Sunday, December 28, 2008

Better late than next Advent:

For my friends who don't attend my church, here are a couple of links to the Advent message my dear Paul delivered on the Sunday evening before Christmas. The first is the printed version on his blog. The second is the audio version - so you can hear his wonderful voice. (Okay, I think it's wonderful - you don't have to. But the message is really good.)

http://possumbane.livejournal.com/446502.html

http://www.sovereignjoycf.org/podcast/Advent/04%20Advent%202008,%20Week%204.mp3

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sometimes I need a little help from my friends

Okay, this is to all my Blogger friends, since the Blogger help function has failed in itsfunction. Can anyone tell me if and how I can put part of my lengthier posts " behind the cut" - or as some might know it "keep reading"? On livejournal I could type in a code that would do it, but I haven't been able to find how to do it here.

Anyone?.....Anyone?....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From my collection of comforts

I find great comfort in the sovereignty of God, and early in my Christian life began "collecting" Scriptures pertaining to just that. Some people find the doctrine of God's sovereignty over all things unsettling, or even distasteful. One reason I find comfort instead is that knowing God is in control of whatever happens means that no pain or sorrow I experience is futile or meaningless. I can trust that there is a good purpose in it. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of pain and physical trauma some women are willing to undergo to be beautiful. They will allow themselves to be cut open, peeled apart, suctioned, stuffed, etc. and undergo long and painful recovery just so their dying body will look pretty for a few extra years. Or think about the dentist. If our pain becomes bad enough, we are willing to endure more pain for a promised relief in the end. The pain in life is made immeasurably more bearable when we know there will be a good outcome, that it is not futile. As a Christian I know the outcome of any suffering I endure will be my sanctification - my "being changed into his (Christ's) likeness from one degree of glory to another..." (2 Cor. 3: 18).

Another reason I find comfort in that glorious doctrine is that it is the only basis I have for trusting any of God's promises - Romans 8:28 for instance: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." If God's will could be thwarted by the will of man, the devil, or the forces of nature, how could I trust Him.

Now, all that said, here's the part of my "collection" that pertains to God's general sovereignty over all things that come to pass. (I have another set that pertains particularly to God's sovereignty as it relates to the salvation of man.)

"Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" Exodus 4:11

"There is no god beside Me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
And there is none that can deliver out of My hand." Deuteronomy. 32: 39

"The LORD kills and brings to life;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and exalts." 1Samuel 2: 6-7

"But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and my such decrees are with Him." Job 23: 13-14

"I know that Thou canst do all things,
and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted." Job 42:2

"The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
The purposes of His heart
Through all generations." Psalm 33:10-11

"Our God is in the heavens;
He does all that He pleases." Psalm 115:3

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

"The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD." Proverbs 16:33

"Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but the counsel of the LORD, it will stand." Proverbs 19:21

"Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD,
How then can man understand his way?" Proverbs 20: 24

"The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He will." Proverbs 21:1

"Have you not heard that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass…" Isaiah 37: 26a

"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these." Isaiah 45:7

"I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please." Isaiah 46:10

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55: 10-11

" I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself;
Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps." Jeremiah 10:23

"Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" Lamentations 3: 37-38

"His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing;
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’" Daniel 4:34-35
"Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" Amos 3: 6

"[He] works all things according to the counsel of His will." Eph. 1: 11

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unexpected tears

I wasn't expecting to have to fight back tears during the interlude music on NPR this morning. In my defense, the song O Holy Night almost invariable makes me tear up - but I certainly did not expect this rendition to do it. Take a listen: click the link then click "Listen now" for a sample. Promise me you'll listen through the chorus before you right me off as crazy. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?saId=98658604

Monday, December 22, 2008

A message from my better half

I know it's traditional for husband's to refer to their wives as their "better half". In my case, however, it just doesn't work that way. I'm married to a much finer human being than myself (the only thing in which I surpass him is tidiness). But that's all beside the point.

Here's the point: for the second consecutive year my husband, Paul, has given one of the four Sunday evening Advent messages for our church. (I'd drive everyone crazy if I was a pastor's wife - posting every message he delivers. But since it's only occasional, I feel no reason not to gush.) The theme was the timing of the incarnation of Christ. Until it turns up on the Sovereign Joy Christian Fellowship podcast, you can enjoy reading his message here. I think you'll find yourself blessed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why we shut our bedroom door at night:

When I was a kid I wondered why the Flinstones booted their cat out of the house at night. As the owner of three cats, I don't wonder about that anymore.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0ffwDYo00Q&eurl=&feature=player_embedded

Mere Christianity, Book Two - What Christians Believe

This is the next installment in our on-line reading group, Reading the Classics, at www.challies.com. Our current classic is C.S. Lewis’ apologetic work, Mere Christianity. This week’s reading is Book Two, What Christians Believe.

