Monday, January 26, 2009


There are two types of order that exist. There is the established order of things. Examples of this would be ranks in the military. A private always answers to a Lieutenant and everyone always answers to a General. Or, in a business, there are established hierarchies of bosses up a ladder of power. The other kind of order is informal. It is not established on paper or even vocalized in any orderly form. It exists primarily in our own minds.

Lewis would say that both types of order are necessary and niether one is better than the other. The less formal of the two, however, stems from our desire to belong. This is our desire to be a part of the "inner ring". We want to be wanted and included in something. It is inherent in our nature. I believe that this order stems completely from this desire that is always present in our nature.

Our desire to belong to the "inner ring" is not a bad desire. It will never be satisfied, however, by things of this world. We will never be a part of the inner ring until we do not desire it especially since there is always a deeper part of the inner ring to reach. Therefore, to become satisfied by the inner ring it is completely necessary to find our belonging in the Kingdom of God and fulfill our desire there.


There are two definitions of pain. One definition is physical pain. The breaking of a bone or even a pinch on the skin would fit this definition. C.S. Lewis defines pain, however, as anything that is not liked by a patient. Any mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual discomfort would fit this definition of pain.

"Why does God allow pain and suffering?" First of all, this question shows a complete lack of understanding on the one who asks it. God is not the cause or source of our pain. He did not create us for the purpose of allowing pain to be inflicted on us. The evil that causes us pain was not His doing.

Most will still say, however, that if God is good then he could not possibly allow people to suffer. There is a famous story of Charles Templeton who was a devout Christian. He was close friends with Billy Graham in fact. He held on to his faith dearly until he heard the story of a child in Africa dying in his mothers arms shortly after he was birthed. Templeton could not get over the fact that God allowed this to happen. So, he left his faith. The fact of the matter is that there is sin in the world. And yes, it would be nice if God were to fix all of it. But, instead of doing everything for us, He has allowed us to engage this problem of pain along with Him. Instead of looking to God to solve everything, we should accept the call to redeem all things back to Him.

Even further, who is to say that a little discomfort is not a bad thing. It is in our times of greatest suffering and pain that we are of most use to God. When everything gets taken away from us we have no choice but to run to god and depend wholly on Him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Can someone who is not a Christian lead a good life? Maybe a better question to start with would be, can a non-christian do a good work at all? Before this question can be answered, a definition of good needs to be given. If you say that for something to be good, the right motives have to be behind that act, then a non-christian would not be able to do a good work. Although, I know a lot of Christians that would not be able to either. So, maybe I am wrong, but I would say that God takes the works of non-Christians and Christians alike that have poor motives and uses them for good and for the advancement of His Kingdom. Motives aside, it is the common grace of God that allows us to do good works in the first place.

C.S. Lewis's argument is that if you have two people that want to do good works, the one that is more informed on the moral law will have a better idea of what to do. So, can a non-Christian do good works, I suppose. But, as someone said in class, by asking the question you admit that Christianity has in some way an advantage when it comes to good works. So trying to live a good life without being a Christian is like purposefully crippling yourself.

The last points that C.S. Lewis gives a great final answer to this question. First, no one can live a perfect or good life. We have all fallen short and therefore need that saving grace of God. Secondly, the end goal of our lives is not to live a good life. Not to say that good works should not be done. But, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If that is your goal in life then it is my belief that good works will come along with it.


Plantinga talks about redemption in the fourth chapter of Engaging God's World. One of the early metaphors that he uses is one of God cloaking with mercy a universe that has grown cold with its own sin. I like this metaphor mostly because it puts the action on God. God has done all of the work and we deserve no credit in the matter. The fact that we say "yes" to God's call does not give us any credit either. This is also a lot of the Reformed beliefs that I have speaking out. I believe that not only did God redeeming of the Universe through Christ on the Cross, but he also does the working in each of our hearts that brings us to him.

