Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Inner Ring

I don't think I know one person that hasn't fallen victim to the desire of being in the inner ring. As C.S. states, it's unavoidable.

Thought looking back on it, one of the lows of my life was when I picked up and left my group and my circle and my life as I knew to join another ring that, at the time, seemed more esoteric. Though truthfully, the only esoteric quality this new ring had was that we all thought of the my other ring as less. Other than that, they fell very short of satisfaction the whole way around.

But giving into this desire of being in the center ring, opens us to giving in to more desires. Like C.S. Lewis says, how many layers of an onion can we peel? Eventually, we'll have nothing left. If we join a ring for the sole purpose of wanting to be admitted we'll lose that desire and gain no satisfaction because how can we desire to be apart of something we already are apart of? If we joined for the activities the group is founded on, we may get some satisfaction of it.

I think this all points to another of C.S. Lewis' concepts. We just can't be satisfied with anything here on earth. We get glimpses. But most of the time we are more satisfied with yearning for satisfaction. An odd, circle of a thought, isn't it?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Problem of Pain

Before I start this blog, I just want to say that I have been thoroughly enjoying the class. It's so refreshing to think and talk about the foundation to which ALL Christians stand.


The Problem of Pain is C.S. Lewis' attempt at a theodicy. I say 'attempt' because we'll never be able to define God's relationship to suffering. We're playing a basketball game without any rims - some think they scored while others think they missed, but we don't know because we have nothing to measure it by.

Any way we think of God and his relationship to suffering, there is a fault.

C.S. Lewis says that without suffering, we would not need God. I believe this to be true. This is not up for debate.

The troublesome part of a theodicy is the source of suffering. We can all agree that God does allow it to happen. But does he send it himself? Is it Satan's doing? Are we responsible?

If God sends us suffering, he takes on a sort of malevolent quality. Not only that, but it makes God seem like he is holding back. God is infinitely wise...therefore it seems fitting that he knows an infinite amount of ways to transform us without having to use suffering. I find it hard to believe that God sends suffering himself.

Does Satan send suffering? He indeed distorts what is good, but then he must be allowed to do it. This makes God seem weak. He is allowing the suffering of his children to happen, and by choice.

Are we responsible? This becomes confusing. We have the god-like qualities to create but also to destroy. We are capable of perversion ourselves. Are we living in a way that allows too much death? Are we not focusing enough on medicines and laws and education? This seems like too heavy of a task for humans...so this also seems unlikely.

Whatever the source, we indeed encounter suffering.

But does God suffer?

Yes, I wholeheartedly believe he does.

I think there are two obvious biblical pointers for this:

First, God gets angry. Anger can be righteous, but it stems from some sort of suffering (usually an act of unfairness). God does not get angry for no reason.

Second, the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they were told they would become like God. They knew evil. God knows evil. Evil is a distortion of good. If God did not suffer from this, he would be much more apathetic towards his creation. Suffering drives progression.

But God is not below suffering. He is beyond it. Without his creation, suffering would not exist. No matter where it comes from, God subjects himself to this. The way I think of it is like a board game. God created this entire creation and gave us all these rules (moral law, gravitation...etc) and he abides by them. Like I've said in previous post, God operates within his own laws (that's why Jesus was the only way). If God were to not suffer, he would be operating outside of his own creation. It's like creating this board game, giving these rules but only to pertain to everyone else. It's almost like cheating. But of course, it's much more complicated to a board game, this is just a simple analogy.

My conclusion from this, and every other piece of C.S. Lewis is this: Thinking and pondering all of these thoughts of theology are good things, but they are not vital. C.S. Lewis has taught me to think in a rational way and to focus on what matters to us. In other words, things we can change and HAVE to go through.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Plantinga - Redemption

Redemption is an idea that I struggle with. Though not because I don't believe in it's biblical and human importance. But because I do not know by what size scale I'm to measure it by.

In it's smallest form, redemption can be seen as a quality. Practicing restoration with relationships and mending cruelty among friends and enemies. And in it's most grandeur form, it can be seen as a universal movement in turning earth into a state of heaven.

The Bible starts off with everything good, but then it falls. The lion sleeps next to the lamb, then proceeds to eat it. Are we responsible for the restoration of the food chain? How much restoration are we accounted for? How much restoration are we capable of?

Plantinga mentions a Calvinist trying to redeem a corrupt economic system. But how? Write a letter? Organize a petition? Vandalize the central computers?

Are we to restore because we are bringing heaven to earth or because it's a quality we should practice on a grand scale so that we may unconsciously exercise it on a smaller one?

My conclusion is this: No matter what degree of restoration we are aiming for, we know how to exhibit it. It's result is in God's hands. We have the Bible, we know what to do.

With humility and discernment of course.

Man or Rabbit

I have taken to this particular piece.

My group of friends I have been with are educated, intelligent, and nearly all atheist.

My one friend never fails to give us his philosophy, "I am the universe. I am human. I am here to experience all it has to offer."

Which to me, combining this statement with his actions has leads me to believe that this is his candy coated way of saying, "I'm going to do whatever makes me happy."

