Wednesday, January 28, 2009


It is in our nature to want to feel accepted and connected with the things of this world.  God created us with the desire to build community and fellowship with one another.  However, selecting friends can be a risky endeavor.  I remember how important it was to me in middle school to be popular... I wanted to do whatever it took, which included changing my appearance and personality.  I learned later on how foolishly I was behaving, and how unimportant popularity was in the grand scheme of things.  

Lewis argues that this drive will exist in me to some extent forever.  The feeling of being "left out" is horrible, and so this causes people to commit to things that they aren't really interested in or don't bring glory to God's name.  They sign onto these activities solely because they want to avoid the feeling of curiosity and jealousy.  

It's important to have friends, and even to belong to groups as long as they support the gifts that God has given you and they compliment your interests.  It makes no sense to sign onto something you don't agree with, yet we do it so often.  We want to discover these "insides" but are warned that we will not receive anything true and good if we pursue them.


Pain is no fun.  But that's not the purpose of Lewis' commentary.  He introduces pain in a new way, and talks about how pain can be useful.  Pain can produce humility, by helping us come to the realization that we cannot be fully independent and rely on ourselves for everything.  Pain can be a major wake-up call to show that you aren't depending on God, and can bring you closer to Him.  Oftentimes people have an opposite reaction.  It's natural to blame God for the pain that is in our lives rather than trying to understand that God's plan is much bigger than we can fathom.  This quickness to anger is what causes much of the separation between God and man, because we are simple-minded enough to think that we could do a better job than He can.  

The simple truth of the matter is that we live in a fallen world.  Because we have sinned, we need to be reminded that we don't live in a perfect world and that we cannot function without being in a relationship with Christ.  In reality, we should be thankful for the reminder that pain can be in our lives and the blessing that it is to know that our God cares enough to keep us on the right track.


In this chapter, Plantinga explains the missing piece to the puzzle... the greatest news we could ever imagine.  Although we have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory, we have been redeemed by our Savior Jesus Christ.  The only important part is that we need to fully accept it for everything that it's worth.  We, in accepting Christ's sacrifice, must acknowledge that this act can do more that we could ever imagine, and believe in things we cannot understand.  This redemption is a second chance for us.  God is saying, "I know you messed up, and are going to keep on doing it, but I still love you."  Have you ever experienced a love that full?  Maybe from your parents.  I know mine love me in spite of some careless decisions I've made in the past.  But God's love is infinitely more full and real than that, and the sacrifice of His one and only Son is proof of this.  Therefore, we should accept it.  It would be ridiculous to pass up that kind of love.


This chapter of God in Dock centers on one question: Can those who aren't Christians lead "good" lives?  My personal response to this would be to ask the question, "What qualifies as good?"  Some would argue that a good life is one where you do what is considered "good" by the world's standards. You can your best to avoid sin and to be as kind and considerate to other people as you can, but does that really qualify as a good life? You can fill your life with material objects, and put them or other people in the place where God belongs, but it wouldn't ultimately satisfy.  

At least I'm sure it wouldn't be a good life for me.  Knowing Christ and the blessing He is in my life, I know that I would never be able to function without Him, let alone consider my life to be good.  Maybe ignorance is bliss, but I don't think it is.  Many who don't know the Lord personally complain of an emptiness that cannot be filled by the things of this world.  They search, yet find no answer.  

This is where our responsibility lies as Christians.  We have found what ultimately satisfies, and now we need to do our best to share it with the world.  A non-Christian can believe they are living a good life without knowing how much better it could potentially be.  What an amazing and scary thing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


What a confusing read!  While reading this one I admittedly slipped in and out of understanding and I'm sure that I did not grasp the entire concept of the piece.  For my blog, I'm going to analyze the main summary points.  Lewis speaks about miseducation, and talks about how impressionable we are at a young age.  It is so vital to teach what's important and correct from the beginning so that we can hold these opinions longer.  This is vital in Christian education because the sooner a believer gains their faith, the more time they have to build their faith if they choose to do so.  

However, it's not only important to be sure that what is being taught is Christian, but also important to avoid teaching non-Christian beliefs from uncultivated souls.  Those who don't know God personally are not able to present things in the same way that a devout Christian can.  

