Sunday, November 30, 2014

Church hopping

Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.

In the second place, the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise—does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!)

This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper.

From The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis

Saturday, November 29, 2014

To know him is to love him

[God] demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about “His glory’s diminution”? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God—though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain.

From The Problem of Pain by C S Lewis

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it.

Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding.

In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.

The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old.

It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have.

 C S Lewis in Mere Christianity

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Being worthy

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy if anything can.

Thomas Merton
"Letter to Dorothy Day" in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


In quite a lot of Western evangelicalism, there is a worrying tendency to focus on the periphery. I have a colleague in the Missions Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School whose analysis of his own heritage is very helpful. Dr Paul Hiebert laboured for years in India before returning to the United States to teach. He springs from Mennonite stock, and analyses his heritage in a fashion that he himself would acknowledge is something of a simplistic caricature, but a useful one nonetheless. One generation of Mennonites believed the gospel, and held as well that there were certain social, economic, and political entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel, but identified with the entailments. The following generation denied the gospel: the entailments were everything.

Assuming this sort of scheme for evangelicalism, one suspects that large swathes of the movement are lodged in the second step, with some drifting toward the third.

What we must ask one another is this: what is it in the Christian faith that makes you excited? What consumes your time? What turns you on? Today there are endless subgroups of confessing Christians who invest enormous quantities of time and energy in one issue or another: abortion, home schooling, the defence of a particular Bible version, pornography issues, women’s ordination (for or against), economic injustice, a certain style of worship, and much more. The list varies from country to country, but not a few countries have a full agenda of urgent, peripheral demands. Not for a moment am I suggesting we should not think about such matters and throw our weight behind none of them. But when such matters devour most of our time and passion, each of us must ask, in what fashion am I confessing the centrality of the gospel?

D A Carson in Basics for Believers (reflections on Philippians) pages 26-7

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


We declare how we value God as much by our actions, by the way we treat other people, by the manner in which we do our work, as by anything we say. If my actions are wrong or wrongly motivated prayer cannot make them right. If however, despite my failures and inconsistencies, I do on the whole want to put God above all things then prayer will help to purify my motives and clarify my judgement.

Christopher Bryant, from his book The River Within

Friday, November 14, 2014

Books to one's own taste

I have had ‘Miss Bodle’s colleague’ in my daily prayers for a long time now: is that the same young man you mention in your letter of, or do I now say ‘colleagues’? Yes: don’t bother him with my books if an aunt (it somehow would be an aunt—though I must add that most of my aunts were delightful) has been ramming them down his throat.

You know, The Pilgrim’s Progress is not, I find (to my surprise) everyone’s book. I know several people who are both Christians and lovers of literature who can’t bear it. I doubt if they were made to read it as children. Indeed, I rather wonder whether that ‘being made to read it’ has spoiled so many books as is supposed. I suspect that all the people who tell me they were ‘put off’ Scott by having Ivanhoe as a holiday task are people who would never have liked Scott anyway.

I don’t believe anything will keep the right reader and the right book apart. But our literary loves are as diverse as our human! You couldn’t make me like Henry James or dislike Jane Austen whatever you did. By the bye did Chesterton’s Everlasting Man (I’m sure I advised you to read it) succeed or fail with you?

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Loving God

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.

On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.

Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

C S Lewis, in Mere Christianity

Friday, November 07, 2014

Finding shalom

What dimensions of our lives are presently oppressed by the captivity of powerful and destructive principalities and powers? I suspect that the answer to that question is literally, every dimension suffers under such oppression. Consequently, it is in every dimension of life that we need to engage in radical, and sometimes symbolic acts of a hope for life beyond captivity, beyond the present crisis. We need to find ways to experience God's shalom, God's redemptive presence, in all the dimensions of our lives, from the marketplace to the bedroom, from the board room to the classroom, from the theatre to the dining room. In fact, there are many rooms to our lives, and it is in all of these rooms that we need to struggle together, in community, and with the healing presence of the Holy Spirit, to have a foretaste of a creationally restoring kingdom that is yet to come in all of its fullness.

Brian Walsh in Subversive Christianity

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Christian charity

Though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality, and though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian has only ‘charity’.

The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on—including people he could not even have imagined him- self liking at the beginning.

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become — and so on in a vicious circle for ever.

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

From Mere Christianity, by C S Lewis

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Spiritual Numbness

The prophet must speak with passion because the community is in a coma. Or to shift the metaphor, we are numb. To be numb is to be without passion; it is the absence of pathos; it is apathy. We are so numb that we don't even realise what has happened to us. Our numbness denies us of a spiritually renewed imagination. We are numb, we don't notice the perverse abnormality of affluence. We are numb to the precariousness of our times, numb to the danger of the earth, to the pain of the poor, to the impossibility of our present affluent lifestyles. We are numb to our own pain, and we want to remain numb to the pain of homosexuals in our communities and to the victims of abuse and incest. And, yes, we are numbed out by the irrelevance of the church to our present cultural malaise.

Brian Walsh in Subversive Christianity

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Stewards of creation

As stewards of the creation we recognise that its ownership resides with God and that we are accountable, in the final analysis, to the Creator for our use of the creation. Therefore, we confess that any wanton misuse or destruction of creation -- whether the good creational gifts of land, plants, water, air and atoms, or aesthetic life, family and scholarship -- is a misuse of our stewardship, a squandering of our creational inheritance, and, therefore, a sin to the creation, to future generations, and ultimately to the Creator himself.

Monday, November 03, 2014

White collars

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

From The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis