Lewis on the Old Books

“Every age has its own outlook,” C. S. Lewis instructed. “It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.” Amen to that. “We all, therefore,” he continued, “need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Image: Dublin Library. The WSRL is a humble and intimate gathering ...Was Lewis saying that only old books are worthwhile? Was he so anti-modern that he believed nothing written in the last century could conceivably offer us wisdom? After all, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, he famously referred to himself as a “dinosaur,” one of the last specimens of those who live comfortably in their native land of previous epochs.

That’s hardly his intention. What he was doing in this quote was attacking the oh-so-modern fallacy (found in every age, by the way) that we have progressed so far that we understand things much better than previous ages and generations.

I teach historiography. Part of the course delves into different schools of historical interpretation. One common mistake for historians is to believe that progress is inevitable, that each succeeding generation is wiser than the last one.

I ran into this perspective in my doctoral program. One book used in a course on American colonial history was infused with a sneeringly condescending attitude toward those so-called primitive early Americans. They were just so backward, the book implied. Not like the new generation that has come so far.

Of course, in the view of that author, to “come so far” meant that we have set aside all those outmoded ideas about God that seemed to drive many of the early settlers. The hubris in the book was astounding.

c-s-lewis-2All Lewis was saying in this quote is that each era has its truth emphases and each also has its own characteristic mistakes and/or falsehoods that it believes. How do we guard against this arrogance? Return to the thoughts and beliefs of earlier times and keep in mind that whatever faults they had, they also might have contained truths that we, in our pride, have foolishly abandoned.

The “old books” are not error-free, but they do put a check on our runaway love affair with ourselves. They remind us of things we may have forgotten as a society.

There is one old book, though, that is error-free and never leads us astray. If we take it seriously, our pride is leveled and we recognize our true place in the universe.

As I survey the mess our current society has devolved into, I’m reminded of another Lewis quote: “Moral collapse follows upon spiritual collapse.” If we are disturbed by what we see happening morally in our day, we must acknowledge the real reason for this development. We have allowed our Christianity to be compromised to the point that it no longer is the salt and light it was intended to be.

We must return to the one Old Book that puts things right again.

On Rigged Elections

This election is rigged. That’s been Donald Trump’s theme for a couple of weeks. Is that possible? Accusations of a rigged presidential election are rare, but there are a few examples.

john-quincy-adamsIn 1824, John Quincy Adams won the presidency after no one got the majority of the electoral votes and the decision was thrown into the House of Representatives. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was later chosen by Adams to be his secretary of state, considered at that time to be the stepping-stone to the presidency. Andrew Jackson, the loser even though he started with a plurality of the electoral tally, charged that it was a corrupt bargain. He lost the election, he said, because it was rigged against him.

What Jackson didn’t allow into his thoughts is that Clay, who undoubtedly used his influence as Speaker to put Adams in the presidency, felt that Jackson was unfit for the office and gave his support to Adams because he believed Adams was the better of the two men. That, of course, never stopped Jackson from thinking he was cheated out of the office and he held bitterness over it for the rest of his life.

rutherford-b-hayes-2The 1876 election was one of the most controversial in American history. Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but neither he nor Republican Rutherford Hayes had an electoral majority due to claims of voter fraud in some of the Southern states. This was after the Civil War and the rancor of Reconstruction.

A special commission had to be set up to determine the winner. It took until just a few days before the March inauguration to solidify Hayes’s victory. The only way Democrats accepted Hayes as the legitimate president was after he promised to serve only one term and bring Reconstruction policies to an end. Still, some Democrats refused to acknowledge Hayes as the legitimate president.

jfk-nixonThen there was 1960. Everyone knows John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon, right? Well, that’s not necessarily true. Most historians admit that voter fraud was so plentiful in Illinois and Texas that those two states should have gone to Nixon, thereby making him the next president.

