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.
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:
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