Monday, January 25, 2010

Final Integration Paper

Ae Hee Lee
IDIS 150-02 - DCM – CS Lewis
January 24th, 2010
Profs. Paulo and Adriana Ribeiro

A Little Wiser: Acquiring knowledge through Plantinga and C.S. Lewis

Magic has been since before, and magic never ends. This magic that I speak of is that of learning and knowledge. Taking the class of “C.S. Lewis: Integrating Reason, Imagination and Faith” for the Developing a Christian mind course, I have come to know about concepts and perspectives I never really thought of, and came to understand that there is even more which I have no knowledge of.

Looking back all I have learned, I realize that there is just too much I want to write about. Thus I will go through each chapter of Plantinga’s Engaging God’s world but touching only certain points and grazing others. To this I will add some of the C.S. Lewis readings my class and I went through, and I will make use of the symbolism in The Chronicles of Narnia, also by C.S. Lewis, to support a few ideas.

The first theme in the Plantinga’s book is that of longing and hope. It was in this chapter that I was moved the most. I really could sympathize with the idea of longing for something which one could not recognize. In the end, it was revealed that we all were “seeking union with something from which we are separated” (Plantinga 4). However, many times we tend to have the mistaken feeling that something here, in our world, can possibly complete us. Lewis uncovers the truth: Longing is a “desire which no natural happiness can satisfy” (The Weight of Glory 4). It’s like drinking water, anyone will thirst again. The only thing or One who can quench thirst is God Himself because He is eternal.

In the chapter of Creation, one of the points Plantinga discusses is humanity. He states that though all creation manifests God’s goodness through their beauty, the human being is considered as partly divine for being created “in the image of God.” Lewis describes this act beautifully as “both honorable enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shamed enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth" (Prince Caspian 218). However for this same reason, we have the responsibility to not soil that gracious honor. We are to love like God loved, and to care like God cared. When God gave humans authority over the earth, he meant for us to have a “responsible dominion” over it (Plantinga 31). Instead of conquering and abusing the world given to us, we are to support it and act as proper stewards of the Lord. A precious gift is to be cared for, not trampled over.

Yet sadly, I realize that we do not love like God loves and we do not care like God cares. When God gave, we sinned, and thus caused the fall of goodness. But goodness merely “fell”, it was not annihilated. Evil is only a “spoiling of Shalom” (Plantinga 51); Shalom for itself did not and does not cease to exist. Evil and sin just arises in the wrong ways of pursuing these goods. For example, in We have no right to Happiness, C.S Lewis talks about sex. He compares this activity with a nectarine. He says the he has nothing against the nectarine itself for it is a good fruit, but he is against stealing it; mainly the wrong way of obtaining it (Lewis 2). Plantinga too affirms this idea when he writes that corruption is merely a “perversion” of what God intended for the gifts He gave us (Plantinga 54). Goodness is somewhere hidden by our sin, but nevertheless, there. This is why redemption is possible.

Redemption is something that can be achieved through two processes: Sanctification and Justification. While sanctification means becoming holy, justification means reconciliation in Jesus Christ. Both being signs of unconditional love, were given the name of “double grace” by John Calvin (Plantinga 92).

One of the works of C.S Lewis which I found simple yet most insightful, extends this topic into the controversy of who should grace be given to. Lewis answered the very much asked question of if one could be saved doing good deeds without believing in Christianity. In his work Man or rabbit? he answers that those who do good works and genuinely do not know about Christ might be able to receive grace, but those who knowingly avoid Christianity and do good works because they fear it, wont. God saves because He is graceful, but He saves only those who are honest at heart.

Lastly, there is the chapter of vocation. Even though the theme of longing and hope was my favorite, the chapter of vocation is the one that made me think the most. Plantinga offered many interesting views about this topic, but Lewis also had many things to say regarding education, an essential part of vocation.

In Plantinga’s opinion, vocation is not a mere job but a calling to become prime citizens of God’s kingdom. These citizens with different talents do not only share the same purpose which is serving the kingdom, but they also have the same methods of serving. Plantinga writes that all prime citizens of God must “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (NIV, Luke 18:17). Because it’s easy to yield to pride, we are to always, like a child, be dependant of God. Another thing the author thinks it’s necessary for the citizens of the kingdom to have is to yearn for shalom. However, he also mentions that we should not stop at longing, but also to fight for it; hence the idea of reform.

But to pursue vocation, the citizen must be trained to do so effectively; this is where education comes in play. Lewis expressed some of his views through this two very thought provoking articles: Our English Syllabus and Learning in War time. Through the first article, Lewis incited me to view education as a kind of leisure. In the second one, I learnt that “All…. Merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God,” even when it’s pursuing knowledge (Lewis 3). By combining Plantinga’s view of vocation as serving and Lewis’ idea of finding enjoyment in learning freely, I realized that serving God with all I have, even with all I know, is all about joy.

As what I just wrote about is the last chapter of Plantinga’s Engaging God’s World, I wish to talk about Lewis a little bit more. I have always felt amazed and dumbstruck when all what seemed complicated turned out to be so obvious, so simple and extremely clear through Lewis’ words. His mastery at weaving suppositional stories also leaves me in awe. This art and skill can be clearly seen in one of his famous works, The Chronicles of Narnia, where he also portrays his own thoughts subtly along the lines and yet expresses them mightily. There are countless of examples of this accomplished deed that I would gladly give, but I will only pick one.

On The Voyage of the Dawn Treader one of the protagonists, Eustace Scrubb, is transformed into a dragon due his greed. However, only after going all the dire hardships and pains of being a dragon, he abandons his priggish and disagreeable ways and becomes a whole “different boy” (Lewis 112). In The problem of pain, Lewis famously says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It’s His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (Lewis 91). Lewis thought that pain, by breaking our rebellious selves, brought us closer to God.

There were many other works my class and I went through and discussed together. They all caused quite an impression on me. The Screwtape letters opened my eyes to the nature of temptation, The Inner Ring brought me awareness of my social life, Mere Christianity gave me a foundation for evangelism, and The Weight of Glory helped me to find joy once more in serving.
This class broadened my view about many philosophies of life and Christianity.

Though I started simple and ignorant, in the end I felt blessed and I dare to say, a little wiser. Through the guidance of Professor Paulo and Professor Adriana, I experienced for the first time beauty in logic and motivation in words. My admiration for C.S Lewis grew every time I read one of his works, and it grew further more when I came to know about his life. Truly, like its name indicates, this class provided me with exquisite reason, it required from me endless imagination, and it strengthened my faith.

Works Cited

The Korean-English Enriched Bible. New International Version. Korean-English Bible corporation, 1999.
Plantinga Jr., Cornelius. Engaging God’s World: A Reformed Vision of Faith, Learning. Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2002.
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia. Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. Print. The voyage of the Dawn Treader. Ser. 5
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia. Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. Print. Prince Caspian. Ser. 3
Lewis, C.S. “The weight of Glory.” Calvin College ~pribeiro. N.p.: n.d. Web. 24 January 2010.
Lewis, C.S. “Man or Rabbit?” Calvin College ~pribeiro. N.p.: n.d. Web. 24 January 2010.
Lewis, C.S. “We have no right to Happiness.” Calvin College ~pribeiro. N.p.: n.d. Web. 24 January 2010.
Lewis, C.S. “Our English Syllabus and Learning in War time.” Calvin College ~pribeiro. N.p.: n.d. Web. 24 January 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Problem of Pain

Human pain can be either a sensation caused by nerves or an experience, be it physical or mental, that one dislikes. This can be feelings such as suffering, anguish, trouble, etc. Lewis writes this chapter with the second definition of pain as the base.

