Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Inner Ring

This was the perfect piece of writing to end the class with. Lewis discusses inner rings- the second or unwritten systems that exist within societies. I'm sure many of us had visions back to middle or high school, because that's where we tend to witness the inner rings-the cliques, the clubs, and the exclusive groups. We all have wanted at one point or another, and might still want, to be a part of something...to belong. Lewis gives advice to students about these rings.

We are never formally admitted into rings by anyone, but we all know they exist and that we are either on the outside or inside of them. "One of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside." This statement is so true. Who didn't want to be a part of the cheerleading squad or the football team in high school? I hated cheerleading, and disliked most of the girls on the team, but I longed to be a part of their exclusive group. They were popular! Everyone loved them! Of course I wanted to be envied like they were. Lewis describes it like this..."A terrible bore...ah, but how much more terrible fi you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your saturday afternoons: but to have them free becuase you don't matter, that is much worse." It's better to be a part of something you hate than to be alone, right? This is how the rings make us think; what would be the point of a club if no one was denied?

So we do all that we can to be accepted into a ring. The passion for the inner ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things, says Lewis. How many times have we dressed a certain way, spoke in a certain slang, or bought items to make us fit in? This desire to fit in can make us do crazy things. However, as long as we are governed by this desire we will never actually get what we want. "You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain." If I had pursued the cheerleading squad, my pleasure would have been very short lived. That's because I wanted to joing simply to be popular, not because I enjoyed the sport. Also, a desire to be a part of the ring is fun in itself. We like to want what we can't have, and once we are given what we want it's lost all it's magic.

"The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it." Once we stop looking for rings to join, we will be unaware of the ring we are in. We will become unaware to a real inside that we are in, that we are snug and safe in something that would like like a ring from the outside. However, the secrecy is accidental and people are not inside it by some lure of the esoteric. It is instead a few people who like the same things, like each other, and are genuinely interested in hearing one another's thoughts- not what other people are thinking on the outside.

This is all easier said than done. It's simple to say that we shouldn't look for groups that will make us popular, but it's what we all do. This isn't just describing what life was like a few years ago before college, it still pertains to us...and it will not stop. Even in the workplace we'll want to fit in with colleagues, but we must work to overcome our desire for the ring. We were all created with a purpose, with different gifts, and we have a lot to offer the world...but we won't be able to use our talents if we are wasting time searching for popularity. I pray for ears that hear God's will for me and eyes to see the people around me who love me for me. God will always accept us, and never reject us- I've never heard of a clique with that kind of generosity.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Human Pain

This is one of my favorite readings. As college students, I would guess that many of us have parents who are getting old, fast. (or grandparents) It can be hard to watch people grow into such suffering states, but this chapter really helped me to understand why we experience pain, both physical and mental.

Pain is inevitable in a fallen world, and that is because we cause it-not God. With the freedom we are created with comes the choice to do good or bad; unfortunetly many of us decide to partake in evil. "It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs..." Although much suffering comes from men God gives torture too, but why would a loving God allow us to experience pain? If all is well with us, we would have very little reason to surrender to God. Many of us use God like a parachute- only in cases of emergencies. When everything is going according to our own plans, we have very little use for God. He uses pain to show that not everything is well on earth; it is His megaphone rousing the deaf world.

It is hard to think of God allowing bad to happen, because we often associate bad things with bad people. We cannot think this way though. Even the most wonderful people feel pain. Sometimes we don't even notice we are suffering, so God needs to awaken us from our sinful slumber. Pain shatters our illusions that what we have is our own and is enough to satisfy us. "God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full- there's nowhere for Him to put it." He wants us to have all the pleasures in the world, but we deny Him. We cannot live in peace if we are too busy distracting ourselves with earthly things. God takes away our sources of temporary happiness in order to give us an eternity of joy.

I really enjoyed listening to Peter Kreeft in class, and one of the things he said that stayed with me is that so many of us want a grandfather in Heaven, not a father. We picture God as this friendly old man who lets us do whatever we want in order to be happy, but that is not the case. It's not that God doesn't want us to be happy, it's quite the opposite. God wants us to be so happy that He takes away the parts of our lives that are hindering His plans for our joy. When we lose ourselves we can then finally find ourselves. Only through the work of God can that happen, and it sometimes involves the use of pain.

