Imagine a moment in time where Marvel writer Dan Slott was interacting with a friend — perhaps someone of Jewish or Islamic faith — and he said that not even King David or Allah could convince him of the following: Former President Obama failed the American people.
Got it? Now imagine that yours truly made a joke about said left-wing ideologue, which required me to call the religious figures mentioned a “cuck.”
Question: How would Dan Slott react to my joke?
May conservative guys like myself make fun of Jewish and Islamic ideologues of a left-wing persuasion, or is there are hypocritical double standard?
Can I make fun of Muslim left-wing ideologues with the same ease displayed by Dan Slott’s feminist crush as she refers to Jesus Christ as a “cuck”?
You tell me, dear reader. Let me know what you think, and then watch my latest YouTube video. I think you’ll find Mr. Slott’s latest attack on your friendly neighborhood blogger quite telling.
Roughly four years ago I was in a late-night discussion with a Baptist friend when our attention turned to the subject of hell. I wondered aloud what would happen if a soul in hell legitimately turned to God with a contrite heart and pleaded for forgiveness. My assertion was that it is entirely possible that exceptions could be made by an infinitely merciful and loving God who dispenses perfect justice.
My friend (in a tactful way) said that I was being absurd and cited numerous biblical passages to buttress his point.
As Fr. Robert Barron says on the back cover of a 2014 reprinting:
“Critics contend that von Balthasar espouses universalism, the idea that all men will certainly be saved. Yet, as von Balthasar insists, damnation is a real possibility for anyone. Indeed, he explores the nature of damnation with sobering clarity. At the same time, he contends that a deep understanding of God’s merciful love and human freedom, and a careful reading of the Catholic tradition, point to the possibility — not the certainty — that, in the end, all men will accept salvation Christ won for all. For this all-embracing salvation, von Balthasar says, we may dare hope, we must pray and with God’s help we must work.”
Perhaps the impetus for my conclusions come from repeated dreams with a friend who died in an ATV accident. We were raised Catholic, but it was my understanding that he drifted away from the Church and somewhere along the line decided that he did not believe in God. In my dreams he comes to me, and when I tell him that he is dead he gets a frightened expression on his face and runs away — often exploding in a ghostly mist when he hits a nearby door or wall. (Note: I get chills when I think or write about these dreams.)
My reaction to these experiences has always been to pray for my friend’s soul because at the end of the day I have zero knowledge about his ultimate fate. If he is in hell, then do I have an obligation to pray for him? If he is consigned to eternal separation from God, then may I pray to ease his suffering?
I do not believe that God would send me on a fool’s errand; therefore, I have to believe that the urge to pray for my friend’s soul — whatever has become of him — has deep meaning.
Furthermore, it seems to me as though Søren Kierkegaard offers an incredibly wise blueprint for how a Christian man should think:
“Telling other people … ‘You are eternally lost’ is something I cannot do. As far as I am concerned, the situation is that all the others will, of course, go to heaven; the only doubt is whether I shall get there.'”
What he says is something that is perpetually at the forefront of my mind: No matter how hard we try, at the end of the day we are all unworthy to stand before God. Pure justice in the earthly sense of the word would require all of us to be banished to hell; it is only God’s infinite love and mercy that saves. Given that, why would I ever tell another man that he is destined for eternal damnation?
It seems to me that when a man constructs a moral pedestal high enough to proclaim that others are destined for hell that all he has really done is create a personal high-dive into “the lake of fire.”
Von Balthasar puts it far more eloquently than I could when he observes:
“It can be taken as a motif running through the history of theology that, whenever one fills hell with a massa damnata of sinners, one also, through some kind of conscious or unconscious trick (perhaps cautiously, and yet reassuredly), places oneself on the other side,” (152).
Additionally (and I believe this is of utmost importance):
“The strong Christian would have to endure the tension and ‘prepare himself seriously for the possibility of himself being among the rejected. Love of God first shows itself in its full purity only when one affirms God’s will even though it destroys one’s own happiness,” (155).
There is much more to say, but for brevity’s sake I will simply recommend reading Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? if this post has piqued your interest. It’s a fascinating book for all Christians — and those non-Christians who honestly want to better understand the faith.