What was good before sin was that obedience was actually an enjoyment. It brought happiness since it delighted in the fact that one was serving Someone who loved and was accepted by that Someone. However, later obedience became something one had to do rather than wanted to do. As a spoiled child who hates obligation and would “kill or die rather than giving in,” obedience becomes merely something that’s in one’s way. In my opinion this is due to the eldest of all sins: pride. I remember that when I was a child, I used to quarrel with my little sister. Even if I had been in the wrong, I could not bear the thought of apologizing. However, once I managed to utter a meek "sorry" all the ill matters would be cast aside, leaving only a smile. Redemption is good, very good. But one fails to see how wonderful it's and how much peace it brings only because a pride that has no sense, and stubbornness that offers no future.

The cure for this, Lewis writes, is a sour medicine named “pain”. It is a remedy that “breaks the child’s will” or pride. The pain of punishment reveals the “masked evil” of error and sin. Since it’s loud and annoying as a siren, it’s impossible to ignore. It flashes bright red and cries “DANGER!” And that’s when one can know that there is evil in the house.

The consequences of pain can be divided in two main results. Either the person rebels and succumbs into a bigger evil or it repents and makes amends with God turning towards religion. If one chooses evil, then one would have missed his chance to go to a place where his fears would have melted like ice in face of spring.

Feeling pain in the heart when something precious breaks is also a way to bring one back to reality. It reminds the fact that one cannot attach itself to materialistic goods since they are not eternal and that God is the only One who can offer true satisfaction. The problem is that people do cling to physical goods until the moment everything is broken and then searches for God. But God should not be the last resort; he should be the first one. What seems to be the “shortcut” is actually the detour.

Then why make good people suffer too? One may ask. I asked myself this question before too. I realize now that it’s actually because they have experienced how much pain hurts that they can be kind and considerate. They know how it feels to be down, that’s why they know how to console, they know how it feels to be alone, and that’s why they can be a good friend.

“I am a great coward.” Lewis says almost by the end and I admit that I am too. I cringe at the sound of pain. I want to crawl into a hole when something that hurts me appears and haunts me. What should I do? I asked myself various times in those moments. I found out there is only one answer: Trust. The Lord says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” He asks strength and courage not because we have it within ourselves, but because He is and will be with us.

I believe that God’s prescription is always precise and fair. God gives certain kinds of pains to those who need it, and the right amount of pain to those who can bear with it. This does not mean all unnecessary pain is caused by God. Lewis says so too by writing “It is men, not God who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.” But then sometimes it becomes confusing to identify what part of life was touched by God’s hand and which was distorted by human hand. In my opinion, pondering about this matter will never bring anyone to anything worthy. It might even bring one to a erroneous judgment. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.” (1 Corinthians 3: 19) All one has to do is to put one’s trust on the Lord and live faithfully. It all comes back to faith.

Thus in the end, tribulation cannot cease. It’s a constant reminder of where one is. If the road to hell is with a “gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”, then the road to heaven is a tiresome slope, one that needs effort, with surprising turns everywhere, with tons of milestones, with millions of signposts. Like a mother’s reproach that shapes a child, our Father’s warning guides his child to paradise.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Man or Rabbit?

“Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?”

The answer to this depends to the answer of this other question, “Are you a man or a rabbit?”

If one is a man, an actual human being, then one would naturally thirst for knowledge. It’s the job of man to try to find out the truth of life. A rabbit, on the other hand, all it does is munch grass and be cute. It does not care (at least not consciously) about how a grass grows or how it provides it energy. It simply needs to know if it fills its stomach or not, if it’s useful to it or not.

When someone asks “Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” Lewis writes that it sounds more like “Is Christianity useful?” The question is one that does not express concern for truth itself but what would come out of it if it’s true.

Apart from the intentions of asking this question, the answer to the first question is no. Certainly one could have leaded a good life with honest ignorance about Christ. There are quite a few men like this. Lewis offers the reader some names: Socrates and Confucius among others. However, it is different to know about the existence of Christ and decide to evade it. Christianity is a choice in this case. And rejecting it despite knowing its truth would be just like “the man who won’t go to the doctor when he firsts feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him.” In the end because of cowardice, the man is doomed.

To the second question about usefulness: yes, Christianity is “useful.” It brings salvation. But becoming a Christian because of its usefulness will not make one a true Christian. What that person wants is not salvation from Christ, it’s to avoid hell. These two are very different goals. It doesn’t really matter if it’s useful or not, what should matter is if it’s true or not. Christianity “gives an account of facts.” And I can tell you that Christianity is very true indeed. Like C.S Lewis wrote, I also “believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

This whole topic reminded me of the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia. There is a scene where a soldier, despite being Carlomene and not Narnian, is accepted by Aslan because he withheld the morality held by Narnians; mainly courage and loyalty. He was saved not only because he had led a good life but because he had an honest ignorance about Aslan since he had grown up in another country that knew nothing of him.

There is a whole other point to this argument though. No one can truly lead a good life without Christ. It simply can’t be possible. If one does, but had put “a good life” as a goal, then one would had missed “the very point of [one’s] existence.” Everyone’s life was created for God and only for God. Where is the point of living a good life when one has no one to offer it to?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The inner ring

Basically, the inner ring is an onion; an endless, big, onion. When one has the desire to get inside, the terror of being outside, the desire to peel it until the end discarding everything that’s really important only to obtain false acceptance… this kind of person is called a ‘snob’. But there is a reason Lewis compares the inner ring to an onion. It’s because if one peels and peels an onion to get to the inside, nothing is left eventually. Nothing.

The inner ring is specifically “second or unwritten systems.” It’s a non-constant group of people that play a game of in and out. A kind of inner ring can be society itself, or in a smaller scale, the “cool” group of kids in high school or even the group of children in grade school who have a Wii.

But the inner ring for itself is not evil. An onion is not evil either. It’s actually tasty if you cook it in a certain way and serve it with others. But when one peels it endlessly just for the sake of peeling and does not make use of it in any worthy way, it makes the person cry pointlessly until the whole kitchen is flooded. The inner ring and the onion are just “unavoidable” (the inner ring will always exist; the onion will always make you cry unless you have some strong tear glands). Yes, the inner ring for itself is not evil. The way one pursues it, the way one desires to get inside it is what may be dangerous since it may be badly intended, and could end up hurting others and one’s own self.

C.S Lewis asks, “In your whole of your life as you now remember it, has the desire to be on the right side of that invisible line ever prompted you to any act or word on which, in the cold small hours of a wakeful night, you can look back with satisfaction?”