Chicago has been a source of voter fraud continually; it’s amazing how many dead people vote there every time. Texas was Lyndon Johnson’s home state, and he made sure there were enough votes counted to gain the victory there, regardless of how many actually voted.

Nixon was aware of the fraud and many in his circle encouraged him to challenge the result. Tempting as that was, Nixon instead chose to step back from any challenge for the good of the nation. He felt it would be damaging to the country, especially at a time of Cold War tension with the Soviet Union, to disrupt the government in that way.

Most people don’t know about Nixon’s selfless decision; all they ever think about is Watergate.

So, yes, voter fraud might take place. In fact, I’m convinced it does on a regular basis. However, here’s the real question: could it be massive enough to make a difference this year, as Trump intimates?

First of all, it would only matter in a very close vote within a state. Consequently, you can dismiss any issue of damage to the Trump campaign in states that are going for Clinton by wide margins. California, New York, and Illinois are lost causes for Trump anyway. Even if we were to wipe out all of Chicago’s graveyard votes, he will still lose Illinois.

The only real possibility of voter fraud affecting this election would have to focus on Texas or Florida, yet both of those states are controlled by a Republican majority who will guarantee that Trump won’t be trumped by Democrat tricks.

Let’s be real. Voter fraud, while always a concern, is not going to be any kind of determining factor this year. The determining factor is Donald Trump, pure and simple. Well, he’s simple, at least.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganHave you noticed that every time Trump loses, he has a scapegoat? Recall the Iowa caucuses. Why did he lose there, in his mind? Ted Cruz cheated. “Lyin’ Ted” cost him Iowa. That was his story and he was sticking to it. He pretty much used the same mantra wherever he lost.

Why? Because Trump believes he is a winner. Remember that he told Republicans he was going to win so much that they were going to get tired of winning. If he loses, it can’t be his fault; it has to be some kind of “rigged” election.

Much has been made of Trump’s comment in the last debate that he will wait and see if he will accept the results of this election. Some feel he is destroying the American electoral system by saying that. I don’t go there. I know there can be fraud, and I use 1960 as a prime example.

However, what really bothers me is what it reveals about Trump’s character. His ego is so huge and vast that he cannot even imagine losing due to his own uneven temperament, lack of knowledge of the issues, and moral turpitude.

He’s also preparing the context for his loss. You see, he didn’t really lose; the election was stolen by “Crooked Hillary.” By the way, she is Crooked Hillary, but he’s “Delusional Donald.”

He will never accept the hard truth that he is his own worst enemy. Rumors abound that once he loses, his next venture will be a media network to promote his views (whatever they may be next year).

Lose he will, and probably “bigly.” And it won’t be because of voter fraud. It will be because he is the worst candidate the Republicans have ever chosen as a standard-bearer.

The End Is Near

I’m at the point with this election that I would just like to ignore it the rest of the way. My initial plan was to do so and say that today’s blog would be my final word on it. Tempting as that is, I will . . . reluctantly . . . continue to offer comments until that fateful day when the decision is made. Never in American history have the two major options been so awful.

sorry-candidates

If this election doesn’t deter the next generation from believing that government service can be an honorable profession, I don’t know what will.

negatives

As I’ve said before, I’ve looked forward to the day when I could vote to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency. In last night’s debate, she couldn’t have been more clear that she sees the Supreme Court as the enforcer, not of the Constitution, but of the progressive agenda. She also made it clear (in case anyone had any doubt) that she believes in abortion on demand, defending Planned Parenthood’s atrocities with all her breath.

How can I not vote against her?

Many Christians this morning are lauding Donald Trump for what they think was his strong pro-life stance in the debate. I acknowledge that those were the strongest statements he has made yet on the subject, but how heartfelt were they?

I can hear the voices now: just accept him at his word; he’s on our side; he will appoint the right justices to the Court; the country will be saved.