The part that stuck out to me was the famous quote by Abraham Kuiper. The idea that there is not one square inch of the universe that God does not claim is something that I think a lot of people forget. First, when most people think of Christs death on the cross, they think only of Earth being saved; but it was the entire cosmos. Second, there are a lot of things in this world that it would be easy to just get rid of and then we would be closer to God. Sex for example has been misused since the fall. It is our job as Christians to do our best to keep it inside of marriage how God wants it. Another example is music. There is a ton of music out there that is not God glorifying. That does not mean, however, that music should be thrown out altogether. It simply means that it has been misused and we need bring it back to how God intended.


As man goes out and discovers new things or ideas in nature, new technologies that seem to give us more convenience and ease of hardships develop. In this conquest to discover and conquer nature, however, man has himself become the patient and is himself being conquered. With every new discovery and with every new piece of technology, man makes himself more and more dependent on the things of this world.

I do want to be careful, however. As it is definitely not a bad thing to find and use resources that God has given to us. It just cannot be a necessity to the point that we cannot function without this new techonology.

Upon reading the Abolition of Man, I started to think about how the more in nature we discover, the less mysterious and awesome it seems. The more we learn about stars the less it seems like they are a beautiful ball of awesomeness. And, whenever some miracle in medicine happens, that is attributed to God. But, whenever we discover something in the human body that can account for the miracle in medicine, the mystery of God seems to be less amazing. It's as if the power of God gets smaller with every new discovery. Viewing the world with this dichotomy is very dangerous. It is not until we realize that God is in the known and the unknown that we can get a glimpse of the awesomeness of God. We cannot simply just accredit things we do not know yet to God and things that we do know to science. God made it all and has power over it all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


There are four types of love according to Lewis. They are Philia, Storge, Agape, and Eros. Philia is friendship love. It is the kind of love that would cause a man to lay down his life for another. Storge is affectionate love. This is the love that a mother has for her child and is most easily related to the kind of love that animals have. This love is completely necessary for survival. Agape is the love that must go throughout all the other three loves. Agape is the love that God and humans share. If Agape, or God's love, is not part of Philia, Storge, or Eros they will all fall apart. You love because you have experienced the love of God.

Eros is the romantic love that is shared between a man and a woman. Lewis is quick to distinguish between Eros and Sexuality (Venus), although he would most definitely agree that they are without a doubt connected. He even calls it humorous in that something as beautiful as Eros is connected with something like Venus.

Many mistake Venus for Eros. The quick test to find out if you have Eros with Venus or just Venus is to look at the five minutes after sex and look at the attitudes of both involved. If all that is there is Venus then "the carton will be thrown out." As Lewis says, you do not keep the carton after you have smoked the cigarettes.

Perhaps the most important point that Lewis makes in this chapter is that Love is a choice. The passion of young lovers fades over time if God is not a part of the relationship. It is important to know this now before you enter into a marriage only to find the passion to have gone away. If you know that you need God to begin with, then it is much easier to stay faithful and loving even after the "honeymoon period" has ended.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Plantinga talks about what our vocation in God's Kingdom is in the fifth chapter of Engaging God's World. It seems that he would agree with Lewis in that if we wait until our life is "normal" or until the pressures of life have gone away, we will never accomplish anything for the Kingdom of God. There is always going to be something that needs to be done or some pressure that is weighing you down. It takes perserverance to carry on and do God's bidding even in all of these times. Obedience is key.

Plantinga talks about the difference between a "good citizen" and a "prime citizen". A good citizen accepts the commission of Jesus and likes the Kingdom of God. A prime citizen, however, accepts the commission of Jesus with enthusiasm and yearns for the Kingdom of God. The heart of a prime citizen loves the things of the spirit (repentence, forgiveness, etc.) and gets excited when any of these things come to mind. In short, "He or she is a person with a calling." We all have a calling in God's Kingdom. Whatever that vocation may be, not only missionaries or pastors, it can be used to advance the Kingdom of God.


"Learning in Wartime" is about just that, learning. This was written at the time of World War II. Lewis is telling his audience that just because there is a war going on at present, that does not mean that learning should stop. For, if we wait for a time when there is nothing to worry about or for life to become "normal" again, we will never get to learning anything. According to Lewis, war does not make life not norma; it only amplifies the difficulties we already struggle with. Learning is an ongoing process that cannot simply come to an end only because larger difficulties come our way.