My reply is a fortunate yes. I remember back in my high school years that I never let anyone pull me into their influence. In Peru, for example, drinking and partying with drinking was what’s “popular,” and though some classmates made fun of me for not doing any of these, I remained steady on my ground. People would not associate with me because I was “no fun”; I was out of the inner circle. Yet soon I found something more worthy to have out of that circle: God’s grace which came in the form of a true friend. But that's yet another story.

Resisting the inner ring was and is still certainly hard. I want to do something grand, but sometimes I strive for it for the desire of being “known” and not for itself. Then the joy and the fun of it ‘poofs’ like magic and I lose the motivation of keep going. I understand now that if I keep doing that, I’ll never get anywhere and I’ll never get something worth getting.

Lewis instructs that just like the house in Alice through the Looking Glass, “The true road lies in quite another direction.” If one wants to attain happiness, instead of drifting towards the ring pulled by desire, one should just break the mere thought of it (since one can’t break the ring itself). Friendship, one of the good rings of life, is not to be chased down. Instead one should put an effort to be prepared for it and to walk along it; never chase it down. If one remains faithful,the onion will not cause tears of bitterness but instead it will evoke tears of happiness, for an excellent meal would be to come.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Plantinga: Vocation

Plantinga puts it this way: We have a kingdom and this kingdom is within other larger kingdoms, and all these kingdoms are within this major kingdom, which is God’s. Everyone is part of this gigantic kingdom where God is the supreme ruler. As each one has its own kingdom to rule, each one has to take “responsible dominion” for it and share it. By sharing it, the kingdoms overlap and intersect each other and it becomes one. Becoming one is what’s called “communion”.

To achieve communion, every person in each kingdom must become prime citizens of God’s kingdom. A prime citizen is active in the church, is a follower of Jesus (who represents God’s kingdom), “strives first for the kingdom”, yearns and fights for shalom and is a good giver and humble receiver. I add to all this that a true prime citizen loves God with all his heart, soul and strength (Deutronomy 6:5) and that’s why it wants the Kingdom to come: to be with God.

A prime citizen of God’s kingdom also has a vocation. Vocation is the calling of God, a mission of reform that makes a difference in the world, no matter how little. But when people try to accomplish the mission, they tend to either become proud or just despair and give up. Everyone is born for a vocation that is naturally suited for him or her, and everyone has a different vocation. I believe that the relationship God offers us is social but also especially personal. Lewis writes in “Learning in war” that “We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation.” God gives each person a joyful talent for this vocation, and each person must shape their talents so they grow to serve the Kingdom and not for one’s own selfishness.

Many times I have wondered, what’s my vocation? What’s my mission? Since young I would ponder impatiently and worry, what does God want me to do or be? I still feel this question unanswered, however I came to learn from my mother that all vocations are like stars; stars that shine ever so brightly, that are a light to the world. Sometimes these stars are covered by night clouds, but nevertheless, they still are there, and they will be revealed by God when the time is ripe. Mine has simply not come yet.

But one must be ready to follow the star once it shows itself, thus one must prepare oneself. One of the essentials is education. Plantinga describes Calvin College as an education center that has a “redemptive purpose” and that prepares students for their true vocation, which is in general, becoming prime citizens of God. Seeing prelude, DCM, chapel, and others, I would agree with this statement. However, I think redemption is not something that can be forced. Maybe these activities can influence a person into becoming a prime citizen of God, but it is up to the person itself to decide if it’s going to imprint all these teachings in its heart and truly prepare itself to become part of God’s kingdom.

There are different parts in Calvin education though. One of them is knowledge. It helps to “indentify and address human need” and it contributes to forming a Christian worldview. The second mentioned is skill. It’s the practice of knowledge, which objective should not be to impress but to serve. And finally, Virtue: diligence, patience, charity, stewardship, all the fruits of the spirit, etc.

The formula of a well rounded (or educated) student for Plantinga then would be something like this:

Knowledge + skills + virtues to pursue God’s call.

However, for me the proper formula is this:

(Knowledge + skills + virtues to pursue God’s call) *prayer

Though I don’t think there will ever be a person who will come to posses all these fine qualities completely (for then it wouldn’t be human), I think that one can get close enough if one tries hard, prays for blessing, and God grants it. After all, “Man proposes, God disposes” (Thomas a Kempis).

The four loves: Eros

I know from Greek mythology that “Eros” is actually the name of the Greek god of love and sexual desire. However, Lewis clearly states that the Eros he is referring to is the love of a lover. A love both described as unconditional and pure, but at the same time extremely mortal and fickle. The sexual part of this love is given the name of “Venus.”

The difference between Venus and Eros is quite clear. Venus wants what the other person has to offer; mainly pleasure. What Eros wants, though, is the person itself. Eros is a romantic feeling that regards pleasure as a “by-product.” It’s a love that wants nothing in return but maybe the same kind of love. It doesn’t aim for happiness, it prefers to have the other person’s love and be miserable in life, rather than not having that love at all and have everything else in life. From another perspective, it’s Eros itself what makes a person happy regardless the consequences of it. For a truly enamored person, The pain of the consequences fades in front of the blinding brilliance of love.

There is danger in Eros, however. People tend to forget that as strong as it is in its best moment, it’s fickle. In fact, it’s the most fickle between all passions. But some people end up regarding it as a god when it’s not (Yes, God is love, but that’s another kind of love: agape (divine)). God is pure goodness, but Eros can either lead to good or evil. Having romantic feelings for someone can make one feel kind, helpful and loving but also if not careful, jealous, possessive and greedy.

Returning to the topic of Venus, Lewis gives an interesting point of view. He says that sex should not be treated too seriously. At first, this startled me. But later I came to understand what he meant by this. He meant that one should “not find an absolute on flesh.” The only thing or One that can give a person an absolute is God himself, nothing else; not Venus nor Eros. Venus is a gift of pleasure and entertainment, a merry game that should only be played between married couples, a game which can be used to distract them from the sometimes burdensome domestic worries of the house. It brings pleasure, it brings laughter, it helps to keep matrimony together, and it may bring a family.

The part I best liked about this whole theme about Eros is when Lewis writes that Eros, just like all other passions, is not self-preservative. Instead, the duty of preserving this romantic love is that of the couple. Love is not something one lets to be, but a joyful and sometimes painfully beautiful play between two people. Just like a beautiful garden that needs a gardener to keep it alive, Eros needs constant caring and nutrition from both of it gardeners. In that sense, one can say that Eros can grow! And how much more wonderful and satisfying is a love that has overcome storms thanks to those who share it and protect its beauty through effort and prayer!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Plantinga: Redemption

Creation was first, fall was after, and what’s next in the list is: Redemption.

The first sin brought shame and guilt to humanity; however God did not abandon humanity. Having loving mercy and not mere pity, he brought grace upon all people and formed a covenant with them. He also gave them laws, the Ten Commandments, not only to restrict evil but to free and flourish (shalom) humanity. Though rules restricted some things, it’s because of them that the gift of life could be merrily enjoyed without chaos and unfairness. But chaos seemed more appealing than merriness to humans, and thus they foolishly broke the rules. Yet once more because of love for creation, God sent the Messiah.

