Wise Words on Wednesday: The opposite of celebrity


We enjoy finding ways to mean a little bit to a lot of people. This is called celebrity. But the real courage lies in daring to become a lot to a little. In daring to be everything to somebody

– Matthew Warner, Messy & Foolish

The Confession

This is “The Confession” which won “Best Short Film” of the International Catholic Film Festival:

Music Monday: Divine Mercy Chaplet

Have you ever wondered what the Divine Mercy Chaplet would be like if it was set to music? Well, thanks to Matt Maher, wonder no more…

The Eagle and Child: S1E9 – “The Invasion”



In today’s episode we continue working our way through Book II of “Mere Christianity”. In the previous chapter, C.S. Lewis had examined “Rival Conceptions of God”, especially pantheism. In today’s episode he looks at another possible contender, dualism, the idea that there are two independent and opposing powers locked together in an eternal battle…

If you enjoy this episode, you can subscribe manually, or through a service like iTunesGoogle Play or Podbean. As always, if you have any objections, comments or questions, please send us an email through my website or tweet us @pintswithjack.

Episode 9: “The Invasion” (Download)


— Show Notes —

• My outline for this chapter is available here. Unfortunately, there’s no C.S. Lewis Doodle this week 🙁

• In the previous chapter, Jack said that atheism was “too simple”. When he was an atheist, his case against God was that the universe was unjust…but without God it wasn’t possible to make such an argument!

• In this chapter, Jack says that another worldview is also “too simple”. He refers to it as “Christianity and Water”, which I think today we’d just call “watered-down Christianity”. Matt and I suggested that this worldview is attractive for the same reason as “Creative Evolution” which was mentioned in an earlier episode – it offers some sense of meaning and comfort, without the demands of the Christian life.

• Religion isn’t a hobby. Religion is reality.

• Matt refers to another C.S. Lewis book, The Weight of Glory.

• Simple things are not always simple when you really dig into them. Lewis gives the examples of “looking at a table” or the configuration of the planets. He says, therefore, that the very fact that Christianity is not what we might have expected is actually a motive of credibility! Real things are complicated!

• In response to those who claim that, if God existed, religion would have to be simple betrays a misconception of religion.

• Christianity is the religion which brings faith and reason together. This is seen most clearly in St. John’s assertion that Jesus is the Logos (John 1:1).

• Having rejected atheism and “Christianity” and water, Lewis now tackles the problem which the universe presents to us – evil. One option is the Christian worldview which says this is a good world which has gone bad. The second option is Dualism.

• Dualism believes that there are two equal and independent powers behind the universe, one good, one evil. An example of a dualistic religion is Zoroastrianism. Manichaeism, a belief system held by St. Augustine prior to his conversion, is also dualistic. You can also see elements of this idea in New Age beliefs as well.

• Jack’s discussion of dualism is important for two reasons:

1. We get to test the truth claims of the system
2. It allows our author to explain the fundamental nature of evil

• If we assume dualism is true, we have to explain how we identify one “power” as “good” and the other “evil”. However, how do we make this distinction?

1. Personal preference (much like a preference for Red Vines over Twizzlers). The problem here is that this makes it purely subjective.
2. An objective standard, which necessitates a third “power” over and above the other two. This relates to the central argument of Book I.

• The second problem with dualism is that it must mean that the “bad” power like badness for its own sake, but we have no experience of this. Evil is always dependent upon goodness. It is not so much an entity in its own right, in the same way darkness is really an absence of light. Sin is seeking something good in the wrong way, at the wrong time or to the wrong degree. Lewis makes the point that we explain sexual perversion in relation to true sexual expression, but we cannot do it the other way around.

• I mentioned an article by the “Theology of the Body” expert, Christopher West, where he talks about the death of Hugh Hefner. Matt mentioned the book The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser.

• It is with this understanding of evil, we can understand that the devil is a fallen angel.

• I mentioned another C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters.

• Christianity does have some elements of dualism in it, without the problems of full-blown dualism. There is a war, but it is a civil war in which we are invited to take a part. This is a message I think Christian men (in particular) need to hear.

Restless Heart: 13 – “By Faith alone?”



Since it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Nessa and I are devoting the next to episodes to the two key doctrines of the Reformation: “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone) and “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone). Today we’ll begin by looking at the first of these doctrines, Sola Fide.

Please subscribe to this podcast using iTunesGoogle Play or Podbean. If you have any feedback or would like to pose a question for an upcoming episode, you can send us a message from the website or tweet us at @davidandnessa.

Episode 13: By faith alone? (Download)


— Show Notes —

• The venue Nessa visited in San Diego with dueling pianos was Shout House.

• The book our C.S. Lewis reading group has started discussing is The Four Loves.