There’s a “thing” that sometimes happens to me when I discuss philosophical or religious issues with my wife, which she finds incredibly humorous — I shed tears and get temporarily choked up. I told her for years that my theory on the phenomenon is something like this:
Deep in your heart is a conduit to the transcendent. There are times when your mind comes into direct contact with Truth with a capital ‘T’, but the finite parts of your being are obviously not equipped to handle the infinite. To grab hold of the transcendent, even for a brief moment, is like grabbing hold of a live wire. The difference is that the pain you feel is something beautiful, the charring and burning of spiritual impurities like rust on the soul. So you happily search for that place again and again because you wish that you could share it with everyone.
I was recently watching a video with Jordan Peterson, the famous professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He was talking with Dave Rubin about Pinocchio, and when I saw where he was going with it I could almost predict the point at which he would tear up.
Mr. Peterson said:
“Most of your viewers will have watched Pinocchio. There’s a scene in Pinocchio where Geppetto wishes upon a star. What it means is he lifts up his eyes beyond the horizon to something transcendent — to something ultimate — because that’s what a star is, it’s part of the eternity of the night sky.
And so he lifts his eyes up above his daily concerns and he says, ‘What I want — what I want more than anything else — is that my creation will become a genuine individual.’ Right? It’s a heroic gesture because it’s so unlikely. And that catalyzes the puppet’s transformation into a real being. And we start as puppets. And so the trick is to get rid of your god**** strings.
And you remember in Pinocchio, he faces a lot of temptations. One is to be a liar; the other is to be a neurotic victim. That’s how he ends up in Pleasure Island where he just about gets sold into the salt mines and turns into a braying jackass … because it’s run by authoritarians.
Well, okay, so what you do is lift up your eyes and you say, ‘Look, I would like being to progress in the best possible manner. And that’s best for me, best for my family, best for society — maybe best for the world. Simultaneously, I would like to attain that, whatever that is. That’s what I want. You commit to that.
Then you tell the truth. And you can tell if you’re telling the truth. You can tell it physiologically. And so this is something to learn. […] That’s really the core idea in Western civilization, to build yourself into a forthright individual who’s capable of telling the truth and capable of bearing the responsibilities of citizenry.” — Jordan Peterson.
Here’s another way to explain it. Imagine your mind’s eye witnesses the transcendent, and it’s like an ocean. A whole ocean can fit inside your head and you can see it clearly, but the person sitting across from you has no clue what you’re “looking” at. The only way you can make this ocean known is by embarrassingly running it through the tiny sink that is your mouth and the filter of language. Your task is to convince someone of the beauty of the transcendent ocean — or God, or Truth, or Love — when all you can give them is a bucket filled with water.
So you cry.
You cry because in some sense the metaphysical ocean has burst forth into the physical world.
You cry because you’ve seen what lies beyond and you know that if others saw it too then they would change their lives in profound ways.
You cry because you are unworthy of something so magnificent, and you cry because of all the souls who will never have a similar experience through the misbegotten application of their own free will.
If you have never watched Jordan Peter’s videos, I highly suggest you begin sooner rather than later. He knows what he is talking about. He speaks the Truth. If you listen to what he says and actively carry out his advice, then your life will be exponentially better for it.
Fans of The Amazing Spider-Man plopped down $10 this week to read the start of The Osborn Identity, which was jam-packed with extra stories (some of them not so good). While your friendly neighborhood blogger is happy to talk about the issue as a whole, one exchange in the main story stuck out for the anti-faith claptrap that writer Dan Slott shoved into Peter Parker’s mouth.
Since this issue takes place after The Clone Conspiracy, Peter Parker goes to check on reporter Betty Brant to see how she’s doing. She mentions seeing a spiritual advisor and possibly bringing Aunt May along since her second husband just passed away, to which the hero replies:
“You’re a reporter. You live for facts. When did you start looking to the spirit world?“
Note that at this point Peter knew nothing about Betty receiving phone calls from the clone of her deceased husband. All he knew as that she wanted to see a spiritual advisor. And his response? A condescending remark that people who deal in “facts” should not be turning to spiritual advisors.
Spider-Man fans who subjected themselves to Jose Molina’s atrocious Amazing Grace will note how he also infused Peter with anti-faith smugness. In 2016, however, the message was that faith in God and science are somehow at odds, which is not true at all (my guess is that Dan Slott and Jose Molina have never even heard of Georges Lemaître, for example, but I digress).
What makes Dan Slott’s decision so weird, as has been stated before, is that it makes even more sense in the Marvel Universe for people to believe in the supernatural because citizens witness it on a regular basis. Peter has literally been to the astral plane, dealt with demons, and knows first-hand that they exist, and yet Dan Slott makes him act like a callous jerk towards a friend who is spiritual.