Basically, what I took is that current education cannot be focused on non-Christian beliefs or "cultural" beliefs of this world.  Wouldn't this thought undermine all non-Christian education?I'm not sure if this was Lewis' intention.  If it is, I would have to disagree with Lewis' thoughts on the matter.  I went to a public school where God was most certainly not acknowledged or praised, but I can say with assurance that I learned a great deal about God and my relationship with Him in attending public school.  Even though He was not mentioned, He was still present in the interactions I would have with other students and the difficult decisions I was forced to face.  As Christians, it is important to build up a community to prepare the coming kingdom, but we shouldn't rule out all secular thought; much of it can lead indirectly to Christ.


In this chapter of "The Four Loves," Lewis illustrates the difference between what he calls Eros and Venus.  Eros is the "state which we call 'being in love,'" or "the kind of love which lovers are 'in.'"  Venus, on the other hand, is sexual love--the part of the soul that solely desires a physical connection.  While reading this, I thought about Eros as it exists in today's society, and how underplayed it is.  We live in a Venus-driven world.  Everything is about sex, but there is barely any emphasis placed on true, deep love.  People in this day are more interested in the "idea" of love rather than true love itself.  They often jump from pond to pond, but never fully dive into a commitment.  I think one of the main causes of divorce is the fact that more importance is placed on the Venus aspect than true Eros.  Because of this, couples launch into a commitment prematurely simply because of sex.  Then, when the initial excitement is over, they become bored because they never experienced Eros.

If a man is experiencing Eros, he isn't paying attention to the fact that she is a woman, but is more interested in her personality than her body.  It's very romantic to think that this kind of love still exists, especially when our society is so controlled by Venus rather than Eros.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"In fact, to some extent we are all rulers just because God has created us in his own image to have 'responsible domain.' What follows is that we have a little kingdom."  What an intriguing thought.  Of course I understand the responsibility that comes with being a Christian, and the importance of carrying out His work on this earth.  However, I've never thought of myself or any other human being as a ruler of God's kingdom.  I think that often our role as Christians is taken too lightly... we know that God is all-powerful and therefore don't think that we have any real control over our earth.  However, as moral beings, we do have a power that comes from God that we need to decide how to use.  This is the basis for Plantinga's chapter.  Our calling is to work for the salvation of souls, to be more like Christ every day, and to do everything we can to glorify God in our lives.  We are working toward this "kingdom come" where one day everything will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.  As members of the kingdom of God, we need to do all we can to see this goal accomplished on earth, and we need to be constantly considering this throughout our daily lives, especially when it comes to making the important decisions.  We must ask ourselves not what career will yield the highest paycheck, but what vocation will utilize our specific talents and will ultimately bring glory to His name.


The question that Lewis addresses in this speech is one that I wrestle with quite often.  Being a college student, I wonder what my education is doing to further the salvation of souls; what it is doing to glorify God.  There are also question as to how I can sit back and learn for my own sake rather than face the corruption that is so prevalent in society.  Lewis makes an excellent point.  Being well-rounded is not only a quality that is respected by the general population, but it is also something that is necessary when attempting to be specialized in any one thing.  In order to know a lot about any one thing you need to know something about everything. This is where I saw a connection to "Our English Syllabus." In order to build up our faith we need to build up our knowledge in other areas, even under difficult circumstances. It is also important for a Christian to have a certain credibility according to the people witnessed to.  Earthly achievements are not important in heaven, but they can be useful in attempts to bring non-Christians to Christ.  

Learning may seem like a trivial act, especially during rough times.  However, Lewis concludes that it important to do at all times.  He says, "life has never been normal."  There are no ideal conditions for learning... people have been forced to learn at all times, even under the worst possible conditions.  There is so much you can learn about your faith by learning other things as long as you allow yourself to learn even in difficult situations. 

"War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past.  They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality.  I am inclined to think they are right." I agree with Lewis here.  War sets in a sense of reality and urgency. People will not live forever and there is only so much time to witness in this lifetime.  Learning should not be discounted, but done in the process of it all because it is important to continue to build our own knowledge and faith while encouraging others to do the same.


Speaking about the fall without including redemption is always going to be depressing. Plantinga's depiction of the fall was definitely this way.  I agreed with everything that was said: that evil is present in our world and that human sin is the thing that separates us from God.  I also found that I could relate very much to Plantinga's ideas of corruption.  He says that a corrupted person is one who "turns God's gifts away from their intended purpose." For example, this could be someone using their intelligence to get rich rather than to glorify the Lord. 

