Monday, March 28, 2016

Peter Kreeft Quote #3

The modern mind was born when [Francis] Bacon trumpeted "man's conquest of nature" as the new summum bonum [highest good]. Nearly everyone hopped on his bandwagon, but not Pascal. Today nearly everyone can plainly see that Pascal was right and Bacon wrong; that man's conquest of nature by science and technology, despite its spectacular success, has not made us happier, has not made us wiser and has not made us holier. It has not even made us more powerful; the individual feels a far greater sense of impotence today than ever before.

Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, p. 126
I deal with technology and technology professionals in my work, and my observation is that many people are so enamored with the "spectacular success" of technology that they would not see the problems Kreeft is describing in this quote. To such people, I will just point out that our current problems with the environment spring from this idea of the "conquest of nature".

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Why is that important to us? It is because it shows us that Jesus Christ has conquered death. He has shown us that human life is more than a few decades on this planet followed by death. God intends for us to live with him eternally, so he became man in Jesus Christ, conquered death on the cross, and rose again as the first of a new humanity that lives forever with God.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Prince Caspian

 Prince Caspian book cover


My favorite part of Prince Caspian is Lucy's encounter with Aslan when no one else is able to see him. The four Pevensie children, along with Trumpkin the Dwarf, are journeying through the woods to get to where Prince Caspian and the Old Narnians are besieged by the army of Caspian's uncle Miraz. They come to a river and decide to go downstream when Lucy catches site of Aslan in the opposite direction and knows that he wants them to go that way. No one else sees Aslan, and Lucy can't explain how she knows what he wants them to do. They take a vote on which way to go, and the vote goes against Lucy. However, when they get to the place where that river joins the Great River, they found enemy sentries there and have to turn back and retrace their steps.

They camp that night in the woods. Lucy wakes in the middle of the night and sees Aslan again. He speaks to her and says that there is work for her to do and much time has been lost that day. Lucy tries to blame the others for not believing her, but Aslan won't let her get away with that. "I couldn't have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?" she says. "Don't look at me like that... oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn't have been alone, I know, not if I was with you." Lucy then asks Aslan what would have happened if she had followed him.

"To know what would have happened, child?" said Aslan. "No. Nobody is ever told that... But anyone can find out what will happen. If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me--what will happen? There is only one way of finding out."

Lucy goes through the difficult task of waking the others and telling them they must leave at once to follow Aslan, but they are still unable to see him so they resist her. She tells them she is going whether anyone else goes with her or not and proceeds to follow Aslan. With lots of grumbling, the rest of them follow her. As they proceed, one by one the rest of the party begin to see Aslan also as he leads them to their destination. They arrive by a path they would have never found by themselves, and they get there just in time to provide critical help.

Although few of us will have a vision from God like Lucy had, anyone who tries to follow Christ will find themselves in a similar situation where obedience to Christ means doing something no one else understands. Being the only one to follow a certain course can provoke negative reactions, including accusations of being difficult and self-righteous. It is very tempting to give up at that point, and we often do. If we do give up, we never know what we missed, but if we follow, we get to see what God will do. If Peter had never stepped out of the boat, he would have never known he could walk on water.

As you seek God, do not judge what you learn by the standards of the world. It may be that God is asking you to take a path that others will not understand.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Peter Kreeft Quote #2

"Science builds skyscrapers, philosophy inspects foundations."

Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, p. 42

Peter Kreeft Quote #1

"If we seek the truth without realizing how far we are from it, we will be dogmatists. If we realize how far we are from it but do not seek it, we will be skeptics. If we both seek the truth and realize how far we are from it, we will be wise."

Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, p. 63

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 Darica Lion

One of the things I'm doing for Lent is instead of listening to the radio in the car, I'm listening to a CD audiobook edition of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I was telling an English teacher friend of mine, who actually teaches the books at our school, that I was listening to it, and she asked me which book was my favorite. I had difficulty picking one, so I thought I would write about what I liked about each one.


These posts are intended for those who have already read the books and would like to reflect on them, so I will be discussing key plot points that will likely be spoilers for those who don't know the story.

I first read The Chronicles when I was in high school. Within the past year, I had converted from atheism to Christianity, and I was eagerly finding out all I could about my new faith. My approach to Christianity had been mostly intellectual, and although I recognized the importance of Jesus as the one who accomplished our salvation, it wasn't until I read about Aslan in the Narnia books that my love for Jesus began to develop.

I know that many people have trouble understanding the idea of having a "personal relationship" with Jesus. The fact is, Jesus is a person, and he wants us to relate to him as a person. He wants our friendship. He wants us to talk to him and tell him our deepest needs. He also wants us to listen to him. For some people, Narnia may be what they need to grow in their friendship with Christ.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW) was not only the first Narnia book written, but it is the foundation on which the others are built. It is unfortunate that there are editions of The Chronicles now that put The Magician's Nephew as the first book because although it portrays events that happened earlier, it is clearly meant to provide a background for a story already known. LWW introduces the Pevensie children, around which the seven books revolve, and it has the central act of redemption that not only saves the life of one of the children, Edmund, but also saves Narnia from the reign of the White Witch. This salvation ushers in the "golden age" of Narnia, where the four children reign as kings and queens in the capital, Cair Paravel, until the time comes when they are returned to our world. This salvation from the White Witch and resulting golden age is referred to in all of the other books.