This chapter contains another great analogy. We often behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over-we shake ourselves clean only to run toward the nearest mud pile. We are so quick to fall back into sinful ways even after confessing our shamefulness to the Lord. "And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless."

We must remember that even in our suffering we must glorify God. He puts us in situations for reasons only He knows, so we cannot be quick to curse God. Insted of focusing on the pain we are in, we should be thankful for the joys that are ahead of us. God allows suffering, but He allows us to enjoy great splendors as well. It is only out of love that God uses pain as a way to restore us, and many of us forget that. I pray that I can have eyes that look beyond my pain and toward the redeeming work of the Lord. If I am in pain, there is probably something God wants to fix in my life or something He wants to reveal to me. How wonderful it is that we can rejoice even in our sufferings!

The Fall & Redemption (Plantinga)

I don't remember ever talking about the fall chapter in class, so I think that is why I never blogged on it. That is why I'm adding it to the chapter on redemption.
Creation declares the glory of God, but it also declares the tragedy of fallenness, of chaos, of painful carnivorousness. Although there is so much beauty in the world there is also a lot of corruption; that is the result of the fall. Human life is not the way it is supposed to be, because we choose to live against God, our neighbors, even ourselves. Life has been like this ever since Adam & Eve ate that apple in the garden...
We have chosen to live against our ultimate good, the paradise God offered us, and now "evil lies close at hand." Evil is what is wrong with the world, and it is when we deviate from God. Anything that spoils shalom is evil; it is not shocking that God hates evil. Our sinful acts interfere with how things are meant to be, how God created us to live.
Original sin refers to the tendencies of the whole human race to be pulled into sin. We make wrong uses of God's gifts, we pollute relationships, make false gods , and we often don't even know we are doing wrong. We start with small sins such as lying, and suddenly we cannot tell which are the lies and which are the truths in our life.
So who is to blame for all of our wicked ways? Many think that all evil comes from Satan, but he cannot wreck the lives of those who are faithfully clung to Jesus Christ. Satan only decieves those who are already self-deceived. If we are not in continuous prayer with God we will not be strong enough to combat the Devil. Only with the Holy Spirit in us can we be firm in our beliefs and not be deceived by evil. "The problem is that we humans put our faith in nature or in ourselves instead of in God."
But there is hope!
Human misery does not last forever, for the grace of God grants mercy to the undeserving. As much as God hates sin, he loves to forgive us! We may leave His side but He never loses sight of us, and He never will. We can be free from our sins when we follow the ten commandments. It is not a set of rules humans have to fulfill to be rescued by God but it is besause we are saved we follow them. It seems strange to think we get freedom by obeying rules, but godly obedience liberates us. By following God's will, we are free from sin and corruption; we get to live the life that was meant for us.
Through baptism we become "in Christ" but that is only the start of a lifelong conversion process. We do not automatically receive the golden ticket into Heaven by attending on church service; we must be patient and let God work in us. "We are not saved by good works, but neither are we saved without them." By living a "good life" we are not necessarily living a holy life, pleasing to God. According to Lewis, we must act like children dressing in our parents' clothes. It's not an act of pretending, but an act of prepartion: we are to prepare to clothe ourselves in Christ. By expressing the image of God we are restoring shalom. Just as we are changed when we are "born again" we must also change the world around us. Everything needs restoring. The whole world belongs to God, so we cannot restore ourselves without reforming all of creation.
Many of us have said Plantinga is not inspiring, but we have to look at the messages he is trying to reveal to us. We are fallen beings; we are born into sinful lives. It is a tragedy, but it has a happy ending. By faith in God and living according to His plan, we are redeemed. There is hope for us all! No matter how many times we sin against God, He never leaves our side. He is always eager to restore us, to give us a second chance. What a wonderful Savior we have!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Man or Rabbit

I really enjoyed this essay! Lewis uses such genius analogies, and this piece contains some of my favorites. They make understanding his points so much easier.