An excellent question is, who's to blame?  If we belong to God and not to ourselves, then does it come from God? Surely not.  Some of this control rests with the devil... he tempts us to do things that are against what God wants. However, the real power lies within us.  We have the capacity (especially as Christians) to resist temptation and do what we know is right.  But since original sin, man has fallen into a habit of sin that seems endless.  We would be nothing if God hadn't sent His son to die for the reconciliation of the countless sins we commit each and every day.

Monday, January 19, 2009


What is considered to be morally correct is subjective, along with what is emphasized under the a certain moral law, and what is not.  Basically, there cannot be a universal Moral Law, but everything is based off of one's own personal or collective cultural beliefs.  However, it would benefit us to stray away from this type of behavior... it is most important to take a step back and consider all viewpoints rather than to simply rule something out because you cannot see it's benefit when you look at face value.  However, it would be considered ignorant to choose to disbelieve something because it doesn't fit with your subjective beliefs.  

Values are set in place.  We have "no more power of inventing a new value than planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary colour in the spectrum."  However, what is important is not whether or not these values exist, because it is clear that they do.  What changes all the time is the significance that is placed on certain values in certain periods of time.  

In an ideal world there would be one universal Moral Law... the one that God Himself grants His people in which the values are placed in order.  I believe that this does exist, and that He intends for his people to follow it. But it is not followed by everyone, and that is why subjectivism has caused such controversy in our world then and now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


There is so much content in these small chapters that I will choose one topic to discuss.  The thing that popped out to me the most was Lewis' talk of "Moral Law." He discusses whether or not there is a set moral goodness or badness that everyone collectively believes in.  In my own experience, I would say that there is not one basic Moral Law.  Yes, Right and Wrong exist, but something that is right to one person may be wrong to another.  It even traces back to "No Right to Happiness," where Mr. A and Mrs. B leave their spouses in order to pursue their own happiness, leaving Mrs. A and Mr. B to pick up the pieces of their broken relationships.  The two unfaithfuls happily carry own with their lives.  How is this fair for those who are left behind? When Lewis describes the situations where love can be a negative impulse, this fits the category perfectly.  The love of Mr. A and Mrs. B could be true and real, but it isn't pure because it isn't fair to the spouses who get left behind.  However, how many people these days really consider divorce to be that bad?  It's so common in our generation that people rarely think of marriage as a holy, lifelong promise.  It definitely upsets me when I hear about a divorce, and cheating is an act that I believe to be morally dishonest and just plain bad.  But it would be unfair of me to condemn another person for committing these acts just because they are against my morals, right?  That is something I wonder about daily.  Many of my friends are non-Christians, and I am startled by most of the decisions they make simply because they are decisions I wouldn't choose for myself.  Then again, they don't know the Lord, and therefore don't hold the same standards for, say, sex reserved solely within the sanctity of marriage.  How can I look down on them for innocent and unintentional ignorance?  And what makes their sin any worse than my lying or gossiping?

I think the most striking quote to me was when he said, "we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people." All sins are equal in the sight of God.  Anything considered to be Bad or Good under God's Moral Law is a sin, and therefore we are all set equal--no man is above another.  Yet we act as though we have authority over others because their sins seem "worse" than ours.  Moral Law is a difficult concept to grasp, especially in a world that doesn't honor one single God, but is corrupted by a confusing mix of religious and moral authority.


I found a lot of wisdom I could relate to in Letter 12 of Lewis' Screwtape Letters.  Screwtape urges Wormwood not to "hurry the patient" (the patient being the Christian he is attempting to lure away from Christ) because it could cause an awakening, or realization that their life is moving in the wrong direction.  We can so easily be distracted subtly... our own hectic lives take us away from our relationship with Christ slowly and sometimes unnoticeably.  It usually takes a major realization--some sort of "wake-up call" to bring us back on the right track.  Screwtape apparently has this figured out, and he tries to help Wormwood to understand it as well. 

I also found what he said about the patient being a churchgoer being a good thing for the devil's cause to be very true.  It's a common misconception that those who go to church every Sunday are more "Christian" than other Christ-followers.  Yes, going to church can build and strengthen one's relationship with God in amazing ways, however, some make it their only form of weekly worship.  Many Christians just go out of habit or because they believe it is expected of them, or, as Screwtape explains it, go because in retaining the external habits of a Christian one can believe that they truly are so.  

