Archive for October, 2015

Lewis: False Presuppositions of the Modern Mind

C. S. Lewis 14One of the essays I had my students read this semester in my C. S. Lewis course was “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought.” It’s probably one of Lewis’s most overlooked essays. The first time I read it, I wanted to be sure students were exposed to it.

In it, Lewis takes aim at the presuppositions that modern men take for granted and then shows why they have accepted unsound reasoning. Modern men have assumed, without thinking it through clearly, many ideas from what Lewis would call pseudo-science.

Here’s an example:

To the modern man it seems simply natural that an ordered cosmos should emerge from chaos, that life should come out of the inanimate, reason out of instinct, civilization out of savagery, virtue out of animalism.

This idea is supported in his mind by a number of false analogies: the oak coming from the acorn, the man from the spermatozoon, the modern steamship from the primitive coracle.

So what’s the problem with these assumptions? Lewis calls on us to think more deeply:

The supplementary truth that every acorn was dropped by an oak, every spermatozoon derived from a man, and the first boat by something so much more complex than itself as a man of genius, is simply ignored.

The modern mind accepts as a formula for the universe in general the principle “Almost nothing may be expected to turn into almost everything” without noticing that the parts of the universe under our direct observation tell a quite different story.

Lewis has a way of telling that “quite different story” and making us rethink our assumptions.

The Poetic Prose of Whittaker Chambers

I arrived in Texas yesterday for the C. S. Lewis Foundation Retreat. Most of the attendees won’t be here until later today. I’m early because I’m taking part in the Academic Roundtable that is held prior to the main events.

Already I’ve met some very nice people (this is my first Lewis function, so I don’t really know anyone) and last evening I attended what is called the “Bag End Cafe,” a nod to Lewis’s friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Everyone was sharing favorite poems. Now, here’s where I make a terrible confession. I’m not really into poetry. Shocking, I know. I should do a penance of some type.

Chambers at DeskHowever, I do really like prose that has a poetic quality to it. I believe that’s one reason why I’ve always been attracted to Lewis’s writing. Another person who wrote like that is Whittaker Chambers. I was on the verge of sharing something Chambers wrote in his magnificent Witness when the gathering ended. Here’s what I would have read, taken from Chambers’s reflections on the death of the spirit after WWI:

The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil.… The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.

To me, that’s a wonderful combination of poignant prose that whispers, “If you listen closely, this is poetry.”

Looking forward to the rest of this retreat.

The Chambers-Reagan Journey

Ten years ago, I had an idea for a book and began the research. I sought to compare the nearly unbounded optimism of Ronald Reagan with the more pessimistic outlook of Whittaker Chambers, the ex-communist who became front-page news when he outed Alger Hiss as an underground spy.

Chambers then wrote his autobiography, Witness, which went beyond a simple telling of a tale; it became a treatise on the downfall of Western civilization unless it would turn once again to Christian faith.

I completed writing the first draft in 2010, then searched for a publisher. I found one, but the publication stumbled over something out of the control of both the publisher and myself—we mutually agreed to terminate the contract in 2012.

The search continued, and lasted until this year when I finally found a publisher with the conviction that what I had written needed to be in print. It will be a reality now in a matter of days.

I recently received the front cover, and I was impressed with it.

Book Cover 1

It has just the right “feel” for what I wanted the cover to portray. The look is as professional as I had always hoped it would be. Then I was sent the back cover, which included excerpts from some quite eminent historians’ endorsements for the book:

Witness & the President Back Cover

Paul Kengor is a well-established Reagan scholar; George Nash is considered the dean of historians with respect to analyzing modern American conservatism; Richard Reinsch has written an excellent account of Chambers’s worldview; and Luke Nichter is co-author/editor of the bestselling book on the Nixon tapes. Luke also just happens to be one of my former students from when I taught at Regent University’s School of Government in a master’s program.

Needless to say, I am thrilled with the prospects of this publication. I’m hoping many of you will be interested enough to purchase a copy—and then a few more for your friends.

When it does become available, which will be very soon, I will let you know. May God be praised for opening this door.

The False Benghazi Hearing Narrative

Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi Committee has been declared a “win” for her by the mainstream media. They report, almost breathlessly, how calm and collected she was. At the same time, they paint a picture of Republicans on the committee as out of control and frustrated by the answers offered by the smartest woman in the world.