"Can't you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?" Lewis starts by asking this question, and his answer is basically no. If you are asking this question, you have most likely heard of Christianity and thus are rejecting God on dishonest terms. What it really means is that you do not want to know whether it is true or false but just if you should bother with Christianity or if being good is fine enough. Lewis says this person is like the man who won't look at his bank account because he's afraid of what he'll see or the man who refuses to see a doctor for the pain he's feeling because the doctor may reveal some terrible answers. Some of us are so afraid to really dive into Christianity and study it, because we know it will uncover truths in our lives that we aren't ready to face.

"You may not be certain yet whether or not you ought to be a Christian, but you do know you ought to be a man, not an ostrich hiding its head in the sand." This analogy is wonderful. So many of us choose to hide under the sand of our lies because we know we are only lying to ourselves; we refuse to acknowledge the truth and end up living in denial.

I will not doubt that there are honest, moral, just people out there who are not Christians. They may lead "good" lives, but that is only good according to their definitions. Nonetheless, the question of living a good life is not really the question. If people knew what life was truly about, they would know that "a decent life is mere machinery compared with the things we men are really made for." The divine life is not indispensable like morality is; living a good life does not allow you to be re-made. As Christians we are given the chance for the rabbit in us to disappear. The cowardly, sensual, ethical, intellectual parts of us will go away, only for us to find something we have never yet imagined: "a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy."
This goes back to our discussion of the difference between happiness and joy. We can live decent lives, filled with happiness, but we do not experience joy without the love of God. The point of our existence is not to live a 'good life' but to live a life that pleases God and follows His plans for us.

As far as our discussion in class today goes, I just want to confess that I am struggling with becoming jaded and cynical. I did not grow up in a Christian home, and my friends were not Christians. Scripture and doctrine were not embedded in me throughout all of my education, yet God still showed His face to me. It has been hard for me to come in from the outside and listen to so many Christians who are very judgmental.
I do not think we can judge those who do not live in places like West Michigan where most of the population is Dutch and Reformed. It is very hard for me to believe that God would not make His existence known to every man. Lewis discusses an honest error of simply living a good life due to not ever knowing God; I am not sure if that is possible. Salvation is a mystery, and who are to try to pinpoint it down to a science? Just because we see people who may be "evil" in our eyes doesn't mean that God isn't using them somehow, and just because someone was immersed in a different culture doesn't mean they won't find their way to Christianity.

The Abolition of Man

This was again one of the more difficult readings for me, and it is hard for me to form a deep opinion on something I have not fully comprehended yet. (It may not have helped that since it was hard for me to understand, I ended up skimming most of it...) Nonetheless, I think this piece displays Lewis's intellect and his passion for truth. He discusses the idea of the Natural Law and in what sense us humans have power over nature.

I like the second paragraph where he uses three examples to describe men trying to control nature: the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive. In a way, we excercise our power by flying when we are not naturally equipped to fly, to access the entire world wide web anywhere and anytime, and deciding when to have a child and when not to on our own terms. However, by using our power we become either the subject or the possessor of the power. By flying we may be exposed to bombs, and by surfing the web we are exposed to ads and spam messages. "What we call Man's power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by." This "power" is obtained not by man only but with nature as the instrument.

I really enjoyed this quote: "Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger." This statement is so true, because any power we create on our own will never truly give us power. God has control over all, and when we try to establish control over someone or something withouth Him guiding us, it will inevitably fail. The moral code is written on our hearts, so anything that goes against that may bring us temporary strength but it will only make us weak in the long run.

"It is the magician's bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls." I think many of us try to have it both ways: we try to follow the natural law and we also try to act like mere nature and follow our own impulses. However, Lewis says this is impossible, and I agree. We cannot try to exert our own power in earthly matters while also claiming that God is all powerful.

During the discussion in class I just kept thinking of Karl Marx and his theory on how we are all living in a constant power struggle between the class systems. We all have this innate understanding of right and wrong, but it seems that the elite no longer believe in an objective truth. We are not striving to know the truth but instead what is 'right' or 'wrong' according to our own ideals. Thus, when something is not right to us we try to exert power over it and manipulate something to fit into our idea of right. The people with the most resources have the most power over people so the elite end up in power over others teaching a 'truth' that does not correlate with the truth written on our hearts.

