Life Transformation: C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

The following is a paper I wrote in a class on C.S. Lewis.

Life Transformation: C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

“The gradual reading of one’s own life, seeing the pattern emerge, is a great illumination at our age” (McGrath 122).

C.S. Lewis was a man who throughout his career managed to creatively convey his life philosophy to worldwide audience. Over time, Lewis learnt to successfully communicate through a wide variety of mediums: allegories, apologetics, radio broadcasts, and children’s stories among others. Though he wrote in a spectrum of genres—often times seemingly strange dabblings for a scholar—there remained a common thread running throughout all of his work. While his academic colleagues often labeled him unscholarly and disapproved of him, there always was a “method in his madness”: a multiplicity of stories and truths weaved within his narratives. Like many of the great writers, Lewis had this remarkable ability to weave several sub-narratives through his fictional stories. And like a master weaver, the end product was something of tremendous quality. Perhaps one of the most fundamental of these interwoven truths is something profoundly obvious in Lewis’ own life: once an individual encounters the creator of the universe, their life is inevitably and unalterably transformed.

C.S. Lewis was a master literary architect. He used the materials of personal experience to build his literary worlds and fill them with color, emotions and existential depth (McGrath 264). As is often said, the easiest story to tell is your own story. Undoubtedly, one main reason for Lewis’ prolific writing was the fact that he was simply re-writing much of his own story. What he wrote about was not foreign to him; rather it was a collection of ideas, pictures, tensions, and experiences with which he had himself interacted with over the years.

Commenting on Lewis’ conversion, Bruce L. Edward writes: “[His] spiritual quest [. . .] illumines the origins of Narnia as well as our own response to Aslan and his kingdom” (3). Though Lewis spoke of his own conversion as a complicated matter, “so mixed up with technical philosophy as to be useless to the general [public]” (Barkman 19), we still manage to sketch the rough outlines of his journey and come to understand why he wrote the things he did. Though Lewis would be the first to point out that we should not have to study an author in order to understand what he wrote, in his own case, it remains an interesting endeavor nonetheless (McGrath 189-190). While his stories do make sense on their own, the sub-narratives (his closely held ideas in life), certainly become more prominent when the reader holds Lewis’ biography in one hand and his literary works in the other.[1]

In his early childhood, Lewis was a happy boy in a stable and loving family. Life as he knew it however was drastically changed when his mother, Florence Augusta Hamilton, died of Cancer (McGrath 22). After this point, we see a, “confused and bitter atheist whose mother’s death when he was nine robbed him of joy and serenity.” (Edwards 5). Gone where the happy days of his childhood. This bitterness and confusion would be further entrenched through subsequent estrangement from his father and exposure to the cruelties of war at age nineteen. A tormented and angry soul is clearly seen through his post war poetry collection Spirits in Bondage. For Lewis, if there was a God he felt he must be a cruel and despicable character. If the saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” is true, Lewis may have conceived of a God, but he was far from giving him any praise. “Yet I will not bow down to thee nor love thee” (Lewis, profundis).

While this season of bitterness and torment was an unpleasant one to say the least, its instability served to set the stage for the complete reshaping of Lewis’ inner world. While he would remain an ardent atheist for some time after the war, it is evident that this sobering experience served to form a small crack in his firm and rational foundation he had adopted as a youth and solidified under his tutor Kirkpatrick. The inability for his atheism to provide any moral grounds to support his sense of injustice served only to drive a wedge in his faltering views (Lewis, Mere 9-10). The cognitive dissonance between Lewis’ atheism and his perception of the world would ultimately drive him to a place where he would perhaps be open to embracing a sturdier philosophical framework—if such a thing did exist.

For the Christian reader of Lewis, this longing for joy which so gripped him, is undoubtedly understood to be the work of the Holy Spirit in his life all along. Certainly, his early “pre-Christian” poetry has the marks of such. George Sayer in his biography of Lewis highlights the following in the poem Dungeon Grates:

The beauty is “unsought” and comes in “some casual hour,” (which is a way of saying that it is a “grace,” or gift of God). It enables us to see “all things aright . . . seven times more true than . . . in vulgar hours.” For a moment “we are one with the eternal stream of loveliness.” The experience is momentary, but it is sufficient to alter our lives permanently. It will have taught us that we are “not made of mortal stuff.” It will make it possible for us to bear severe trials and persecutions, “For we have seen the Glory—we have seen” (146-147; ellipses original).