Well, that’s the narrative from the usual suspects. In fact, that narrative wasn’t anywhere close to the truth.

Benghazi Narrative

What we got was a performance without substance. Sadly, performance is what counts in the media. Never mind the truth—or lack thereof. It would have been better, I think, if the scene had been set up differently:

Polygraph

“No new discoveries.” “No smoking gun.” Really? How about the e-mail Hillary wrote to her daughter and the other one to the Egyptian government official in which she admitted the attack had nothing to do with some obscure video? Is that not newsworthy? Is that not some kind of gun emanating massive amounts of smoke?

Of course not, we’re assured. Nothing to see here. The real story is that she made it through all those grueling hours. Why, she is the real victim, not those who died in the terrorist attack. After all, Ambassador Stevens knew what he was getting into, right? Again, never mind all those appeals he sent for more security that she apparently never saw. Why, she is the real story here.

I Survived

Unscathed

The outright dishonesty and lack of integrity shown by both Hillary Clinton and her media supporters is becoming legendary. It’s almost as heinous as the love affair between the media and Barack Obama.

You see, the true villains in this drama are those who are seeking answers and demanding that documents be turned over so that the truth can come to light. Such tactics are pure evil, we’re told.

Stop Asking

Fortunately, there are some with integrity who will keep on asking. They deserve our thanks and appreciation as they continue to contend with the stonewalling and the false media narrative.

Recognizing “The Agenda”

The Agenda marches on. What agenda, you ask? The attempt to paint a portrait of evangelical Christians as the narrow-minded bigots of the world and the obstacles to “progress,” as defined by the new Progressive Movement.

We see this in many facets, but let me point out two in particular today.

One prong of The Agenda is to say that we are agents of propaganda against Muslims. It’s Christian bigotry, some say, when we warn of the Islamic threat to what once was a society based on a Biblical worldview.

This gets tied in to concerns about the border and illegal immigration, where we can also conveniently be called “anti-immigrant” and racist.

Yet the concerns are real. This latest wave of sympathy for refugees from Syria is a case in point. I would welcome all the persecuted Christians from that region. I would even welcome Muslim families fleeing the radicals. But is that what we will be receiving? Reports from European nations accepting these refugees tell us something different.

Refugee Trojan Horse

I, and other evangelicals like me, make a distinction between individuals and stereotypes. Every individual, Muslim or otherwise, is a potential child of God. We have no qualms opening our hearts to those who are in genuine need and who might be able to see the errors of the way in which they have been raised. We reach out to offer the good news of the Gospel to anyone with ears to hear.

Another prominent prong of The Agenda is to portray Christians as “homophobes.” Let’s be clear—I do fear a society that accepts homosexuality as mainstream because that destroys the family structure as established by God, thereby ultimately destroying that society in the end.

However, I would gladly welcome anyone struggling with that particular sin to sit down and talk about God’s absolutes and the freedom He offers through the Cross. I don’t hate anyone caught in that sin, but I do believe it is essential to recognize it as sin; that’s the first step in being set free.

What I do object to is The Agenda, which is to use every avenue in our culture to normalize homosexuality and to depict anyone opposed to it as hardhearted and evil.

It has become nearly mandatory for television programs to include a homosexual story line to accompany the main theme. The latest instance for me came in the latest episode of an otherwise fine Masterpiece Theater WWII drama called Home Fires. It is a superb story of how one English village had to deal with the problems of the war. Yet in the middle of the plot, we now see a lesbian relationship.

Home Fires

The character on the right is the new schoolteacher in the village who has gone there to escape the bigotry of those who fired her for her lesbian relationship with the character on the left. The one on the left has now followed her to the village and we were subjected to a full and lingering mouth-to-mouth kiss. We are to understand that they are not allowed to express their love openly because of the stilted morality that continues to dominate England in this “backward” time.

So what I object to is The Agenda. It is very real, and the eventual goal is not only to drown out the voice of Christian morality but to prosecute those who continue to be so “bigoted.”

If you don’t think that’s the goal, you are not paying attention.

The irony for those on the “progressive” side, of course, is that if they have their way, and we become Islamicized, all homosexuals will be put to death. Christians only want to help them out of their sin, not kill them.

