Social Media, Lewis and the Art of Disagreement

A professor of mine, Dr. Michael Ward (University of Oxford), recently wrote a timely article entitled, “C.S. Lewis and the Art of Arguing.” In light of how hostile and acrimonious debate can become on social media, I thought a couple of quotes from the essay might provide food-for-thought next time someone challenges your political or religious views:

Ward writes,

“The fact that Lewis could approve of atheists like Gilbert Ryle, as well as enjoy the company of liberals like George Watson and socialists like John Lawlor, reinforces [the] point that Lewis would not allow disagreement to become personal. He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion.”

Ward quotes George Watson:

“Lewis’ twin passions were people and arguments, but he did not often make the mistake of confusing them…..Lewis had vigor without venom.”

Solomon wrote, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1)

The entire article (Dr. Ward is a scholar in the field of C.S. Lewis studies) is quite entertaining and engaging.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Love Is Risky Business – But It’s Worth It

“Love hurts” sang the rock band, Nazareth, in 1975. But, the only alternative to never being heart-broken is to never allow oneself to love. So goes the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

C.S. Lewis comments:

“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping [your heart] intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  (from “The Four Loves”)

nw

Homeless Demons

[Jesus said],“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

There are dozens of sermons in this passage.  Allow me to briefly focus on just one: the security & authority one has in Christ.

First of all, this passage must not be taken out of the context of the canon of Scripture.  One who has professed their faith in the risen Christ cannot be demon-possessed (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13-14)  A believer is already “possessed” – by the Holy Spirit.  John MacArthur rightly comments on this passage:  “When a demon is defeated by the power of Christ, the soul vacated by the power of darkness is taken over by Christ.”

It should be noted that the principles taught by Jesus in this passage apply without restriction to a non-believer.  This truth is sobering. The torment of evil spirits can be manifested in chronic anger, bitterness, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, pride, sexual addiction, lying, disrespect for authority, fear, etc.  For the non-believer, to try and “will” these self-destructive habits away can, indeed, lead to momentary improvement.  But, according to Jesus, the relief is merely temporalChrist, the Bible tells us, is the only “cure” for sin.  (cf. Romans 8:1)  A demon is not afraid of “a house swept and put in order.”  A demon, on the other hand, is terrified of a “house” possessed by the risen Christ.  (cf. James 2:19)

For the believer, as previously stated, the Bible is clear:  we cannot be demon-possessed.  However, the enemy is no fool.  As Billy Graham purports, satan is a strategic genius.  As such, demonic oppression is quite common and can be manifested in the very self-destructive habits mentioned above.  New Testament scholar, Dr. David Garland, comments, “Demons…do whatever they can to neutralize” and twist biblical truth in a believer’s life.  The difference between a believer and a non-believer, when in this state, is profound.  For the believer, all that is required is a conscious re-focusing on the truth: God’s Word.  Jesus said, the truth sets us free.  Paul wrote, “For we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  In sum, satan has no hold on believers.  He only wants to make us think he does.  The enemy’s best and most used weapon, after all, is deception.

If you’ve never placed your faith in the risen Christ, please consider His claims.  Honestly investigate the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels. 1  Consider the evidence.  Make your own decisions based on the evidence.  Consider Him who loves you so much that He died a horrific death on a wooden cross, then, three days later, authenticated His claims about Himself by rising again.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  The Apostle Paul  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

1 Two very good, very readable books on the topic of evidence for the Christian faith were written by former atheists:  More Than a Carpenter, by Josh & Sean McDowell;  The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel.   A third book, a little harder to read, but a classic, is Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist.

Atheism Failed Me

Allow me to begin by saying those who hold to an atheistic worldview are precious in the sight of God.  I have friends who are atheists.  And I love them deeply.  This is, in no way, a personal attack on those who hold to atheism. You won’t find any snide remarks or insults in this post. It is simply my story of why atheism didn’t work for me. nw

 

For some, atheism works. For me, it didn’t.