Though Lewis was not in a place to articulate it in these God-spiting poems, he was nonetheless witnessing to the early work of the Holy Spirit his life. Initially, not being able put his finger on the origin of this elusive “Glory,” Lewis would eventually reckon that this was in fact the glory of none other than the God whom he had been cursing.

Through a series of events and interactions with his Oxford associates, Lewis would eventually give in to this inner longing for a sturdier worldview, one that made sense of his longing for the joy of which he had once tasted as a child. Ultimately, he would adopt Christianity as being a much better answer to life’s questions than any other. For Lewis, as reluctant as he was to embrace something he had so fiercely fought against, this was a breath of fresh air in contrast to the suffocating despair of his previously held atheism (Lewis, Mere 228-229). For such an outspoken and prominent atheist, the importance of this event cannot be overstated: this was a cataclysmic shift. Here was a man who went from cursing God, to confessing Him as Lord—all within a very public arena. This was a Damascus road experience as it were.

The echoes of this revelation would continue to be heard throughout much of his future writing. Speaking of his conversion, Lewis stated that it felt as though he was “dragged through the doorway” (McGrath 144). Pulled into a new world perhaps? It is clear that Lewis experienced a drastic transformation first and foremost in his own inner life. He would subsequently spend the remainder of His life pulling as many people through this same door. He would invite people into a new creation: a place where truth is uninhibited by presuppositions and where individuals are exposed to the deepest realities of life.

Of all communicators, the best ones are those who manage to take their listeners by the hand and lead them through the journey they have personally experienced. Those who do this especially well leave their listeners feeling as though it were their own story. This, I suggest is what made C.S. Lewis such a great communicator. He had himself journeyed every step of the path he wrote about. He had felt that insatiable longing for joy that every human being feels deep down inside and had finally found a genuine fulfillment of this desire. What he managed to do so well is meet people where they were at—false preconceptions and all—and lead them through the path. Throughout the journey, he would highlight the flaws in their own foundations while pointing onward to a better, sturdier foundation. Leading them through various gates, identifying and detouring the many pitfalls, ultimately arriving at that final and glorious destination. This journeying theme is evident in such works as Pilgrims Regress and Chronicles of Narnia.

In the case of the Chronicles of Narnia, this experience of being pulled into a new world is a natural one as the readers follow the children into this strange new place filled with new possibilities and philosophical considerations. To the unguarded reader (most individuals who read children’s stories are), biblical truth is easily conveyed through Lewis’ harmless, non-religious language (Williams 18-19). We might suspect that Lewis anticipated objections to such sly tactics: tricking unsuspecting individuals, bypassing their intellectual walls in order to convince them into believing what you believe. Perhaps for this very reason Lewis inserted that same issue into his stories. In the Chronicles of Narnia, readers are thus forced, along with the characters in the stories to ask themselves, “who is it that is really being deceived?”[2] Williams notes that Lewis was, “the writer who so insistently scraped away at uncovering the varieties of self-delusion.” (Williams x)

A vast amount of biblical truths are conveyed within the Chronicles of Narnia. Among these are the concept of the atonement; the existence of a real adversary, an antagonist to all that is good, true and beautiful; the enslavement of individuals under the power of the adversary; and the concept of eternal life. Perhaps the most simple of all and the easiest for anyone (aware of the biblical narrative or not), to understand is that once someone has met Aslan, “business as usual” is no more (Williams 4). A vivid depiction of this reality is well presented in the Silver Chair. An exceedingly thirsty Jill desires to drink of the Narnian stream but fears to do so as Aslan lies within attacking distance. This situation—meant to represent our own decision concerning Christ—leaves Jill with a hard dichotomy to deal with: either she surely dies of thirst due to lack of other options, or she drinks from the stream with unknown and terrifying possibilities.[3]

Like Jesus in this sense, Lewis understood that the best way of explaining these types of spiritual experiences was through the use of fictional story. We might suppose that in this short scene with Jill Pole, Lewis was attempting to “recreate for his reader what it is like to encounter and believe in God.” (Williams 16). As Williams suggests in The Lion’s World, many individuals have never considered the Christian faith as an option. Their “‘default setting’ is a conviction that traditional Christianity has nothing much to be said for it.” (17). Therefore in being led into this world, which does not resemble any religion on planet earth, they can much more easily come to terms with the truths of Christianity, having their “imaginations baptized” to some extent (Lewis, Surprised 178-81). In other words, it is much easier to step into Narnia for the unbeliever than it is to step into a church. In doing so, they may be surprised at the attractive pull they feel towards Narnia and its “supposals,” as Lewis called them, and thus be one step closer to receiving Jesus as Lord (McGrath 278).