The absurdity of Peter’s statement is made even more bizarre when, moments earlier, he is seen talking to “Uncle Ben” — a dead man — at his grave. Why would scientists and reporters and superheroes talk to long-dead relatives unless they believed that on a spiritual level their words were being heard?
And why would Peter behave like such a jerk towards Ms. Brant when Amazing Grace ended with a meeting between he and a priest — “Hey, Father. You got a minute?”
Here are some historical “facts” for Dan Slott.
There was once a man named Jesus who made some pretty “bold” claims (Understatement of All Time Award material, I know.)
Jesus was crucified — just as he foretold — for those claims.
Jesus’ enemies were so terrified of Him that they literally entombed his corpse behind a giant rock and used an armed guard to watch over it. (Yes, an armed guard for a dead body.)
Christ’s own disciples, from a historical perspective, had every reason in the world to say, “Well, I guess it’s over,” after he was executed. False prophets came before him, and all their movements soon died with the individual. But these apostles didn’t turn in the towel. They too were eventually executed for telling all the world that Jesus rose from the dead. They traveled far and wide to tell everyone who would listen that they saw him, that they literally put their hands in his wounds, and that He is exactly who He claimed to be.
I can go on and on (What came before the Big Bang, Dan Slott?), but the point is this: Peter Parker would never behave the way he did in that scene with Ms. Brant because it was a total jerk thing to say. If you think that he would say that — despite hanging on occasion with Doctor Strange … traveling throughout the multi-verse … and generally dealing with the supernatural on a regular basis, then good luck making that case.
If Dan Slott is not a religious man, then that is his prerogative, but he should not turn Peter Parker into a condescending jerk when a story delves into spiritual matters.
I should also mention that the two of us will be discussing the craft of writing (through an ASM prism)on my YouTube channel on Saturday, March 25. As of now we plan on starting at 3 p.m. EST. Make sure to subscribe and hit YouTube’s little bell icon to receive a notification when we go live.
George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholicis awonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.
Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.
Mr. Weigel writes:
If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.
Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …
I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way. […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.
A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.
Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?
Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.
There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.
Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”
If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.
The questions “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” and “Why does God sometimes seem absent in my life?” have repeatedly come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Many times people beat around the bush, but the underlying point is always transparent. A stellar resource on this subject — and quite honestly one of the toughest books I have ever read — is St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.
First, it should be noted that if anyone had a right to question why bad things happen to good people, then it was St. John of the Cross. The Spanish mystic and Catholic saint, born in 1542, was once kidnapped (by monks), thrown in a dark jail cell, and beaten for months until he managed to escape.
A man who could have looked at his circumstances and concluded that God does not exist instead found God within the darkness.
Key points to consider when contemplating the dark night of the soul include:
Man’s nature is both sensual and spiritual.
Man is inclined to judge God by Man’s standards instead of Man by God’s standards.
Just as looking into the sun forces a man to close his eyes because it is too bright, individuals often cannot grasp that what they perceive as darkness is actually a reaction to incomprehensible light.
Just as a small child becomes anxious when its mother seems to have disappeared, humans are confused when God creates the illusion of distance so that they might spiritually grow.
Souls cannot approach God without being purged of imperfections. Trials and tribulations serve a greater purpose.
Given all this, St. John says:
“It follows from this that the greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security. […] Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things. It follows clear, then, that by walking in darkness, not only is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained since it is here gaining the virtues.”— St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.
Astute readers will note that St. John was talking about a spiritual darkness that envelops the soul as it continues on its path towards God, as opposed to physical ailments or obstacles that plague us all. That is true, but the physical and the spiritual overlap. It is often very difficult for an individual to discern which is which, and more so in an age where individuals are conditioned to believe they must be happy at all times or consider themselves broken.
It is incredibly difficult to see the blessings bestowed upon us through mental, physical and spiritual pain, but they are there.
Paradoxically, we must often embrace the darkness to see the light.
Good health, popularity, and financial success may be nice, but much is expected of the individual who has them all. Life’s difficulties are fertile ground for virtue, which is why we must not lament adversity.
If you have questions on the dark night of the soul, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to articulate St. John’s message for interested readers.
For a glimpse into the politically-correct minds of school administrators in the U.S., one simply needs to consider two stories concurrently unfolding in the news cycle.