Believing that God exists, that He is good, and that He is trustworthy was as much an intellectual decision for me as it was a matter of faith. Faith and reason, at first glance, appear to be at odds with one another. While still an ardent atheist, C.S. Lewis wrote, “I was at this time living, like so many Atheists, in a world of contradictions.”

When, in 2013, my 19 year old son, Jordan, took his own life, my entire life became one single contradiction. As a result, with all my heart, mind & soul, I tried to resolve that contradiction with a worldview that included a world void of God. For, on the day I found my son’s body (and the days immediately following), believing in a God who would allow this tortuous nightmare made no logical sense.  Discovering that God certainly did not exist would have made it far easier for me to deal with my son’s suicide.

In way of introduction, I ended up choosing not to embrace atheism after my son died.  However, this was not for lack of trying.  Frankly, the reason I ended up not embracing atheism was because atheism provided for me no hope, no answers to my biggest questions i.e. “Why is there something instead of nothing?”, “What is human consciousness and cognition, and where did it come from?”, etc.  I found atheism had much to say about the origin of species, but little or nothing to say about the origin of life. So, although I deeply desired to be satisfied by atheistic philosophy, I was sorely disappointed.  And this is what I mean by the title, “Atheism Failed Me.”

When I finally returned to the Bible, I found, for me, a “better explanation.”  Alister McGrath holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics.  A former atheist, he explains, “I became a Christian at the age of 18 while studying chemistry at Oxford University. My conversion related to my perception that Christianity offered a more comprehensive, coherent and compelling account of reality than the atheism I had embraced in my earlier teenage years.”  Former atheist, C.S. Lewis, said, “I 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.”

Then there’s the resurrection of Christ.  While lecturing at the University of Uruguay, former atheist, Josh McDowell, was asked by a student, “Sir, why don’t you refute Christianity?”  McDowell calmly answered, “I would except for one thing: I can’t explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  As one theologian once said, “Prove the resurrection was a farce and Christianity comes tumbling down like a house of cards.”  But, just as I conclude the article below, “the tomb is still empty. And that changes everything.”

In early 2015, The Lubbock Metro Leader Magazine contacted me about writing an article. I submitted to them this one entitled, “Atheism Failed Me”:

I tried to disprove the existence of God, immediately after finding my 19-year-old son dead in his bedroom from suicide.

I looked at the most recent, most compelling evidence to make God sound like a ludicrous alternative. I looked at the best arguments from the best atheists, both in modern and historical times.

You must understand that I wanted desperately to know, in those first 48 hours after finding my son, that there was no God.  God’s non-existence would have made more sense to me than “a loving God who would allow my son to suffer so much from clinical depression that he would take his life.”

But atheism failed me. The words of the best, most intelligent atheists rang hollow. Their rebuttals and refutations against the existence of God were, in my opinion, incomplete, short-sighted, and at times, ludicrous. While the atheists scream loudly trying to speak for their evidence, the theists, in my opinion, simply step back and allow the evidence to speak for itself. For the arguments of theists were akin to the familiar statement: “You don’t need to defend a lion; you simply open the cage and allow him to defend himself.”

In the end of my investigation for a God-less universe, I found myself like Peter in John 6. (I tend to resonate with Peter – impetuous, speaks before he thinks, reckless at times, etc., but always passionate.) By chapter 6 of John’s gospel account, Jesus has fed the thousands, healed the sick, and cast out demons. But now, he’s teaching the crowd what following him really means. The response is heartbreaking. Most of them, it turns out, had no interest in following Jesus. They wanted the sizzle, but not the substance; the blessing, but not the commitment.  In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, they wanted grace that was “cheap” rather than “costly.” In short, they wanted an “A” in the course without doing the homework. And, in verse 66, John records, “It was at this time many of those who followed Jesus turned away and deserted him.” Jesus then turned to the twelve and asked, “Are you going to leave me too?”

After trying as hard as I could to prove God was a fairy-tale, I found myself repeating those exact words stated by Peter, 20 centuries ago.