Lewis talks about three enemies that war brings. The first is excitement. In war time it is difficult to think about anything besides war, especially when you are affected drastically. This overexcitement about the war makes it very difficult to think about anything regarding work or learning. This cannot be if we want to fulfill God's calling for us in our lives.

The second enemy Lewis talks about is frustration. Everyone becomes frustrated with not being able to finish everything. The frustration is that the war will bring an abrupt end to learning and leave us unfulfilled. Lewis argues this by saying that no matter when our end comes, we will always have something else that we could have done. No one has finished everything that they wanted to get done before they died. So, the fact that war is going on should not add to the frustration of not getting anything done since you will not get it all done anyway.

The last enemy is fear. The fear is that you will suffer death. Lewis puts an abrupt end to this fear by saying that war does not increase chances of death. The chance could not be increased anyway because there is already a 100 percent chance of death. There have only been two exceptions to this rule in all of history. Therefor, death should not be feared any more in wartime than in "normal" times.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


In Plantinga's third chapter of Engaging God's World, he addresses the fall in the Creation-Fall-Redemption sequence.

The first point that Plantinga makes that stood out to me was the fact that all philosophers, Christian or not, seem to look at evil as the root of any problem that man has faced. Even those thinkers that happen to reject God recognize that the world is out of joint and not nearly as good as it could be.

The next quote that really stuck out to me was, "If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" This quote calls for a recognition of the totally depraved nature of all of our hearts and for the redemption of all things as it is not only a few individuals that spoil the world for the rest of us.


In the poison of subjectivism, Lewis's overarching theme is objective morality. Lewis firmly believes in a moral law that is not subject to the time or place that it governs.

Lewis's main fear is that subjectivism is tainting thoughts of every individual and causing good intentions to have bad results.

Subjectivism is the idea that morals change throughout time and in different circumstances. Along with that idea comes the idea that we as humans can come up with new moral standards or evolve into beings with new moral standards. Even further, words like "better" and "good" get thrown around when talking about moral standards of the present. The question then becomes "better than what?" or "good compared to what?" Lewis's argument is that there must be some overarching standard that we hold our interpretations of morality in the present up against. What judges the validity or "betterness" of interpretations of morality cannot be the interpretations themselves.

Lewis has two main points. One is that we cannot invent a new moral to add to the natural law. Morality is stagnant; it was, is, and will be the same. The second point is that every attempt to create a new moral merely consists of taking one moral and exalting it above the rest. This has the consequence of tunnel vision and often times leads to racial superiority or an aristocratic ethic.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


In the first chapter of Mere Christianity, Lewis discusses the "Law of Human Nature." By this he means the standard of morals that every civilization has adhered to for the most part since the beginning of time. There are certainly differences in the rights and wrongs of different civilizations but for the most part they have adhered to this moral law. And I would say to those that have strayed significantly had just become numb to conscience over a long period of time due to "little sins" becoming "big sins" against the moral law. As C.S. Lewis says, this is the only law of nature that man has a choice in. For example, we cannot choose whether or not we fall to earth due to gravity; that law we must follow. In the Law of Human Nature, we have a say in the matter. Our conscience will keep us from doing certain unspeakable acts, but we still have a lot of small decisions to make that our conscience will have little interference. It is the wrong choices in these situations that lead to the numbing of our conscience.

Lewis continues his argument for the moral law by addressing the arguments against it. Some have written to him saying that what he is talking about is just "herd instinct." Lewis's argument against this is that we always have instincts: to survive, to help people, etc. It is what helps us to judge between instincts that he would call the moral law. Since what tells us which instincts to suppress and which ones to follow cannot be an instinct in itself, it must be some type of natural law.

C.S. Lewis's ability to rationalize himself to truth never ceases to amaze me. Lewis, more than anyone it seems, has relied on reason to find God. In Mere Christianity especially, he lays out a concise argument for why God must exist. By laying out a series of proofs he seems to have proven the existence of God that is infinite. It is simply amazing to me how anyone could do this simply by putting together rational thoughts.