Although we are created with a sense of what is right and what is wrong, we do not follow it due to the fall. Thus, we cannot only have knowledge of the truth, we must pair it with a desire to follow the truth. We have to want to do right, because the law often gets hidden and if we don't have a desire for it we aren't willing to dig it out again.

I'm not sure how correct my interpretations of this chapter are, but I tried to understand the best I could. Basically we have this objective moral code that transcends time and culture but struggle to obey it. Without God by our sides, we will continue to struggle with right and wrong because we are tainted by sin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Four Loves: Eros

I am a visual learner, so today about drove me crazy! I apologize to you Adrianna and Paulo, but I found it very hard to follow Lewis when he was speaking on the recording. Maybe if he was reading exactly the words from the chapter, and I could read as he spoke, then I would have gotten more out of it. Nonetheless, I was able to follow his ideas when I was reading it alone. It amazes me that Lewis can write profoundly on a topic such as the Law of Human Nature and do the same on the topic of love and sexuality.

By eros Lewis means the state of 'being in love.' It is the appreciative part of love, compared to the animal element venus. Venus is the need-pleasure of love. Without eros, sexual desire wants the thing in itself; it doesn't want the woman, it just so happens that pleasure comes from the woman. On the contrary, eros wants the beloved, the woman, not just any woman.

Without eros, sexual desire is a fact about ourselves. The opposite is true with eros; sexual desire becomes about the beloved, it includes the other person involved. That is why with eros pleasure is a by-product. We do not seek sexual pleasure when we are in love, it just happens to come along with the whole package.

I really like when Lewis talks about the need for laughter, and how we cannot be completely serious about venus. 'Banish play and laughter from the bed of love and you may let in a false goddess." "Sensible lovers laugh." "It is a bad thing not to joke, worse, not to take a divine joke. Lewis even goes on to suggest lovers act in baffoonery. Only love that is short-lived doesn't include comedy, play, and even buffoonery.

One of the statements I liked best from this chapter is when Lewis uses a carton of cigarettes to describe how men seek pleasure. A man does not want a cigarette; he wants the pleasure that he obtains from a cigarette. If the pleasure come through some other medium, then he would desire that item instead. Lewis also mentions that men do not keep the carton after the cigarettes are gone. This is how many of us treat the opposite sex. Men seek the pleasure that comes from intercourse, so they engage in sex with many women, but afterwards the women are thrown out. They constantly want to be fulfilled but they need more and more to fill that longing. It goes back to this longing that we have for our Lord. Only He can satisfy us, but we are too busy looking for earthly ways to fill our voids. Sex is just another commodity these days, sold all over the media, so it is not shocking that sex is taken so lightly. So many of us are after venus when we should be after eros. I know that we all have this animal instinct in us, but we must learn to supress it. We can only do that with the help of God, and the help he brings us in other believers. I do not think we can use will power alone to combat lust and impurity, but we need it paired with guidance from our Lord. I pray for the courage to confess to God when I am weak in my desires and the strength to get back up when I am beaten down with my sins.

Is There Sex in Heaven?

This piece of writing was discussed over dinner at the Ribeiro's home Saturday, but I did not attend that day. I was disappointed to see that no one commented on this, because it was a very interesting article.

Peter Kreeft gives seven reasons why the question of sex in Heaven is a good question, and it is mainly because they are both two great mysteries. Sex and Heaven are both things we desire, but we know very little about them. (This surprised me, because how much is there to know about sex?). Additionally, Kreeft thinks we ought to question both, since sex and Heaven are both taboo topics. We often think sex is an inappropriate, "dirty" topic, and Heaven is the opposite-it is too religious to talk about. What I really liked was when Kreeft said that we should never stop answering childish questions, and he gives an example of his daughter inquiring about her cat going to Heaven. I have found that children often ask more profound questions than adults; we should never ignore a question simply because the person asking is a minor. Another example of a silly question that is worth pondering is "did Adam and Eve fart before the fall?" I definitely laughed out loud after reading that.