The Messiah, also read as “the anointed one”, is described as the “King of kings” but also as the “suffering servant” who came to die for all sins and save what was lost, but not perished; basically all creation. After dying, He resurrected, and His resurrection is what all Christians have to and must offer to the whole world. The empty cross is the evidence of the defeat of human stubbornness in sin, and the triumph of God’s grace.

God’s grace was able to change people’s life since the beginning of all. Even in the Old Testament one can observe how it changed all Israelites lives by freeing them from slavery. In the New Testament, his grace is manifested through Jesus. Baptism becomes the new covenant: a symbol of “death” of the old sinful self, and “resurrection” of the new self which lets the redeemed person become "one with Christ". I believe that Plantinga uses the word “resurrection” and not “birth” because good has always resided inside everyone since God created them. It was covered by sin, yes, but through forgiveness it was restored.

Talking about restoration, there are two steps before it, something combined called “double grace.” This “double grace” is formed by two acts of grace: Sanctification and justification. Sanctification means “lifelong conversion” and signifies a miracle which can only be realized by God. Justification is the acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation of sinners through Jesus Christ. Both are truly undeserving, that’s why their second names are “grace.”

God loves His people and thus offers salvation. He gave each person a will, not because he wanted to just make it harder for the people to come to Him, but to permit them reach true love worthy of having; not a robotic kind of love, which is programmed and halfhearted. I believe that this will is what makes forgiveness even more graceful and loving.

Once redeemed, a person’s mission is to have faith in Jesus and in his plans. But “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26)”. One is to perform good works not to show off Christianity, but to demonstrate “God’s grace in a person’s life” and to reform what one can with the help of God. This is why scripture is important. It’s because the Word is the measuring stick for all deeds. I would say it’s like the representation of the moral law that C.S Lewis defends in his articles, it is a guide to discern what is good and what is evil. Because everyone’s mind is already tainted with sin its thinking is “twisted” and deceiving, it must depend on a pure and truthful guide. However the measuring stick has only numbers and not formulas, it’s up to humans to find ways of applying the Word of God to our world, and this is where education comes in handy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Learning in War time

Is it alright to pursuit learning even when brave soldiers are dying in war? Is it alright to pursue knowledge and beauty when humanity is in danger of going to hell?

Some people claim that when in war, one’s life ought to be only national, and in all circumstances it only ought to be religious. There is sense in these words. I mean, one is supposed to love one’s country and love God at all times, right? However, even if it ought to be such way, it’s just “not going to happen.” It’s simply impossible for a human being to concentrate in one thing and live its life based on it until it dies. If one thinks about it, one cannot ever be perfect in any sense. When a soldier gets to nearer to the front lines, the soldier’s thoughts about his country diminishes and he thinks about his life: his family, his past and his present. His head would be most probably filled with thoughts of returning alive rather than saving the nation.

War therefore is like most duties, maybe something “worth dying for but not living for.” The only One whom one is to live for is for God. All living will be accepted if it’s a living that glorifies Him. As I see it, food, work, knowledge, beauty, and more, are all gifts from God. If one uses these gifts in a way that pleases God and to His Glory, then one is not doing any wrong. Like Lewis writes, “All…. Merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest: all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not.”

One does not have to forget though that the gifts are not good for themselves, but that the One who gave the gifts is good and therefore they are good. Thus, some gifts are never more valuable than others in front of God’s eyes. Sweeping the church can please God just as much as composing a rhapsody. I believe it’s the heart that matters; a heart that wants glory, a heart that wants to please God (from The weight of Glory”) is what’s appreciated. Everyone has different talents and vocations, but all of them can be used to praise the Lord.

Because the world has been tainted with sin, sometimes knowledge has become more of a necessity than something to pursue for the sake of it. It would be almost impossible to survive without any knowledge at all. All kinds of knowledge are used in all areas of life, thus to survive one has to learn.

However, there are certain things that interfere with a learning that’s “pure” and “humble.” One of them is excitement. I suppose Lewis means by excitement, something like sudden caring, when one was to care all along. For example, Lewis writes that war has not brought a “new situation” but has “aggravated an old one.” Humanity has always been on danger of heading the wrong path, but war has merely brought awareness of it. So one must always do the best one can; one must carpe diem all the days of one’s life.

The second problem is frustration. For example, sometimes I get frustrated because twenty four hours a day doesn’t seem enough for all the activities I want to finish. How much so then for the people who frustrate over the fact that there is a limited time for learning and will never be able to finish knowing all knowledge? This is an inevitable fate, though, and dwelling on misery is not going to make it fade away. One should simply, rejoice in the present, and leave the future in God’s compassionate hand.

The last disturber is fear, fear of death and pain. Fear is in a sense, good. It reminds humans of their mortality, but that does not mean that humans are to succumb to fear of death and pain. Jesus has triumphed over those. It’s natural to fear, but not to fear all the time to the point of not doing anything but hide.

My own conclusion then is this: Pursuing knowledge and some other activities can be a necessity, but above all, they are gifts of grace and love. Just like Solomon says in the Bible, "Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God." (Eclesiastes 5:18-19) It's alright to enjoy the gifts of life, but one must do so properly. This is a hard task, but if it is done so, then one will be able to glorify God.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Poison of Subjectivism

Just like the title reads, Subjectivism is poison to humanity.

One can ask: What’s so bad about subjectivism? Well, subjectivism is a “doctrine that all knowledge is limited to experiences by the self, and that transcendent knowledge is impossible”( Lewis writes that denying the real existence of all things affects the judgment of good and evil, because it believes that judgment is merely something created, conditioned by the community one lives in and not something that exists separately.

This is impossible not only because one cannot be totally subjective anyways since one would have to assume the truthfulness of one’s logic to support the idea that everything is subjective, but because there is always a standard for what’s good. I agree with this statement because it makes total sense. Judging on base of an original criteria is something that comes naturally and no one can help but submit to it.

There are two undeniable facts: one, a human hasn’t got the ability to create a new ‘morality.’ New ethics yes, but not morality. Thus two is that though one cannot come up with a new ‘morality’ one can come up with different ‘ethics’ depending of the culture and time. Ethics can be called a branch out of the morality tree. Depending on the location and the season it sprouts in, it grows differently. It’s the same with cultures. Because each culture values different things over another, they have different ethics. But once one opens the encyclopedia (as Lewis recommends), one is bound to realize that the basic morality is all the same. All cultures despise selfishness, and all hail honor and courage.

Now some say “to tie ourselves to an immutable moral code is to cut off all progress and acquiesce in stagnation.” However, this is not true. “The square on the hypotenuse has not gone moldy by continuing to equal the sum of the squares on the other two sides.” On the contrary, because this rule has remained true for years, it's possible to do more complicated and advanced math. However this doesn't mean that math itself has changed; math has been on the same place the whole time.What has changed, is the amount of one's knowledge of it; this is what one is to call "progress".

Here is the last question, was ‘good’ made by God or God commands us to do ‘good’ because it’s good? This question is bound to not make sense to us. A human being is only able to gather a limited amount of experience and thus this is not a matter one can explain with what one knows. Just like in the book “Flatland” (I have read this funny, logical book), flatlanders who live in a two dimensional space can never imagine from where they are how does a third dimension work or exists. It’s something beyond their comprehension. Thus Lewis gives the only conclusion he was able to make which I too cannot contradict: God is Good and Good is God.