I would like to believe him, but he remains, to me, utterly unbelievable. He’s performing his part to try to win votes. He’s succeeding with many Christians who desperately want Clinton defeated. Yet I still cannot support him.

First, even if he were to nominate a solid person for the Court, that person would have to get past the Senate. It will take 60 votes to allow the vote to go forward. That, in itself, would be slightly on the miraculous side. It also would require that President Trump go all out for such a nominee. I don’t think he would do so. He’s the dealmaker who will put out a good nominee knowing that person won’t make it, then give the Democrats the kind of nominee they will accept.

If you think Donald Trump will save the Court, I think you are being fooled.

It’s not just that. I look at the total package. Trump is a mess. I’ve written often about his personal morality, or lack thereof. Based on his character and his overall history, do you really think that all those women coming forward now to tell their tales of how Trump foisted himself on them are lying?

Trump is a walking massive ego. He thinks he can do whatever he wants, not only with women, but in every area of life. He, like Hillary, thinks he is entitled. When he says those women have to be lying because they aren’t attractive enough to get his attention, what does that say about him? In other words, if they were attractive enough, he would go right ahead and do what they are accusing him of.

He is truly reprehensible. Why any woman would vote for him is beyond me.

who-needs-them

His advisors have come up with plans to “drain the swamp.” Sounds good. Who’s going to drain the Trump Swamp first?

He continually attacks and demeans anyone who isn’t 100% on board his ego. I understand why Paul Ryan encouraged Republicans running for Congress to do whatever they feel is necessary to win their races, even if it means distancing themselves from the top of the ticket.

The only thing that’s going to stop Hillary’s drive to continue Obama’s transformation of America is a Congress that says “no.” It’s essential that Republicans maintain control of both chambers. Trump is a drag on that effort.

down-ballot

If Republicans lose the Congress, I will lay the blame on Trump.

Polls show, at this point, that Trump’s unpopularity has not yet dragged everyone else down with him. Voters appear to be making the distinction between him and other Republicans running for the House and Senate. Will that be the case on election day?

Prediction: Hillary Clinton will be the next president. That won’t be caused by people like me who cannot stomach Trump; it will be caused by the candidate himself. Almost any other Republican who ran in the primary would have trounced a candidate as corrupt as Hillary. Only Trump could possibly have lost to her.

I won’t vote for Donald Trump. I will, however, vote for every other Republican on my Florida ballot. President Clinton (oh, how I never wanted to hear those words again) needs to be challenged on every policy on every level.

end-is-near

Let’s just hope it’s not the end in the wrong sense. The end of this election season would be gratifying; the end of the nation not so much.

My Lewis Weekend

I had the distinct pleasure last Friday evening of speaking to the New York C. S. Lewis Society in Manhattan. This society was the first organization in America established to study the works of Lewis and help promote them, beginning back in 1969.

When I was researching my Lewis book, I had contacted the society for information to help in my research. Not only did I receive that help, I also received an invitation to talk about the book after it was published.

cover-on-ws-pageNow that America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact is a reality, I was delighted to tell them about it at their monthly meeting. My biggest concern (although “concern” might be too strong a description) was whether I could offer them something worthwhile since they are already well-versed in all things Lewis. When I finished speaking, I said I hoped I had given them more than “fluff.” I was gratified by the response in the Q&A that indeed I had not wasted their time with fluff, and that the niche I explore in the book is pretty unique in the Lewis literature.

In particular, I was happy to meet Dr. James Como for the first time, a Lewis scholar who appears prominently in my book. He was the first there to purchase a copy, even before I spoke. I told him I trust I got his life story correct but if, after reading the book, he decided he didn’t like it, to please not tell me. We had a nice laugh over that.

I had another venue for speaking while in the area, a Christian school whose headmaster is a former student of mine. More on that in a moment.

gateway-academy-2My first audience at the school was a tougher one than speaking to the Lewis Society: fourth- through eighth-graders in a chapel.

