Literal Ponderings

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.

Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

— Joshua 24:15 NASB

Tom’s going home again water-lilies bringing. Hey! Come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

tom_bombadilListening to an old favorite while getting showered this morning and was struck with a realization. In considering marriage and relationships, old Tom sets an example in his regard and consideration for his lady Goldberry which should be the no-excuses, no-exceptions standard we men must hold ourselves to with our own lady Goldberrys.

I can count on two hands examples I’ve seen in my own life. They are what I aspire to for myself. Almost without exception, they are men (and women) who have made God the head of their marriage.

This, of course, flies in the face of feminist claptrap, and I make no apologies. Any nonsense that makes less of a Daughter of Eve in silly pursuit of making her ‘equal’ is to be laughably discarded. I hope that they themselves find someone who considers them of far more worth than ever he does himself, and who likewise makes no apologies.

Most men may never reach this standard, but may be content if like a standard in battle, it goes ever before him displaying his colours and character, as much reminder to himself as caution to those ahead.

For some reason, beyond my ken, this KHOD comic was listed in the site statistics for yesterday. I adore KHOD. How very apropos. Here, Spencer’s father is showing his standard to his son and teaching him to yearn for a similar standard of his own.

KHOD, July 11, 2013, "It gets worse"

KHOD, July 11, 2013, “It gets worse”

If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.

“So it’s a good question, and I’m not sure I know how to answer it, but today I think He did it that way in the arena of history and time and place because our hearts can only grasp His love if we’re told it in a story. Someone said, ‘If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.’ Since God is after our hearts… since He knows the only way for those hearts to work properly is to exist in the knowledge and experience of His love. He laid down his life to tell us a story.”
— Andrew Peterson in answer his wife’s wondering
why the horror of the Crucifixion had to happen.
“He Gave Us Stories”, Reformation Bible College,
2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.

Go back to timecode 34:45 to hear his guiding idea behind writing The Wingfeather Saga. He had a vision of who the main character Janner Igiby was and who he was to become and that it could only be accomplished through conflict. “The only way for Janner Igiby to become that person was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adventure that would cause him pain. To strip him of everything that was familiar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And now, at the end of my story I keep thinking about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m trying to tell is to make the darkness seem so great that it’s insurmountable. To make it so that the main characters in my story are on the brink of giving up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was something stronger than all the darkness.”

Titus 1:15-16

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

I wonder if Lewis was not considering this passage when he wrote Book 3: Chapter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Parrot Disease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more easily done because the giant’s eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eating the enstruum of a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:

‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others: and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

‘Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.’

‘What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.

‘You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’

‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

‘So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

‘I know nothing about that,’ shouted John after him. ‘I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’

‘Look here,’ cried the jailor, coming back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:

‘You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?’

There was a confused murmur.

‘Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your catechisms by now. You, there’ (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), ‘what is argument?’

‘Argument,’ said Master Parrot, ‘is the attempted rationalization of the arguer’s desires.’

‘Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?’

‘The proper answer is, “You say that because you are a Steward.”’

‘Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’

‘There are two only generally necessary to damnation,’ said Master Parrot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puritanian,” and the second is, “You say that because you are a

‘Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?’

‘The answer is, “You say that because you are a mathematician.”’

‘You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,’ he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.

The Grace & Truth Paradox – Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This marvelous little book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphoric hands just at the right time when I and my roommate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the topic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found especially meaningful. (More to follow as I continue my exploration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small London restaurant and picked up a menu.

“What will it be?” the waiter asked.

Studying the puzzling selections, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The waiter smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already given himself away.

In the first century, Christ’s followers were also recognized immediately. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their buildings. They had none.

It wasn’t their programs. They had none.

It wasn’t their political power. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick publications, TV networks, bumperstickers, or celebrities. They had none. What was it?

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They testified to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Paradox, Ch 1

“We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in the spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 percent grace, 50 percent truth, but 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.

Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.”

“A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church services are permeated with Christian clichés that mystify unbelievers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incomprehensible. Grace compels us to put the cookies on the lower shelf where the uninitiated can reach them. Jesus warmly welcomed the nonreligious and spoke words they understood. So should we.

Other churches try to make sinners feel comfortable. How? They never talk about sin. Never offend anyone. They replace truth with tolerance, lowering the bar so everyone can jump over it and we can all feel good about ourselves.

But Jesus said, ‘ ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20).

Something’s wrong if all unbelievers hate us.

Something’s wrong if all unbelievers like us.

If we accurately demonstrate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and other will be offended by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 2.

“Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity. In fact, it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 3.

“God has written His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of conscience come from recognizing that truth has been violated. When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.

This next one is very similar to Ray Comfort’s analogy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as salvation from the transgressions of the law, but as “Life Enhancement”. People are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promises that their difficulties in life will be resolved (using a parachute as metaphor for Christ), but without any true understanding of the jump out of the airplane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncomfortable and bulky and gives no benefit and so they tear it off, are angry at the parachute (and the stewardess who gave it to them), and resolves never to be fooled by that nonsense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the outset that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wearing the parachute. Then when the difficulties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stewardess who trips and spills boiling hot coffee on him, he doesn’t cast off the parachute and say “You stupid parachute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look Forward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preaching life enhancement instead of the truth, then there is nothing at all redemptive in his ministry. Indeed, it is less than redemptive. It is damning.

The opposite is nearly as bad. That is, preaching truth in absence of all grace. Ray Comfort clarifies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled converts.”

The world’s low standards, its disregard for truth, are not grace. The illusory freedom, however, -feels- like grace to someone who’s been pounded by graceless truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, people who grow up in joyless religion learn that there’s no hope of living up to such daunting standards. “Why even try? It’s -impossible!-.”

But properly understood, biblical truths are guardrails that protect us from plunging off the cliff. A smart traveler doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demolished autos below, and is -grateful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to punish, but to protect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.

Godly living centers not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Anytime we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4

Divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil

SurprisedByJoy1“If the Northerness seemed then a bigger thing than my religion, that may partly have been because my attitude toward it contained elements which my religion ought to have contained and did not. It was not itself a new religion for it contained no trace of belief and imposed no duties. Yet unless I am greatly mistaken, there was in it something very like adoration; some kind of quite disinterested self-abandonment to an object which securely claimed this by simply being the object it was. We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glory’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He necessarily is than for any particular benefit he confers upon us; and so indeed we do, and to know God is to know this, but I had been far from any such experience. I came far nearer to feeling this about the Norse gods whom I disbelieved in than I had ever done about the true God while I believed. Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods, there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself. Not that I might not have learned this sooner and more safely in ways I shall now never know without apostasy, but that divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil and the penal blindness made sanitive. “ ~ C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

The new rebel…

GKChesterton“The new rebel is a Skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial impression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher that all life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a police man for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls the flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to the political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beast; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves they practically are beast. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore, the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” – G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy, III. “The Suicide of Thought.”

Quoted recently by Ravi Zacharias. Found at GKCDaily

The Weight of Glory – A few meaningful quotes

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

“This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, June 8, 1942

“If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love- You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, June 8, 1942

“I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology…’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ …And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, June 8, 1942

Internal dichotomy of dealing with Sin and receiving Solace: “You cannot have it both ways.”

ThePilgrim'sRegressBookcoverI missed this rather incredible portion the first time or two around.

John is close to the end of his Journey; a journey physical, mental, and spiritual. All the experiences, refinements, inputs and guidance; good, bad, evil, senseless, sound, are culminating into a true realization of the nature and person of “The Landlord” and his relationship to Him. It finally takes just one more bit of input, a tiny catalyst of truth for it to crystallize into true, profound, and complete knowledge.