• The novels by Taylor Marshall which are set in the Early Church are entitled The Sword and the Serpent.

• Over the next two weeks we’re going to look at “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone) and “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone)

• Luther thought that Sola Fide was the central element of Christianity:

“If the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost”
– Luther, Lectures On Galatians

• I quoted from the Protestant apologetics site “Got Questions”:

“Sola fide or faith alone is a key point of difference between not only Protestants and Catholics but between biblical Christianity and almost all other religions and teachings. The teaching that we are declared righteous by God (justified) on the basis of our faith alone and not by works is a key doctrine of the Bible and a line that divides most cults from biblical Christianity…

If we abandon the doctrine of justification by faith, we abandon the only way of salvation…

The Bible teaches that those that trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone are imputed with His righteousness, while those who try to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works will receive the punishment due to all who fall short of God’s perfect standard”
–  GotQuestions.org (Emphasis added)

• A key text for Luther in relation to his doctrine of Sola Fide was:

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”
– Romans 3:28

However, when he translated it, he added an additional word:

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith ALONE apart from the works of the law”
– Romans 3:28

To justify this change, Luther responded thus:

“If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola [alone], say this to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says that a papist and a donkey are the same thing.'”
– An Open Letter on Translating by Martin Luther

(The term “papist” here refers to Catholics)

• Luther was a master at insults. So much so, that today you can generate an insult from the Luther Insult Generator.

• Other important texts which were used to justify “Faith Alone” were Galatians 2:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

• When Paul talks about “works”, he is talking about the works of the Mosaic Law. In fact, he spends a lot of time in his letters comparing the Old Covenant with Moses to the New Covenant with Jesus.

• There only verse of the Bible which speaks of “faith alone” is the following passage from the Epistle of James:

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”
– James 2:24

Luther referred to this epistle as an “epistle of straw” and he moved it to the appendix of his translation of the Bible:

“We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any.”
–  Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk

• Nessa asked about what a Catholic should do if he “has a beef” with the Catholic Church. I suggested that it would probably depend upon the kind of issue at hand:

1. Doctrinal Issue
If you disagree with Catholic doctrine, first of all make sure that what you’re rejecting actually is the Catholic teaching on the matter and not some distortion of it. Once you have done this, find yourself a knowledgable Catholic to explain the basis of the doctrine.

2. Issues of Scandal
Reform yourself first! Be an example for others to imitate, imitating St. Francis and St. Dominic.

• I discussed my approach when discussing the Epistle of James. I ask a series of questions:

1. Can a dead faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a faith that’s alive?
2. Can a barren faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a fruitful faith?
3. Can an incomplete faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a complete faith?

• This then leads to another round of questions:

1. How is faith given life?
2. How is a barren faith made fruitful?
3. What is the difference between a complete faith and an incomplete faith?

The answer, according to the Epistle of James, is “Works”. In his letter, James teaches that faith must be living, fruitful and complete:

1. Living Faith
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead
– James 2:17

2. Fruitful Faith
“Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?”
– James 2:20

3. Complete Faith
“[Abraham’s] faith was made complete by what he did
– James 2:22

• On the subject of faith and works, I quote CS Lewis who said:

“Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ…it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary”
– Mere Christianity 

You should listen to my C.S. Lewis podcast, The Eagle and Child.

• The Catholic Church does not teach a works-based righteousness. She condemned this heresy (“Pelagianism”) in the Fifth Century! 

• I quote Lewis a second time when he’s explaining how the divine life should be nurtured and protected:

“Your natural life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else. In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam – he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts”
– Mere Christianity

• The pithiest summary of salvation really comes from St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians:

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
– Galatians 5:6

• Pope Emeritus Benedict articulated this in one of

Being “just” simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love
– Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday Audience, 19th November 2008

The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (Part 3: “Patriotism”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes for The Four Loves, this is the second of two posts which continue my summary of Chapter 2 (“Likings and Loves for the subhuman”) of The Four Loves. In this post we will be looking at the final section of the chapter which Lewis devotes to the love of country, patriotism.

1. Everyone knows that patriotism can turn turn bad

…we all know now that this love [of country] becomes a demon when it becomes a god. Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon.

2. But if we say it is always bad, we have to reject much

But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved. We cannot keep even Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country.

3. In this chapter we will attempt to distinguish authentic patriotism from its demonic form

Let us limit our field…. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the shape of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition.

4. We will be focussing on patriotism in subjects rather than rulers

Neither…[innocent nor demonic patriotism] is the efficient cause* of national behaviour. For strictly speaking it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects…will make it easier for them to act wickedly; healthy patriotism may make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness. If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country.

* Jack is referring to one of the four causes described by Aristotle.

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