Posts Tagged ‘Quote’

To Be Like Stalks

Summers Waning Days

You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level.

The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.” – C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Proposes a Toast” (The Screwtape Letters)

Screwtape offers this advice in the advancement of jealousy in order to keep humans from faith or to keep those with faith from productive lives. Earlier, he’d said,

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior.

I find Lewis’ discussion on this especially relevant today. The way social issues are framed is in terms of “income inequality” and “marriage inequality.” In other words, what is being appealed to in the way the debate is framed is the very jealousy that Screwtape is desirous of. And, like the tyrant in the story, our political class is wielding it with great skill. Don’t fall for it. Someone else’s success is not your failure and our political elite only care enough to knock them down if it keeps you in line. Real answers are more complex.

Secret Rapture

[S.P.] Tregelles, a member of the [Plymouth] Brethren in those early days [~1830], tells us that the idea of a secret rapture at a secret coming of Christ had its origin in an “utterance” in Edward Irving’s church, and that this was taken to be the voice of the Spirit. Tregelles says, “It was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God.”1S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California. This doctrine together with other important modifications of the traditional futuristic view were vigorously promoted by [J.N.] Darby, and they have been popularized by the writings of William Kelly. – George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 40-41

Dispensationalism started in the Plymouth Brethern churches in England in the 1800s. One of the most distinctive beliefs of that system is that Jesus will secretly return before The Great Tribulation to remove, or Rapture, his church, i.e. take it out of the world so that God’s wrath can be poured out. Ladd, writing in the 1950s, said that the view was popularized by William Kelly. More recently this view was popularized by Tim LaHaye in his Left Behind series of books.

rapture1992This is the first time that I’ve heard that the teaching of a secret Rapture came from a supposed prophetic utterance. Keep in mind, this is one citation of one man. According to Ladd, Tregelles was a Brethren scholar respected for his work on the Greek New Testament. The “Edward Irving” mentioned was a man who spoke eloquently and widely on the imminence of Jesus’ return but in 1830 he published a tract that asserted that Jesus had a fallen human nature. Tregelles also said that the same “spirit” which gave the utterance was “not owning the true doctrine of our Lord’s incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin.” That is, Irwin’s error and it sounds like Tregelles is claiming that the “spirit” that announced a secret return of Jesus also revealed Jesus’ supposed fallen human nature.

If accurate, this does not cast a good light on the origins of Dispensationalism.

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1. S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, first published in 1864, and now available at Ambassadors for Christ, Los Angeles, California.

A Borrowed Optimism

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Offered as a follow on to my previous post.

None of these ideas–the goodness of the material [world], the progress of history, the dignity of individuals, the significance of choices, and the value of emotions–made any sense in an impersonal universe and therefore they had never arisen. Nietzsche’s great critique of modern secular humanism strikes at the irony of this point: Though none of these (basically Christian) moral ideas rationally follows from an impersonal universe, late modernity has inherited them, intensified and absolutized them, and cut them completely loose from any transcendent grounding fruit of Christian ideas and severed the root. Now all these ideas must be held in the face of what is thought to be a completely impersonal universe, even more impersonal than the ones believed in by ancient societies because it has no supernatural or spiritual aspect to it at all. – Tim Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, 129.

Late modernism borrows heavily from Christianity and absolutely refuses to acknowledge it. If the universe is impersonal, as science claims it must be, and history is pointless, then why get up in the morning? There’s no benefit to dragging a comb across the crown of your head because in 10,000 year, a blink of an eye to the impersonal universe around you, you won’t exist nor be remembered. Your contributions and efforts will have affected nothing. Late modernism borrows Christianity’s optimism and then criticizes us for the reasons for our hope.

Aimed at Heaven

img_20130430_161623Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else more. – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Impossibility of No Sabbath

The Sabbath was a holy sign of the covenant bond between God and His people. It was as much a part of the order of creation as was creative labor, and in being obedience in the work and rest, Israel would demonstrate its total allegiance to God.

As the Sabbath (like work and marriage) is rooted in the nature of creation, it is certain that the Sabbath (like work and marriage) was part of the cultural expression of Eden. While we have no explicit mention of human observance of the Sabbath in the first chapters of Genesis, the arguments made in passages such as Exodus 31 about the nature of the Sabbath indicate that God’s sanctifying of it (Genesis 2:2ff.) was from then on part of how creation functioned. The intimate fellowship between God and man in the Garden presupposes that man would honor what God had established as holy. Since the Fall is the first occurrence of human disobedience to the divine order established in creation, it is impossible that man would not have observed the Sabbath in the original culture of Eden. – Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes

Push Back the Crowd


The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to the other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, strong, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the the right parts of us. – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Not A Handbook for Life

We can open our Bibles for all sorts of odd reasons–as a religious duty, an attempt to earn God’s favor, or thinking that it serves as a moral self-help guide, a manual of handy tips for effective religious lives. That idea is actually one main reason so many feel discouraged in their Bible-reading. Hoping to find quick lessons for how they should spend today, people find instead a genealogy, or a list of various sacrifices. And how could page after page of histories, descriptions of the temple, instructions to priests, affect how I rest, work and pray today?

But when you see that Christ is the subject of all the Scriptures, that he is the Word, the Lord, the Son who reveals his Father, the promised Hope, the true Temple, the true Sacrifice, the great High Priest, the ultimate King, then you read, not so much asking, “What does this mean for me, right now?” but “What do I learn here of Christ?” Knowing that the Bible is about him and not me means that, instead of reading the Bible obsessing about me, I can gaze on him. And as through the pages you get caught up in the wonder of his story, you find your heart strangely pounding for him in a way you never would have if you treated the Bible as a book about you. – Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, 82-83

Faith is Foundational

As [18th century Scottish philosopher Thomas] Reid pointed out, to know anything about the world we must accept what our senses tell us. We can “dare to know” only if we trust the “testimony of our senses” (as [David] Hume called it.) Similarly for reason, memory, and our other cognitive faculties. We simply have to take our faculties at their word.

foundation-for-gynecologic-oncologyAnd by taking reason and sense perception at their word, we trust their testimony. Testimony, therefore, is foundational to everything we believe. Without trusting our cognitive faculties, we could never believe anything.

Moreover, remember, believing something on the basis of testimony is faith. Therefore, faith is the starting point for all we know and believe. Anselm of Canterbury had a much more reasonable motto than the Enlightenment’s, one that hints at the importance of faith: “Credo ut intelligam,” that is, “I believe that I may understand.” Reid put it a bit differently, saying that the unjust must live by faith no less than the just.

So, when [Victor] Stenger complains that science and reason don’t rely on faith, he’s missed the Enlightenment’s important (and unintended) lesson about faith, reason, and evidence. “The theist argument that science and reason are also based on faith is specious,” he says. “Faith is belief in the absence of supportive evidence. Science is belief in the presence of supportive evidence. And reason is just the procedure by which humans ensure that their conclusions are consistent with the theory that produced them and with the data that test these conclusions.” Stenger is right about one thing: having faith is believing something without having an argument for it (“belief in the absence of supportive evidence”). But Stenger’s failure to realize that science, too, is based on faith (because everything we believe is, ultimately) is a massive mistake. Yet it’s as common as it is colossal. – Mitch Stokes, A Shot of Faith to the Head: Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists

A Shot of Wittgenstein

geocentric_cosmology[Twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig] Wittgenstein once asked a friend, “Tell me, why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the Sun went around the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?” His friend replied, “Well, obviously, because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.” To which Wittgenstein responded, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?” – William E. Carroll, “Galileo and the Inquisition I” as quoted in A Shot of Faith to the Head by Mitch Stokes.