|Saturday, December 25, 2004
Merry Christmas: Light to no blogging today. The brother-in-law is in charge of the turkey, and, from what I hear, that's a good thing--he's got a recipe or two up his sleeve. Peace & Love, Brave Sir Blogger.
P.S. Treat yourself to a nap today.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Reason For The Season II: More today from C.S. Lewis. From the very first time I read Lewis' attempt at explaining our need for Christ, it worked for me:
Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor--that is the only way out of our 'hole'. This process of surrender--this movement full speed astern--is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person--and he would not need it.
Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letter because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hands while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in his own nature, never does at all--to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God's leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, he has not.
But supposing God became a man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because he was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.
I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, 'because it must have been so easy for him': Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but were possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very odd reason for not accepting them? The teacher is able to form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher; and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because 'it's easy for grown-ups' and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no 'unfair' advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) 'No, it's not fair! You have an advantage! You're keeping one foot on the bank'? That advantage--call it 'unfair' if you like--is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?**
And there you have the context for my top-of-the-page quote!
Peace and Grace today,
Brave Sir Blogger
** Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (paperback). HarperSanFrancisco, 2001: 56-59.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Reason For The Season: Christmas is upon us. And so I think it's appropriate to pass along some wisdom from C.S. Lewis--a self-described layman, but certainly a man with a gift for explaining Christianity to believers and non-believers alike:
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could 'be like gods'--could set up on their own as if they had created themselves--be their own masters--invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.**
** Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (paperback). HarperSanFrancisco, 2001: 49-50.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Today's Kristof: Nicholas Kristof constructively scolds Democrats in today's NY Times. Lifting up Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas as an example, Kristof explains how certain evangelical Republicans have recently taken the lead--replacing Democrats--in championing key human rights issues around the world: sex slavery and Darfur top Kristof's list.
This isn't Kristof's first attempt at finding common ground where secular Democrats and evangelical Republicans can meet; he's been campaigning for more cooperation on human rights issues all year.
Andrew Sullivan's blog today links to a similar effort from Harvard's William Stuntz. Stuntz takes Kristof further:
I can't prove it, but I think there is a large, latent pro-redistribution evangelical vote, ready to get behind the first politician to tap into it. (Barack Obama, are you listening?) If liberal Democratic academics believe the things they say they believe -- and I think they do -- there is an alliance here just waiting to happen.
I agree. There is an evangelical left in this country--and it's not small. To quote one of my favorite preachers, Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN:
The Bible speaks more about greed and injustice against those who are poor than any other particular sin. We are the richest country in the world and we are fooling ourselves if we do not think that the words: "to whom much is given much is required" apply to us.
I discovered Greg Boyd in Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ." Later, I found Boyd's sermons posted online--the quote above refers to "Fasting With Our Finances" delivered Feb. 15, 2004.
That's not to say that Boyd is a Democrat. Nor does he profess to be a Republican. He preaches that politics are "of the World"; the Kingdom of God is entirely separate.
So evangelical Christians should think twice about aligning themselves with one party or another. Thinking in another direction, don't assume one of our political parties never offers the Christian value for his vote.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
More On Coral: Research that predicts algae will help coral reefs survive in a warmer world.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Cheat Sheet: From Slate, The Idiot's Guide to the Oil-For-Food-Scandal.
Where The Hippies Were: Christopher Hitchens on Hippies:
To the extent that the decade had a moral seriousness that could be transmitted forward, this inhered in the partly spontaneous opposition to an unjust war in Indochina, and to the coincidence of this movement with the battle for civil rights. To this day, there are people who are convinced that they took part in these struggles just by being young and alive at the time, and who have the beads and the Dylan albums to prove it.
From Hitch's three-for-one review of books remembering flower children--at his snidely best.
Geek Alert: I haven't made it to the store yet, but the extended edition of Return of the King is on my list. I had a hard time enjoying the theatrical release because of the absence of three key scenes: Gandalf vs. Saruman; Gandalf vs. The Witch King; and Gandalf vs. The Voice of Sauron. I honestly don't know what Peter Jackson was smoking. I had doubted Jackson's slandering of Faramir in The Two Towers could topped, but, shag me sideways, he managed it.
From what I've read, Jackson has corrected the record with the inclusion of these scenes in the extended edition DVD. I'm cautiously optimistic.