Posts Tagged ‘c s lewis’

C. S. Lewis – Where to Start

August 7th, 2013 No comments

Have you ever wondered what makes C. S. Lewis such a great writer? Or would you like to get started reading him? In this video, John Piper and Tim Keller talk about how to get started with Lewis:


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Tempus Fugit

February 22nd, 2012 No comments

According to Wikipedia, the Joshua Tree was given its name by Mormon travelers in the mid-19th century, who saw it and were reminded of a Biblical story in which Joshua lifted his hands up in prayer.

Joshua Tree

In the Hebrew Scriptures, Joshua was one of Moses’ lieutenants, and later his successor. Nothing I’ve read about Joshua made me think of the Joshua Tree, however. Frankly, the Joshua Tree’s profusion of wriggling and writhing branches seems to me more like an image out of the Hindu Pantheon — of Kali, say, or Ganesha.

I suppose those early travelers had in mind some tradition about Joshua that I never located. The closest thing to a Joshua Tree I ever found was Joshua 8:18, where God tells Joshua to stretch out the javelin in his hand. On my first day in Yucca Valley, I wasn’t paying enough attention when I walked under a Joshua Tree, and it stabbed me in the head with one of its spiny leaves — close enough to stretching out a javelin!

My favorite story about Joshua is in Joshua 10:12-14, where he speaks to the Lord — perhaps with his arms raised? — and prays, “Sun stand still, and Moon, in the valley of Abijon.” God grants the request, and the sun stood still in the heavens for about a day, enabling the Israelites to prevail over their enemies in battle.

The Bible goes on to say there has never been another day like that. Joshua could stop time, but we can’t. Even Joshua could stop it just that once. Time marches on, with or without us.

Time is strange. We can waste time, but we can’t save it. We have use the moments we’re given as they arrive. But do we?

The British novelist C.S. Lewis imagines one devil advising another how best to tempt people. The first devil says that since the present moment is most like eternity, people ought to be kept away from it. Instead, he suggests keeping them busy either thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

By contrast, the writer of the Psalms observed how time gets away from us. Even if, with good fortune and health, we live a long life (the Biblical “threescore and ten”) it is cut off soon enough, and “we fly away.” Therefore, he prays that God would teach us to number our days with wisdom.

What does that mean? Well, it depends. For me, it’s spending more time with the people around me and less time fiddling with my cell phone. Maybe for you it’s going to a soccer game, or putting on a jacket and watching the winter stars.

There’s never been another day like the one Joshua prayed for: time marches on, and, if we’re not careful, it will all be gone before we notice. But with God’s help, we’ll be able to use it wisely.

(Note: this entry is based on an article I wrote for the Hi-Desert Star.)

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Ordinary People

August 29th, 2011 No comments

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

C.S. Lewis wrote that in “The Weight of Glory.” Later in the essay he says that, apart from the sacraments, neighbors are “the holiest object presented to your senses.”

It’s a staggering idea. When I hear the word “holy,” I usually start with places: places that intimidated me as a child, or, as an adult, touring Europe, perhaps a cathedral, quiet and dark except for candles flickering in corners. But as Stephen, the first Martyr reminded his accusers, “the Most High does not dwell in places made with human hands” (Acts 7:48).

The Temple and its surroundings, where Stephen made his confession, was destroyed in 70 AD, leaving only a portion of its western wall. The Roman Empire that destroyed the Temple? It’s gone too.

The things we encounter every day are the same: they may have been around a long time, and they might endure long after we’re gone, but they’re passing away.

They’re all passing away, that is, except us—our neighbors, and ourselves, and strangers driving through town. We’re immortal—and that makes us extraordinary. The most exceptional thing you’ll encounter today is the friend or neighbor you encounter every day.

How much more so, then, the stranger? Perhaps that’s what the writer of Hebrews meant:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

To our cynical ears, it sounds like the writer wants us to invest in strangers only because one of them might pay off. But perhaps the writer means this: the people we already know are such extraordinary creatures that the only things more amazing are strangers—who are so incredible that some may even be angels.

How would it change your relationships if you saw people this way? If they are the holiest objects available to your senses, who would you invest more time getting to know? Who are some strangers, and what kind of hospitality could you show them? Who would you invite to dinner, or to church? Who would you help out in a fix?

(Cross-posted at the Desert Hills Presbyterian Church website.)

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The Best Apologetic

October 13th, 2010 No comments

Twenty-odd years ago, I became a Christian, and part of the reason was apologetics, or defenses of the faith. God used several books, including C.S. Lewis’ wonderful Mere Christianity, to overcome my objections to the Christian faith.

By the time I got to seminary, however, I was really pretty bored with apologetics. It’s not that I had decided they were unimportant–far from it: as my faith became more important in my life, I realized how important those apologetics had been. But I’d moved on, and they weren’t very helpful to me any more. (Although I do still pick up my copy of Mere Christianity every couple of months and re-read a chapter or two.)

It turns out I’m not alone. In this article, Max Lucado, a best-selling Christian writer, says that the best apologetic is compassion.

Though Christians do need to respond intellectually to explain their faith, the long-time pastor recognized, “When the church argues back with society, I don’t know if we get very far.”

“But if we can say our passion is to help the poor and the forgotten, you cannot argue with that,” he noted. “Nothing convinces people of our Lord better than to live like he lived. We cannot live like he lived without being compassionate.”

That rings true for me. Jim Noble, the pastor who led me to Christ, told me, “Maybe you could believe in God if you saw him at work, and [his church] is a great place to watch.”

He was right. I had some baggage I needed to deal with, and my apologetic reading helped me do that. But it was seeing God at work in and through the community of faith engaged in works of compassion, that enabled me, finally, to put my trust in Christ.

Do the Dead Grieve?

July 14th, 2010 No comments

Reading C. S. Lewis, I was struck by this thought:

If, as I can’t help suspecting, the dead also feel the pains of separation (and this may be one of their purgatorial sufferings), then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.

(From A Grief Observed, pp. 49-50. Emphasis added.)

I’d known that Lewis was comfortable with the whole idea of purgatory, but I was fascinated by his idea that purgatory might entail grief. On the one hand, we want our loved ones to be happy — to be, as we say at such times, “in a better place.” But there is a slight, selfish appeal to the idea that they grieve for us, just as we grieve for them. How much sharper it would make our grief if we thought our loved one had simply shrugged us off.

We Presbyterians, however, aren’t keen on the concept of purgatory. Our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, in the Service of Witness to the Resurrection we have at funerals, says, by contrast:

We thank you [God],
that for him/her death is past
and pain is ended,
and that he/she has now entered
the joy that you have prepared.

It’s an intriguing notion, nevertheless. I don’t have time right now to do a serious study, but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind, in case I run across Scriptural arguments for or against the idea.

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