The central event of LWW is the sacrifice of Aslan at the hands of the White Witch on the stone table, and the resurrection that follows. I think it is a mistake to get too theological about this event. Although it is meant to refer to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, there are aspects of Aslan's story that don't line up quite right with the story of Jesus. Rather, the value of this story is how it can help us to contemplate the love of Jesus when we see the love of Aslan portrayed. It is the power of fiction to take us out of our own world and place us in another setting that helps us see the truths of our world in a different light. I had been numb to the image of Jesus on the cross, but when I saw this powerful lion allowing himself to be bound, shaved, and executed, especially when it is portrayed through the eyes of the children who love him, I got a sense of the sorrow of the crucifixion like never before. Then when the girls later find he has come back to life, the joy and triumph I felt continues to be a part of the joy I now feel when I contemplate Jesus' resurrection.

The triumph that is felt in Aslan's resurrection is a mood that permeates the latter half of the book as the witch's power fades, and Spring returns to Narnia. I think Lewis wants us to adopt this triumphant mood in our lives. Although many struggles and trials are ahead, the power of evil is failing, and Jesus is the king of kings.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A Boy and His Walkman

Mike rode the bus to school every day. His mother made him leave the house early, causing him to wait at the bus stop for several minutes each day. There was only one other boy who waited at that stop, but he didn't talk to Mike. The other boy had headphones over his ears connected to a thing called a "Walkman" clipped to his belt. Mike envied the boy because he appeared to have a great time waiting for the bus, while Mike was just bored. The other boy's head swayed back and forth, he tapped his foot, and he often moved his hands as if he were writing in the air. His eyes were closed and he had a smile on his face as if he were in ecstasy.

Mike got some money for his birthday, so he decided to buy himself a Walkman. The next morning, Mike put on the headphones and plugged them into the Walkman, which he clipped on his belt just like the other boy did. He stood at the bus stop with his Walkman, but he didn't feel anything. He was still bored, the only difference being that he now had the discomfort of the headphones squeezing his ears. Then Mike realized what was wrong, so he closed his eyes, tapped his foot, swayed his head, and slowly moved his hands. Mike tried to force a smile, but it didn't last long because he didn't feel better. In fact, he felt silly. He opened his eyes and looked around to see if anyone saw what he was doing. "This thing doesn't work for me," he thought, so that afternoon he took the Walkman back to the store and got his money back.

Although it is unlikely that anyone would buy a music player and not put music in it, many people try out Christianity, but are disappointed when they don't get anything out of it. People might try going to church for a while, attending some classes, or reading the Bible and some other books. When that doesn't seem to do anything for them, they might try to imitate what they see other Christians doing, including using a certain vocabulary, dressing a certain way, following certain rules, saying certain prayers, or participating in church social activities. They might work very hard to conform to an image of a Christian that they see, but the only results are a lot of frustration. They come to the conclusion that the whole Christianity thing doesn't work for them, but maybe they are neglecting a key part of the Christian experience; maybe they are missing something that is as essential as a music cassette is for a Walkman.

The whole point of Christianity is reconciliation with God, leading to an intimate relationship with him. He is our heavenly Father, and we are his children. All of the other aspects of the Christian life should lead towards or flow from this relationship with God. However, entering into this relationship with God is not as easy as popping in a cassette or downloading an mp3 because there is an obstacle that must be overcome before such a relationship can happen. We are members of a race that has declared independence from God and is in rebellion against him. The salvation that God offers through Jesus Christ is to transform us from rebels into friends and to give us the joy and peace that comes from living in harmony with the creator rather than fighting against him. Such a transformation requires that we admit we are rebels, lay down our arms, and let God change our lives.

Monday, March 07, 2016

I shall never be shaken

 Philosophy Consoling Boethius and Fortune Turning the Wheel

Psalm 30 begins, like many Psalms, with praise to God for having saved the psalmist from danger, but in the middle is a stanza that caught my attention as especially relevant today.
I said to myself in my good fortune:
"I shall never be shaken."
O LORD, your favor had set me like a mountain stronghold.
Then you hid your face, and I was put to confusion.
This stanza struck me as describing a common problem among us middle class American Christians. We work to build a secure and comfortable life with a sound career path, happy family, and retirement plan. Although these are prudent goals to have, they are not the point of life, which is to grow in our love for God until it fills and directs our lives.

When we find ourselves in "good fortune," we must remember that it is God's favor that placed us there. There may come a time, however, when God decides it is better for us that he hide his face, removing us from that state of good fortune. It may be because we had a false confidence in our circumstances that led us to believe: "I shall never be shaken."

The financial crash of 2008 caught many people off guard. The American Dream that I grew up with has evaporated for many of us, but was that dream ever the plan of God for his children? I believe that God has blessed this country, but that doesn't mean that the pursuit of material prosperity should be our life plan. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that and are now willing to follow anyone who appears to be able to restore that American Dream, no matter how shady he is.

I believe that as a country, we will soon experience hardships that are unprecedented in my lifetime. If that happens, we must follow the example of the psalmist, crying out to the Lord in humility, seeking his ways and his goals for our lives. We must praise him with rejoicing, knowing that he is working all things for the good of those who love him. That is, he is leading those who follow him to eternal life.