He had been willing to trust God to aid him when he cried out for help, but not to trust Him enough to surrender control.

How like that we all are. We cannot have it both ways.

For a while he went on cautiously, but he was haunted by a picture in his mind of a place where the path would break off short when it was too dark for him to see, and he would step on air. This fear made him halt more and more frequently to examine his ground: and when he went on it was each time more slowly: till at last he came to a standstill. There seemed to be nothing for it but to rest where he was. The night was warm, but he was both hungry and thirsty. And he sat down. It was quite dark now.

Then I dreamed that once more a Man came to him in the darkness and said, ‘You must pass the night where you are, but I have brought you a loaf and if you crawl along the ledge ten paces more you will find that a little fall of water comes down the cliff.’

‘Sir,’ said John. ‘I do not know your name and I cannot see your face, but I thank you. Will you not sit down and eat, yourself?’

‘I am full and not hungry,’ said the Man. ‘And I will pass on. But one word before I go. You cannot have it both ways.’

‘What do you mean, sir?’

‘Your life has been saved all this day by crying out to something which you call by many names, and you have said to yourself that you used metaphors.’

‘Was I wrong, sir?’

‘Perhaps not. But you must play fair. If its help is not a metaphor, neither are its commands. If it can answer when you call, then it can speak without your asking. If you can go to it, it can come to you.’

‘I think I see, sir. You mean that I am not my own man: in some sense I have a Landlord after all?’

“Even so. But what is it that dismays you? You heard from Wisdom how the rules were yours and not yours. Did you not mean to keep them? And if so, can it scare you to know that there is one who will make you able to keep them?’

‘Well,’ said John, ‘I suppose you have found me out. Perhaps I did not fully mean to keep them — not all — or not all the time. And yet, in a way, I think I did. It is like a thorn in your finger, sir. You know when you set about taking it out yourself — you mean to get it out — you know it will hurt — and it does hurt — but somehow it is not very serious business — well, I suppose, because you feel that you always could stop if it was very bad. Not that you intend to stop. But it is a very different thing to hold your hand out to a surgeon to be hurt as much as he thinks fit. And at his speed.’

The Man laughed. ‘I see you understand me very well,’ He said, ‘but the great thing is to get the thorn out.’. And then He went away.

— Clive Staples Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress [emphasis mine]

‘I suppose you have found me out. Perhaps I did not fully mean to keep them — not all — or not all the time. And yet, in a way, I think I did. It is like a thorn in your finger, sir. You know when you set about taking it out yourself — you mean to get it out — you know it will hurt — and it does hurt — but somehow it is not very serious business — well, I suppose, because you feel that you always could stop if it was very bad. Not that you intend to stop. But it is a very different thing to hold your hand out to a surgeon to be hurt as much as he thinks fit. And at his speed.’

I need to make this gel and cohere in my own life and figure out how to move forward positively in such a way as to have it always affect my thinking and doing. This applies to so many of my own personal struggles. I am determined to rely on my own gumption and understanding to overcome my vices and addictions because I don’t want to give over control to the surgeon. I want to retain the ability to stop if I chose. I know friends in their same own lonely, lamely listing coracle in an endless sea.

The portion If its help is not a metaphor, neither are its commands., serves as absolute conviction of prosperity gospel and the social gospel I’ve heard preached in post-modern churches. You cannot preach a wonderful happy warm-fuzzy God who wants you to have joy and peace and happiness w/o also acknowledging that this selfsame God has also made requirements of us. Imperatives we cannot ignore. We cannot have it both ways.

Originally posted to Facebook July 27, 2011 at 3:43pm

Chapter One of the Great Story


“All their life in this world
and all their adventures in Narnia
had only been the cover and the
title page: now at last they were
beginning Chapter One of the
Great Story which no one on earth
has read: which goes on forever:
in which every chapter is
better than the one before.”

—C. S. Lewis,
The Last Battle

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