While reading this article and going through it, I noticed that this writing touches many of the same points as “Mere Christianity.” It supports the same idea that there exists an objective moral law, but it adds to that that subjectivism is turning Moral law into nothing more than an idea that was created by humans when it was truly created by God. In the end, Lewis concludes that we must “return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values,” or humanity (or civilization) will "perish", since progress would be denied and chaos would reign.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BBC Program: C.S Lewis

I was always intimidated by the name of “C.S Lewis.” I had read the Chronicles of Narnia, but never really had the chance of reading his essays. From what I had heard they were definitely not children’s stories, but something that required a deep meditating mind. Thus I entered this DCM class (still a little bit scared) with the full intention of learning more about C.S Lewis. And I did; his works and, today, his life.

After reflecting upon some of his works and finally listening to the BBC, I learned that Lewis was not as intimidating as I thought. As we approached him as a human being, my intimidation was replaced by admiration. If he had been merely a genius, without flaws, successful in everything, then it would have been no wonder for me that he could have written such wonderful masterpieces of writings. However, l came to know that he was actually head strong, amazingly stubborn, sloppy in dressing , quite an enjoyer of joking, yet serious in reflecting every little thing he could think of and actually human (I cannot stop admiring God for designing such an interesting human).

When I was hearing all the comments about him from the BBC program, I had the sudden urge to know, what did he see? What was the world he saw?

Maybe it was a world full of detail, philosophy, joy, or anything I can’t imagine or something really not that special. But how can it not be special when his writings say it all?

Thus I simply thought, “It must have been a wonderful world.”

However I did not merely admire him because of his interesting combination of characteristics. I admired him because he, together with his dying wife, had been strong in the Lord even when facing sorrowful pain. So strong, in fact, that it made an everlasting impression on one of his friends. Indeed, the real reason I admired C.S Lewis as a person is because though he had felt much pain like any human being, he had clung to God in the end.

He is known as an extraordinary writer, yes, but before that, he was a human. A man who had flaws, a man that refused to know God, a man that met God, a man that felt suffering, and a man that felt joy and inspiration. Just as Professor Ribeiro said, it is important to see his life, not only his works. That’s where the essence of Lewis is. To know his philosophy completely, one must know both.

Plantinga: Fall

If through creation one can see the original goodness, through creation one can also see the consequences of fall. Decay, depravity, sin, and corruption can be seen in all creation as well as human lives. And though good has not been completely annihilated, it has been clearly “shadowed by fall”.

Plantinga writes that evil is “any spoiling of shalom.” And one of the elements of evil is sin. Being sin part of evil, sin also breaks shalom. Now, the first act of sin was committed by our ancestors in the Bible, Adam and Eve. Because of their attempt to be like God, all human being’s nature was tainted and thus became unable to remain with God anymore. As sin became part of human nature, human nature became corrupted.

The definition Plantinga gives for corruption is perversion of the good gifts given by God from their real purpose. One of the major acts of corruption is idolatry. Not only it is awfully disloyal in the moral sense, but also ungrateful towards the creator. It interferes in the relationship between human and God and separates them even more. Though Corruption begins with the wrong choice, it ends up becoming an awful habit, a habit which is very difficult to get out of.

Fall, is indeed a tragedy, but not a tragedy without hope.

Even when corruption is accumulated into a big black ball of depravity, the Holy Spirit still offers “common grace” which “preserves and enhances human life.” God also keeps corruption in line through a sense of divinity, morality, conscience, shame and even fear, in people. I realized that no matter how dreadful and unpleasant some of these feelings might seem (specially the last too), they exist for a purpose.

Lastly, the chapter debates where does corruption actually comes from. I have wondered about that question too a lot of times, and have discarded every idea I came up with. God is holy, and hates sin, thus corruption cannot come from him. On the other hand, satan can tempt but cannot force people into corruption because he is weaker than God. However God has is creator of all, so maybe he created Evil to balance Good? Maybe He meant evil only for that purpose, but sin was formed the moment human heart knew evil (the fruit they took was from the tree of knowledge of good and evil after all) since he was not able to cope with it because he was not ‘good’ enough…? The more I ask, the more questions surface on my mind instead of the sought answers and sense becomes blurred.

However one must take into account that sin extends itself even to one’s way of thinking. Just as one’s soul has been dirtied with sin, one’s mind and subsequently actions have also been affected by it. Thus I think that instead of walking around in circles and getting lost, one should just give oneself into the Lord's care, who is pure and holy, free of sin, our only hope, to give answers and guide one towards “redemption”.

Mere Christianity

What Lewis tries to achieve with “Mere Christianity” is to bring non-believers into the “hall” of Christianity. He specifies that that is his only intention; choosing which door to enter(the denomination) is up to the person himself while he is waiting in the hall.

Thus the first chapter of this book tries to convince people about the existence of a Law, or more specifically, the presence of the Law of Human nature. This is a standard behavior which everyone agrees on being morally correct, a rule that a person can choose either to obey or disobey. Lewis lays proof of its existence using extraordinary logic. One of my favorite examples he uses is when he writes that even if “you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson.” Just like it was mentioned in one of the lectures in our class where a flow chart was shown, if someone claims to not believe in the existence of a moral right, one can do anything to them, and they would have no right to complain (However, this in turn would be morally incorrect).

Unfortunately, no one is really keeping this law totally. People offer excuses, a special reason for not being to meet up the ‘how it ought to be’ behavior. But this is just another evidence for the existence of the Law of human nature. The guilt one feels when one breaks the rules, shows that there is a law imprinted on us. Thus I think that just as no one is able to obey it fully, no one can truly escape it.

In chapter two, Lewis brilliantly refutes certain opposing statements. One of them objects to the Law’s existence by saying it might be a “herd instinct.” Lewis pin points that an instinct would merely be a strong desire to act in a certain way and that if there were two instincts to choose from, there would still be a measuring stick (the law) that decides which one is to be acted out. “There are no such things as good and bad impulses…” he writes, and complements that every single one “ right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or a set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts.” To all this I add, if morality were to be an "herd instinct" it would be something done by the majority as the word "herd" indicates, however, keeping morality is the exact opposite of what everyone is actually doing (since everyone sins); thus morality cannot be an "herd instinct" anyways.

The second objection proposes for the moral law to be something invented by education. However, this too is proved wrong by the acceptance that moral law can be taught however, it is not simply a “human convention,” but a “real truth” (just like logic). This can be seen in different cultures and different times. One can notice that each moral ideal is not much different from each other. For example in any of them, “selfishness has never been admired”.

Chapter three goes on, in general, about how decent behavior is simply decent behavior. It is not something created to be necessarily useful or convenient (in fact, if one thinks about it, doing the right thing is sometimes much more inconvenient than doing something wrong) but because it is the way it ought to be and ought to be followed.