So what do we do? We continue to proclaim truth and reach out to all who are open to that truth. Will we ever reclaim the entire society? No one can guarantee that, but I do know that the Lord has called us to be faithful, and if we are, there is no telling what He may be able to do through us.

Lewis: A Warning about Nature Worship

The Four LovesIn The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis issues a warning about love of nature. It’s not that nature is a bad thing; contemplation of nature might lead us to contemplation of the One behind nature. However, we must not be led astray. When we look at nature, we are not seeing God but merely an image of His glory. Here is where Lewis offers a warning:

We must not try to find a direct path through it [nature] and beyond it to an increasing knowledge of God. The path peters out almost at once.

Terrors and mysteries, the whole depth of God’s counsels and the whole tangle of the history of the universe, choke it. We can’t get through; not that way.

What, then, is the proper path? Lewis continues,

We must make a detour—leave the hills and woods and go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees. Otherwise the love of nature is beginning to turn into a nature religion. And then, even if it does not lead us to the Dark Gods, it will lead us to a great deal of nonsense.

These words from Lewis have a special significance, I think, because he himself so greatly appreciated nature. We must keep everything in its proper perspective. Enjoy what God has created, but never allow His creation to be a substitute for Him.

Trey Gowdy, Hillary Clinton, & Truth

I just read through Congressman Trey Gowdy’s opening statement to the special committee to investigate what happened at Benghazi. Unless you live under a rock somewhere, you know Hillary Clinton was called to testify to the committee yesterday.

Gowdy-Clinton

I am so impressed with that opening statement that I want to share some of it here. It’s a heartening example why we should not stereotype all politicians as grubby, dishonest moral reprobates. I applaud the clarity of Gowdy’s statement and its brutal honesty. First, he speaks of the four men who died trying to stave off the attack:

Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served our country with courage and with honor.  They were killed under circumstances most of us could never imagine.  Under cover of darkness, terrorists poured through the front gate of our facility and attacked our people and our property with machine guns, mortars and fire. . . .

We know what they gave us.  What do we owe them? Justice for those who killed them.  We owe their families our everlasting respect and gratitude.  We owe them – and each other – the truth.

Gowdy then turns to what kinds of truth we need to know:

The truth about where and why our military was positioned as it was on the anniversary of 9-11.

The truth about what was happening and being discussed in Washington while our people were under attack.

The truth about what led to the attacks.

The truth about what our government told the American people after the attacks.

Why were there so many requests for more security personnel and equipment, and why were those requests denied in Washington?

Those were only a few of the truths he listed that we need to know. He then took aim at critics of the committee and provided a sad history of the lack of real investigation until now:

This committee is the first committee to review more than fifty thousand pages of documents because we insisted they be produced. . . .

This committee is the first committee to thoroughly and individually interview scores of other witnesses, many of them for the first time.

This committee is the first committee to review thousands of pages of documents from top State Department personnel.

This committee is the first committee to demand access to relevant documents from the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and even the White House.

This committee is the first committee to demand access to the emails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens.  How could an investigation possibly be considered credible without reviewing the emails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?

Hillary Clinton wanted to make it seem this committee was set up only to derail her presidential run. Gowdy would have none of that, pointing out how everyone, from the State Department to congressional Democrats on the committee to Hillary herself, has done their best to stonewall the investigation. She was being called to testify solely because she was secretary of state at the time of this attack.

Finally, he gave what I consider a rousing conclusion:

There are certain characteristics that make our country unique in the annals of history.  We are the greatest experiment in self-governance the world has ever known.  And part of that self-governance includes self-scrutiny – even of the highest officials.

Our country is strong enough to handle the truth.  And our fellow citizens expect us to pursue the truth, wherever the facts take us.

So this committee is going to do what we pledged to do, and what should have been done long ago, which is interview the witnesses, examine the relevant evidence, and access the documents.  We are going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four men who lost their lives and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens.

We are going to write that final, definitive accounting of what happened in Benghazi.  We would like to do it with your help, but we are going to do it nonetheless.  Because understanding what happened in Benghazi goes to the heart of who we are as a country and the promises we make to those we send into harm’s way.

They deserve the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  The people we work for deserve the truth.  The family and friends of those killed representing this country deserve the truth.  There is no statute of limitations on that truth.

I am impressed. May the truth win out.