May 17, 2015

May 16, 2015

Merely a Christian 07.

If you thought the first part of Mere Christianity was deep, the second part gives the first a run for its money - why?  Because we get to dive into the meaningful and highly useful world of Christian Ethics (i.e. how our beliefs effect our behavior).  Cheers!

Lewis spends the bulk of this first chapter in section two, discussing the superiority of Christianity compared to other "religions" (e.g. Hinduism, Islam, etc.), and what a brilliant case he makes!

The first big division of humanity is into the majority, who believe in some kind of God or gods, and the minority who do not.  On this point, Christianity lines up with the majority.... 

People who believe in God can be divided according to the sort of God they believe in.  There are two very different ideas on this subject.  One of them is the idea that He is beyond good and evil....  The other and opposite idea is that God is quite definitely 'good' or 'righteous', a God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another. 

Pantheists usually believe that God, so to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God.  

The Christian idea is quite different.  They think God invented and made the universe.... 


If you do not take the distinction between the good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in the world is a part of God.  

You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will.  

But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.  

Lewis shares about his own atheism:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.  But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?  

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. 

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis   

May 15, 2015

Merely a Christian 06.

According to Lewis "Going back is the quickest way on."  Now, let me explain what he means. This is chapter five, and we are continuing our discussion of the Moral Law, and its Lawgiver.

We all want progress.  But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be.  And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. 

We have two bits of evidence about the Somebody.  One is the universe He has made.... The other is that Moral Law which He puts into our minds.  And this is a better bit of evidence than the other, because it is inside information. 

This is the terrible fix we are in.  If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless.  But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again.  We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it.  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. 

Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger - according to the way you react to it.  And we have reacted the wrong way. 

 Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness.  It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.  It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power - it is after all this, and not a moment soon, that Christianity begins to talk. 

When you have realised that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about.  They offer an explanation of how we got into our present state of both hating goodness and loving it.  They offer an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind at the back of the Moral Law and yet also a Person.  They tell you how the demands of this law, which you and I cannot meet, have been met on our behalf, how God Himself becomes a man to save man from the disapproval of God.   
 Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis  

May 14, 2015

Merely a Christian 05.

What, or Who, is behind the Laws we have been discussing?  Lewis answers this question in chapter four.

The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behaviour.  In this case, besides the actual facts, you have something else - a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey.  

There are two views on how the universe came to be, and what it is all about:

First, there is what is called the materialist view.  People who take that view think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows why; and that the matter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think.  By one chance in a thousand something hit our sun and made it produce the planets; and by another thousandth chance the chemicals necessary for life, and the right temperature,occurred on one of these planets, and so some of the matter on this earth came alive; and then, by a very long series of chances, the living creatures developed into things like us.  The other view is the religious view.  According to it, what is behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know.  That is to say, it is conscious, and has purposes, and prefers one thing to another.  And on this view it made the universe, partly for purposes we do not know, but partly, at any rate, in order to produce creatures like itself - I mean, like itself to the extent of having minds. 

Science works by experiments.  It watches how things behave.... The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. 

Or put it the other way round.  If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts outside the universe - no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house.  

The only packet I am allowed to open is Man.  When I do, especially when I open that particular man called Myself, I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way. 

I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know - because after all the only other thing we know is matter and you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions.  

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis  

May 13, 2015

Merely a Christian 04.

Diving into the third chapter, we find Lewis continuing his discussion from the previous chapter, on the "reality of the Law" and its ramifications.

...they [the human race] were haunted by the idea of a sort of behaviour they ought to practise, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature.  Second, that they did not in fact do so.

After all, you may say, what I call breaking the Law of Right and Wrong or of Nature, only means that people are not perfect.... I am not concerned at present with blame; I am trying to find out truth.  

The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean 'what Nature, in fact, does'.  But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter.  That law certainly does mean 'what human beings in fact, do'; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely.  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.  In other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond actual facts.  You have the facts (how men do behave) and you also have something else (how they ought to behave).  

Sometimes the behaviour which I call bad is not inconvenient to me at all, but the very opposite.  In war, each side may find a traitor on the other side very useful.  But though they use him and pay him they regard him as human vermin.  So you cannot say that what we call decent behaviour in others is simply the behaviour that happens to be useful to us.  