This takes us to the fourth chapter: What lies behind the law. Lewis firmly states that Science cannot decide if ‘Something behind’ is or is not. It is unable to do so because science consists on experimenting, and finding out whether there exists ‘something behind’ is an issue beyond facts we are able to observe and experiment.

Overall, the whole reading points at and argues there is a Moral Law that serves as a standard for ‘good’ behavior, and that therefore there must be something, or someone, directing the universe. With easy examples, and very reasonable deductions, Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” is a book that exists to convince, and which has convinced me twice of my own faith.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shattered Glass

Writer of the political magazine The New Republic, Rolling Stone Magazine, Haper’s Bazaar and George, the film “Shattered Glass“ presented a very interesting character: Stephen Glass, a man of talent whom's story is one of misused talent.

In the film, he is portrayed as a very popular writer, known for his imaginative and captivating stories of drunken republicans, a boy hacker that managed to break the security system of a famous company, and etc; among other stories which brought him much fame and favor. However, his moments of grandeur do not last forever. All starts crumbling down when his kind editor whom he was easily manipulating gets fired and is replaced with another (his colleague Charles Lane) who begins to suspect the truth behind his stories. With fake phone connections and falsified facts, Glass manages to scurry through safe for a good while until further problems arise for him. An online magazine journalist discovers the lies behind the articles and Stephen Glass, is fired. In the end, it is revealed that twenty seven out of his forty one articles were partially or totally, artificially weaved. Amazingly, he had managed to hide their falseness for three years straight without being caught. However what’s truly amazing is the fact that this was a story that happened in real-life.

The movie is edited in a way so the present and the past, reality and illusion are mingled. It actually starts with Glass sitting on a classroom full of young students of his former high school, and advising them on how to become a star journalist like him. But then every time he mentions something he has written, the scene switches to his work place and the shows the real story. When his fabulous lies are finally uncovered, the last scene presented is one of an empty classroom. There had been no kids listening from the beginning. What Glass had been staring at the whole time had been the illusion of a glory that never came to be.

The ending left me feeling only disappointment and pity for the character. From the very start, throughout the whole movie, through the suspicions and accusations, I had hoped that miraculously it would reveal that Stephen Glass had been telling the truth all along. However, this was never so. And this was reality, literally. This feeling made me look back and think of what I had read on “The weight of Glory” and Platinga’s second chapter. No matter how much one hope for someone or something in this world to be perfect and good, this can never be. The only one who can truly fill this hope is God. If one puts one’s hope on something else, then one does it in vain, for it will merely end up in disappointment and pity. Just like glass, everything is bound to someday shatter.

Screwtape Letters

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without turnings, without milestones, without signposts,”

There was one a time when I felt I was drifting away. I was going to church, I was praying, I was reading the Bible every day, but at some point I realized it was becoming an empty habit. In that instant, I became extremely afraid. I felt like my heart had gone numb, that the joy had left me without me noticing it, and since I had not realized that I had lost it, I had not search for it immediately. When I became conscious of this fact, a dreadful feeling of terror washed over me. I asked myself, where am I?! The emptiness of the place I found myself in, scared me.

Perhaps it was Wormwood all so gently, sweetly leading me to a fake sense of peace doing what his dear uncle Screwtape had suggested. And indeed, a demon's goal is not to scare one away using "strong" turnings, it is to draw one towards his jaws with a seemingly pleasant and harmless road. I was succumbing into a life of routine; taking everything for granted and was slowly forgetting the joy of gratitude.

Though fortunately Wormwood’s intentions were revealed to me halfway, his strategy was and still is a fearful one. His plan consists in a subtle attack of sin which works as a snowball effect, and is disguised as an external Christian habit which is only superficial. This starts with a feeling of "dim uneasiness," then it turns into a small guilt, this guilt transforms into a bigger shame, shame into cowardice and reluctance to face truth, and ultimately, it ends up on separation from God.

All this happens so slowly that almost no change is noticed, or if noticed, it is viewed as trivial. It lets one’s guard down and rusts one’s sword. Then it becomes too late. All sin that seemed trifle, which seemed to not need repentance piles up together and turns too heavy to bear, dragging one down. With one’s own strength, nothing can be done. Thus it is necessary to, just like Lewis says, die before one dies. Leave the old life and be reborn into a new and repented one before passing the point of no return.

But there is no need to wait until one ends up in the worst possible situation before turning away. The more one procrastinates, the more difficult it becomes to escape the place of nothingness. One can avoid, reveal, fight against the cleverly formulated plan by Screwtape from the beginning by being aware of one’s position at all times. To walk on the right path, one needs to pray for strength and courage to keep faith alive (“always pray and not give up” – Luke 18:1), to find joy every time one goes to church and thinks about God’s love instead of taking it for granted and forgetting its true meaning and preciousness, to repent all times, to cast away pride and to simply stop being stubborn and return to where are supposed to be: with God.

There are only two paths for everything ones does, for every choice one makes: One that leads to heaven and one to hell. Being uncertain of what path to take is way too dangerous; the devil takes advantage of that. Lewis describes our desires for Glory (acceptance in God) as too “weak” and “easily-pleased.” One should prevent being indecisive and lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-16). One has to be colder than the fiercest storm of Grand Rapids’ winter to be able to freeze all temptation in battle; one has to burn with passion and love for Christ everyday and glow brighter with joy. Only by being a wholehearted christian, one will wake up, stump Screwtape’s plans and head towards heaven.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The weight of Glory

We all seek for rewards. It is not bad to do so. However, it depends on what kind of reward one is seeking. Lewis talks about two rewards: ones that have no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and ones that do. If one seeks for the ones that lack natural connection, like marrying for money and not for the sake of love, then one is nothing more than a mercenary.

Using another more complex example, Lewis explains how we try to aim for heaven; the ultimate reward. The author writes that just like a student we first aim to please, to obtain good grades, to avoid punishment… all extrinsic rewards. However at some point, the student comes to love what he is studying and begins to aim and long for the proper reward. The first step is to obey, and the second, to long, will come naturally.

Now, longing comes when we view beauty. But this beauty is not ‘in’ the goods but is expressed ‘through’ them. “But if mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the heart of their worshippers.” Longing is a “desire which no natural happiness can satisfy.” The source of beauty, the original beauty comes from God. The only way to cure longing is by obtaining Glory.

Glory is interpreted in the human way as fame and luminosity. But glory is actually something much grander and humbler, than something as transient and arrogant as that.

The human fame is a “competitive passion,” something given by fellow humans; and human passions always die away. Glory is in reality “fame with God, approval, “appreciation” by God.” The long and painful longing that could never be satisfied by material goods, can only cease the moment God smiles and says “you have done well.” One must recall those younger days when being praised by someone one loves and admires brought feelings of supreme bliss. Only a dependent child of God can enter paradise.

Luminosity is to shine. But we are not light bulbs trying to stand out from other light bulbs. We are humans, made in image of God himself. Our shine should not be one motivated by competition but one full of joy for obtaining glory. If we become perfect in “voluntary obedience”, we are bound to “outlive” nature, shine brighter than the morning star, and reunite with God.

