Sunday, November 29, 2015

Value of writing

‎I have lost no opportunity of advising students and young ministers to write as much as possible. Lacking the incentives that were offered me, the work may be laborious and even tedious. I recognize frankly that it is one thing to write with the knowledge that the sentences that flow from your pen will soon appear in the bravery of print and quite another to write for the sheer sake of writing. But I know what it is to write until late into the night with no thought of publication. And I unhesitatingly aver that it is well worth while.

Dr. F.W. Boreham, My Pilgrimage, page 152

Friday, November 13, 2015


Creation itself has something to teach us about rest. If we are attentive to the world, we will quickly see that Sabbaths are going on all around us. Various species of life demonstrate that rest is not an option for otherwise cutthroat biological processes but is in fact an inextricable part of the ways of life. We see this in plants and animals in states of dormancy and sleep and also in the witness of birds singing and wolves lounging or playing with cubs. Rest and celebration, even among wild organisms, promote healing, restoration, and reproduction. Sabbath rhythms are vital to the maintenance of all life. Humans are the unique species in that we have presumed to step outside of these created rhythms by working or shopping around the clock so that we can exalt ourselves. For the sake of our own health and the health of creation, we need to implement creative ways to recover these rhythms.
Norman Wirzba

Friday, November 06, 2015

He walks everywhere incognito

From page 293 of The Narnian, by Alan Jacobs: talking about Lewis' reaction to Alec Vidler's radical theology and John Robinson's Honest to God:

But after all he had been through in Joy's illness and death, he better understood their discomfort with traditional doctrine. They were trying to get beyond "religion," and in his misery Lewis had come to understand that impulse - even if he thought they were going about it in absolutely the wrong way. "Religion" is either a set of cultural practices or a set of doctrines, and in either case - though for Lewis the doctrines were always absolutely necessary as maps toward one's true destination - they should never be the goal of the Christian life. (To make such a mistake would be "as if navigation were substituted for arrival, or battle for victory, or wooing for marriage.") 

Beyond all religion lies Something, or rather Someone, that religion can never capture, Who is more real than any practices or doctrines. "We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake." Such attention is difficult; we often fail to achieve it, and when we think we are most awake we are often sound asleep. One wonders how much of Lewis' own writing he believed, there near the end, to have been attentive in this true and full sense. It is perhaps telling that at one point in Letters to Malcolm he recalls what happened to Thomas Aquinas, who, after receiving an overwhelming and indeed disabling vision of God, thought back on his life's work of theological reflection and said, "It reminds me of straw." 

Trust the images

"Everything began with images," [C S Lewis] wrote: "a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion.  At first there wasn't even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord."  There was not, he says over and over again, an evangelistic plan in the making of Narnia, no apologetic scheme: "Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument; then collected information about child-psychology and decided what age-group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out "allegories" to embody them. This is pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way at all."

Or perhaps he could have, but knows that it would have been a dreadful mistake, a giving over of his imaginative life to the "expository demon." What he has to do instead is trust the images that come into his mind - or, more accurately, trust that he is being formed as a Christian in such a way that the images that come to his mind are authentic ones, ones that lie at, or at least near, the centre of his soul. He can do this only if he rejects not only the market-driven questions of modern authors and publishers ("What do children want?") but even the more morally sound question of the Christian apologist ("What do children need?"): "It is better not to ask the questions at all.  Let the pictures tell you their own moral.  For the moral inherent in them will rise from whatever spiritual roots you have succeeded in striking during the whole course of your life."

This is a terrifying, or liberating, word: liberating in that one need not expose oneself to the sanctimonious drudgery of drawing up lists of Christian truths and hammering out allegories that will meet the desires or needs of children. But terrifying because as those images rise from your mind you discover what you are really made of: you discover whether you are one whose moral and aesthetic responses have been shaped by the Christian narrative or whether you remain a person "without a chest," lacking in true spiritual formation.  Trusting the images, you find out who you are.

From The Narnian, by Alan Jacobs, pages 243-4