Now is high time for Scripture to take its rightful place in the argument, or so I thought. Disappointingly, now is the time when it becomes evident that Lewis was simply more comfortable in the handling of philosophy and human reason than Scripture. This is not to say that his arguments are altogether unscriptural. It is to say that it is not his strongest suit (and to be fair, he does not pretend it to be the case), nor does he seemed the least concerned about it. As a Reformed believer for whom Scripture dictates (at least hopefully) all my doctrine and beliefs, I found this reading, exasperating and at times excruciating. There were statements that were brilliant gems followed by shockingly unscriptural ones, one even plummeted right up to the edge and stopped suddenly short just on the brink of universalism. I’m beginning to see why much of my exposure to Lewis over the years has been essentially in the form of sound-bites. His doctrine is as muddled as that of modern American evangelicalism in general and yet he still had the uncanny ability to produce a few real gems.

Let me state, by way of warning, summarization is not my strong suit. My summaries tend to end up longer than the source text. And with that disclaimer, and because there’s so much to address in this section, I think I’d best take this chapter step by step. And so as not to put words into Lewis’ mouth, I’ve chosen mainly to comment from direct quotes. (Any emphasis in bold is my own.)


1. The Rival Conceptions of God

Lewis starts off well, beginning with the rather surprising point that Christians are able to think more liberally than atheists: “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake….But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.”

He then proceeds to divide and then sub-divide humanity into various belief camps. The first division is between the theists and the atheists – those who believe in some form of God or gods, and those who don’t. The next division is among those who do believe in some god or other. These are divided “according to the sort of God they believe in.” There are those who believe in the god/gods of Pantheism. These have the idea that this god is “beyond good and evil” and “animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God.” The other view is “that God is quite definitely ‘good’ or ‘righteous,’ a God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another….They also “think God invented and made the universe- like a man making a picture or composing a tune.”

He shortly goes on to make an assertion regarding Christianity that is both startling and ambiguous: “For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world…as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” That statement can be taken so many ways that it seems at once both incendiary and meaningless. But it does, of course raise “a very big question. If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong?”

This was apparently Lewis’ biggest personal objection to belief in God, and in that he is certainly not alone. The outcry against the evil in this world of ours continues unabated to this day. But here again the argument from Moral law intervenes in Lewis’ thoughts: “ My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?” A compelling argument indeed.

He concludes that atheism is too simple. And that leads us to the next section.

2. The Invasion

He begins with another view that he considers “too simple”, calling it “Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption.” I’ve come across plenty of people in our land of plenty who hold to this view – none of them in the midst of tragedy.

He goes on to explain that “It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not.” And beyond that, “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect….Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed.” Well, true as that is, I might just say the same thing about Mormonism. But to be fair, I think that his point here is not that Christianity is absurd, but that it makes a kind of sense that one would not have expected, and that one should not expect simple answers to life’s most complex problems. So much for Occam's razor.
.

“What is the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless. There are only two views that face all the facts. One is the Christian view that this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been. The other is the view called Dualism. Dualism means the belief that there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out an endless war. I personally think that next to Christianity Dualism is the manliest and most sensible creed on the market.” I tend to agree. I’ve come across plenty of professing Christians over the years (generally in more Pentecostal crowds) whose theology does come perilously close to Dualism, particularly in the power they attribute to the devil.

From here Lewis goes on to make a splendidly compelling argument, from reason, against Dualism. He first questions how it is that we determine which of these two eternal spirits is good, and which is evil. “Each presumably thinks it is good and the other bad.” Where is the objective good by which we can judge either of these spirits’ goodness or badness? “But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers; some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform…then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God.”