How does one connect with that range of children? Let’s just say that I made a few adjustments along the way, opened it up for a lot of questions (and they had them), and enjoyed the interaction. The feedback I received was that they really liked talking with me.

One question was rather personal and kind of funny: how much money do you make writing a book like this? My answer was in the form of guidance for their future. I said that if any of them decided to be university professors and write books like mine, don’t expect to become rich. You do it instead simply because you believe God has put it in your heart to do so.

On Saturday, I then spoke to many of the parents of those children, giving them an overview of Lewis’s life and influence. So it was a two-day Lewis extravaganza.

desanctisBack to my host. I want to thank Chris Desanctis, headmaster of Gateway Academy in Staten Island, for giving me the venue to speak there and for being my guide and chauffeur the entire time. In all my 65 years, I had never set foot in Manhattan, so he is the one who made my talk at the Lewis Society possible.

Chris was one of my students back in the 1990s when I taught at Regent University. Although we have stayed in touch, we hadn’t seen each other in 18 years. It was nice to reconnect, and I want to thank him and his wife for putting me up in their home (and for putting up with a guest who rearranged their Saturday).

Those two days “in the city” were great, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to share.

About October Surprises

Remember all those predictions about “October surprises” in this presidential election campaign? A lot of things are breaking on both sides this October. But none of them are really surprises.

your-side-of-family

The ones receiving less coverage, for obvious reasons since the media is on her side, are those swirling around Hillary Clinton: mocking Christians; lying to the people (having different private and public views on policy); coordinating with the media; giving favors to big donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The thing is, we all knew this is who she is. No surprises there. She would be a failed presidential candidate if anyone else had been nominated by the Republicans.

As with Hillary, nothing that has come out about Trump lately—his sexual vulgarity, accusations of sexual abuse (according to one count, ten women came forward yesterday with their allegations), his unbelievable (to use a favorite Trump word) thin skin that doesn’t allow any perceived slight to pass without a thundering response of divine Trumpian retribution, his penchant for wanting to destroy the party that nominated him—none of these things should be a surprise to anyone with any common sense. We all (well, those of us who were paying attention) knew this is who he is.

We’re told that all the sexual abuse allegations are cooked up by the Democrats and their media allies. I agree that they have worked together to undermine Trump. Yet are we really supposed to believe that every one of these women is part of a conspiracy to lie about Trump for pay or something?

If you believe that, you have crossed the line and have become a Trumpbot, a person who will accept any and all excuses he offers, a person who now sees a massive conspiracy in everything bad that happens to him, a person who simply won’t face the reality of the Trump who always has been this way.

proud-to-stand

We have two pathological liars running for president. Democrats will continue to look the other way and pretend Hillary hasn’t threatened national security. Trump devotees are so sold out that they will advocate for him even if—as Trump himself so infamously noted—he shoots and kills someone on the street in full view of everyone.

We’re almost at that point.

Hillary covered for Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment. Trump voters are covering for Trump’s. They have become what they hate.

This election seems to be a neverending sewer.

almost-there

Why do I focus a lot on Trump when Hillary is as big a threat to the republic? I’ve focused on her for years. What bothers me so much this year is the degeneration of the Christian witness by those who follow Trump, almost without reservation.

Take Jerry Falwell Jr., for instance.

In a CNN interview last night, he stated that he would vote for Trump even if Trump had a record of sexual assaults. This, coming from the president of Liberty University, one of the most visible evangelical Christian universities in the country, destroys the Christian witness.

Significantly, students at Liberty have formed a group called Liberty United Against Trump to tell the world they have a big disagreement with their president. The group has issued a public statement that begins this way:

In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.

The statement continues,

Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.

The final paragraph states,

We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.

I am heartened by this statement. I applaud those students who are putting Christ first. I hope Mr. Falwell heeds their concerns and walks back his Trump endorsement. Repentance is always welcomed and received.

Meanwhile, for all the other Christians who are still on the Trump Train, I implore you to take another look at what you are supporting. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton deserves to be placed in an office of trust because both are untrustworthy.

Don’t sully your Christian witness. Like those Liberty students, please be champions for Christ, not for a corrupt politician.

One Excuse I Forgot

In yesterday’s post, I attempted to catalogue the main excuses and rationalizations I’ve been reading and hearing to absolve Donald Trump of his many sins. This morning, I realized I omitted one very prominent excuse. Let me make amends for that.

The video was from 2005–it’s old news, he’s changed

Probably the only people who can believe that whopper are those who haven’t watched Trump in action for the last year and a half. Changed? Really?

Well, he apologized for what he said in the video. Did you pay attention to that “apology”? It was the typical sorry-I-got-caught non-apology that has become the hallmark of politicians of both parties. What I saw was a defiant Trump trying to deflect from his own sins by pointing to the sins of others and promising to highlight the sins of the Clintons.

King David sinned horribly and God continued to use him, we’re told. Yes, David did sin horribly: adultery compounded by placing the woman’s husband in the line of fire in a battle, thus ensuring his death.

David, though, was then confronted by the prophet Nathan who pointed the finger of accusation at him for his sins. Scripture then records that David repented from the heart. Consequences from his sins followed, but he didn’t blame anyone else nor God. He understood that consequences follow our sins.

david-nathan

He then put his repentance into a psalm that has come down to us as #51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Is that really the attitude we currently see in Donald Trump?

David continued,

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Does Trump truly have a desire for a pure heart? Who are you to judge his heart, I can already hear some saying. It’s out of the heart that a man’s actions spring. I’m looking at his actions, which are a showcase into the heart.

God uses sinful people to do His will, we’re told. If He has to, sure. But do you vote for a blatantly unrepentant person for that reason? If so, keep in mind that admonition also applies to the other side. Hillary Clinton is a blatantly unrepentant person as well. Maybe God wants to use her.

Faced with two blatantly unrepentant persons who have no heart for the moral standards in God’s Word, I will vote for neither and trust God either to judge the nation for its sins or to show mercy, which we hardly deserve because we are a people steeped in our own rebellion against Him.

There are consequences for our collective sins as well.

Enough with the Excuses & Rationalizations

I’ll begin with a few comments about the debate last night, but I will then move on to what I consider to be a more important subject.

First, it was satisfying to see Hillary Clinton on the defensive, which is where she should always be. I also didn’t mind seeing women in the audience who have accused Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances—rape, in one instance—as well as one who was raped by a man whom Hillary defended in court and got him acquitted in spite of the fact he was guilty. She’s on tape, laughing about that afterward.

trump-clinton-debate-2

Trump’s debate performance was better than his disaster (his favorite word last night) the first time around, but that’s not saying much because the expectations bar is already set so low. The best I can say is that he didn’t spontaneously combust (although I sensed he was on the verge of doing so a number of times).

His performance will embolden his most devoted backers, but I doubt he won over the kinds of voters he will need to win this election. He categorically stated he never pushed himself on women or sexually abused them. I predict that declaration will boomerang on him very soon. In fact, there are already accounts out there that show it’s a bald-faced lie.

Enough on the debate itself.

What has really occupied my thoughts over this weekend is the way evangelicals have come to Trump’s defense after witnessing the indefensible. I’m appalled, frankly, by the excuses and rationalizations being put forward on his behalf. Certain ones come to the forefront, and I would like to address them.

Bad actions vs. bad words

pick-your-poisonThere’s a meme floating around Facebook that gives a list of all the bad things the Clintons have done compared to what Trump has done. On the Clinton side of the ledger, there are many bad actions noted. I have no problem with that; they are all true. On the Trump side, it says only “said mean things.”

The goal, of course, is to contrast a well-documented list of Clinton behavior (as I said, all true) with Trump’s words. “See,” we’re told, “he hasn’t done anything; he only steps out of bounds sometimes with the way he says things.”

