Tag Archives: C. S. Lewis

I Recommend

This past week, I shared the following links on social media and I think they’re worth sharing here too:

Does Systemic Racism Exist?

That’s a provocative question in today’s environment.  Samuel Sey’s answer will stir up your grey matter.

When C.S. Lewis was an atheist…

This is an excerpt from Douglas Bond’s book War in the Wasteland.

Why haven’t we heard from ET?

Jon Dykstra considers the possibilities and comes up with what seems to me to be the most likely answer.

A Free People’s Suicide? — The End of Law and Order in the West

I’m sure you’ve heard the rallying cries of either defunding or dismantling police forces around the world.  What could possibly go wrong?  David Robertson provides some penetrating analysis of the spirit of the age, a spirit which is increasingly lawless and illogical.

Does the Condition of Your Church Facility Matter to Guests?

“I find that many church members take better care of their homes, boats, cars, motorcycles, and even their pets than they do their ministry facilities. Is this acceptable to you? It is not to me, and I suggest that the church (big “C”) wake up, take notice, and do something about it. I believe that God will hold each of us responsible and accountable for how we steward every resource entrusted to us.”  And even more than stewardship, this is about the gospel.  When we show that value the church and its facilities poorly, it reflects poorly on the rich gospel we aim to preach there.

Greed, Heresy, and the Prosperity Gospel

The White Horse Inn is one of my favourite radio programs.  This episode features a powerful interview with two ex-insiders from the prosperity “gospel” world.  Costi Hinn is a nephew of Benny Hinn; Michael Cerullo is a grandson of Morris Cerullo.

 

 


Lyin’ to Yourself

If you only know where to look, self-deception is all around us.  It’s in old 80s songs.  John Waite sang about lying to himself that he ain’t missing you.  It’s in literature.  One of my favourite examples is from C.S. Lewis.  The Magician’s Nephew is the first of the Chronicles of Narnia.  Narnia has just been created by Aslan.  The animals are meeting with Aslan and at a certain point Aslan begins singing.  All of this was observed by Uncle Andrew. This is what Lewis wrote next:

When the great moment came and the Beasts spoke, he missed the whole point; for a rather interesting reason.  When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song.  And he had disliked the song very much.  It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel.  Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (‘only a lion,’ as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make himself believe that that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing – only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world.  ‘Of course it can’t really have been singing,’ he thought, ‘I must have imagined it.  I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order.  Who ever heard of a lion singing?’ And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring.  Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.  Uncle Andrew did.  He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song.  Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to.

That’s a classic example of self-deception.

The Bible speaks about this phenomenon, especially in relation to people and their knowledge of God.  Nowhere is this more direct than Romans 1.  Romans 1 says that all people know, at some level, that the true God exists.  However, not all people acknowledge his existence.  There’s a crucial difference between knowing something and acknowledging something.  Romans 1:18 says that unbelievers “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” about God.  That’s telling us that unbelief isn’t an intellectual failure.  Instead, it’s a profound moral problem.  Unbelievers make the moral choice to pretend the true God isn’t there.  This is an evil choice for which they’re fully responsible.  Romans 1:20 says that they’re “without excuse.”  They have no ground to stand on before God’s judgment.  They’re going to be held accountable for their choice to know about the true God and yet refuse to acknowledge him.

The truth is every person knows deep within them that they’ve broken God’s law.  Moreover, they know they’ll stand in judgment for that.  Romans 1:32 speaks the truth, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”  What keeps an unbeliever from openly acknowledging this?  It’s simply the most irrational thing in the universe:  sin.  As it says in Romans 1:21, sin leads to futile thinking and darkened hearts.

What’s the way out of this profound self-deception with regards to the true God?  Regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can bring light to the darkened heart.  Only the Holy Spirit can bring purpose and meaning to our thinking.  Only he can lead us to acknowledge God and, even more, trust in him.  But it’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit uses means.  He uses people who speak the truth of God’s Word to challenge the foolishness of self-deception (1 Pet. 1:23-25).  What the self-deceived need more than anything is someone to come along with the truth, to pull the façade down, to rip off the mask, and show the way things really are.  When we do that with the requisite love and humility of our Saviour, God can use that to work regeneration and faith.


Book Review: Know Why You Believe

Know Why You Believe, K. Scott Oliphint.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017.  Softcover, 221 pages.

There’s a need for different types of books on apologetics.  We need the books on theory – and there are plenty of them.  Several efforts have been made over the years to write books specifically addressed to unbelieving skeptics.  However, so far as I’m aware, there haven’t been too many books written for believers at a popular level.  I’m talking about the kind of book you could give to your teenage son or daughter when they start asking hard questions about the Christian faith.  This is that book.

As a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Dr. Scott Oliphint is well-qualified to write this kind of work.  He has a great grasp of the background philosophical and theological issues – and this is evident in his more scholarly apologetics books.  Yet he also has a track record of accessible writing for popular audiences – for example, some years ago I reviewed his great series of biblical studies entitled The Battle Belongs to the Lord: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith.  He’s done it again.  Except for a couple of more technical sections, most of Know Why You Believe should be comprehensible to the average reader from young adults upwards.

The book launches with this profound quote from C.S. Lewis at his best:  “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  That really sets the tone for everything following.  One of the reasons I really love this book and can highly recommend it is because it takes God’s Word seriously.  It takes Psalm 36:9 seriously:  “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”  God’s light especially shines forth in his Word.  If you want to see clearly, you need to see things God’s way.  This is also true when it comes to the reasons for believing the Christian faith.  The best and most trustworthy reasons come from God himself – the faithful God who never lies.  That’s the basic approach undergirding Know Why You Believe – a biblical, Reformed approach to apologetics.