However there is one more hurdle before one accomplishes all what is mentioned above. “The cross comes before the crown.” There is to be hard times before Glory. One must carry the neighbor’s weight of Glory, which is a heavy one, before achieving one’s own. It’s difficult without a strong will, and impossible without humility. The neighbors are also sons and daughters of God, not “mere mortals,” and one is to respect them, love them and with them, pursue Glory which is Christ himself.

Plantinga: Creation

Why were we created?

Platinga writes that God didn’t need to create us because of loneliness nor our existence was an accident. We were created out of love and to love. Evidence of this fact can be observed in everywhere. The details of life show careful planning and dedication, the perfect harmony of systems of the universe refute coincidence. Everything that breathes, everything that does not breathes; all praise the Lord and reaffirm his existence in their own unique and special way. I agree that we too, are part of this wonder.

Being created “in the image of God,” we, mere creatures, were crowned with honor. To not put into shame His name, one has the responsibility to follow His footsteps. Just like God rested on the seventh day, one must also consider that day as holy and sacred. Together with silence, one can finally fully contemplate God’s work, reflect in it, and find joy in it. God also gave us ‘authority’ over the rest of his creation. This authority is more of a “responsible dominion,” where the word that describes it is not “conquer” nor "abuse", but “support.” Our task is to take care of nature and “live in healthy interdependence with it.” Respecting creation, Platinga writes, is respecting God.

Other blessings and instructions are added to this original one. We are told to be “fruitful and multiply.” This includes various cultural gifts, like art, language, etc. Though corrupted and distorted by sin, they still retain their goodness by coming from the Creator. Also because God is a triune God, He is a social and personal God at the same time. Following His example, we are told to live in union and harmony with our neighbors, forming communion. In short, what I understood from all this is that: God is our role model. We were created in his image; we are to follow his way.

Lastly, the chapter talks about the meaning of the Christian doctrine. It points out eight things. First, it says that all is redeemable because they were originally good before sin came onto the stage. Second, all is special and still good. Though sometimes it may hurt us (take fire), it is not its fault but ours for being careless. Third, God created everything out of nothing. Pantheist thoughts, be it spiritual or materialist, are wrong. It mostly ends up leading to idolatry. Fourth, following the previous concepts, the natural world is to be loved because it represents God’s goodness, but it is not to be worshiped. Fifth, just like everything else, work and marriage are good too in their own way. Sixth, as we were created in His image, we have responsibilities as well as rights, and no one is to take them away from us as they were assigned by God. Seventh, we were created for communion. And lastly, eighth, we are only an image of God and not God Himself. Yes, to be created in his image is “honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar..." (C.S. Lewis -Prince Caspian). Platinga too supports this by writing that we are “more than bodies,” and Lewis states that no one is a “mere mortal.” But honor must be retained with humility. Only like that one can remember that everything was given by God and that God is the creator of all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Logical song

I do not want to be a vegetable.

I think that the song talks about how as we grow up and get vocational training (or even education), we begin to lose sight of it’s true purpose (leisure and learning for the sake of it) and start to busy ourselves at catching up with the world’s fast pace. We begin to search for what’s ‘practical’ and not the ‘thin passage’ or right road, and satisfy ourselves with the “acceptable” instead of the best. As we learn more, we become arrogant and think we know everything, and soon become cynical about the world we live in, forgetting its goodness. We are, after all, “simple men”.

Just like in the song, I also feel confused many times and have questions that don’t seem to have answers. Sometimes nothing makes sense nor does it seem “logical”: Where am I? Where am I going? Who am I? What will I become...? Stepping on the darkness makes me feel insecure and afraid. However I feel I do not want to just live the rest of my life pondering like that and getting nowhere. As I said, I do not want to be a “vegetable” or live like one.

Thus I believe that if I just strive forward, God will take care of my path. Even though nothing seems to make sense, I will still believe and I'm sure one day it will. I feel I just have to wait for the answers while regaining joy and living the way I should be: at its best. Life is after all, a gift full of love given to me by the Creator himself. My wish is to use it wholly and exalt him.

Our English Syllabus

I never really noticed, but I came to understand that education and vocational learning are truly different things. Lewis writes that “education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves." While education prepares us for leisure and produces in the end a “good man” and “good citizen” through learning, vocational training is not for leisure but for work. However vocational learning is undeniably necessary to survive this world where money is unfortunately more appreciated than knowledge itself. This means that we must find time for “both”. But what happens if one pursues only vocational learning?

Since Lewis claims that “Human life means… the life of being for whom the leisured activities of thought, art, literature, conversation are the end”, pursuing only vocational learning and forgetting education would mean killing civilization. No matter how useful vocational learning might be in this world, if there were no leisure, then we would be no better than Lewis’ cow. A true human has the ability to do something for the sake of doing it and not only because of necessity.

The people assigned to prevent pupils from turning into cows and who molds them into becoming more human, are the teachers. Their purpose is to make them into good men, but to do so, the pupil in turn needs to contribute with obedience and humility. Once the pupil has been “humanized” and is off school, he becomes a university student and a human being. It begins to pursue knowledge for its own sake, and “picks up” instead of being taught by the professor. And this is when he has to decide what he wants to know ‘more’ about.

Lewis admits that “a perfect study of anything requires knowledge of everything”, however he knew that it was impossible to do so. A human life was just too short. Thus he said that it is best to ignore the little and least important roots that do not affect much the main subject tree. Instead, he writes, to focus on the “tap-root” or the most important one. Although I agree with this statement, I also think that having a general knowledge of things as a base is not bad either. I think that touching all subjects and then pursuing specifically one, is more of a balanced diet.

However I totally agree with his thought of seeking ‘only’ general education. Being put together artificially by a committee of professors, it is merely a selection of reality that has been distorted and not true reality. Also it would simply be boring. Using Lewis’ metaphor of dinner, I must agree that there is no fun in eating the food set up for you and always ask for the salt because it does not suit your taste. Though it might be necessary for the sake of learning, I do not want to stay doing nothing forever. Lewis says to "wrestle with nature for yourself". And I think this would be much more exiting and wonderful than just staring at the photos someone else brings from his adventure.

When it’s time, I want to acquire my freedom, and “choose my own path.” And then I would finally, with all my efforts and own knowledge, create something that I can love with all my heart, and then be proud of.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Right to Happiness?

So the main question is this: Do we have the right to happiness?

First of all, I want to define what happiness is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, happiness is “A pleasurable or satisfying experience”, but I want to add to that that it is an experience that brings momentary pleasure and momentary satisfaction. This happiness then, in my opinion, is an earthly thing.

Then do we have the right to pursue happiness? I don’t know about having the “right”, since it’s not something we can demand because we have no real ownership of it (the owner is God), but I believe we are permitted to do so because of God’s grace. Small pieces of temporary happiness are a gift to be enjoyed while our lives last. We are left to be happy by certain correct means, but not eternally, since that is promised to happen in “Home”. However pursuing happiness does not mean pursuing it by any means necessary, but by “lawful means,” which obey two kinds of laws: The law of the state (nation’s law) and more importantly, the law of nature (God’s law) which permits to judge the laws of the state.

Now regarding sexual happiness, Lewis write that he disapproves how sex is treated as an exception among other impulses. He puts it like this, “It is like having a morality in which stealing fruit is considered wrong- unless you steal nectarines.” Lewis specifies that he does not have anything against sex itself but the way it is pursued.