Friday, January 16, 2009


C.S. Lewis provides an unexpected point of view in the Screwtape Letters. Each letter is written as if it were from a senior devil to his "nephew" devil, who is far less experienced. In his letters, "Uncle Screwtape" provides techniques for "Wormwood" to lure his "patient" away from the Enemy, God.

In this particular letter, Screwtape cautions Wormwood not to make any drastic steps or try to make his patient commit any major sins. Wormwood needs to make sure that his patient does not realize what is happening. "The safest road to hell is a gradual one" according to Screwtape. In other words, by making his patient become numb to little sins, he will cause him to slowly but surely fall away from his commitment to God.

One thing that stood out to me in particular was when Screwtape said that he was glad to see that the patient was still a churchgoer. C.S. Lewis is by no means saying that going to church is a bad thing. In fact I am sure that he would agree that making a habit of going to church is a wonderful thing. It is when it becomes a justification for sin that it becomes dangerous. The attitude of, "atleast I am still going to church," is a dangerous attitude to have. We must not blind ourselves to our sins by thinking that we are still doing some things right so it is alright to commit the little sins every once and awhile.

The last thing that stood out to me was how proper and intelligent C.S. Lewis makes demons out to be. Not only does he provide a different point of view by looking at each situation through the eyes of demons, he gives a totally different way to look at the spiritual world. We often think of demons as savage and doing things without thinking them through. Lewis gives two cautions at the beginning of the book. One is that we need to believe that demons exist. The other is that we need to not become too fascinated with the demonic world. I would add another caution when it comes to demons. That is, we need to recognize the cunningness of satan and his minions and not underestimate the resources he has at his dispose. I am not saying to fear the devil; just recognize what exactly it is that is trying to tear us away from God.

Lewis provides ways to prevent this from happening in this letter. Don't fall asleep. Always be on your toes. Don't allow the devil to catch you not paying attention to God. The little things make a difference. Don't allow yourself to become numb to any sin. Hate all sin and the Devil will not be able to budge you one inch.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


There seems to be this notion of self-denial being not only the means to an end, but the end itself. It is as if the desire of a reward promised is a bad thing. In some cases, it is. But in the case of a lover desiring marriage or a Christian desiring heaven, the desire is a good and healthy thing to have. There are natural rewards and unnatural ones. If a man marries a woman for the reward of her money, that is not natural. Money is not a natural reward of love. Unnatural rewards are not to be sought after by any means.

Lewis talks about a third type of reward. This is the reward that we do not fully understand until we have it. There is not really a desire of this reward as there is a desire for a lover to marry. Lewis relates this to a schoolboy learning Greek. A schoolboy cannot fully understand what it is like to love and enjoy Greek poetry. He simply must work for marks and to avoid punishment first. It is not until he approaches the reward that he can fully understand and desire it. And, the closer he gets to the reward, the more he desires it. Lewis relates the situation of the schoolboy to our situation in our strivings for Heaven and nearness to God. We cannot fully understand heaven or know why exactly it is that we desire it. We simply need to trudge on and hope that we will indeed receive a reward that is more than worth our strivings. And, the longer we go on and the closer we get to God, the more we will desire Him.

Lewis claims next that although we ought to be desiring future glory, since we cannot grasp what it is we are desiring we are far too content. Because we cannot grasp the glories of heaven, we are completely satisfied "playing with mudpies." Future glory should be our main focus and our only desire but as a result of the fall, our vision is cloudy and we are perfectly content with it as such.


In the second chapter of "Engaging God's World," Plantinga discusses the creation. First, he talks about why God created. It was not a necessity; God does not need us by any means. However, it was surely not an accident or a random act of God either. According to Plantinga, it is in God's character to imagine and create, as it is in ours. It is just something that is to be expected of God. He wanted to create something and then love it.

Plantinga goes on to talk about the meaning of the Christian doctrine. Instead of copying down all eight points I am only going to talk about the ones that stand out to me the most.

When God created everything, it was good originally. Everything was good. This means that everything that is in the creation today is redeemable because everything was made for the purpose of doing good.