Human beings, after all, have some sense; they see that you cannot have any real safety or happiness except in a society where every one plays fair, and it is because they see this that they try to behave decently.  

If we ask: 'Why ought I to be unselfish?' and you reply 'Because it is good for society,' we may then ask, 'Why should I care what's good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?' and then you will have to say, 'Because you ought to be unselfish' - which simply brings us back to where we started. 

In the same way, if a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no good replying, 'in order to benefit society,' for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish (for 'society' after all only means 'other people'), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour.  You would have said just as much if you had stopped at the statement, 'Men ought to be unselfish.' 

The Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, is not simply a fact about human behaviour in the same way as the Law of Gravitation is....

Consequently, this Rule of Right and Wrong, or Law of Human Nature, or whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing - a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves.  And yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way as our actual behaviour is a fact.  

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis  

May 10, 2015

Merely a Christian 03.

The second chapters deals with the foundation which Lewis is trying to build (the Law of Nature, Right and Wrong, Morality), and some objections to these claims.

The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.  

There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law may not sometimes tell us to suppress, and none of which it may not sometimes tell us to encourage.  It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses - say mother love or patriotism - are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad.  All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism. 

If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality.  In fact, of course, we all do believe that some of the people who tried to change the moral ideas of their own age were what we would call Reformers or Pioneers - people who understood their morality better than their neighbours did.... The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other.

I conclude then, that though the difference between people's ideas of Decent Behaviour often make you suspect that there is no real natural Law of Behaviour at all, yet the things we are bound to think about these differences really prove just the opposite.   

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis  

May 9, 2015

Merely a Christian 02.

In the first chapter, Lewis undertakes the explanation of the 'Law of Human Nature' or the 'Law or Rule about Right and Wrong' and how, regardless of whether you acknowledge God's existence, or not, these rules or laws are in place and effect us all.


Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.  Nowadays, when we talk about the 'laws of nature' we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry.  But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong 'the Law of Nature,' they really meant the Law of Human Nature.  The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law - with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it.  They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it.... But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one.

But the most remarkable things is this.  Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.  He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' before you can say Jack Robinson.

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong....  

The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature.  If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? 

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make.  First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.  Secondly, that they do no in fact behave in that way.  They know the Law of Nature; they break it.  These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. 

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis 
 

May 8, 2015

Merely a Christian 01.

I hope that no reader will suppose that 'mere' Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions.... It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.  If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.  But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.  The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. 

You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house.  And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling.  

C.S. Lewis presented what would later become Mere Christianity as a series of radio talks given on the BBC from 1942-1944.  The "mere" Christianity of C.S. Lewis is not a philosophy or even a theology that may be considered, argued, and put away in a book on a shelf.  It is a way of life, one that challenges us always to remember, as Lewis once stated, that "there are no ordinary people,"  and that "it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit." 

Mere Christianity is really 4 books in one - The first 'book' discusses basic morality, and the 'laws' of the Christian faith; basic doctrines and beliefs that all Christians share.  The second is about the Christian ethic, how we live out our beliefs, and how they affect us.  The third book is on behavior, or the psychology of our beliefs, and the effects of sin upon humanity.  The fourth book tackles deeper doctrines and the cost of Christianity.

I want to share a few snippets from this magnificent book with you, my readers.  And, recommend that if you ever get the chance, that you read it for all its worth - some have said it is hard to understand, because of the vocabulary or the ideas discussed, but I would say that it is totally worthwhile undertaking, even if you don't feel exactly in your comfort zone.  You will benefit from its contents.

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis 

May 7, 2015

Untitled



My morning: blogging, emails, youtube, journal, bible study; basically trying to be as creative as possible - which requires a coffee and a smoothie. 

May 6, 2015

On friendships and feeling left behind

It's a funny thing how you can find out something so important about someone, whom you thought you knew so well, in a 5 minute conversation. After a recent event, that was how it felt.  I just realized how few real friends I have left in Texas.  It just makes me sad, because I think I had tried to keep that door open, but the more I pushed on our side, the more they tried to close the door.  Now, that part of my life is over.  I can never go back to how it used to be. 