Like I said earlier, I do not think there is much to know about sex. However, Kreeft says that we actually do not think about sex at all. "Dreaming, fantasizing, feeling, experimenting-yes. But honest, look-it-in-the-face thinking?--hardly ever. There is no subject int he world about which there is more heat and less light." I never thought about sex this way! It's so true; we partake in the action frequently but we do not actually think about the act itself ever. Another funny point is that we apparently don't think about it nor do we know how to do it. "It is when everyone's pipes are leaking that people buy books on plumbing." There are hundred of how-to books on the subject, so clearly we do not know much about it.

One principle Kreeft states is that sex is something you are, not something you do. The example of a nun having a sexual life was an unusual one, but it worked. Nuns cannot have sexual intercourse, but they are still indeed women. Their sex is a part of them just like age, race, and sense of humor. What Kreeft means is that we have triviliazed sex into a thing we do instead of a quality of our inner being. Sex is now a thing of external feelings rather than internal ones. If this principle is true, that sexuality is of our inner essence, then there is sex in Heaven. (This however does not mean that we will 'have' sex or if we will have sexually distinct social roles.)

A contrary principle is that sex is spiritual. "Sex is between the ears before it's between the legs" Kreeft suggests that we have sexual souls. This means that sex is not socially conditioned or environmental. It is instead hereditary; biological sexuality is innate, natural, and pervasive to every cell in the body.

"God is a sexual being, the most sexual of all beings." This should not be surprising, because if God is fully love, kindness, joy, and every thing that is good, why would He not be fully sexual? He created sex, so it is indeed good. Kreeft suggests that God is a sexual being because the triune relationship is a sexual one. I am not sure I fully understand how the trinity is a sexual...

So if there is sex in Heaven, what will be it's purpose? It will not be for baby-making or for marriage, so there must be another function. Intercourse on earth is a shadow of intercourse in Heaven, but what does that mean? This is where I get a little confused. Kreeft speculates that monogamy is for earth, not Heaven. On earth our bodies are private, but they are not in Heaven- we share each other's everything with no shame. "Promiscuity of spirit is a virtue." Since we have bodies on earth, and Jesus was ra,ised in the body, it is safe to assume we will have bodies in Heaven. Thus, we could speculate that there will be physical sexual intercourse in Heaven. Howver, Kreeft suggests that maybe if there's no intercourse in Heaven it's because there's something better to do. We cannot compare earthly sex with Heavenly sex since none of us have experienced the latter (yet?).

I found this to be very entertaining, but I'm not sold on all his ideas. I find it hard to believe we will have promiscuous sex in Heaven, and to be honest I am not sure if we will have physical sexual intercourse after we die. It seems that there would be much better, great, more fulfilling acts to experience in Heaven. If God is neither male nor female, how is the trinity a sexual relationship? If we will be neither male nor female in Heaven, how would we partake in sexual acts? I would be curious to read other pieces about this subject, since this is the first I have ever seen. A good read nonetheless.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Poison of Subjectivism

This piece was the hardest for me to read. It could be that I didn't get to fully digest it, since I was catching up on other readings, but I just didn't think it was as interesting as the others. I never got a clear definition of what subjectivism actually is, so I am not sure if I missed it or if it's just something we are expected to know. Anyway, I will try to point out some major quotes that illustrate his idea.

Lewis makes two points:
1. The human mind has no more power of intervening a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary color in the spectrum.
2. Every attempt to do so consists in arbitrarily selecting some one maxim of traditional morality, isolating it from the rest, and erecting it into an unum necessarium.

All ideas of new or scientific or modern moralities must be dismissed as mere confusion, says Lewis.

"While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as vision, dynamism, creativity, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial- virtue, knowledge, diligence, and skill."

As hard as I try to summarize this passage, I just cannot put a strong handle around it. Lewis is such a brilliant writer, and I often wish I could write such convincing arguments like he does. However, it is days like today that I cannot appreciate his logic like I should. Sometimes I need an easy read, an entertaining while still profound, read. I often feel like guilty for wanting to read Chronicles of Narnia when I have all these intellectual pieces of writing in front of me. However, I don't think that God wants us to always be so scholarly; I think He loves when we approach Him like a child.
"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." — Mark 10:14-15
However, going along with our past readings on learning, I know that God wants me to seek out understanding and truth. I cannot simply give up reading something the moment I feel confused or frustrated.
"Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day." — Ps 25:4-5
I pray for a teachable heart, but I pray for the mind of a child- curious, inquisitive, not tainted by cynicism. I pray for a heart of perseverance, to keep seeking knowledge even when it seems impossible to contain.

