June 19, 2006

Orthodoxy

A while back I posted that I was going to begin reading G.K. Chesterson's, "Orthodoxy". This was before my current study in C.S. Lewis and before my interest in theology was piqued. I had printed off the e-text of this short book (thanks to the good folks over at CCEL.org) and eagerly started it, only to find that it wasn't quite what I expected. I guess I was thinking it would be more "doctrinal" and less "philosophical."

Well, this past week, I was short on reading (ha ha) and was cleaning out my desk (the dreaded "hidden zone" where things go to die) and I found this e-book. In Jacob's biography of Lewis, he shares how this particular work impacted Jack's life during a period where he was "seeking" truth (between his atheist and conversion stages). I thought I should give it a go again and see what all the fuss was about.

So, I sat down and surprize, surprize...I read it cover to cover. In truth, it took me two days -- Chesterson is a delightful writer -- but not as easy to read as one might think from his "Father Brown" stories. I found the entire book confusing and difficult whilst being brilliant and beyond time and space. Does that make sense? Probably not, unless you too have read it. Chesterson's understanding of modernism is par excellent and his perception into the mind of modern man gave me a shiver. As I read through page after page with highlighter in hand, I kept saying to myself "yes, I know someone just like this!" His characterization of the materialist (what I would call the post-modernist man) was so right on target that one would think he was writing about our day and age and not the turn of the century (last century!)

I have to say that overall I was bowled-over by his depth and ability to analyze our society. His arguement for orthodoxy confirmed to me that indeed his is correct. There is security in a standard model and that while we may all divide on small issues, in the greater cosmos, we are as one (at least those of us in the Church).

June 16, 2006

Grace Abounds

I have recently finished R.C. Sproul's wonderful book, "Chosen by God." Subtitled, "Know God's perfect plan for His glory and His children," this small book deals completely with the subject of predestination. I read it initially because it was listed as a "secondary" read for Veritas Press' Omnibus I booklist. I never really gave much thought to the topic because I just considered it one of those "fine points" of dissension between the body of Christ.

WOW! Were my eyes opened after finishing this book. Sproul is a superb writer, masterful, yet clear in his theological explanations and understanding. I learned more about the doctrine of Grace and came to a much deeper understanding of how it operates in my life and throughout the world because of Sproul's book.

If anything, this book has encouraged me to pursue a deeper search for the truth as it is bound up with theology. I have since read Jonathon Edwards treatise "Freedom of the Will" and Martin Luther's awesome work, "On Bondage of the Will." The latter was edited by J. I. Packer and it was mind-opening to say the least.

My desire is to know the truth and I have inquired of the Lord to ask Him to show me the path to understanding and wisdom. Of course, the foundation of all wisdom lays with scripture, but IMHO there are significant doctrinal works that can help the novice reader grasp how great and wonderful our Lord truly is.

I am eager to begin my studies and will be reading through parts of the massive "Institutes on Religion" by John Calvin first and then will pick up on some other significant works by Augustine and Anselm. It is exciting for me to engage my mind in this type of reading and to challenge my understanding -- to push the envelope just a little farther in an attempt to *find* the truth as revealed through scripture and ultimately, in Jesus Christ himself.

"Your Word is Truth" ~John 17:17

June 13, 2006

Surprised by Joy

I have been on a CS Lewis junket these days. I will admit to having read 'The Screwtape Letters' and 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' years ago but never really read any of his other works. I am working through my reading list (see below) and two Lewis books are listed: 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and 'Till We Have Faces.' I have finished both books and am now reading Alan Jacob's biography, 'The Narnian.'

I think I have fallen in love with Lewis, at least with Lewis' writing. I have been overwhelmed by the profound nature of his works and the impact they have had on my life. To quote Lewis's autobiographical title, I have been "Surprised by Joy." I cannot really put my finger on it exactly but have to say that it is as if the sheer scope of the works have ignited something within me, fueled a passion to learn more, to discover and probe the depths of my own understanding, and to just en-joy the process of reading and learning.