Therefore pursuing sexual happiness by any means is wrong. “It’s an offense against honesty… Against good faith, against gratitude… and against common humanity.” The author uses the example of a man who has abandoned his wife because her looks faltered, and has married another. He is pursuing sexual happiness by being self centered and superficial. However such happiness (as any other happiness) cannot last. And soon enough, the man will repeat his previous action, and will never find real happiness. The only ones who can achieve, if not “lasting”, the best quality of happiness are those who are “great lovers” and “good people” whom are in turn described as “controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adapted people.”

Finally there are two things Lewis also mentions that are related. First of all, he talks about women’s disadvantage at pursuing happiness. And though, it offends some, I must say that it is the sad reality. Although not all women only search for “domestic happiness”, it’s true that they are more often the victims than the culprits.

Lewis also gives the readers a serious warning. Though in the start sexual happiness may be the only one among impulses exempted from its bad behavior, slowly, society might begin to make exceptions to other impulses. If there is a foot in the forbidden door that prevents the entrance from closing completely, it will end up wide open. Soon, Lewis claims, “our civilization will have died at heart and will.” If we let this happen, “civilization” will not be “civilization” anymore, but loose beasts. Let us prevent this by imposing self control and praying for guidance to not stray from the right path, and if we have already lost the way, to have the strength and courage to come back. True and eternal happiness is waiting on the end of this path.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Plantinga: Longing and Hope

Just like Gene Forrester felt “stabs of hopeless joy” when he woke up in the mornings, I feel sweet tingling sensations tickling my heart when I long or yearn for something beautiful. And just as the book describes it, it’s such a profound feeling that can overwhelm and clothe one’s soul.

This longing, I came to understand finally, it’s a feeling that searches union with something so awe-inspiring that makes the soul tremble. It can never be fulfilled by mere earthly existences, but I dare to think that this sorrowful reality is what makes our yearning so beautiful and our reunion with God (which is the only thing that can truly satisfy), so unbearably graceful.

Longing is also described by Platinga as an ingredient of hope. He writes that “you can hope only for something you want, and if you really want it, you will long for it” (8). He also uses Lewis B. Smedes to express that hope is a combination of imagination, faith and desire. And indeed, imagination is required to be able to visualize a grand future, faith to be able to believe, and a strong and passionate desire to be able to strive and fight to make the dream come true. Together with the aid of scripture which provides wisdom and the guidance, one can finally accomplish what one hoped for.

Though as mentioned before, hope is a mix of imagination, faith and desire, there is also another essential component that completes it, and that is love. Hoping for only one’s own good is called “egocentrism” but with love and the power of the Holy Spirit, one is able to “look out toward the future of others” (12). Envisioning a big dream, embracing it, and working towards it will help one achieve the ultimate peace and harmony, and flourish wholly, or in other words, achieve “shalom”.

Although new fears seep in our lives and trouble us, as long as there is hope in the heart, one can remain strong and be saved. As long as there is hope, nothing ever dies just yet. And hope is just like the rose which blooms in winter, or a gentle yet mighty, pure light shining on a black ocean of sin. I believe that our hope is Jesus Christ himself. Thus we must love him so much that nothing in our heart is wasted, we must hold on to this hope tight, believe it will bring salvation, and share it by evangelizing. As Andy Dufresne says in the "Shawshank redemption" movie, “Hope is a good thing”. And yes it is, a very good thing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Named after C.S Lewis’s fictional character Ezekiel Bulver, “Bulverism” is said to be the art (and a much practiced one too) of assuming that an opponent’s argument is wrong because the way he arrived to that conclusion is erroneous. Instead of tackling the argument itself to prove its validity, it “distracts” itself from the main point of the whole debate and attacks the arguer to win. One could say that Bulverism totally misses the point.

To show how miserably Bulverism fails to properly explain truth, Lewis uses an example. In the example he claims to have a grand sum of money. To find out whether this is true or not, he writes that it is necessary to do the math in an accurate manner instead of finding out about his mental state since that would prove nothing about the initial proposition.

Reading this example one could think that avoiding bulverism is quite simple. However, this is fatal misconception. Bulverism is more deeply rooted than what we think and it happens to be almost everywhere: Politics, religion, gender discrimination, etc. Somehow we have gotten so used to use the easy way to win a debate that finding the truth has become something secondary. Yes, Bulverism may indeed be useful to obtain victory but it’s not right.

Lewis writes what we must actually do. We must “find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning – never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology” and we must “show that a man is wrong before [we] start explaining why he is wrong”. It’s the reason what we must search for, not the cause.

Bulverism "is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly." If Bulverizing starts with assuming, then the first thing we must be careful of is to not assume and have prejudices. Taking something for granted without rational proof may lead to another mistaken statement and this one to another and so on. Thus Bulverism is wrong from the very beginning.

This reading made me reflect about how difficult the road to find the truth of things is. The way has become blurry because of the dark clouds of bulverism and it has become almost invisible because of the lack of motivation and ignorance of people. A Habit is a scary thing, and a Bulverizing habit, even more so. And the best way to break a bad habit is to drop it (Leo Aikman), starting from now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Meditation In A Toolshed

After reading the article by C.S. Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed”, I wondered if I was living by staring at the bright beam of light with wonder or looking along the beam. Then, I also landed to the same question as Lewis: Which one is the “valid” or “true”?

I understood from the article that looking at and looking along are very different from each other. Whereas looking at refers to objective or scientific explanation of a phenomenon from the outside, looking along is referred as a subjective or direct experience felt from the inside. The author uses the example of a man “loving” a woman (this is looking along) and a scientist’s definition of this attraction as mere “biological impulses” (this is looking at) to bring some light to both definitions.

Normally, as Lewis says, people take “for granted that the external account of a thing somehow refutes or “debunks” the account given from the inside” since it offers a more reasonable and logical thought. Making most to ignore and underestimate the value of looking along. Sometimes this seems justifiable; however I think it’s important for one to never forget that both are actually important.

To have a complete knowledge about basically anything, one must use both kinds of looking. Without either one of them, the view becomes narrow and the knowledge mediocre. It’s like a person who knows a recipe very well but has never touched a fry pan. To know it all, one must experience it all, and because one can experience, one can explain. Only because something exists, it is possible to explain it.

Thus the two kinds of looking are necessary since both cannot exist without each other’s existence. No matter how accurate an “outside” view of points is, it can’t exist without there being an “inside”, and equally, the “inside” cannot exist without the “outside”. Only because there is darkness that light can shine.

This was my first reading and reflection of the class, and I found it very interesting and thought-provoking. I’m always amazed when C.S. Lewis manages to uncover the simple yet important things of life that we often ignore and brings it forth for us to read, understand and consecutively apply it to our lives and way of living.

Life is a precious and wonderful gift from God. And I think it would be a shame to waste it without to not come to know it and love it. Thus I came to the realization that to do so, to live wholly, I must “look both along and at everything” (I guess as a student, the only thing I can do now is search for constructive experiences and study hard ^ ^)