Even as I write this, I feel alienated from so many people who are "in" my life.  Even new friends seem distant, and old friends, almost forgotten in some strange way.  Why do I have to constantly be the one reaching out?  What would happen if I stopped calling, texting, emailing, visiting, writing? Would they even notice? 

Phoebe and I joked recently at how "swag-less" we are, according to certain old friends... but it really hurt to be treated that way. 

I sometimes wish I was more of an introvert - that I didn't need to have friends, but I do.  Friendships have always been important to me, and I am a fiercely loyal friend.  

I know that some of the friendship difficulties I am having is because I moved away and so that makes me the outsider.  But I thought that the thing about friendships was that even if one party moved away, or began a new adventure in life, the other party would stick around, no matter.  

Apparently I was wrong.  

Some of this questioning comes from a deep loneliness I have experienced since our move from McKinney to Dallas.  I had just begun to cultivate several important relationships when we moved, and those were disrupted by my change of address.  Of course there were the promises to "stay in touch" and "visit often" promises I now wish I had not made, because they only came to be empty places where I could store my anger and confusion. 

It hurts a LOT to not be missed.  Not because I am a proud person, but I am a person who wants to be needed, or missed; to be made aware that I am still important.  

Friday I had a lunch date with one of my few friends, and we had such a good time.  We talked about important things, and didn't waste our time frittering over the past, or silly things.  That is what I value in all of my closest friendships - my friends and I talk about important things, we want to change the world and not just talk about change.  That is something I don't have up here in Oklahoma.  Sure, you might say "why not move back to Dallas" but it isn't that simple.  Life never is. 

I am thankful for the few real friendships I still have, I am blessed and challenged by them.  I thank God for Allison, Elizabeth, Bekah, and Camille.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

May 4, 2015

I forgot

Writing, for me, is one of my only creative outlets, so I value it very much.  Since I am not an "artist" in really any other sense of the word, I find that through writing, my deepest soul-itch is satisfied.  But lately, I have felt as if my well were dry, empty.  As if I had expended all of my creativity on other things or projects which had used all of my resources and left me with nothing.

Have you ever felt that way?  Like a person dying of thirst, stuck in a wilderness, with no water in sight and no strength to make it to the next oasis?  

Sometimes in life we spend so much time and energy pouring out our lives into all kinds of things; good things, volunteer things, community things, family things, travel things, food things, busy things.  

But are they the best things we could be spending our time on?  Or are they just another 99 ways to stay busy, so we can say we have "a lot going on" and not feel guilty about our lives?  

Yesterday I was looking in the back of my journal, where I have a list I jotted down a while back, tallying all the ways I am busy, all of the things I am responsible for: 

  • House work / Cleaning / Cooking 
  • Yard work / Mowing / Gardening 
  • Worship team
  • Women's Group 
  • WNL / Worship leader / Youth Sponsor
  • Church cleaning 
  • School
  • Card ministry: WNL / Billy
  • Robert E. Lee Birthday parties 
  • Families Feeding Families 

There are a few more I'm sure which escape my memory currently, but those are my basic day to day, week to week, month to month, duties and responsibilities, and although they are all good, there are times I feel downright overwhelmed at how much I have stuffed onto my plate.  

I am tired.  My well is dry.  And I can tell that all this busy-ness is not good for my soul, never mind my body.  I am grouchy.  I am snappish and petty over things that don't matter.  I keep being insensitive and rude to my family members.  Why?  Because despite being so involved with lots of wonderful ministry opportunities, I am not taking enough time to minister to myself.  Essentially, I forgot what it looks like to have a balanced life, where God is most important, family next and everything else somewhere from the 3rd line down.  

That is one of the main reasons I haven't been on here much.  Why I haven't written extensively over the last month or so.  The thing I love about my blog is that, although I know I have readers, I don't really write for them.  I write for me, as a form of "therapy" if you will.  I love how I can "pick" up my blog or lay it aside at anytime, and nobody's feelings get hurt.  Yes, you all might miss me, but I ultimately have control over when and how much I am on here, and that keeps the fascination and mystery of writing alive for me.  

So if you don't see me on here much, could you say a prayer for me, that my well-being is found on God, and not on how many ministry programs or projects I am involved with?  Pray that I would stay focused on Jesus, and not forsake my First Love.  

Thank you friends.  Happy May!