Plantinga Chapter Five

This chapter correlated very well with "Learning in War-Time." Although Lewis is more philosophical, Plantinga conveys the same message- just in simpler terms.

"Given Jesus' summons, his followers have always understood that to be a "Christ person" is to be a "kingdom person." Working in the kingdom is our way of life. And many followers have concluded that we need powerful Christian education to learn how to serve the kingdom most intelligently." Just as we cannot separate ourselves from secular and sacred parts of life, we cannot live on earth without living in the kingdom of God. Additionally, we must be educated so we know how to live the life that is most pleasing to God in His kingdom.

Although we already live in the kingdom, we often pray for the kingdom to come- as if it doesn't exist yet. In troubled times we pray, we beg, for the kingdom to come and save us from our misery. People who have it really bad desire the kingdom of God with every fiber of their being, but this is not a feeling most of us share. When we are having a good day, many of us secretly pray for the kingdom to come another day. We pray and hope that "your kingdom come" but not right away. This is because we think our earthly kingdom is just fine; we don't desire something better when life on earth is going great. We get too comfortable with our own way of life that the coming of the kingdom is far from our minds. I pray that I will start living in the kingdom of God instead of my own earthly kingdom; I too often think I have my own life in control and when it goes well I have no need for God. Instead of longing for God to come to me in times of sorrow, I need to acknowledge His presence is never fleeing. Our earthly kingdom, no matter how joyful it can be, will never compare to the kingdom of the Lord.

Furthermore, to say that God is the supreme ruler means that He is not the only ruler. God has created us to have dominion, so there are presidents, chiefs, chairmen, etc. "We all have a particular sphere over which we have our say." We do not reign alone though; we have our say, but only in community with others. Living in the kingdom of God means learning how to mesh our personal kingdoms with those of others. This means sharing living space, classrooms, or work space. Although we have small, personal kingdoms, God's kingdom is over all of them.

This relates to learning, because in the kingdom of God we must know how to take part in earthly kingdoms. A Christian still votes, and we have to be educated on what candidate would most glorify God. If we don't vote, we can pray for leaders to make good choices and obey them by paying taxes. There are earthly institutions that play a huge role in God's kingdom. Hospitals, schools, recreational clubs, etc. all extend God's sovereignty to every part of life. A prime citizen of the kingdom longs for shalom, so we are to participate in activities that contribute to the coming of shalom.

"God's other name is Surprise." Life is not perfectly balanced and organized, so we must be prepared for whatever God throws in our path. If we are educated in a wide array of topics, bumps in the road will not trip us up. We will be able to continue on, even if that means a new road with new sub-kingdoms. Since we are created with a desire to learn, we will not be following God's will if we are not constantly seeking knowledge. Knowledge of our Lord is what will build us up first, since He is our rock that everything stands on. If we seek God first, He will show what we need to know. I pray for a humble heart, that confesses it cannot know anything before it knows about the Lord, and that every piece of knowledge is a gift from God.

Learning in War-Time

I really enjoyed reading this sermon, because I often wonder what I am doing at school when I should be out experiencing life and following my hopes and dreams. However, in my head I have my own plans but they are not likely God's plans. Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe that it is God's will for me to spend years in college. Lewis presented an argument that shined light on my thoughts though.

"How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think of anything but the war?" "How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think of anything but the salvation of human souls?"

Lewis wrote this in a time when a war was going on, but I think it has great importance for anyone, in any time period. How can we as college students be so selfish as to spend all our time in classes and not out helping the poor? However, we cannot think that life is so exclusive. We can be religious while still being national. "Before I became a Christian I do not think I fully realized that on'es life, after conversion would inevitable consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before: one hopes, in a new spirit, but still the same things." I like this a lot, because I most of think this way. We expect life to completely change the instant we become a Christian, but that is not the case. We live the same life before, but now we have a new motivation. Lewis says that neither enlistment in the army nor Christianity will obliterate the human life; neither of the two will wash away the life we lived before we entered them.
"Life has never been normal."
We tend to compare our new life with our old, thinking that becoming a Christian (or soldier, or doctor, etc.) means leaving our "normal" life, and that is just not true.

