When Society Becomes Unhinged

Reason goes astray when it separates from God and His ways. Emotions then rule and give rise to the most insensible, upside-down comments. Some events, such as the recent Kavanaugh hearings, bring out the worst in those who have given themselves over to a depraved mind and a seared conscience.

Even though there was no real evidence brought against Kavanaugh, but only the uncorroborated words of one woman (accusations from two other women were so bizarre they don’t deserve mentioning), we were told we must always believe whatever a woman says.

As if women never lie? As if women can’t have ulterior motives inspired by their worldview and what they want to see in politics? Women are human, too, you know. And sin abounds.

We also saw in this latest episode that bullying has become a cornerstone of their tactics. Disagree with them, and you will pay the price.

I’m 67. I’ve witnessed a lot of cultural change over the years. In my view, most of it has been negative and fueled by a rejection of the basic Biblical framework of thinking that used to guide our society.

Can you imagine how something as magnificent as the first moon landing would go over today?

If you really want to know how unhinged so many have become, think about how the next Supreme Court nomination will go. What if it’s a woman being nominated the next time? Will she be believed if she is a conservative? What about if she’s not only a conservative but a bold proponent of the Christian faith? What will see then?

At all times, God calls His people to be strong, courageous, and faithful, but especially in times like these. That strength, though, doesn’t lie in acting like those who oppose us; it rests instead on humility and dependence on Him. We must be genuine witnesses of His truth by the character we display.

Holding to the Faith

I have a rather large tome called The Timeless Writings of C. S. Lewis, which consists of The Pilgrim’s Regress and two of his essay collections: Christian Reflections and God in the Dock. Prior to my sabbatical back in 2014-15, I had read, over time, all of those essays.

I’m the kind of person who marks up his books, putting stars next to key passages and underlining the most significant sentences, in the hope that I can go back when needed and find the best parts more readily.

As I’ve pored over those essays again, I’m actually quite surprised by how detailed my earlier markings were. I’m also grateful I did that if, for no other reason, I cannot even recall now that I’d ever read some of those essays—they all seem so new to me. I trust that’s not Alzheimer’s.

For instance, one of Lewis’s essays in Christian Reflections, “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” caught my attention this morning as he explains the necessity of holding fast to the faith. Sometimes we question—we waver—but that is the nature of life itself. Lewis experienced that phenomenon not only as a Christian, but even when he had been an atheist.

Just as the Christian has his moments when the clamour of this visible and audible world is so persistent and the whisper of the spiritual world so faint that faith and reason can hardly stick to their guns, so, as I well remember, the atheist too has his moments of shuddering misgiving, of an all but irresistible suspicion that old tales may after all be true, that something or someone from outside may at any moment break into his neat, explicable, mechanical universe.

Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seems obvious that this material world is the only reality: disbelieve in Him and you must face hours when this material world seems to shout at you that it is not all.

No conviction, religious or irreligious, will, of itself, end once and for all this fifth-columnist in the soul. Only the practice of Faith resulting in the habit of Faith will gradually do that.

Even though Lewis was quite strong in his apologetic writings, he acknowledges that pure reason and/or argument is not what normally leads a person into or out of faith. “It is always assumed,” he opines, “that the difficulties of faith are intellectual difficulties, that a man who has once accepted a certain proposition will automatically go on believing it till real grounds for disbelief occurs. Nothing,” he counters, “could be more superficial.” Then he offers an example from his own environment.

How many of the freshmen who come up to Oxford from religious homes and lose their Christianity in the first year have been honestly argued out of it? How many of our own sudden temporary losses of faith have a rational basis which would stand examination for a moment?

I don’t know how it is with others, but I find that mere change of scene always has a tendency to decrease my faith at first—God is less credible when I pray in a hotel bedroom than when I am in college.

It isn’t, at bottom, a conflict between faith and reason, Lewis concludes. It’s more of a conflict between faith and sight—what we see around us at a particular moment. Reason may be divine, he reasons, but “human reasoners are not.”

The sort of arguments against Christianity which our reason can be persuaded to accept at the moment of yielding to temptation are often preposterous. Reason may win truths; without Faith she will retain them just so long as Satan pleases.

We need to pray for that gift of continuing faith, Lewis urges, “for the power to go on believing not in the teeth of reason but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference.”

He ends the essay with a question/warning about what might really be going on inside us when we waver in faith:

And the answer to that prayer will, perhaps, surprise us when it comes. For I am not sure, after all, whether one of the causes of our weak faith is not a secret wish that our faith should not be very strong. Is there some reservation in our minds? Some fear of what it might be like if our religion became quite real?

I hope not. God help us all, and forgive us.

Lewis: The Reasonableness of the Miraculous

The Christian faith is reasonable. It’s also based on believing in miracles: the virgin birth of Christ, walking on water, healings, resurrection after the crucifixion. How can one believe in miracles and still be reasonable? It’s not difficult if you consider the attributes of the God who created all things. Once you grasp His very nature, miracles are to be expected.