From there he digresses to a secondary argument against Dualism. It is an argument about “badness” that I have reservations about. He says, “If Dualism is true, then the bad Power must be a being who likes badness for its own sake. But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad.” My knee-jerk response to this argument was that is was hogwash. But bearing him out, he came close to convincing me. “I do not mean that, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness; you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness…no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong – only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him….Goodness is, so to speak, itself; badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” And then I find myself swinging back again to disagree. Am I to believe that the wicked people are really just seeking good? It is difficult to grasp that badness is made up of goodness. It seems to me that when good becomes bad, it is no longer good. I tend to think rather of badness as a negation of goodness, or even hating goodness. (Though I can see his point that it derives its original substance, if you will, from goodness.) I can remember times in my younger days when I was just plain cruel. It was often the very “badness” of what I was doing that made it so sweet to me. I would often do what I was told, but in a bad way, when it would have been just as easy to do it in a right way, just to be rebellions. I doubt if I’m alone in this. Why else would companies advertise their chocolates as “sinfully sweet” if the idea of sin didn’t give them an edge in the marketplace. Why else do we have that expression about forbidden pleasures being the sweetest. There are things that are in and of themselves good that people prefer to do in a bad way simply because doing it in that “bad” way increases their enjoyment. It seems to me that the wicked hate what is good, because goodness comes from God, and they hate God Those who hate God also hate what comes from Him. So, for me this argument, though I understand it, is not entirely unconvincing.

From here Lewis enters into a discussion of the very nature of evil itself, always a provocative subject. It is one of life’s greatest mysteries that in a world created good, beings that God made good could go bad. And it is from the Scriptural truth of a good beginning that Lewis apparently derives his doctrine of evil. Scripture itself doesn’t give us much by way of explanation in this regard, so I suppose Lewis’ view is acceptable as far as speculations go. He explains that evil’s existence is parasitic, that good must exist first before there can be a perversion of it, that evil cannot exist apart from a source of good. “That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work.”

3. The Shocking Alternative
I think it’s clear that up until this point I’ve given Lewis the benefit of every doubt, and that I have the greatest respect for him and his incredible abilities. I’ve tried to make concessions for his time and place – his unique station in life – whenever I’ve had concerns or disagreements, in particular as regards the ongoing absence of the use of Scripture thus far. I’ve allowed his more ambiguous statements to say what I hoped they were saying rather than the contrary possibility. But at this point an elephant has entered into the room. I’m not going to pretend it’s not there. Here is where Lewis and I begin to part theological paths. This is the chapter that guaranteed I will never pass this work on to an unbeliever, or a novice in the faith. Though I will continue to enjoy much of his work, I will not recommend him as an apologist.*

Here is where Lewis asks that age old question: “Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?” He answers, not from Scripture, but from philosophy. The reason the situation is what it is, he posits, is to leave room for “free-will”. He says, “You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.” And then he expands this statement of human experience to explain the state of the universe: “It is probably the same in the universe.” To be fair, he did say “probably”, but he never speaks again as if there was any doubt.

I have many objections to this free-will doctrine, but first I will present a condensed version of Lewis’ argument in his words. “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good, it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why then did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, it also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having? A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

First, I can imagine a being who is free but has no possibility of going wrong. His name is God. I can also imagine, because Scripture tells me to, being who are free but can not sin, namely the glorified saints in heaven. It does not follow that love cannot be true or rapturous unless it possible not to love. Real love does not cease to be voluntary simply because there is no alternative. An alternative can test the genuine character of the love, but it does not create it. My love for my husband does not become genuine and voluntary the day another man presents himself to me.

Secondly, Lewis states that free will is “the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” If this were true it would not mean that the love between God the Father and God the Son is not a love worth having. God cannot help but love His Son. Is His that love not worth having? God cannot sin. Is His will not free? Did Adam’s love for God grow after the prohibition? Was Adam a machine before God gave him a choice? No, Adam became a living spirit the moment God breathed life into him. So, the first man, newly formed in the image of God, was innocent and unmarred, but was not himself God. His goodness was a derived goodness. His ability to love was a derived ability. He was not the source of it, nor could he sustain it apart from God. The thing that made man unique of all creation was not his ability to choose, his "free will", but his capacity to know, understand, and love - in particular - to know, understand, and love the almighty God. (The will is merely the motivational function of the heart's understanding,knowledge, and love.)

God made man a being capable of knowing Him and appreciating His character, his diverse and perfect moral attributes. I once heard a man say that what makes the love of his wife more special than the love of his dog is that his wife has a choice whether to love him or not. His dog can't help but love him. (This was his argument for the necessity of free will.) Well, if that were really true, all he would have is his wife's decision and the unsettling knowledge that she could very well change her mind. No, what makes the love of a wife special to a man (assuming it really is more special to him than that of his dog) is not the fact that she could choose not to love him; rather, it is that she can know him in a way his dog cannot. She can relate to him as one like himself. She can love him for who he is, not just what he is. She is complex like him, able to see into his heart, so to speak, and appreciate to some degree what goes on there. Her love for him is rich and full of understanding. It is certainly no mistake that the Scripture speaks of marital love as “knowing”.