In one instance a Kentucky public school district cuts any reference to Christianity during a theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the other, a Virginia school district defends a calligraphy lesson prompting students to write: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
America 2015: Linus Van Pelt is too dangerous for the minds of elementary school children, but the shahada — the Muslim statement of faith — can be an official assignment given to high school students.
A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
Female students at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing — a story first reported by The Schilling Show. …
“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News.
Students were also asked to try wearing traditional Islamic attire as “a part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”
The district asserts that the teacher — who knew exactly what she was having students write — was merely asking her class to explore Arabic’s “artistic complexity.”
Meanwhile, Johnson County Schools in Paintsville, Kentucky, are adamant that a rendition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is tantamount to endorsing religion.
WSAZ reported Superintendent Tom Salyer’s statement Wednesday:
Superintendent Tom Salyer said the district received a complaint last week about the play having religious references.
The district then announced it would remove any religious references from all of its Christmas plays. …
Salyer gave WSAZ this statement:
“As superintendent of Johnson County Schools, I recognize the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday. Over the past few days, there have been several rumors indicating that there would be no Christmas plays this year at our elementary schools. I want to clarify that all programs will go on as scheduled. In accordance with federal law, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday. With core values such as service, integrity, leadership, and commitment, our staff and students will continue to proudly represent our district as recently demonstrated by our many student successes.”
Got that? Schools can have Christmas plays — provided the holiday’s core inspiration, the birth of Christ, is never directly or indirectly addressed.
In the same month that an Islamic terror attack killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California, high school students are asked to practice writing ,“There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” but a classic Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is somehow deemed a violation of federal law. Classic.
This is why home-schooling looks increasingly attractive to young parents with each passing year.
The terror attack in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday killed at least 14 and wounded 17. As Syed Rizwan Farook and his accomplices attempted to evade police, Marvel writer Dan Slott thought it would be the ideal moment to mock Christians who turn to God in times of tragedy. For good measure he told jokes to foreign citizens at America’s expense.
Here is a closer look at the re-tweet.
Ask yourself what kind of sick person would use requests for prayers during a terror attack and cops’ pursuit of the suspects to take political pot-shots? What kind of man would retweet satirical “God” Twitter accounts as terror victims riddled with bullet holes were bleeding out?
Objective observers know Mr. Slott was playing politics during a terror attack because his earlier tweets indeed asked for “thoughts and prayers.”
Dan Slott can tweet “thoughts and prayers” for terror victims, but if someone he politically disagrees with does the same thing — again, as people are dying — they are Christian “cowards” issuing “empty platitudes.”
To add insult to injury, The Amazing Spider-Man scribe decided to honor the recently-deceased and injured by telling jokes at America’s expense.
“Non-Americans, you’re all looking at us and shaking your head in disbelief, aren’t you?” he wrote. No one thought to ask him which “non-Americans” he was addressing.
Perhaps Dan was talking to Saudi Arabian Spider-Man fans (the nation Farook travelled to shortly before his massacre), but only the men because women aren’t allowed to leave the home without related escorts. And not Saudi Arabian Christians, because they officially don’t exist — it isn’t allowed.
Perhaps Dan was talking to French Spider-Man fans, but not those who died in its recent terror attack perpetrated by the Islamic State group, because dead people can’t enjoy Peter Parker’s adventures.
Perhaps Dan was talking to Syrian Spider-Man fans, but not in ISIS-controlled areas because reading Marvel (i.e., infidel) Comics would literally be grounds for chopping one’s head off.
Perhaps Dan was talking about Qatar, where San Bernardino terror suspect Bin Ardogan was from.
Puruse Mr. Slott’s twitter feed from Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, and you will see many tweets about gun control. What you will not see after it was announced that Syed Rizwan Farook was responsible for a day of terror is anything about radical Islam.
In Dan Slott’s world, a correlation between access to guns and gun-crime is worthy of loud denunciations of the NRA and Republican politicians who pray during terror attacks — but a correlation between Islam and Islamic terrorism is an opportunity to listen to crickets.
Congratulations Dan Slott: You’re the type of guy who uses an unfolding tragedy as an opportunity to mock men praying to God. One day you’ll get to stand before your Creator and explain yourself. Until then, I will pray for you.
Exit Question: How pathetic is it that Nick Spencer equates a recluse who lived in a shack all by himself somewhere in Colorado — a man estranged from his friends and family and described by them as “weird” and “unpredictable” — to countless radical Islamic terror networks with tens-of-millions of sympathizers around the globe?