While Lewis does amazingly in conveying a piece of what it feels like to encounter the God of the universe, he does so without removing people from the reality that there remains a battle to be fought and tasks accomplished thereafter. There is no such thing as ‘safe’ relationship with Aslan in Narnia (Williams 64). He is after all, as Mr. Beaver would say, “not a tame lion.” This idea flies in direct opposition to a religious mood some Christians unfortunately adopt when it comes to any ethical imperatives to do with this world. As Lewis writes in Letters to Malcolm remaining “too cozily at ease in Sion” (23) is perhaps not the most appropriate way to live our Christian lives to the fullest.[4] In the above-mentioned scene from the Silver Chair, this ethical component is depicted as Aslan satiates Jill’s thirst and subsequently gives her a series of tasks to accomplish in lower Narnia. Perhaps in with this book Lewis meant to portray Moses and his encounters with God on the mountain in mind. As Moses walked down from the mountain, he held commands, certain imperatives to be obeyed. Like Moses and the Israelites, Jill found herself completely failing to keep his commands and finding that Aslan had once again made alternate arrangements to save them from their impending death (117).

In C.S. Lewis: A Profile in Faith, we read: “Christian history shows that when men and women meet Jesus, recognize His Nature, and then decide to trust and follow Him, they become strikingly different people.” (Woodruff and Tarants 13) A powerful example of this life change is demonstrated in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In this novel, Eustace Scrubb the snobbish and disagreeable cousin to the Pevensies finds himself, midway through the story, turned into a dragon (82-113). In a brilliant inversion of fate, Eustace’s outer appearance is made hideous while his abrasive character is beautifully transformed into a decent young chap. In a touching scene, Aslan appears in order restore Eustace to his original form. There we see Aslan tearing off Eustace’s ugly skin and making him into his proper image once again. Aslan then throws Eustace into the water—Lewis here symbolically representing the idea of Baptism.[5] Of significance is how the renewed Eustace later describes this event: “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.” (109). Not watering down the gospel, Lewis, through the words of Eustace at once affirms the wonderful gift of being renewed while at the same time not skimming over the fact that often times the Christian life is a painful experience to bear.

In the Magician’s Nephew, another dimension is added to this idea of transformation. It is this concept that if we handle the word of truth correctly, we can help bring transformation to the lives of those around us. In this novel, we read of Digory commanded by Aslan to retrieve an apple from the garden in the Western Wild. While there, Digory faces the White Witch who recommends he eat the apple himself without returning it. After all, she suggests that Aslan’s intentions are not in fact in Digory’s best interest. Following his conscience however, the young boy—a type of Lewis himself—ignores her suggestion and heads back to Narnia. Upon his return, Aslan sends him back home with this apple, that he might be able to heal his sick mother who lay in bed, back in London. His obedience in this case served as a blessing to his mother, making her well once again. The principle of rewarded obedience is thus beautifully highlighted. Lewis here helps the reader understand that Christian actions do in fact have repercussions in one direction or another. In fact, we might assume that this very fact Lewis took to dearly heart. As has been suggested, why would an academic don in a comfortable scholarly position wish to risk humiliation and rejection, spending much of his time writing popular novels if it wasn’t for a divine imperative in his life (Woodruff and Tarrant 21)?