So, Lewis has set up a false dichotomy with a world of machines vs. a real world, with the only difference between the two being the ability to disobey. The way he sees it, a world full of living, breathing things capable of only good, and incapable of wrong choices is a machine world, not real. The way I see it, that world very nearly describes heaven.

This next statement about took my breath away: “Of course God knew what would happen if they used the freedom the wrong way; apparently He thought it worth the risk.” God, who knows the end from the beginning, can not, because of His very nature, take risks! I’m going to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt here, since I’m quite certain, if cornered, he would not turn out to be an open theist.

It is Lewis’ take that “God thinks this state of war in the universe” is a “price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings.” I will stop here for a brief moment and deal with the rationality of the argument, as it has no Scriptural basis. It seems to me that he’s contradicting his previous argument on the nature of evil and making real good dependent upon the ability to do evil. He’s implying that the essence of true goodness is the innate ability to do evil, making real goodness is dependent upon the capacity for evil. I will also add, at the end of this topic that I’ve found no such emphasis in Scripture on the value God places upon man’s free will.

Then Lewis seems to come back to earth for a bit, acknowledging that no human can adequately answer the question of how the “Dark Power” went wrong, (though I suspect that it’s not altogether different than how man, himself did, only with the absence of a tempter.) Lewis’ attempt at understanding is insightful: “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the centre – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan, and that was the sin he taught the human race.” And from this sin stem all the rest in history, as man tries futilely to find his life and happiness independently, apart from God. And this, says Lewis, is “the key to history”.

God, he says, did three things as a result of the fall: First, He left us our conscience. Second, He gave mankind redemption myths – “good dreams…queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions”. And Thirdly, He selected the Jews and “spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was…”.

And “then comes the real shock. Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He were God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.” Lewis’ discussion here of the shocking nature of the forgiveness of sins is first rate. “I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker if God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself… But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other man’s toes and stealing other men’s money?…Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken…” Yes, and Amen! This is a fantastic argument for the deity of Christ.

And then comes Lewis’ classic and priceless argument: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

4. The Perfect Penitent
Left with only one viable option, that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, Lewis moves on to discuss the purpose of His death and resurrection which Christians are “constantly talking about”. He discussed briefly that there are various “theories” as to the “point of this dying”, and disappointingly dismisses their importance. He sums up the main point this way: “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start….We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity.” And with that kernel I certainly agree.

He makes passing reference to the notion of the penal nature of the substitution of Christ – “the one about our being let off because Christ had volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us.” He seems not to recommend us to take ‘paying the penalty’ “in the sense of being punished” (I’m not clear as to why he has a problem with that aspect of redemption, since if the penalty for my sin is death, which Scripture clearly tells me, I certainly hope someone would bear my punishment on my behalf – and Isaiah certainly does tell me that He was bruised for my transgressions.) Lewis prefers instead, to think of it merely in the sense of a debt: “there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not…when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.”

From here Lewis discusses man’s condition as a rebel against God and his need for repentance. He makes a profound statement, “Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it…the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it.” These are very true words, paradoxically stated, about the condition of man. I would add, however that the inability of man is a moral one. It is an inability of the will. Man cannot repent, because man does not want to. His evil desires prevent him.

But perhaps it is because he omits the willful/moral nature of man’s inability, that he is able from this excellent statement to go on to expound a rather synergistic view of salvation. Lewis seems to assume that folks, on their own, really want to submit to God, but can’t, and therefore just need a little help. But again his wording was a bit ambiguous, so it could be that I’m misunderstanding him on this point.

His brief explanation of the incarnation is lovely: “But supposing God became man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we man share in God’s dying…but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”

5. The Practical Conclusion
As a result of Christ’s work, “In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.” This is a beautiful statement, but what follows is nothing short of disturbing. “There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper. At least, those are the three ordinary methods….Anyone who professes to teach you Christian doctrine will, in fact, tell you to use all three…” There is so much that is ambiguous and objectionable in that statement that I barely know where to begin. So, I will only state the key omission – the Scripture. The absence of the mention that such a thing as the written word of God even exists – this far into the book, and at this point in the discussion is profoundly disappointing. Where will this “belief” come from is not from hearing the word of God?