Our interaction with the world needs to consist of loving all of the creation without worshipping it. St. Francis of Assisi gives us a good example of how to do this. In his eyes, our material reality is a good thing. God wouldn't have made matter (and lots of it) if he did not love it himself.

The very fact that we are individually created in the image of God says that no one can show the light of God in exactly the same way. We are all unrepeatable. God has given each one of us abilities to show his love in many different ways. Also, since everyone has been created in the image of God, we are to treat and view each individual as such.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Lewis is quick to distinguish between learning and education. Learning serves as the means to an end at vocation. You learn so that you are able to perform a job and make a living. Education on the other hand is gaining knowledge for the pursuit of truth. It is a priviledge to have an education. There is no other time in our lives except for our youth that we have this priviledge. There is no pressure to hold a full time job, pay the bills, or worry about taxes. We have the task of gaining knowledge for the sake of pursuing the truth; and that, is a gift from God.

You will get as much out of this as you would like to put into it. If you would rather just go about your daily tasks and learn what the professors tell you to learn, then you will do well in the work place. However, if you go above and beyond by learning material that is not required of you, then you will know that much more truth which is a blessing. Because, the more truth that we know, the more we know about God. After all, God is truth.

This article fits in nicely with what seems to be C.S. Lewis's chief goal in life: find absolute truth. We are to be in constant search of Truth. God is glorified when the truth is revealed. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Therefore, since truth brings glory to God, we need to be in constant search of Truth.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


In Plantinga's first chapter he talks about two different types of desires: material and spiritual. Our desire for material and earthly things causes us to look for contentment in fleeting pleasures and individual moments of happiness. This does not bring joy like fulfillment of spiritual desires brings joy. Our spiritual desires are fulfilled by God and by doing his calling. The only way to fill the void in our lives is to fulfill our spiritual desires, and not our earthly desires.

Plantinga goes on to talk about how everyone longs and desires for God, whether they know it or not. I feel as though this statement has been misunderstood by quite a few people. Plantinga is by no means saying that humans are not totally depraved. He is also not saying that everyone will choose to follow God. I believe that he is saying that everyone has a void that they have a desire to fill. This void can only be filled by God. Therefore, whether people know it or not, they desire God. This does not mean that people will not try to fill the void with material things. It simply means that everyone needs God to fill the void.


We have no "right" to happiness according to C.S. Lewis. Does this mean that we shouldn't be happy at all? Does this mean that we shouldn't seek out things that make us happy? Yes and No.

C.S. Lewis starts out with an example of a man who divorces his wife in order to marry a woman who divorced her husband so she could marry the man. Clare, his opponent in this particular argument, claims that he has every right to do so. Everyone has the right to do what makes them happy; everyone has the "right" to be happy. Before Lewis attacks this absurd statement, he attacks his opponent by saying that he knows for a fact that "all of her friends hate her." (One could say that he was being "Bulveristic" at this point).

Lewis goes on to say that a "right" to happiness is as silly as a "right" to be a millionaire or a "right" to be six feet tall. After all, if being a millionaire or six feet tall are the only things that are going to make you happy, then you would have a right to be both of those things according to Clare. Since being six feet tall is impossible without the right genetics and only a few people become millionaires, it would seem that your "right" to happiness has either been taken away in a few instances or it does not even exist in the first place.

Next, Lewis talks about law: Laws of the government and moral law. Both he and Clare believe in both of these. It's just that Clare seems to think that a right to happiness fits in the moral law, and Lewis disagrees. Lewis would probably agree with Clare that people should pursue happiness, however. He would also say that if you do not want to be happy then there is something wrong with you. It's just the manner in which people pursue happiness and what bounds should be placed on this pursuit that are disagreed upon. Clare would say that there should be absolutely no bounds place on the pursuit; it is, however, a "right". Lewis would say that pursuing happiness is alright as long as you are within legal and moral laws (God's laws). After all, who can bring true joy but God. Only by walking with God and doing what He wants can you find life long joy and true contentment.