Many individuals say that a true encounter with God cannot in fact be expressed with human words. While this may true for many, Lewis proves that we do have the capacity to convey a small portion of this reality nonetheless. Utilizing the power of an image and the mastery of language, this English scholar managed to express that “simple intensity of feeling about God that [. . .] [being] able to both to register all the range of ambiguous and confused human feeling and still evoke an almost unbearable longing for that fullness of joy.” (Williams ix; ellipses added). As Lewis teaches us, Christianity is much more than mere intellectual consent but is rather a changed way of living. This new way of life is certainly not always comfortable yet it offers us a solution to this thirst we all have of which nothing else in this world can satisfy (Lewis, Mere 118). As Shakespeare wrote, “the course of love never did run smooth” (1.1.134). Rough as the Christian journey may be, we press on, “For we have seen the Glory—we have seen” (Sayer 147).

[1] Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia is a great example of this. While Lewis never did give an account of this planetary influence in The Chronicles of Narnia, a reading of his biography and scholarly interests makes it clear that this kind of insertion is indeed something that would have been intentional on Lewis’ part.

[2] Deception is a prevailing theme in The Chronicles of Narnia. Some notable examples of this include Mr. Tumnus’ library, which includes an ironic book entitled “is man a myth?” (Lion 25-26); The Platonean deception of the children and Puddleglum by the White Witch (Silver 173-182), and the Witch’s enticing of Digory to eat the apple in the Western Wild (Magician’s, 176-177).

[3] c.f. John 4:14; 14:6; Gen. 2:17

[4] c.f. Matt 17:4

[5] c.f. 2 Cor. 5:17

Advertisements

Bible Reading for the New Believer

where-to-start-reading-the-bible-W_kftj05

I had the opportunity to have a few conversations this weekend with some new Christians. I was reminded something that I believe we’ve all experienced at some point or another: not understanding the Bible. I know for many of us, when we finally start to get serious about our faith and begin to read the Bible it can be a daunting task. According to a 2011 survey, a mere 11% of Canadians who identify as Christians actually read the Bible daily… Instead of becoming like the majority who use their Bibles as shelf ornaments and flower presses, I suggested a few possibilities for these individuals who struggled with the Bible.

Firstly I would get a Bible Commentary. I’ve been using the Jon Courson Bible commentary and it’s great. His down to earth writing style and sense of humour is a refreshing break from most other commentaries that, well… don’t have that. What you get in this commentary is a three volume collection of chapter by chapter, book by book breakdown of what is going on as well as how everything ties into the big story. Additionally, you’ll have testimony sections where Courson describes how a certain Bible truth has personally affected him, he’s got quite the story. If nothing else, check out this guys powerful story here, in his sermon It’s Only a Test.  

Secondly (and possibly most importantly) find a mentor. We have blind spots. And guess what, they’re called blind spots for a reason: we can’t see them ourselves! That’s where mentors come in, they help us understand what we can’t see, and they push us towards what we didn’t know we could do. There’s plenty of reasons to get a mentor, if you’re not convinced that you need people in your life to sharpen you and coach you then watch this: Men and Mentors. When looking for a mentor, a good rule is to look for someone who is at least ten years older than you and way ahead of you in terms of the results that you’re looking for. There is something great that happens when we start to hang out with people that are far more advanced than we are: it stretches us. So as you go about starting to read the Bible, a mentor will help you to answer the questions you have as well as push you to do more. This is a very good thing. I know my own faith life sky rocketed after high school as I got involved in a new church and joined a three-month internship program. I was forced to read 3 chapters a day, one from the Old Testament, one from the new and one from the books of Wisdom (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). This was incredibly simple and incredibly profound, and it would not be a stretch or a lie to say that this simple act changed my life.

Finally, get hungry for more.  You only get out of life what you put into it, the same could be said about the Bible in a sense. The Bible says that we should pursue whatever is good, honorable and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), this means going after what we know is good. Notice that it does not talk about feelings. The Christian life is not so much about feelings and emotions as much as it is about going after Truth no matter what. This being said,  there is always a next step to take, and if  you’ve found a mentor as I’ve suggested, they will surely point those out. A few of these would be connecting with your church, most churches have a basic training program for those new to the faith. Getting plugged into some sort of discipleship program is also a very good idea. Discipleship International is one of these discipleship programs that is excellent in equipping Christians as they begin their journey. They meet weekly and train people over the course of several years how to cultivate a healthy Christian lifestyle. What you would expect to learn after having gone through is how to read your Bible devotionally, how to pray, how to memorize the promises of God, knowing the core Christian doctrine as well as how to communicate your faith to others among many other things.