And the rest of the chapter continued to disappoint. I’ll try to be brief as we near the end and provide some of the most questionable quotes as examples .

“Do not think I am setting up baptism and belief and the Holy Communion as things that will do instead of our own attempts to copy Christ.” (This is an ambiguous statement which could mean that it’s not enough to call Him your Savior, if you don’t obey His word; or it could mean that salvation is based upon a combination of faith plus works.)

“..a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam – he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts.” (Another ambiguous statement, seeming to imply at once that salvation can be lost, and that it can’t .)

This one’s not questionable. It’s one of those lovely little nuggets in the middle of the muddle: “He [the Christian] does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

And here is the most questionable bit of the whole chapter: “Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved though Him.” And here I will state that Lewis is first, evading the point and secondly just plain wrong. (See. John 14:6, Acts 4: 12, and Eph. 2: 11-12). Since he’s now hinted at the possibility that faith in Christ may not be necessary for all, he seems to sense the inevitable, and spends the rest of the section in a struggle to convince his listeners that they should not let that prevent them from becoming a Christian.

Lewis has an amazing ability to draw respect, even from those who disagree. That is a gift I would surely like to have! In spite of how difficult this reading has been, I look forward to the next. We will be reading Book Three – Christian Behavior - next, after a break for the holidays. I suspect it will be smoother sailing now. Christmas blessings and Happy New Year to the rest of you readers.

* I chose to come and  re-visit this book seven years after this writing. Let me just say that I am astonished by my pomposity in this post. This was written during my early Calvinist years (aka "cage-stage").  Though my arguments with Lewis's reasoning still seem reasonable all these years later - I really only barely give a flying hoot about whatever those doctrinal differences might be. I just the other day handed a copy of Mere Christianity to a friend whose daughter is struggling with the claims of Christianity. I am, these many years later, much closer to agreeing with Lewis than disagreeing, and am well-acquainted with the damage that the unfettered Calvinistic doctrines of the will and sovereignty of God can do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Filler

I've been working on a "real post" for a couple of days now, and trying to keep up with the Mere Christianity reading group. My "real post" is taking on a life of it's own and pretty much everything that truly interests me is wrapped up in it. My point is, because of my limited mental capacities, I don't seem to have much left over to write about.

I can tell about how today I did laundry and dishes, and about how Ginger peed on my bed 'cause I was ignoring her pleas to be taken out (She'd just been out an hour earlier, for Pete's sake!) Oh, and there's the ants. These have been the bane of the last three days of my existence. And the washer - I stopped one leak only to see three more, lesser leaks, sprout in its stead. The best part of the day was Paul getting home from work unexpectedly early, cookie platter in hand. We spent the afternoon together and then went to the local artsy theater to see Synecdoche, New York. It was a strange experience to sit fighting back tears while the bulk of the audience laughed uproariously - clearly misunderstanding everything. It was a devastating film, making me again thankful for the intervention of the Savior in my life. I wish I could review it here, but I simply do not have the skill. I think perhaps Paul should give it a try. But I will say this, life is not a dress rehearsal to be spent setting up the stage, trying out your lines, trying on hats for when the real production begins. Don't live your life for how it will play to others. Don't live for how it will sound when you blog about it, or rearrange it to look pretty in the pictures. Life is not a reality series - but it is real. Live your real life, in your real relationships with real people (not the people you imagine or hope them to be). Life the real life God has given you to live.


Oh, I got carried away. Here's some pictures from today:









That's Ginger. Isn't she lovely?

And Paul's in his element - the "multi-purpose room".

And that's the Chico City Plaza.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A meme from The Narrow Road

I saw this meme on my friend Andy C.'s blog and it looked like fun. Try it. Go through the list and bold the items you have done in your life.

1. Started your own blog (Really?)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (more than twenty years ago)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (4 years of German, which I still can't speak. 1st year New Testament Greek)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (it's actually a music box)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one (by abandonment, not by death)
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a mobile phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mere Christianity, Book One

Tim Challies is leading another on-line reading group through another Christian classic, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. I’ll be recording a summary and my few comments on the reading here. Let me say, I’ve found this to be an extremely difficult section to summarize. Lewis uses an admirable economy of words to convey some very profound points. It seems next to impossible to pare it down without losing a lot. I’m tempted just to say, "Go read the book!" But for the sake of my own retention, and anyone who may like an introduction to or a brief refresher on Mere Christianity, I’ll go ahead and give it my best effort.