This is very frustrating as well as intimidating because he is one of the most intelligent people I know. Frustrating because he is lost in his own world, not open to any sort of deist ideas. Intimidating because it makes me wonder how someone of such high intellect can be so wrong. Or is it us that are so wrong?

I like C.S. Lewis' comment on humans need for discovery. Either we are indulging in one of the largest hoax's of history, and technically no harm is done. Or we are exploring and doing exactly as God intended us to do...to search for him to ultimately find rest.

But this is not the main point of Lewis' essay. He is really discussing the danger of thinking, "Will I be happier as a Christian?" I completely understand his predicament here. My friends will often ask if I've found the formula for happiness in Christianity. One part of me wishes to say yes, but not here. The other part of me is red in the face because I know they have no actual drive to KNOW truth and how things are supposed to be...they just want to be happy.

I often meet the phrase, "Whatever makes you happy. What's true to you is true to you."

I posted my response to Mere Christianity on my face book (Yes, I unfortunately do have one.) and this was the response of my intellectual friend:

For once, I honestly have no criticism, constructive or otherwise. All that I have is respect, I'm really glad that you chose to lay it all out for everyone to see. This is basically the basis for everything that I believe about life or anything else.

Life is just as this: You live it, you feel it, you draw your own conclusions, you live by them and die by them. That's it, everything else is irrelevant. For me, it's all about the universal communion of one. I seek nothing more than to experience the universe that I am and that I exist within. If you experience this through the Christian faith then I have nothing more than the utmost respect for you as a man and as a friend.

Someday I will cross the abyss, behold my lady, Babalon. My blood will be spilled into her Graal and I will be one with the universe, a dweller within The City of the Pyramids.

The universe is nothing more than a question, for me, the answer is as simple as "Do what thou wilt."

The word 'absolute' is one rarely heard from this friend. Everything we as humans do we do out of desire. It's all about finding what makes us feel right. It's difficult to argue with someone who has come to this conclusion. It's also hard to see if they will progress their philosophies any further?

I have no problem with friends that are honestly searching the world for truth. I have nothing to worry about here, for I know truth. I know they won't stop until they find rest, which is only possible in God. It's difficult to try and talk to a friend who has stopped his journey for happiness and settled for simply indulging in whatever gives him 'positive feelings.'

I can empathize with those who search for truth. Like C.S. Lewis says (I'm hesitant to quote him TOO often) if they rest elsewhere, it is an honest mistake. But one cannot pretend to make an honest mistake. "to leave an open letter from the bank unread, frightened as to what it might say."

We're either this way or that. There is no sympathy for those who pretend not to hear or see. We are meant to search and discover. Fixing our restlessness comes later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Love makes you do crazy things.

And indeed it does. But how crazy can we go before things actually become too crazy?

C.S. Lewis comments on love as enveloping it's victims in a circle of religion. They feel this need to obey the power of Love (and by love I'm referring to the way one feels towards a significant other -Eros, not Venus). They will go to great lengths to try and get this persons attention or fix a broken relationship. And none of these things are bad, it's the caliber of our actions that are independent. We get these ideas and feelings that to obey this love is not a sin...when really, if we are putting Eros in front of God, it is.

Another good point Lewis brings up is that we don't see our addiction to Eros like we do appetites. We don't say, "Ok, this is the last girl I'll try and start a relationship with. If this does not work, I'm done." Rather, it's more like our passion for intellectual stimulation. Every time we meet it we get this idea that 'this could be it.'

So how often are we putting Eros in front of God? Are we in love with someone that is dishonorable to our Father? Do we listen to Eros or to God? Both Eros and Agape can coincide, but that's up to us, not them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning in War Time

Upon reading Learning in War Time, I began to disagree with one of C.S. Lewis' statements. That, unless for the glory of God, every action we do is a sin. I understand that the smallest decisions are impacting and that everything in this world is sacred, but I find it difficult to see every action not associated with God being a sin. There are many truths about life spoken by non-Christians that are adapted by the church.

Charles Darwin (some churches)
Albert Einstein, agnostic
Abraham Lincoln
Ernest Hemingway
Benjamin Franklin

Was Charles Darwin's breakthrough on evolution a sin? I understand that it is not for the glory of God, but I see it as a lukewarm action. God is truth. I don't see a non-Christians discovery of truth to be a sin. Sins are a detriment not only to the person doing it but everyone around them.

I may just be looking at it wrong, but that's my feelings.

Screwtape Letters

I was never a huge fan of Screwtape letters. Not because I thought it wasn't worth reading, but because I tend to avoid any persuasive device that uses hell as it's reinforcement.

Being a bit older, I've decided it's a healthy read. It reminds us to be mindful of everything that we do.

It's really easy to see C.S. Lewis' world view through out his writings. This idea that every choice we make is either turning us into a hellish or heavenly creature comes up quite often.

I don't have a lot to comment on this piece. It seems pretty straightforward with it's message of being mindful and thinking about our actions on a much smaller scale. An interesting read of course, as it's from a devilish perspective.

A fun read.