Basically, Screwtape is saying that if we remain stagnant and apathetic about our faith, we are allowing ourselves to become vulnerable to whatever the devil throws our way.  If we are not living out our faith every day we will not be completely fixed upon the Lord and will then be subject to whatever the devil may use.  We are all sinners by nature, so anyone who doesn't make faith their number one priority is likely to falter. It's a common misconception that we must commit an unbelievable sin to be condemned to hell when all it takes is an inactive faith. "Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


While we were discussing in class, I pretty much picked up on the fact that we were only discussing the fall of man rather than creation... but it was still relevant.  The two obviously go hand in hand.  Man was created by God, and then a short while later fell from the perfection that God created him to be.  I personally often treat creation as a preface of man's story, rather than as a major part.. probably because I live in our world of sin, which is a direct reminder of the result of the fall of man.  I rarely think about creation because the glory and splendor of the entire act was somehow lessened by the fact that humans had to mess it all up eventually.  

However, one quote from the chapter about creation really stuck with me.  Plantinga quoted G.K. Chesterton, who wrote, "The whole difference between construction and creation is... that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed, but a thing created is loved before it exists."  This quote really painted a picture of God's loving nature for me and demonstrated that God's act of creation was not because he was bored, but that he created us in order to love us... and that He even loved us before we came into existence!


"If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy."  The glory of the Lord is greater than any material, earthly good could ever be.  His love far surpasses any love that we can find on earth.  But things on this earth are all we know.  We cannot measure anything against something we have never witnessed in full.  Yes, we as Christians have been exposed to God's glory to some extent, but we have not seen it all.  Therefore, God explains himself in terms of this world.  Lewis explains Scripture's promises for his people in heaven, that they will be with the Lord there, but also that they will be like Him, that they shall have "glory," that they shall be feasted and entertained, and that they shall have some sort of official position.  Why does God promise all of this? Shouldn't simply being with Him in heaven be enough for us?  But it doesn't seem like enough... because we believe we are fulfilled by things other than God's goodness alone. 

I have had many conversations discussing heaven and what it will be like.  I've heard people say they believe that it's just as it is described in the Bible.  Others believe that it is exactly the same as earth, only perfect.  Some think that heaven is different for every person depending on what gives them true joy.  But the same question always comes up: Won't it be boring?  It's a legitimate question.  It's impossible to fathom eternity (let alone what we will do with it) when our world is finite.  In the same way it is not possible to understand how awesome it will be to stand in the Lord's presence when we have never done so before. But when we are, I'm sure we will realize that His glory does not fade, and that being exposed to it is something that will never bore us. 

Monday, January 12, 2009


In this syllabus, Lewis explains the difference between learning and being educated.  We often slip into the habit of simply accepting the education that is thrust upon us, and not really engaging in learning.  The distinct difference is that education is focused on what the professors feel is important and basically only taking in what is heard in class, as opposed to learning, which is seeking knowledge for it's own sake.  Learning declines through high school and college because students become bored with the information they are forced to learn.  They don't understand until later how required courses can benefit their specific career or how important it is to be a well-rounded individual until later in life.  "A perfect study of anything requires a knowledge of everything."

This syllabus reminded me of something we learned in my high school psychology class: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  If a person is intrinsically motivated, they will do something because it's good in and of itself, like seeking knowledge for its own sake.  If a person is extrinsically motivated, they do things because the payoff or end result is good, but not because they necessarily choose it for it's current benefits.  To connect these to Lewis, learning would be considered an intrinsic good, while education would be extrinsic.  Those who are intrinsic are curious, effective in their values, and are able to make meaning from experiences.  Those who are extrinsically motivated are concerned with the consequences, rewards or punishments for their behavior (such as the grades they will receive, or the job they can get with certain training).  

Lewis also gets into the question of what defines humanity, and the difference between being a human and a candidate for humanity.  He says that "knowledge is the natural food of the human mind [and] that those who specially pursue it are being specially human, and that their activity is good in itself, besides being always honourable and sometimes useful to the whole society."  According to this description, you can be a human as soon as you've found the maturity to seek knowledge for it's own sake... then you will truly be considered human, rather than simply a "candidate for humanity." 

Sunday, January 11, 2009


In this chapter, Plantinga highlights the difference between a longing and a hope.  He says that we can long for many things--material goods, earthly pleasures, and even for the past--but these longings are fleeting.  Our earthly longings won't ultimately satisfy.  Plantinga explains that it is not impossible to be filled, but that we can find satisfaction in a relationship with Christ.  If we place our hope in Him, we will find strength to face the day and joy to last a lifetime.  With Christ, our earthly longings won't hold the same importance, but instead, we will long for the things that Christ himself longs for.  