This week’s reading was

Book I: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
Since so much ground was covered, I think I’ll just use Lewis’ sub-headings to keep things organized. For the sake of clarity, I will place Lewis' words in italics.

This first section is summed up simply: "These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in."

1. The Law of Human Nature
The "Law of Nature" he speaks of could also be called the "Law of Human Nature" or the "Moral Law". It differs from what we think of as a "Law of Nature" mainly in this: "that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it….Each man is at every moment subjected to several sets of law but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey." (This certainly sets the mind to pondering the unique nature of man, and what it is that sets him apart from the rest of creation, as well as what it is about man that bears the image of God. I don’t claim to have that complex matter puzzled out. Perhaps volition in its purest form was a reflection of the rational nature of God which He imparted to man – a nature given man for the sake of dominion over creation – a nature able to act apart from mere "programming". Anyway, this is not really to the point at hand.)

One of my favorite of Lewis’ arguments is the argument from excuses, specifically the excuses folks make for not keeping the Moral law. "The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much – we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so – that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves."

2. Here Lewis responds to the objections of those who would argue that what he’s calling the Moral Law, is really nothing more than "herd instinct". He first points out that we often experience conflicting instincts, and when we do there is "this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged" and that this thing that judges "cannot itself be either of them.…this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them." (Am I alone in having been reminded of Romans 7 here?)

He points out secondly that "If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature’s mind except those two instincts. Obviously the stronger of the two must win. But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral Law, it usually seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses. You probably want to be safe much more than you want to help the man who is drowning; but the Moral Law tells you to help him all the same. And surely it often tells us to try to make the right impulse stronger than it naturally is?…But clearly we are not acting from instinct when we set about making an instinct stronger than it is. The thing that says to you , ‘Your herd instinct is asleep. Wake it up.’ cannot itself be the herd instinct."

And thirdly: "There is none of our impulses which the Moral Law may not sometimes tell us to suppress, and none which it may not sometimes tell us to encourage….Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or any set of instincts; it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts….The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any on impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide."

He goes on to explain why he feels the Moral Law is a "real truth" like mathematics, as opposed to mere convention. His reasons are two-fold:
"…that though there are differences between the moral ideas of one time or country and those of another, the differences are not really very great."
"When you think about these differences between the morality of one people and another, do you think that the morality of one people is ever better or worse than that of another? Have any of the changes been improvements?…In fact, of course, we all do believe that some moralities are better than others….The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other….You are, in fact comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others."

2. The Reality of the Law
Here follows what I find to be a very compelling argument: "The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean ‘what Nature, in fact, does.’ But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behavior, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean ‘what human beings, in fact, do’; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely. The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not. In other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual facts. You have the facts (how men do behave), and you also have something else (how they ought to behave). In the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts."
He sums it up this way: "It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour, and yet quite definitely real – a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.

3. What Lies Behind the Law
Here he tackles the two predominant views of the universe held during his time, the materialist view and the religious view. (As an endnote he includes what, interestingly enough has become a prominent view in our day, the Life-force philosophy, or Creative Evolution, or Emergent Evolution.)
Those who hold to the materialist view "think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows why."
The religious view holds that "what is behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know. That is to say, it is conscious, and has purposes, and prefers one thing to another."

He then speaks to the limitations of science: "Please do not think that one of these views was held a long time ago and that the other has gradually taken its place. Wherever there have been thinking men both views turn up. And note this too. You cannot find out which view is the right one by science in the ordinary sense. Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave….But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes – something of a different kind – this is not a scientific question. If there is ‘Something Behind,’ then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them." Well, I wish that could be said for a few of our more prominent atheistic popular scientists these days. Nowadays it seems even scientists want to be rock stars and cult heroes. But I drift from point.

So, since there’s a whole universe out there that we can only know by means of external observation, where then can we go to look behind the scenes, so to speak? To this Lewis would say: "There is only one thing, and only one, in the whole universe which we know more about than we could learn from external observation. That one thing is Man. We do not merely observe men, we are men. In this case we have, so to speak, inside information; we are in the know. And because of that, we know that men find themselves under a moral law, which they did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try, and which they know they ought to obey….There is only one case in which we can know whether there is anything more, namely our own case, and in that one case we find there is…The only packet I am allowed to open is Man. When I do, especially when I open that particular man called Myself, I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way."