Finally a few other resources that you might want to check out…

Hopefully, this helps any who might be searching for that next step!

 

 

Promise Keepers Canada, 2016

promisekeeperslogo

“Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” – John Wesley 

I had the privilege of attending Promise Keepers Canada for their Winnipeg stop this past weekend. Essentially, what Promise keepers is is a mens conference aimed at empowering men to get off the sidelines and into the Christian game . I could rant on about how great the speakers where and how amazing the band was but I think instead I’ll show you this. Here’s a list of a few things I learnt this weekend.

 

God’s Grace, the get out of Jail free card. Mark Hughes

  1. No one is too far gone for God’s Grace, His arms are not too short that He can’t reach down to the lowest of the low.
  2. We must choose to put the past behind. Philippians 3:13
  3. Grace can be likened to power brakes, they won’t have much effect unless we first choose to apply them. Likewise, we need to acknowledge our need for Him and His grace will be sufficient to stop us in our tracks and get us back onto the correct road.

 

Recovering from failure: Samson and David. Nate Larkin

Nate Larkin has an incredible story, his testimony can be found on the I am second website. What Nate spoke on was how we as men can recover from our failures comparing the stories of Samson and David. Moral of the story: be like David not like Samson.

  1. Samson was a loner, David surrounded himself with a gang of desperado’s and giant killers. We were made for relationships, iron sharpens iron. Our relationships are the most important thing, good friends sustain us in tough times.
  2. David fell at home among family and friends while Samson fell in enemy territory.
  3. Samson was a man of Reflex, David was a man of reflection. In other words, Samson was mostly reactive to life, not really addressing how he felt. David on the other hand was honest with God and with the rest of Israel about where he was at emotionally and spiritually through the psalms.
  4. Jesus offers us a personal relationship but not a private relationship. “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” This Christian walk is not to be done alone, we are given the church for a reason.

 

Christian Training Camp. Rick Reed

Unlike professional athletes, every single Christian is invited to training camp. This life is something to be taken seriously and given our every ounce of effort. (Hebrews 12:14-17) As an example of what not to do, Reed spoke about the life of Esau.

  1. Effort is Essential. Esau was sexually undisciplined, Spiritually shallow, and Short sighted (c.f. Gen. 25:29-34). Sadly, much like the average man today.
  2. The stakes are high. The results of this life have consequences far greater than we can imagine.
  3. Grace is available. Though we may be in a season of correction, we can be assured that God loves us and corrects for the very reason that he loves us.

Get in the game! John Vermilya

  1. As Christians, we are not asked to be all-stars, but we are called to get in the game.
  2. 2 kinds of people in this world: Wicked people and Jesus. We need Jesus…
  3. God’s plan is greater than my own. Whatever He says is probably a better idea than what I have in mind.
  4. The Christian life is simple, love God and neighbour with everything you have. Not just your emotions, with your time, money, abilities, relationships…

 

I knew Promise Keepers was a great event; but this year, having had the opportunity to sit in for the entire conference and take it all in, I was truly blessed. I would encourage any man to attend this conference, it could really be life changing. This is a great event with an even greater message that my bullet points may not have completely encapsulated… In other words, you should check it out for yourself!

 

 

So is Jesus a Conservative or a Liberal… Because I wanna be on His side!

The following is a paper I wrote for my Biblical Interpretations class at Providence University-College.

 

“In the words of Jesus: “Split off into groups, love your group as yourself and point fingers at all others; this is what it means to be a Christian… Not.” 

What would Christianity look like if people truly followed Jesus? This is really the question at hand. In our day and age there is this division between liberals and conservatives but rather than seeing who is right and who is wrong we need to start by asking ourselves, “what does following Jesus truly look like?”