Peter replied, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Can I prove the existence of God in a laboratory? No. Frankly, I don’t want a God I can explain – the Incarnation, the Trinity, etc., are all inexplicable. A God we can explain would be … well, more like a man than God; at best, a super-hero. On the flip side, I was reminded that God can’t be disproved in a laboratory either.  The metaphysical is simply beyond the grasp of scientific method.

Like so many others far more intelligent than myself, I eventually arrived at the following conclusion: The cumulative evidence (from cosmology, astronomy, biology, chemistry and the other hard sciences) for the existence of a transcendent, outside-the-laws-of-physics, “wholly other” (as Soren Kierkagaard described him) is startlingly compelling.

Add to this the evidence from history and archaeology, the historical reliability of the New Testament and the empty tomb, and the evidence is simply overwhelming.

Does faith in the God of the Bible still require faith?  Of course.  But so does atheism.  And, frankly, I have found I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.  As Yale Law School grad and former atheist, Lee Strobel, said,

“To continue in atheism, I’d need to believe nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason. I just didn’t have that much faith.”

I considered at length the words of British philosopher, Antony Flew, a champion of 20th century atheism:  “One must go where the evidence leads.”  This led Flew to belief in God.  It led me back to Christ.

I cannot overstate how I felt in the moments immediately following finding my dead son: I. Hated. God. But, God – who we see in the person of Jesus Christ – held me.  Even as I fought to run away, he wouldn’t let go.The same love that drove Christ to the cross drove him to love me deeply, holding me tenderly in his arms. He was patient with me, allowing me time to scream at him, accuse him, and even hate him(all of these emotions, by the way, are found in the imprecatory psalms in our Bible).

Despite the best I could hurl at God, he never left me. Ever. He nursed me back to psychological and emotional health. And, in those early hours, when I began to investigate whether I had been wrong all my life about him, He didn’t punish me – he loved me. In the darkest moment of my life, Jesus whispered to me, “I. Am. Here. I’ve got this. Trust Me.”I do, my King. Where else would I go? You have the words of eternal life.

To those of you trying to figure out life’s pain, know this: God is faithful; his Word is true. “He is close to the broken-hearted, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit” — Ps. 34:18; Jesus did exist, lived a sinless life, and died on a Roman cross. The tomb is still empty. And, that changes everything.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

A House United

[Jesus prayed,] “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently [divided]…” Abraham Lincoln, June 16, 1858, Address to the Republican Convention

Our country was never more vulnerable to the attack of other nations than during the Civil War. President Lincoln knew this all too well, which is why, when beginning his Address to the Republican Convention, he chose to use these eternally true words of Jesus Christ.

So, why does the devil work so hard to drive wedges between the people of God. Jesus told us why: “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.” “Indeed, the more I come to know the Lord’s heart,” wrote Francis Frangipane, “the more I am convinced that disunity among the people of God is the work of hell.” In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine said: “Division in the church is worse than war, because it involves eternal souls.”

Satan, working tirelessly to fragment the Body of Christ, appears to understand the following biblical principle more than many Christians: United, the New Testament church assumes the position, nature, and power of what Jesus intended it to be – what He prayed for it to be: an unstoppable force. C.S. Lewis’ Uncle Screwtape wrote to his demon apprentice, Wormwood, [A united Body of Christ is] “a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy.”

“I will build My church,” Jesus said, “and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not prevail [overpower it.] (Matthew 16:18)

As seen in the passage from John’s gospel, cited at the top, Jesus prayed specifically that we “may be one.” Frangipane observes, “If Jesus is eternally praying for our oneness, then we must recognize that Satan is continually fighting against it. The devil knows that when we become one with Christ and, through Him, one with each other, it is only a matter of time before this Jesus-built church will destroy the empire of hell!”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick
Quotes from Francis Frangipane are from, “A House United: How Christ-Centered Unity Can End Church Division”; 2005.