Now, as to the end note, the Life-Force philosophy: "we must ask them whether by Life-Force they mean something with a mind or not. If they do, then ‘a mind bringing life into existence and leading it to perfection; is really a God, and their view is thus identical with the Religious. If they do not, then what is the sense in saying that something without a mind ‘strives’ or has ‘purposes’? This seems to me fatal to their view. One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences." I’d like to add that from what I’ve learned recently about Lewis’ theology in a lecture series from Reformed Theological Seminary (check it out for free on itunes.edu!), Lewis was a theistic evolutionist. This is not to be confused with the view he referred to above as "Creative Evolution". His view was that God, personal and eternal, created the heavens and the earth using evolution as a means to that end, and with a special creative act pertaining to mankind that distinguishes him as unique among God’s creation.

5. We Have Cause to Be Uneasy
At this point Lewis addresses the folks who might feel like he’s tricked them by using philosophy to point them to "one more ‘religious jaw’." These are folks that consider religion to be old-school, long since out of date. These are folks that feel we’ve long since progressed beyond that. It’s to these folks he says: "We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about –turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man….There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake." He also reminds these folk that "we have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity."

We’ve gotten as far as we can get based upon two bits of evidence: the Universe and the Moral Law. "You find out more about God from the Moral Law than from the universe in general just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than by looking at a house he has built. Now, from this second bit of evidence we conclude that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct – in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty and truthfulness. In that sense we should agree with the account given by Christianity and some other religions, that God is ‘good’. But do not let us go too fast here. The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is ‘good’ in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails." All this runs along quite nicely, I might add, with Romans 1 & 2.

"That is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies."

Really, to my experience, truer words have hardly been spoken. That "terrible fix" is what had me for years drinking, chain-smoking, and popping anti-depressants, trying above all to dull my sensibility of that predicament.

And so Lewis wraps up Book 1, "Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor….All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts – to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying facts."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The things I can accomplish when I don't blog:

I can reduce the size of the leak from my washer and purchase epoxy to hopefully eliminate it altogther, saving many hundreds of dollars.
I can paint the first wall of my kitchen green. (See preliminary before and after pics. The lighting for the after pic is terrible, so you can't really tell how pretty it is. Oh, and there's the sink full of dishes I was talking about. The lighting in the before pic is so good, you can't really tell how bad it really looked.)























I can recover the ottoman the cats turned into a scratching post.


I can do every stitch of laundry in the house and put it away.



I can make a giant pot of exactly fantastic black bean soup.


I can drive a friend to the store and to visit my mother.


And even more...but I still have a sink full of dishes!



Oh, and this...


Friday, December 5, 2008

Advent season in Nazi Germany

In 1940 Time Magazine published this Christmastime article addressing the predicament of Christians in Nazi Germany. It's nearly inconceivable they would publish an article with such a tone today. So often I've been given the impression that the German Christians sat idly by while Hitler carried on his murderous and immoral campaign against the Jews and other "undesirables". That is clearly a misrepresentation of the truth. He sold them a bill of goods at the beginning of his dominion which most accepted, until his true colors began to show. This is a fairly lengthy article, but well worth reading with prayers for wisdom in our own time, and strength to stand for the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A day off

Paul and I both had the day off from work. I made waffles for breakfast, using my new mixer for the first time. Strangely enough, they tasted markedly better than when I made them with the hand mixer. I'm not sure why this is the case. I think the texture was much improved. Paul commented on it as well, so I know it's not just my imagination.


So, after lollygagging around a while longer, we headed out to get a Christmas tree. I decided to get a much smaller tree this year and am very happy with that outcome. Last year's was an 8 ft. bushy monstrosity that we couldn't keep the cats out of, and that took a huge bite out of our already limited floorspace. For this one I didn't even have to rearrange the furniture. Tomorrow we'll set about decorating it.

After that adventure we headed off to buy some books to put on-line. Then it was time to take my mom to a doctor appointment. This month is going to be full of those. For some reason all her check-ups and lab tests backed up into December. In addition to that, she broke a tooth over the weekend and will need to see an oral surgeon to remove the root and the tooth next to it, which the dentist says is about to fall apart, too. All I can say is, getting old 'aint for wimps!

Sometime this month I'm determined to bake Christmas cookies. The kitchen's paint job may have to wait. We'll see.

