith in ourselves? Is he serious? Read Jeremiah 17 for a reality check. Then read Chesterton's Orthodoxy and see that the only people who have themselves as the end all to their lives are the madmen and lunatics in asylums (and speaking of Chesterton, read the part where he says those who try and sound smart are simply too lazy to think).

The second letter was in regards to an essay on Harry Potter. Apparently, the essayist said that because J.K. Rowling left God out of her books, she gave us magic without a source in a secular world without hope. This person disagreed:

"My generation is plugged into iPods, phones and Facebook, yet disconnect from everything but apathy. Harry Potter is a modern reminder that teenagers are capable of more than what our materialistic society tells them they are. In her series, Rowling brings ideals and virtues to Harry's tortured and disillusioned realm. Perhaps by not including religious overtones, Rowling is both reflecting the world's current secularism and transcending it with a simple concept: love."

First of all, this person is right. Our modern generation needs a reminder about something greater than what materialism offers them, and Rowling's injection of morality and ideals is good.
Second of all, this person may be right, but they are only begging the question, the same question that we mentioned before with the first letter: where did those ideals and such come from? Not from the secular world, because they are injections into it. What is their source? If not God, then what? If they come from us, then they do not transcend us anywhere. Also, if they transcend the secular world, than that world ceases to be secular, for secularism is the absence of transcendence. Where do they transcend it to? What (and more importantly, Whose) reality do those things (ideals and morals and virtues) take us to? If there is no God, then what? God is more than our lawgiver; He is our end as well, our one true desire. Without God, all those virtues, morals, and ideals are meaningless because they transcend us into nothing.
Finally, love is not a simple concept. The fact that we think it is shows just how far our "materialistic society" has sapped us of all our understanding of transcendent elements. If you want a look at the true concept of love, then study the doctrines and works on the Trinity (Dante's "Paradiso" in The Divine Comedy would be a nice start). You will never call it a "simple" concept again.