It’s not often that a giant rock star gives an interview where he unflinchingly affirms his belief in Christ. That is exactly what U2’s Bono did during a March 2014 interview that is making the rounds again just in time for Easter. However, what is perhaps most interesting is how Bono appears to be well-versed in the writings of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.
Here is what Bono said in his interview with RTE One’s Gay Byrne, which comes across at times like an FBI interrogation or a courtroom cross examination:
Bono: I think it’s a defining question for Christian. Who was Christ? I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or great philosopher because, actually, he went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God — or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes. This is, like, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I don’t believe it.
Byrne: So therefore it follows that you believe he was divine?
Byrne: And therefore it follows that you believe that he rose physically from the dead?
Bono: Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.
Byrne: So when you pray, then you pray to Jesus?
Byrne: The risen Jesus?
Byrne: And you believe he made promises that will come true.
Bono: Yes. I do.
Friendly note to Bono: Your observation is actually more awe-inspiring than you originally thought because billions — not just millions — have been touched by the words of Christ. Regardless, here is what G.K. Chesterton said when “The Everlasting Man” was published in 1925:
“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.
Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.
Here is what C.S. Lewis said when “Mere Christianity” was published in 1952:
“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is “humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” — C.S. Lewis.
Chesterton and Lewis beautifully articulate the case before us: either Christ was who he said he was, or he was insane. But, as they both keenly observe, even his biggest detractors generally regard him as a profound thinker and a beacon of light whose example we should all follow.
Think of how many great men and women there were throughout all history, whose names are forgotten within weeks, months, or at most a few decades after they’ve passed away. Then consider Jesus, who for over 2,000 years has captivated the world and changed billions of lives — even those who don’t believe his claims. Like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, a modern Irish rock star named Bono, and billions of other individuals throughout the course of history, I firmly believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.
For years I only knew C.S. Lewis as the guy who was good for some really witty quotes and the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I knew he was a Christian, and I knew he was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien. When I started writing a book roughly a year ago I told myself that I should really read his work to augment my knowledge of the Christian faith, yet I still procrastinated. Finally, after his name came up in the comments section of this blog, I vowed to get up to speed on C.S. Lewis — and I’m glad I did. “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” may be $34.99, but it’s worth every penny.
Here is what readers get for their money: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed and The Abolition of Man. Another way of putting it: 730 pages of philosophical and creative works written by an intellectual giant. Even those who disagree with the man, if they are honest, will concede that he was powerhouse.
C.S. Lewis writes in “Miracles”:
“Let us suppose a race of people whose peculiar mental limitation compels them to regard a painting as something made up of little colored dots which have been put together like a mosaic. Studying the brushwork of a great painting, through their magnifying glasses, they discover more and more complicated relations between the dots, and sort these relations out, with great toil, into certain regularities. Their labor will not be in vain. These regularities will in fact ‘work’; they will cover most of the facts.
But if they go on to conclude that any departure from them would be unworthy of the painter, and an arbitrary breaking of his own rules, they will be far astray. For the regularities they have observed never were the rule the painter was following. What they painfully reconstruct from a million dots, arranged in an agonizing complexity, he really produced with a single lightening-quick turn of the wrist, his eye meanwhile taking in the canvas as a whole and his mind obeying laws of composition which the observers, counting their dots, have not yet come within sight of, and perhaps never will,” (Miracles, 387).
The beauty of Lewis’ work is that it’s smart, but it’s personable. A man without a high school education and a Rhodes Scholar can both appreciate the product. Lewis’ insights are sharp, but he never talks down to his audience. Just as the U.S. Declaration of Independence artfully articulates the rights given to all men by their Creator — in ways anyone can understand — Lewis makes the case for God in ways that individuals of varying degrees of mental acuity can comprehend.
“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls — of their of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You can not put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all the chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, unavoidable?” (Mere Christianity, 170).
One of the most interesting aspects of Lewis’ life is the fact that for many years he was an atheist. In many ways, his early atheism actually benefited Christianity because it is obvious that he thought long and hard about the existence of God. Those doubts are revisited in his journal entries pertaining to the death of his wife; the result is thought-provoking and hauntingly beautiful. Lewis says of dealing with his wife’s passing due to cancer: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” He is correct. His faith comes out in tact, but the journal entries from “A Grief Observed” leaves readers shaken because the truth can be jarring.
I highly recommend “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” for agnostics, atheists, Christians and non-Christians everywhere.