Anyone who thinks Trump hasn’t done evil, vile things in his life is living in a dream world. His life is just as much an open book as the Clintons and just as seamy. His business dealings are shady at best, he treats people as commodities for his own advancement, others suffer from his malfeasance—not paying contractors, closing down failing business ventures, conning people with phony enterprises like Trump University (coming to a courtroom near us all very soon), etc.

His comments in the video released last week are not just words. They were bragging comments about how he actually has treated women and how he views them overall. As Trump might say in one of his tweets: BAD. SAD. NOT GOOD.

Those comments also reveal what should have been obvious to everyone by now: he thinks of himself as a privileged individual—a “star”—who can do whatever he wants.

This is what you want in a president? He has gone far beyond “just words.”

All men talk like that

Baloney. Next.

The Clintons are worse

I might agree. I might not. It’s beside the point. Bad is bad. Corrupt is corrupt. It exists on both sides. Whenever anyone tries to excuse bad behavior on one side by pointing to the other, it’s merely a deflection and a desire to change the focus.

No matter what the Clintons have done, Trump must answer for what he has done. Pointing out all the Clintons’ sins (and there are so many one can easily lose count) doesn’t change one bit what Trump has done and the essence of his character.

Trump defenders who use this ploy are unwilling to face the facts about him. They hope that by highlighting the evil on the other side that the rest of us will erase from our minds the evil on the Trump side. That’s not going to happen with me; his evil is just as prominent.

Trump used those women abused by the Clintons to try to show how great he is because he is on those women’s side. Go back in history. At the time those accusations against Bill Clinton were made public, what was his response? Trump, at that time, ridiculed the women and defended the sexual abuser. Now he wants us to believe he is the staunch protector of the weak? Get serious. This is all political show.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone/judge not lest you be judged

phariseesUsing scriptures like these to try to shame those of us who are attempting to shed light on Trump’s character is unjust. First, it is a none-too-subtle accusation of Pharisaism. It puts us in the crowd of Pharisees who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. Apparently, we are harboring our own sins and have no right to point out Trump’s.

That, in itself, is offensive. It implies that anyone who ever expresses concern about sinfulness has no standing to say anything because of one’s own sins. We’re not allowed to warn others about the sins of a man who wants to lead a nation?

By the way, what did Jesus say to that woman caught in adultery after everyone else left? He made it clear she had sinned indeed and warned her: go and sin no more.

judging-othersAs for not judging, go to Matthew 7 where that passage is found. Read it carefully. It’s not a prohibition on passing judgment; rather, it’s a prohibition on judging if you haven’t taken care of your own sins first. Take the log out of your own eye, but then it is fine to take the splinter out of another’s. Judgment does happen, all the time, as it should. We are to be a discerning people. This is merely a warning against hypocrisy when you do judge.

By the way, aren’t those who are telling us not to judge Trump judging us? If you take your own words seriously, you should stop telling me to stop judging Trump.

We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief

Agreed. But does that mean instead that we elect an unrepentant serial abuser of women, a man who spins conspiracy theories for his own political benefit, who insults anyone who stands in his way, who lies blatantly about anything and everything, and who considers himself a privileged person who can get whatever he wants?

Seriously?

The saddest part of this past weekend for me is that the stoutest defenders of Donald Trump have seem to come from his cadre of evangelical supporters. I agree with what Dr. Russell Moore said:

The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the ’80s TV evangelist scandals.

I also agree with Rich Lowry at National Review:

Someday they will wonder how a man representing the worst excesses of the entertainment world and our elite culture became not just the Republican nominee, but the candidate of the religious right.

It’s well beyond time for Christians to untangle themselves from Donald Trump. Damage to the Christian witness has been considerable, but through repentance and a renewed commitment to righteousness, perhaps some of that can be reversed.

Enough with the excuses and rationalizations.