Moral Choices

More insight from C. S. Lewis:

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules, I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.”

I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.

I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.

And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.

To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.

Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

Redeemed Beauty

We’ve never seen men and women as they were intended to be. We’ve never seen animals the way they were before the Fall. We see only marred remnants of what once was.

Likewise, we’ve never seen nature unchained and undiminished. We’ve only seen it cursed and decaying. Yet even now we see a great deal that pleases and excites us, moving our hearts to worship.

If the “wrong side” of Heaven can be so beautiful, what will the right side look like? If the smoking remains are so stunning, what will Earth look like when it’s resurrected and made new, restored to the original?

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien saw core truth in the old mythologies, and in their books they give us a glimpse of people and beasts and trees that are vibrantly alive. What lies in store for us is what we have seen only in diminished glimpses. As Lewis and Tolkien realized, “Pagan fables of paradise were dim and distorted recollections of Eden.”

The earthly beauty we now see won’t be lost. We won’t trade Earth’s beauty for Heaven’s but retain Earth’s beauty and gain even deeper beauty. As we will live forever with the people of this world—redeemed—we will enjoy forever the beauties of this world—redeemed.

C. S. Lewis said, “We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

And so we shall.

Randy Alcorn, Heaven

God, Government, and Eternity

I do a lot of political commentary in this blog. I also write a lot about the role of civil government. As I do, my goal has always been to point to the Biblical principles that undergird my thinking. After all, the name of this blog is Pondering Principles: Reflections on God, Man, and Life. Therefore, I try to offer my comments within that context.

This makes my ponderings different than the typical political commentator. And I know some of you read these musings without the background of a Biblical framework for thinking and/or no personal relationship with the One who made us all. I welcome your readership. Yet you must keep in mind that my starting place for reflecting on politics and government will be distinctly Christian. I actually believe the Bible is the Word of God, that it contains truth that is applicable not only to a personal knowledge of God, but also to every aspect of His creation.

Government is one of His creations.

I’m currently reading a book by Randy Alcorn with a very simple title: Heaven. Yes, I do believe there is a literal heaven, and I agree with Alcorn’s concept that there will be a renewed earth—the New Earth—after Christ returns, and that those who have linked themselves to Him will rule and reign in an eternal sphere.

As Alcorn discusses the nature of this New Earth, he highlights principles that apply on the Old Earth as well, particularly in the area of governance. Stay with me as I share some of his comments that I found especially insightful:

We’ve been conditioned to associate governing with self-promoting arrogance, corruption, inequality, and inefficiency. But these are perversions, not inherent properties of leadership. Ruling involves responsibility—perhaps that’s why some people don’t look forward to it. Some people live in anticipation of retirement, when responsibilities will be removed. Why would they want to take on an eternal task of governing?

He then wants us to refashion our concept of taking on governing responsibilities:

Imagine responsibility, service, and leadership that’s pure joy. The responsibility that God will entrust to us as a reward can only be good for us, and we’ll find delight in it. To rule on the New Earth will be to enable, equip, and guide, offering wisdom and encouragement to those under our authority. We’ve so often seen leadership twisted that we’ve lost a biblical view of what ruling, or exercising dominion, really means. God, ruler of the universe, is living proof that ruling can and should be good.

And what of this concept of leadership? What kind of leader is God seeking, whether here on earth or in eternity?

Some of the most qualified people to lead in Heaven will be those who don’t want to lead now. Some who are natural leaders here but have not been faithful will not be leaders in Heaven. Remember, it’s not the proud and confident who will inherit the earth and rule it; it’s the meek. And even the meek will be stripped of their wrong motives and the temptation to exploit others. We’ll have no more skepticism and disillusionment about government. Why? Because we’ll be governed by Christlike rulers, and all of us will be under the grand and gracious government of Christ himself.

So what does this mean about politics on the earth on which we currently reside?

Some Christians err by demeaning and ignoring politics, thereby failing to exercise their God-given stewardship. Others put too much confidence in politics, failing to understand God’s insistence the he alone will establish a perfect government on Earth. … Meanwhile, God calls us to cultural reform and development. Christians should be involved in the political process, and we can do much good, but we should never forget that the only government that will succeed in global reform is Christ’s government.

These comments explain my perspective also. God wants us to work diligently to set up as good a government as possible, yet always with the recognition that perfection will not be achieved in this world at this time. We are to make this world as much a reflection of its Creator as we can, while simultaneously acknowledging that there will be limitations on our efforts. Our endeavors now are just the first steps toward what will become reality in eternity.

My interest in politics and government springs from the basic belief that God is interested in them, too. Everything I say or do in this realm should be an attempt to bring a little more of His life and character into political practices and government policy.

That’s what inspires me to keep writing and teaching.

Highly Recommended

In the past few weeks, while writing a book, keeping up with this daily blog, posting on Big Government, teaching a class every Sunday, and continuing to watch over the department I chair at the university—I actually read a couple of books, too. I’d like to recommend them.

Back in January, I wrote about a novel called Deadline by Randy Alcorn. It was thought-provoking and decidedly Christian in its philosophy. You can go back to January 9 to see that review. I’ve now completed that trilogy; I can say without hesitation that the second and third books are just as good, and perhaps even better.

Dominion takes readers into the world of gangs and racial animosities. It does so through the eyes of its protagonist, a black newspaper columnist still struggling with the discrimination of his upbringing, yet rejecting the liberal welfare state as the answer. He’s also groping his way toward a genuine relationship with God after the disillusionment of the “prosperity gospel” he had adopted.

His sister has been killed and he pushes for answers, sometimes in appropriate ways, other times with questionable tactics. His heart has gone cold, but he has to deal with the spiritual questions that intrude into his mind, as well as their application to the city and neighborhood where he lives. It’s a theological, social, and political combination that makes readers grapple with their own attitudes and reactions to injustices.

Deception, the final offering in the trilogy, is written in the first person, through the eyes of a detective who is trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding a murder that seemingly has no answers. The detective has recently lost his wife and carries a grudge against a God who won’t stop people from doing evil. Again, readers are drawn into a theological question that has very practical ramifications for life.

Alcorn uses a technique in all three books that is unique, at least in the books I’ve read to date: he intersperses the action on earth with the experiences of those who have died and have entered into heaven. His ideas of how heaven operates is fascinating. On a couple of occasions, he also takes us down to hell to see what it’s like for a character who has rejected the love of God.

Sound too preachy? Perhaps a little too fanciful? If I were reading this review and hadn’t experienced the books myself, I can see where you might think so. Believe me, though—both books are rooted in earthy reality. Alcorn’s gift is to combine the gritty, seamy side of life with spiritual concepts and make heaven more real than what takes place on earth.

I highly recommend both books, but you might want to read Deadline first to maintain the continuity of the characters and follow their development.