Heres's the tree. It looks much bigger when I stand next to it than when Paul does. I'll post another picture once we get it decorated.




Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A few more pics




I've been gradually accumulating photos from my husband's blog and saving them to my computer. Here're a few recent ones I thought were fun. The ones in the living room really hightlight the horrible wallpaper that came with the house. We didn't know it was there when we bought it because the tenants who lived here when we viewed the house had stuff piled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. It was pretty clear that they were hoping to keep the house from getting sold. So, when we took possession we were shocked to find that dizzying eighties southwestern zigzag. Paul, who is by no means picky about such things, vowed that stuff would be the first thing to go. I agreed. It'll be two years on April 1, since the day I moved in. It's still there. But we still plan to get to it, after I've painted the kitchen; after we've redone the floors in the spare bedroom and made a den of it.
The picture of me is Paul's new favorite. I like it,too. It's the first one I've liked since our wedding. That really cool coat finally fell apart later that day, so I'm glad I got a picture of it.

Just one more link...

I couldn't resist this one. It's a little commentary on one of the stranger paradoxes of our times: children being treated like grown-ups while grown-ups behave like children. Have a read.

Another one to file under "Just when I thought I'd heard everything"

Here's a story out of the UK.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Early comparisons and contrasts (Edwards & Lewis)

As any dear soul who reads this blog is already aware, I've recently completed reading through Jonathan Edwards' book Religious Affections with a group of bloggers at www.challies.com. Now Tim Challies is leading us through another classic, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. (I'm very excited to have my husband participating in this reading as well!) It's really amazing to follow a great Calvinistic thinker with a great non-Calvinistic one. (I'm not experienced enough in things-Lewis to be able to classify him more specifally than that.) Because the last reading is so fresh in my mind, and because Edwards has left a deep impression, I find it nearly impossible not to make comparisons.

One of the main thrusts of Edwards' Religious Affections was to enable discernment between false and true Christianity in oneself and in others. So as I headed into Lewis, it seemed I was met almost immediately with a contradiction to Edwards' entire premise. Lewis says in his Preface: "It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense....We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to 'the disciples,' to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were 'far closer to the spirit of Christ' than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian."

As I said, this statement seemed to me, on the surface to contradict Edwards. And this is one of the benefits of listening to different viewpoints. I went back to Edwards and found that though I would not say the two were in complete agreement, I can definitely say, they weren't so far apart as it first seemed. Though I think Edwards would be more inclined to refer to a professing Christian who lives in clear and prolonged disobedience to Christ as a hypocrite, than to refer to him as a "bad Christian"; at heart their attitudes are very similar. (This difference may also stem in part from a different aim: Lewis' apologetic, and Edwards' pastoral.) Here's how Edwards treats the matter: "That I am far from undertaking to give such signs of gracious affections, as shall be sufficient to enable any certainly to distinguish true affection from false in others; or to determine positively which of their neighbors are true professors, and which are hypocrites. In so doing, I should be guilty of that arrogance which I have been condemning. Though it be plain that Christ has given rules to all Christians, to enable 'em to judge of professors of religion, whom they are concerned with, so far as is necessary for their own safety, and to prevent their being led into a snare by false teachers, and false pretenders to religion...'tis also evident, that it was never God's design to give us any rules, by which we may certainly know, who or our fellow professors are his, and to make a full and clear separation between sheep and goats: but on the contrary, it was God's design to reserve this to himself, as his prerogative." (p. 193, 1959 Yale Ed.) And later he adds: "But nothing that appears to them in their neighbor, can be sufficient to beget an absolute certainty concerning the state of his soul: for they see not his heart, nor can they see all his external behavior; for much of it is in secret, and hid from the eye of the world: and 'tis impossible certainly to determine, how far a man may go in many external appearances and imitations of grace..." (pg 420).

Both men are in agreement that it is impossible to see into a man's heart, and that it is arrogant to insist otherwise. However, as I said before, each man had an entirely different purpose in making his assertion. Each comes at the matter from a different angle, with Edwards focusing more on not being able to judge a heart no matter how good a "Christian" someone may seem; and Lewis on not judging regardless of how bad a "Christian" someone may seem. I think Edwards has the Biblical edge in this case, because of an abundance of Scripture which indicates the idea that we can "know the tree by it's fruit". But I'm also happy and relieved to find marked agreement between these two very gifted, very godly, and very different men.

(All emphasis in bold is my own.)