Oliphint covers 10 questions we might struggle with:

  • Why believe in the Bible?
  • Why believe in God?
  • Why believe in Jesus?
  • Why believe in miracles?
  • Why believe Jesus rose from the dead?
  • Why believe in salvation?
  • Why believe in life after death?
  • Why believe in God in the face of modern science?
  • Why believe in God despite the evil in the world?
  • Why believe in Christianity alone?

Each chapter deals with one of these questions.  It explains the reasons and then also addresses responses or objections that might arise.  There are also “Questions for Reflection” and recommended readings with every chapter.

Just touching on one chapter, the second last deals with the problem of evil.  It describes the problem and then explores two ways in which Christians have tried to address it, albeit unsatisfactorily.  Instead, Oliphint attempts to offer biblical reasons as to how evil can co-exist with a good God.  He points out that God has recognized the problem of evil from before creation.  Furthermore, God created human beings in his image as responsible agents.  When Adam and Eve fell, God rightly judged their sin.  The real blame for evil is on them, not God.  He then points out how God himself has dealt with, is dealing with, and will deal with the problem of evil through his Son Jesus Christ.  This is a good explanation, but Oliphint might have said more.  For instance, he could have added that because God is good, he must have a morally good reason for allowing whatever evil there is to exist.

Not every Christian ponders the deeper questions of why we believe what we do.  But if you or someone you know does, this will be a great read.  It would also make a great gift for consistories to give to young people who make public profession of faith.


Essential Latin for Reformed Christians: Sensus divinitatis

English has many Latin roots.  Many Latin expressions can therefore be intuitively decoded without much effort, even apart from a working knowledge of the language.  Sensus divinitatis shouldn’t be too hard to work out as “sense of divinity.”  The idea is sometimes found with a synonymous expression:  semen religionis or “seed of religion.”  The concept behind both is the biblical teaching that all human beings have some sense that God exists.

The key biblical passage is found in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:18-20)

The Holy Spirit says here that God has shown certain things about himself to all people.  His “eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived.”  This obviously includes the awareness of his very existence.  God does not believe in the existence of atheists, and neither should we!

When you encounter someone who claims to be an atheist, you are meeting someone self-deceived.  They have deceived themselves into a position they actually know not to be true.  And according to the Holy Spirit in Romans 1, this is not a person with an intellectual problem, but a moral one.  This suppressing of the truth is done in “unrighteousness.”  It is wicked to have the sensus divinitatis and then not acknowledge the Deity.  It leaves unbelievers “without excuse” — literally without an apologetic, without a reasonable defense for what they’re doing.

This suppression of the sensus divinitatis has been compared to a jack-in-the-box.  For those who have no idea what such a thing is, I’ve included a picture at the top of this post.  “Jack” has to be stuffed down into the box.  “Jack” does not cease to exist.  He is still there, but has been pushed down into the box, out of sight.  Our calling as Christians is to turn the crank, so to speak.  Our calling is to bring the truth out into the open, so that the unbeliever might acknowledge God for who he is, and submit to him with faith and repentance.

The concept of the sensus divinitatis is therefore important for defending and promoting our faith, for apologetics.  At the heart of biblical apologetics is the notion that the unbeliever already knows God is there, but is suppressing that truth in unrighteousness.  The unbeliever is sinfully living in self-deception.  Biblical apologetics equips us with the tools to expose this fantasy world of the unbeliever for what it really is.  Through apologetics, we learn how to demonstrate that, while denying God with their lips, unbelievers show with their lives that they are self-deceived.   To use the words of Proverbs 26:4,5, through apologetics we learn both how to “answer not a fool according to his folly” (to lay out the truth), and to “answer a fool according to his folly” (to expose the foolish fantasy of unbelief).

In his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis comments tellingly about his life before acknowledging God:

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions.  I maintained that God did not exist.  I was also very angry with God for not existing.  I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.

You see, the sensus divinitatis is real, found not only in the words of Scripture, but also in human experience.  So remember the next time you’re speaking with an unbeliever that not everything is as it seems.  Your unbelieving friend actually knows God to some degree, but wickedly pushes that truth down.  Pray that you can be God’s instrument to pull the truth up and out into the open.


The Art of Prophesying

What does a pastor (or aspiring pastor) read for personal edification?  Well, if you follow the advice of C. S. Lewis, you’ll be making sure that at least some of your edifying reading comes from older writers.  Most of my favourite older writers are Puritans.  Those godly Reformed men blended great learning with passion and commitment to Christ.  My friend Chris Gordon is big on William Perkins (1558-1602), often regarded as the first of the English Puritans.  So last week I was at Reformed Book Services in nearby Brantford and I picked up Perkin’s The Art of Prophesying.  It’s published in the Puritan Paperbacks series put out by Banner of Truth and includes another little work by Perkins, The Calling of the Ministry.  This edition has been revised by Sinclair Ferguson and is very readableThe Art of Prophesying is a little homiletics handbook.  The Calling of the Ministry features expositions of two passages (Job 33:23-24 and Isaiah 6:5-9) with an eye to the bearing of these passages on pastoral ministry.  This is an excellent little book — unfortunately, I don’t think the text of the book is available online.  Of course, you can purchase it from the usual sorts of online retailers.