Reflections on the Psalms 2C. S. Lewis, in his Reflections on the Psalms, succinctly summed up his view, as well as that of all real Christians:

I have been suspected of being what is called a Fundamentalist. That is because I never regard any narrative as unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous.

Lewis, one of the most learned men of the twentieth century, had no problem believing that the Creator God could alter His creation at any time in any place, and to me, that is a most reasonable assertion.

Like Lewis, I shy away from the term “fundamentalist” only because of the baggage it has picked up along the way. Yet all it intends to mean is that there are certain fundamentals that any Christian believes. God being above His creation is one of those fundamentals. And it is reasonable to believe it.

Lewis: The Reality of the Spiritual

C. S. Lewis 7C. S. Lewis was an atheist in his younger days, but eventually had to abandon his materialism and come face-to-face with the reality of the spiritual. Ten years after his conversion, in an essay called “Religion: Reality or Substitute,” he explained why the spiritual world is not just a figment of men’s imagination:

Authority, reason, experience; on these three, mixed in varying proportions, all our knowledge depends.

The authority of many wise men in many different times and places forbids me to regard the spiritual world as an illusion.

My reason, showing me the apparently insoluble difficulties of materialism and proving that the hypothesis of a spiritual world covers far more of the facts with far fewer assumptions, forbids me again.

My experience even of such feeble attempts as I have made to live the spiritual life does not lead to the results which the pursuit of an illusion ordinarily leads to, and therefore forbids me yet again.

I am not now saying that no one’s reason and no one’s experience produce different results. I am only trying to put the whole problem the right way round, to make it clear that the value given to the testimony of any feeling must depend on our whole philosophy, not our whole philosophy on a feeling.

Feelings, by themselves, are never an accurate guide into truth. That’s why Lewis is saying we need the greater perspective; we need to see the big picture. And that big picture tells us the spiritual world is all too real. If that’s the case, we need to take it seriously.

Lewis, Space Travel, & the Existence of God

C. S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963, one week before his 65th birthday. Most people didn’t notice his death since that was also the day of the JFK assassination. Lewis probably would have liked the anonymity of his passing.

In those 65 years, which spanned from just before the beginning of the 20th century to the dawn of the space age, he saw society transformed. One of his final essays, written in the year of his death, showed he was keeping up with the times—in particular, the fascination with space travel.

The Seeing EyeHe’d always liked the subject. Back in the late 1930s-early 1940s, he had authored a space trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. I love those books, and they still sell well, as do all of Lewis’s writings. As he pondered the new age of actual space exploration, he noted that some people were wondering if man would find God out there somewhere. That led to these comments in the aforementioned article, “The Seeing Eye”:

Looking for God—or Heaven—by exploring space is like reading or seeing all Shakespeare’s plays in the hope that you will find Shakespeare as one of the characters or Stratford as one of the places. Shakespeare is in one sense present at every moment in the same way as Falstaff or Lady Macbeth. . . .

If there were an idiot who thought plays existed on their own, without an author . . . our belief in Shakespeare would not be much affected by his saying, quite truly, that he had studied all the plays and never found Shakespeare in them. . . .

My point is that, if God does exist, He is related to the universe more as an author is related to a play than as one object in the universe is related to another.

If God created the universe, He created space-time, which is to the universe as the metre is to a poem, or the key is to music. To look for Him as one item within the framework which He Himself invented is nonsensical.

If God—such a God as any adult religion believes in—exists, mere movement in space will never bring you any nearer to Him or any farther from Him than you are at this very moment. You can neither reach Him nor avoid Him by travelling to Alpha Centauri or even to other galaxies. A fish is no more, and no less, in the sea after it has swum a thousand miles than it was when it set out.

One of the early Soviet cosmonauts, returning from orbiting the earth, said he didn’t see any God out there. Taken in the context of Lewis’s comments, it might be hard to find a more stupid statement. Man always wants to believe his rationale powers are the height of all understanding. Yet who gave man the ability to think? It would be nice if more of us used that ability as it was intended.

God, Reason, & C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis has popped up on this blog a number of times recently. I gave a thumbs-up to the movie Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and I commented on Sarah Palin’s reliance on Lewis for spiritual inspiration. Actually, that was more of a comment on the cluelessness of those who critiqued her for relying on an author of children’s books, thereby displaying for all to see the ignorance of the critics.

I would like those critics to read more of Lewis, so I’m going to use a few of his quotes today so they will understand the depth of his meditations. For instance, I wonder how many of those critics have pondered the issue of objective moral law vs. subjectivism. Here’s Lewis on that topic:

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.

We are seeing the fruit of that subjectivism in our society today.

For those who believe they have an argument with God for some reason, Lewis offers this caution:

There is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and he wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.

And finally, a very succinct observation and a word of instruction:

An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.

That one seems tailor-made for the Palin critics.