 “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn. 17:23). The world will know we are His by our love for one another. I must begin by saying, both so-called liberals and conservatives, above all things, must learn to love one another! This means getting to know each other, giving each other’s thoughts the time of day and forgiving one another. Unfortunately what happens is that we don’t obey this fundamental command to love one another but rather we retreat to our peer groups where we can all agree together that the other side is wrong. It is this kind of groupthink that solidifies the division. “I can disagree, but I can really disagree if ten other people disagree alongside me!” Jesus calls us not to fight one another, but to fight the real enemy. If only we knew how much damage we are creating by refusing to love!

if-i-agreed-with-you-we-d-both-be-wrong-funny-poster.jpg

Yet, here we are with our conservative-liberal split: two obviously different ways to go about interpreting and applying the Bible in our lives. We all fit somewhere on the spectrum whether we classify ourselves or someone else labels us. What tends to happen with this division however is that people get polarized, becoming more and more like the extreme if they wish to really “own” their title. A caricatured conservative will strive to gain a better knowledge of the rules and how everyone should obey them; liberals will strive to reinvent the Christian faith with endless “new perspectives.” These two philosophies represent two truths that have been grossly skewed: the conservative has taken the pharisaic torch and made the Law what it was never meant to be and the liberal has taken freedom in Christ and run off into the distance, away from the cross.[1]

Though we may be tempted when looking at extreme examples to say “Wow, that is so wrong,” we should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. As one will realize, there is truth to both of these views, what we must do is reclaim them for proper use, brushing off the lies that have been heaped upon them. We should never make the mistake of seeing faults in a particular view and then completely disregarding it like it is 100% wrong. Maybe it’s 50% wrong? Maybe we aren’t 100% right? After all, if we had all the answers, we would be God, and we’re just not smart enough to be God… at least I amen’t.

argumentmeme.jpeg

So then what do we say to the conservative who believes the Bible is a black and white rulebook? What do we say to the liberal who thinks the Bible is an interesting read capable of bending in any direction you’d like it to? In these particular situations, I believe it is appropriate to use the “What would Jesus do?” line. When asked by the rich young ruler about what it would take to get to heaven, Jesus did not throw out the scriptures and explain how every road ultimately leads to God as long as one finds ambiguous “truth,” nor did He give Him a moral checklist (Mark 10:17-22). What Jesus did do, was redefine the question. The rich young ruler was looking at the Ten Commandments through the lens of the Pharisees: a casuistic law where if I do x, y, z then I inherit eternal life. What Jesus was doing by making the rules more extreme was changing our perspective on them from casuistic rules to apodictic commands, or goals to aim at. [2] In other words, Jesus wasn’t just saying “obey the command in order that you might inherit eternal life,” but rather, “become the type of person that does not murder, by following Me.” This is a huge difference. The emphasis was not on the Law; it was on relationship with Jesus first and foremost. The transformation of character is thus a result of a relationship with a person rather than with a rulebook.

What we see in Jesus’ example is neither the typical conservative way nor the typical liberal way. We see Jesus, not treating the obedience to a rulebook as the ultimate end. Neither do we see Him throwing the Law out the window either, suggesting that Christian life can look any way you want it depending on your own unique interpretation of Scripture. What we do see is Jesus elevating the Law and then asking us to follow Him. There is solid truth and answers, but it does not come in the shape of a checklist, it comes through a man.

Jesus is the embodiment of truth, and he cannot be classified within any spectrum. He is the truth we seek for from our spectrum positions. Jesus cannot therefore be put in a box and claimed to be on “our team,” when the common denominator between all of us, conservatives and liberals alike, is the fact that we all have it a little bit wrong. What we should be able to agree upon is our fallibility, and then in humility, search for truth in our loving, and united church body (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10).

What I would like to suggest is that there is a type of middle ground on the conservative-liberal spectrum and it has to do with the way in which we view Scripture. The Scripture is the living Word of God. If this is true, and if we meditate on this for just a few minutes, conservatives might realize that what was true for your grandparents may or may not be true for you. “Heretical teaching!” one might say, but Jesus taught the same thing. Going back to rich young ruler, we see that Jesus asked Him to give away all his material possessions. Now, did Jesus, ask this of all His followers? No, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). What we see is that the Word of God, is able to affect you differently based on the thoughts and intentions of your heart. The word will intentionally have a different effect from one individual to another, it was meant to do that! After all, let’s not forget to realize that we are all part of the Body of Christ, living as different body parts. Naturally, different parts will receive different signals from the Head! Now it all makes sense…