Lewis proves his position on the pursuit of happiness with two consequences of the belief of a "right to happiness". First, women in our society will surely loseout in this situation. Because they tend to be more monogamous in nature, they will be left time and time again by men who are pursuing their "right to happiness". Also, since at the time Lewis was writing this, women in the workplace was far less common, they would also lose out economically if their husbands left them.

The next consequence is that our civilization will be swept away. Everyone will be doing what they want and have no regard for what is best for the communities they live in.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Existence is a beautiful thing…knowing that we exist is terrible. We exist in two ways: “bundles of complexes” and “members of economic class”. The fact that we exist in these two ways begs a question, do our complexes or places in economic class taint all of our thoughts or just some? Lewis takes it one step further: “does the taint invalidate the tainted thought – in the sense of making it untrue – or not?”

Before I go into Lewis’s answer to this question, I will give my own. As a Calvinist, I believe in Total Depravity and thus believe that everything is tainted by sin. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that absolute truth can be revealed and thus any thought or act done with out the work of the Holy Spirit is tainted. Everything done without the Holy Spirit “misses the mark” of absolute truth and can therefore not be entirely trusted. (Granted, some acts and thoughts miss the mark more than others.)

Lewis goes on to prove that all thoughts cannot be tainted. For if all thoughts are tainted then the very thought that all thoughts are tainted is itself tainted. The argument disproves itself. Since all thoughts can not be tainted, the only other conclusion that can be drawn is that only some thoughts are tainted.

The assumption that many take of every thought being tainted leads into what C.S. Lewis calls Bulverism. If you assume that everything anyone says or does is wrong then you have no need to address any issue at all. This is especially evident in politics. Instead of disproving something that a republican or a democrat says by addressing the issue at hand, most candidates will just discredit their opponent by bashing their past or by simply stating that they are a republican or a democrat.

In the end, someone is right and the other is wrong. The only way to figure out which one is which is through reasoning. Reason, although a gift of God, can be easily misused if it is used to “Bulverize”. If reason is used to Bulverize then it is used to discredit itself. Reason can not be used to disprove reason; a proof cannot show that all proofs are wrong.

Lewis’s main point of this article is the correct use of reason. Anything and everything can be misused, including reason. When issues are attacked directly without using round about methods of proving or disproving something, that is a correct way to use reason. When reason is used this way, it can be used to find absolute truth and in turn bring glory to God.


What is truth? Better yet, how do we find truth? Is it through experience or observation? On the one hand, you have the power of experiencing something for yourself. And, most would say that you cannot possibly understand something completely if you do not experience it yourself. For example, pain cannot simply be observed and everything automatically known about it. Any psychologist can sit and observe the behavior and thought processes of someone in pain. They might even be able to find the chemical reaction that is causing pain. But, until that psychologist actually experiences the effects of pain himself or herself, he or she will never know all that there is to know about pain. Experience, however, cannot be given all merit when it comes to knowing absolute truth, something that C.S. Lewis is pushing strongly for in this article. When you are caught up in the moment of something, like pain, it can be difficult to see other events or causes surrounding it. Someone experiencing pain can only see “along the beam of light” of pain. That is the only part of the truth of pain that can be seen by someone experiencing pain.

Neither one of these perspectives is completely correct by any means. Furthermore, neither perspective disproves the other one. They are merely two different truths (not complete truths) found from two different perspectives. They are both correct and both are needed to completely understand pain (or anything for that matter).
Perhaps this can best be applied to knowing God. In order to know God completely, one must observe and experience in Him in every way possible. Both observation and experience are needed to fully understand God. It is for this very reason that our search for God and for relationship with God needs to be a constant striving. There is always another way to experience God and there is always something to be learn about His character.

C.S. Lewis is definitely giving out a call for people to experience things for themselves in “Meditation in a Tool Shed.” He is by no means, however, telling anyone to throw out observation completely. There is a balance that needs to be found there. No one will ever understand anything completely until they have looked at it from all perspectives. Never assume that everything is known about anything. The search for absolute truth needs to be a constant striving on that part of every individual. C.S. Lewis has given a way to do that, by looking at things from all perspectives.