Some recent "tiddles" include:

Discovering the idea of "resting" in the Lord - not a new concept to me but always one that I struggled against. I was very into "working" and not really willing to do much "resting." What changed? Reading 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' especially 'The Silver Chair.' The idea expressed so delightfully by Lewis and yet so profoundly, is described as soon as Eustace and Jill find themselves transported through the school yard wall and into the land of Narnia. Jill accidentally entices Eustace to stand too close to the very edge of the cliff and as a result, he falls over the edge and plunges to his apparent death. Aslan sees to it that Eustace is carried over to Narnia -- on his breath -- and is safely deposited on the otherside of the great chasam. Jill, after looking into Aslan's eyes and repenting of her sin (her pride), is carried across to Narnia. It is in Lewis' descriptive way that the idea of "resting upon the Lord" comes to light. Jill finds herself being transported in mid-air, almost by magic to the other side. It is as if she is riding on a magic carpet and she is so secure and comforted in the knowledge that Aslan is moving her across the open sky, that she relaxes and sits back and enjoys the ride.

The truth revealed to me -- that resting in the Lord is requires nothing of my work, but relies solely on the work of God's Holy Spirit. He is the "great mover" that makes and moves us from place to place and from faith to faith and glory to glory. We must sit back and relax and let Him do the work -- the ride is magical and fills us with inexpressible joy!

Prayers that go unanswered - in Lewis' deeply mythological work, "Till We Have Faces", I realized the sheer ignorance of some of my prayers. This is a difficult book and even though I enjoy ancient literature, I found the entire book somewhat disturbing. It was engaging writing but I never quite knew what to expect -- I think my CON perspective colored my review and made it difficult for me to see it as Lewis intended -- as myth. However, the very last chapter is deeply moving and there is one small part where the title of the novel comes to sharp focus. If you have never read this book and are up to reading a myth (the story of Cupid and Pysche), I would encourage you to do so, it is wonderful. The main character, Maia, finds herself standing before the gods, to give account of her complaint against them. She has spent her entire life believing in the mythical goddess, Ungit, but has loathed her and blamed her for the misery of her life. As she prepares to give her account, she is escorted to the circle of judges by her old tutor, The Fox, long-dead but now appearing as a ghost or apparition. The Fox, takes her to the judges and along the way, shows her a rock wall covered with word pictures (the story of myth). As she sees the story of her life written on the wall, she begins to understand exactly how selfish and prideful her life has been. In the end, she sees herself praying to the gods and seeing her prayers going unanswered. The Fox gently explains to her that to the gods, her words (her prayers) were nothing more than a child's babbling which made no sense. He tells her that "till we have faces" we can never know the truth, never see ourselves properly and never see the gods for who they are. It is magical and it is beyond expression. In CON, it is Aslan's face that Lucy seeks after, it is His breath that invigorates her and encourages and strengthens her. It is only when she sees Him, that she can really see herself. In the same way, Maia cannot understand how petty and cruel her life has been until she sees the faces of the gods, then and only then does it become clear to her. She sees herself for the first time and what she sees is not very nice, nor pleasant, nor good. She must confront her sin and must repent and seek forgiveness. In doing so, she is released back to her world and back to her life. It is the perfect picture of redemption, regeneration, and restoration.

I realized that in many ways, I have been utterly selfish and my prayers also have been like a child's babble. When my prayers center around myself and my needs (not my real needs but material or temporal things), how like a little child I truly am. But when you grasp the very idea of "seeking the Lord's face", an amazing thing happens. It is as if everything becomes clear and we are finally able to "see" and "know" exactly what must be confessed and what must be brought to the Lord.

The past couple weeks have been a period of inexpressible joy for me. I feel as though I have come through a very long, dark hallway and am finally out in the sun. My vision has cleared somewhat and my heart and mind are united in one desire and one desire only...that is to spend my time seeking Him and resting in His remarkable grace.

June 3, 2006

Another Ham in the Family

Just a short note: DS12 has passed his ARRL Technician's course and is now a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (HAM). He has been studying with my father for the past 12 weeks and has taken the practice test about 3 dozen times. This test is not easy - it requires a significant understanding of science and technology and it is not something to be attempted lightly. The test was given at DeVry by licensed examiners. Well, he passed it and missed only 4 questions (out of 35). We are all overjoyed as DS is the only HAM in the family beside my father (Papa is very proud of him!)