Friday Frivolity: Progressive Criticizes Jesus

From one of my favourite satire sites…

BabylonBee

Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 11 (“Faith”)

Clive

Book-3

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. There are two main senses of the word “faith”

(a) Faith related to belief

“In the first sense it means simply Belief-accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity”

(i) Our relationship to reason is not what we might imagine

(A) The human mind is not controlled only by reason

“I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so”

(B) This is demonstrated in the way we behave

“…my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anaesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anaesthetics”

(C) The battle is against emotion

“It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other”

(D) Very often we lose faith in our reason when confronted with emotion

“A man knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is a liar and cannot keep a secret and ought not to be trusted; but when he finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and he starts thinking, ‘Perhaps she’ll be different this time,’ and once more makes a fool of himself and tells her something he ought not to have told her”

(ii) We see something similar when we look at Christianity 

(A) Reason is involved

“I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in”

(B) Faith (in this sense) comes in later

“But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it”

(C) Faith is a virtue as you “ride out” your changing moods

“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway… you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith”

(D) Prayer and Church attendance aid here

“…in some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed”

(E) We must beware of the slow fade

“…if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

(b) Faith related to our spiritual bankruptcy

(i) You must first really try to practise the Christian virtues

“I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks.”

(ii) In doing so, you will see you fail

“By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

(A) Good people are the ones who truly understand temptation

“Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.”

(B) Bad people don’t know much about badness

“They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it”

(iii) This helps us discover two things:

(A) We could earn salvation

“If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam, and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out. If there was any idea of a sort of bargain – any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him, in mere justice, to perform His side-that has to be wiped out…God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam, or putting Him in your debt.”

(B) We could never give God anything that is not already his

“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

It is like a small child going to its father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the second sense.”

Discussion Questions

1. What are the two different sense Jack puts forward regarding “faith”?

2. Do are minds work purely on reason? If not, what gets in the way?

3. How is “faith” a virtue?

4. Why does Jack think you really need to try Christianity before you can really understand the second sense of the word “faith”?

5. What conclusions can we draw from trying (and failing) to live out the Christian virtues?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Bishop Barron had a podcast episode where he talks about the idea of “faith” which has a lot of overlap with Lewis.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, so here are the Maccabeats to sing it in…

Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 10 (“Hope”)

Clive

Book-3

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. Hope is not wishful thinking

“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do”

2. It does not mean we can abdicate from our earthly responsibilities

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven”

3. We often don’t want Heaven

Most of us find it very difficult to want “Heaven” at all-except in so far as “Heaven” means meeting again our friends who have died.

(a) …usually because we’re too focussed on this world…

“One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it”

(b) …even when this world should be pointing us to the next…

“There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean”

We can respond to this in three different ways:

(i) Blame those things

“He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored, discontented, rich people in the world are of this type”

(ii) Become disillusioned

“He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine… And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses”

(A) Which would be great if man did not live for ever

“But supposing infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end?”

(B) …but not if man lives forever

“In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed ‘common sense’ we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it”

(iii) The Christian Way

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”

4. We shouldn’t interpret the descriptions of Heaven overly-literally

“There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps.’ The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them… People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs”

(a) They symbolic

“All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it”

Discussion Questions

1. What is hope?

2. Does the belief in Heaven mean that we can ignore earth?

3. Why do we sometimes struggle to desire Heaven?

4. In what way does this world point to Heaven? How do people respond to this?

5. Why should we not interpret Heaven’s descriptions in the Bible?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Wise Words on Wednesday: Withdrawing to the quiet

silence

At times like these, we need to withdraw to the quiet, cling to the lamp of wisdom, and remember silence can nourish and repair the soul

– Edith Prendergast

Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 9 (“Charity”)

Clive

Book-3

Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. “Charity” has a broader meaning than its current usage.

“‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’ – that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning… Charity means “Love, in the Christian sense.” But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people”

2. Charity is distinct from affection

“I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In the same way Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbours is quite a different thing from liking or affection”

(a) Affection can aid charity

“Natural liking or affection for people makes it easier to be “charitable” towards them. It is, therefore, normally a duty to encourage our affections – to “like” people as much as we can (just as it is often our duty to encourage our liking for exercise or wholesome food) – not because this liking is itself the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it”

(b) However, affection can be an obstacle to charity

“…it is also necessary to keep a very sharp look-out for fear our liking for some one person makes us uncharitable, or even unfair, to someone else. There are even cases where our liking conflicts with our charity towards the person we like. For example, a doting mother may be tempted by natural affection to ‘spoil’ her child; that is, to gratify her own affectionate impulses at the expense of the child’s real happiness later on”

3. Feelings and actions are separate, but related

(a) Acts of charity nurture affection

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did… When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him”

Our motivation will affect the result:

(i) Expecting Gratitude 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed….”

(ii) Loving another “self”

“But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less”

(b) Acts of hate nurture hate

“This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle for ever”

3. Acts of love and hate have compound interest

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible”

4. What should we do if we don’t love God?

(a) Do it anyway

“[People] are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it”

(b) God does not mainly care about feelings, but our will

“Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him”

Discussion Questions

1. What is “charity”?

2. How is charity related to and distinct from affection?

3. Why does Jack say that love and hate have “compound interest”?

4. What should we do if we don’t have feelings of love towards God? Why?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

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