Once again, we must be careful here and realize that this can be taken too far. “Hey, this is the signal the Head gave me, don’t judge,” a liberal might say to his conservative friend. While we cannot perceive the intents of the heart of others, we can measure their outward actions up to the Law. Christ does not ask us to do things, which are outside of God’s commands. He will not ask me to disown my family or leave my wife for another lady, this is contrary to His word and He is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). While the conservatives tend to go a bit too hard on the Law thing, liberals must realize that there is a Law for a reason and the world’s idea of moral relativism is in complete contradiction to the Word of God. There needs to be a solid foundation for our belief system, otherwise we are building our houses on the sand (Matt. 7:24-27). While we should see variations of application to biblical truth, we need to realize that all authentic Christian living stems from the one true foundation, our Rock, Jesus Christ. What the extreme liberal who believes the Bible to be a nice book with neat lessons should realize is that the Bible is the story of God’s restorative work in the world with a very simple lesson: follow Jesus. This world has a way of complicating things but at the end of the day, the simple Gospel message can be understood by toddlers, it is not something that may or may not be true, it is the very foundation of the Christian faith. To deny this, one is by definition to not following Jesus.

Now what we are left with is the conservative who gives himself very few options, while the liberal has given himself too many of them. We should celebrate diversity yet when this freedom exceeds the scope of the gospel message, we’ve gone too far. Now while we thank God for the simplicity of the gospel message, we can’t kid ourselves, we humans are complicated! Therefore, when it comes to human application, let’s not assume moral formulas will work as a blanket answer to every individual we ever come across. This is where the confusion takes place for conservatives who love straightforward and simple answers for all of life’s complex problems. God is simple and ordered but humans are complicated, messy and living in chaos. We need to realize that life’s chaotic situations take more than a just citing scripture verses at people. People’s problems require communication with the Word of God, not citation. What I mean by this is that we must go to the living God in order that we might receive the living Word for any one situation. Now this is often times a simple procedure: when someone asks you if murder is okay, we don’t need to spend hours in prayer and communication with God to give them an answer, His word is very clear on the issue. What liberals should note from this example is that there is a definite right answer, and there are many definite wrong answers. It is simply a matter of seeking Jesus in all things. Picketing with “God hates homosexuals” signs doesn’t happen when Jesus is consulted, for example.

Humans in general have a tendency of grossly misunderstanding who the Creator of the universe is. The book of Job teaches us that life is complicated sometimes and doesn’t humanly make sense. Paul tells us that we see now through a glass dimly. If anything, there is a need for humility when we tread through the tough issues. In life, we won’t see the whole picture and on top of that it’s a blurry view (1 Cor. 13:9)! How can I translate the beauty and loveliness of God’s Law to an unbeliever when I personally can’t read the fine print through my own foggy glasses? Love is the answer, this above all things in Scripture is loud and clear and shown to us through Jesus Christ. Though we will never figure out all the intricacies of God’s perfect Law given to Moses, we can settle for agape love, which is more than enough. You won’t be wrong, no matter where you are on the spectrum, if you chose to err on the side of grace and love when confused about what to do in any one situation.

In closing, I’d like to offer my own caricature of this situation. It is an image of a conservative climbing higher and higher up the moral ladder leaned against the wall of self-righteousness while the liberal runs freely off into the distance approaching a cliff called apostasy. They are both yelling at each other that they know where Jesus is, if only the other would follow them! Meanwhile Jesus is on the ground in the forefront of the picture helping the poor and broken all around Him. Where we all ought to be!

No matter where we are in that picture, we must not lose sight of where Jesus is: on the ground loving those who are in need of love. At the foot of the cross there is neither conservatives nor liberals but simply the children of God ministering to one another; this is what we should all be striving for, as the Word of God says: this is pure religion (Js 1:27).

 

[2] YouTube, “Casuistic And Apodictic: Part 3: Jesus Reads More Scripture“, last modified 2015, accessed December 15, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUBtNGgdLso.

 

What am I doing anyways?

This being my first blog post, I think it would be appropriate to make a list of the things I wish to accomplish through this act of writing which I’ll admit doesn’t come very naturally to this guy.

 

  1. Be a running list of the stuff I think about, my thoughts, my insights, some things I am still unsure of as I go through Christian College and life in general.
  2. Provide some entertainment to the occasional passer-by.
  3. Provide a place to be terrible writer in order to eventually become betterer at righting.

The end.

bloggingcartoon