I really like when Lewis says that political duties are worth dying for, but not living for. A man must die for his country, but no man must live for his country. This is the opposite of religious duties, because religion must occupy our whole life. "God's claim is infinite and inexorable." We belong to God, so we must not surrender ourselves to earthly duties. There should not be competition between the two though; God is present everywhere, so even our earthly duties can glorify Him. "All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest: and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not." A lot of people in class disagreed with that statement, but I do not. I think that everything we do can either please God or pull us away from Him. Everything from clothing, sports, work, play can be used sinfully or they can be used to please God. All activities we do can be sacred if we do them in the name of the Lord.

It's not until the middle of the sermon does Lewis actually get into the need for learning and education. "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy must be answered." We must be educated to combat the ignorant. God created us with this desire to learn, and if we do not learn about Him we cannot spread word of His awesomeness. Additionally, we must know about other religions and practices so we can be equipped to argue for the Truth. However, we cannot simply have knowledge; we must pair it with action. "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable." There may be a war going on, but we must seek to learn at all times. We cannot wait for ideal conditions, because ideal conditions do not exist. "If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun."

I pray to have this kind of understanding about the purpose of learning. "When this happens..." or "When I graduate..." or "After I make enough money..." are all phrases I am guilty of using. However, the time is now, and I cannot afford to waste any of the time God has blessed me with. We cannot know when our time is up on earth, so we cannot assume we will do God's will next week or next year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mere Christianity

In the first few chapters of this book, Lewis does an extraordinary job laying out the idea of The Law of Human Nature. Two points Lewis makes are that all humans have a curious feeling that they should act in a certain way, and also that humans do not in fact behave in that way. We all know the Law of Nature, but we all break it.
Chapter two distinguishes instincts from law, because a feeling of desire to help someone is very different from feeling you ought to help someone, whether you want to or not. An example is if someone is drowning, you will feel two desires: one to give help (herd instinct) and one to keep out of danger (self-preservation). Additionally, you will feel something that tells you to help the person drowning and suppress the impulse to run away. "The moral law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys."
I really like when Lewis talks about impulses not being bad. Some people in class thought that our impulse to kill must be a bad one, since it is bad to kill. However, Lewis points out that the impulse to kill is appropriate for a soldier. I do not think the impulse to kill would be felt unless you were in great danger; if I was being attacked, the impulse to kill my attacker is not a bad one. Moreover, sexual impulses are not bad ones but may be bad in certain situations. We must know when to restrain and when to embrace our impulses.There are no impulses or instincts that we must always follow, no matter what. They cannot be an absolute guide, because love for humanity must also be paired with justice. The moral law is not an instinct or set of instincts; it directs the instincts.
Lewis brings up the point that although we have different cultural practices and beliefs, the moral differences between countries are not that great. Rules of the road or the type of clothing worn vary from time to time and from location to location, but the moral code is running through them all. People often do not distinguish between difference between morality and differences of belief about facts.
In chapter three, the laws of nature are discussed. In the case of nature, law means "what it always does." A stone will always fall when dropped. This is not because it is under some sort of order, but this is just what in fact it does. "The Law of Gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not." There is not a behavior that stones ought to act in, and there is nothing else needed but facts when it comes to electronics or molecules. Human beings however need more than facts. We must admit that the Law of Human Nature is a real thing, and it is not made up by ourselves. There is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men's behavior...'a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us."
It continues to amaze me how brilliant C.S Lewis is. He presents this topic flawlessly, and it still holds true years after he wrote it. Our group did not have much to say about this piece of writing, because there was nothing to disagree with. He presents a truth that cannot be argued against. However, if we cannot argue against it, we must figure out what to do with it. If we do not follow this Law of Human Nature, how can start to? If the power behind the facts is God (which is what Lewis is leading up to) how can we open our ears and eyes to follow this guide more thoroughly?
Lastly, I just find it so interesting that this Law runs through everyone, every denomination. God is the force behind all of our actions, yet we still have groups of followers who are fighting and competing against one another. It does not make sense to me.