While I agreed with Plantinga's main idea and couldn't find anything to argue with, I felt it was generic.  This idea of placing our hope in the Lord is important, I'll agree, but it isn't as complex as he makes it.  What might have been said in several pages was drawn out far too long with quotes from other authors and embellished language.


Mr. A and Mrs. B left their respective spouses to pursue a relationship together.  The question is, did they have a right to this happiness?  The pursuit of happiness was instated in the United States Declaration of Independence, but it didn't come without restrictions.  A man is free to pursue happiness under the law as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others.  Now one could argue that taking the wife or husband of another person is infringing on their rights.  Think about it.  Marriage is a contract... an agreement to be loyal: to have and to hold that person from that day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and to be faithful until death may part the two.  The question is, why has our society neglected to hold marriage as a sacred promise.  People divorce and remarry like it's nothing; like it's meaningless.  When Lewis encounters people opposed to prudery in terms of sex.  "They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by a civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be bridled."  Although Lewis wrote this during his lifetime, his statement rings true now more than ever... sex is rarely reserved for marriage and has been reduced to pure physicality, even though God created it to represent much more. 

In his last paragraphs, Lewis makes his final points.  In one, he discusses the promiscuousness of women in current society.  He says he "has no sympathy for moralists who frown at the increasing crudity of female provocativeness."  After all, it is the men of society who created the physical standard that these women must face.  Time and time again, Christians condemn women who don't value modesty.  Our society is appearance-driven and materialistic, and those who buy into it shouldn't be reprimanded, but pitied.  Valuing the ideas of this world over God's is the greatest sign of discontent.  It means that these women have not found the only thing that can ultimately fulfill them, so instead they resort to attempt to fill this void with what the world promises.  Therefore, we should embrace them rather than condemn them, for we have found true joy, and as followers of Christ are obligated to share this joy with our broken world.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Bulverism, what is it? C.S. Lewis created this term and a fictitious founder, Ezekiel Bulver.  Essentially Lewis's point was to bring light to the fact that most humans use a certain method (called Bulverism) in their arguments.  He explains it as assuming your opponent as wrong, and then explaining his error.  After reading this essay, I realized that Bulverism not only exists, but plays a major role in modern debate.  Someone else mentioned this same thing in class, but I also took a Debate class in high school where we learned about the logical fallacies of argumentation, and the most commonly used fallacy was the ad hominem argument, which attacks the opponent without listening to their full argument; something that would connect with the idea of Bulverism. 

Lewis encourages us to "crush Bulverism" in order to let reason play an effective part in human affairs.  Reasoning is important because we "can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning - never by being rude about your opponent's psychology." 

 I found a major correlation between today's lesson on Bulverism and yesterday's "Meditation in a Toolshed."  Bulverism is the exact opposite of the humility that we are urged to adopt.  The only way we can look both along and at the light is by making ourselves humble enough to acknowledge the validity of our opponent's arguments.  This doesn't justify becoming a doormat and accepting all that is thrust upon us.  It simply means that we need to be more open and discerning with what others might have to say to us.  God can show Himself to us through the people in our lives, but if we automatically shut out everyone who attempts to approach us, we will never hear His message.  Passion in argumentation is important, but it comes second to respect.  There is a fine line between being passionate and self-righteous.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


In Lewis's "Meditation in a Toolshed," he emphasizes the fact that full truth and understanding cannot be found only by experience or by science, but that it grows out of a combination of both.  It would be hypocritical for a person to talk about love and religion if that person has not experienced what he or she is talking about.  Similarly, it would be foolish for a man to discount the example and teaching of others simply because he believes that his own experience is more important than what he could learn from others.  Instead, Lewis urges us to "look both along and at everything." We can see things on our own in part, but true wisdom comes from the humble act of accepting that we need help in learning.

C.S. Lewis's usage of the contrast between light and dark is significant in this piece.  The light represents knowledge and understanding, while the darkness is meant to portray confusion and misunderstanding.  However, looking at the light will not suffice.  We must look at and along the light in order to gain a full view.  Looking along the light shows the inside of the toolshed, while looking along it shows a view of the outside world: the trees and the sun.  

The sun also represents Christ, because just as both these views (looking at and along) come from the sun, both our experiences and what science shows us helps us to learn.  Everything comes from Him, and what He wishes to show us He will.  But again, it takes humility to accept that our own experience and knowledge cannot take us all the way.