Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It was, like, an awesome speech, actually

This morning on CBC Radio 2, I heard about the commencement address given by Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough to graduates at Boston College. He said, “Please, please do what you can to cure the verbal virus that seems increasingly rampant among your generation.” He cited the “relentless, wearisome use of words,” such as “like,” “awesome” and “actually.”

As an example, McCullough said, “Just imagine if in his inaugural address John F. Kennedy had said, ‘Ask not what your country can, you know, do for you, but what you can, like, do for your country actually.’”

Monday, May 19, 2008

At the Kilns: a grief experienced

Tonight, my Opa went home to be with his Lord and Saviour.

"Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord---for we walk by faith, not by sight---we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." (2 Co 5:6-8)

My heart lept for joy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

At the Kilns: A Defense of C.S. Lewis

When I was at Bible college in Alberta, a dear friend of mine saw me reading Mere Christianity. Even though C.S. Lewis was not on any of the course reading lists for that year, I was simply reading it for the edification of my soul. The effect Lewis’s writing had on me was nothing short of transforming. So, like anyone who enjoys something, I enthusiastically told my friend what I was learning. To my surprise, my friend responded that I should be cautious reading C.S. Lewis. Apparently Lewis held some strange beliefs. Well, I kept reading Lewis… for the edification of my soul. And, I later discovered, Lewis did hold to some strange beliefs, which become apparent when scrutinizing his lesser known works and the occasional private correspondence. Nevertheless, I have (and continue to be) tremendously blessed through the writings of C.S. Lewis… and so have millions of people around the world.

Without doubt, Lewis was a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Did he have all his theological ducks in a row? No. Do I? Probably not. Do you?

The fact that Lewis’s life has undergone so much scrutiny, I am surprised there is not more so called “dirt” that is discovered. On the contrary, the testimony of those who knew him is consistent with his public confession as a believer in Jesus Christ. The resounding affirmation of real and sincere Christianity lived out in his life comes from fellow believers and unbelievers alike—close friends, acquaintances, students, colleagues and correspondents (Lewis wrote over 3400 personal letters to people around the world).

Part of the alarm and concern about Lewis is the overwhelming acceptance and popularity of his writings among evangelicals and non-evangelicals, Papists and Mormons. The problem with this line of argument is that we would have to disregard the Apostle Paul's writings as well.

Some critics accuse Lewis of going too far in his orthodox convictions. When C.S. Lewis was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1947, the accompanying article records that Lewis “is one of a growing band of 'heretics' among modern intellectuals: an intellectual who believes in God… not a mild and vague belief, for he accepts ‘all the articles of the Christian faith.’” On the otherhand, some "hardliners" accuse Lewis of not going far enough is expounding Christian orthodoxy. However, I think what they really mean is, Lewis does not expound their preferrential doctrinal nuances as gospel truth. Explaining his role as an apologist, Lewis states: “We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion.’ When we mention our personal opinions we must always make quite clear the difference between them and the Faith itself.” The proof is in the pudding. The simple fact is that Lewis's writing has pointed many to Christ, not the Church of England.

Recently when I came across harsh criticism and condemnation of Lewis, I felt a pang of hurt in my soul. Here is an excerpt of what I read: Mary Van Nattan, who, in her article, “C.S. Lewis: The Devil’s Wisest Fool,” writes, “John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley all died on the same day. They all went to the same place”—i.e., “hell.”

Reflecting on this sensation of hurt, I wondered why I would react to criticism of Lewis. The answer, in Lewis’s words, is “The Church is the Bride of Christ. We are members of one another.” We are members of one body, Christ’s body. To read a “damning” article or hearing a harshly critical report about a fellow believer in Christ should cause all of us who believe in Christ to feel a sense of pain and disappointment. We are called to “build one another up” (1 Th 5:11) and we are warned not to “judge” (cf. Mt 7:1ff, Ro 14:4-10ff).

The BBC described to Lewis “the sharp division [he produces in his] audience: they either regard [him] as the cat’s whiskers, or as beneath contempt.” C.S. Lewis’s response was simple: “The two views you report aren’t very illuminating about me perhaps. About my subject matter it is an old story, isn’t it? They love or hate.”

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:8, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” I thank God for being the righteous Judge and I thank God for C.S. Lewis, who sincerely and wholeheartedly loved “His appearing.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

At the Kilns: "The Spirituality of C.S. Lewis"

This past Sunday night saw the conclusion of the four part series, "The Christian and Literature." The last instalment is entitled "The Spirituality of C. S. Lewis." I disuss four areas of Lewis's life that set him as an example to the church of a sincere and effective life for Christ.

I. C.S. Lewis understood his calling and gifts and he used them imaginatively for the Glory of God.

II. C.S. Lewis understood his calling and gifts and he used them sacrificially for the Glory of God.

III. C.S. Lewis had a burden for the lost and a sincere love for fellow man.

IV. C.S. Lewis sought to glorify God sincerely in his daily life and work.

In spite of his fame during his lifetime, he remained an ordinary Christian man. He never quit his day job; he never became a full time theologian, apologist or pastor. However, he laboured for the Kingdom of Christ, building up the church and drawing the lost to Jesus.

Without a doubt, C.S. Lewis used his original and creative imagination powerfully to advance the kingdom of God and glorify Christ. The church can learn much from his example.

The last message, "The Spirituality of C.S. Lewis," is available on Sermon Audio.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

At the Kilns: Still Learning from Lewis

I have taken a brief hiatus from my blogging series "At the Kilns." Things are very hectic at home: my wife is pregnant, my children are finishing their home schooling year, my school year wraps up and I am finishing my speaking series “The Christian and Literature” at my home church. Nevertheless, C.S. Lewis has been a staple for me during this speaking series and he is the subject of my last message, “C.S. Lewis and the Christian Imagination.”

As for my most recent Lewis reading… my children and I are on to Prince Caspian having finished The L., W. & W.. My plan is to take the boys to see the new film (if it turns out to be suitable for my young lads). I am also reading Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which is a fascinating (albeit unusual) similitude of the after life. I also plan to read a recent spiritual biography of Lewis called Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C.S. Lewis by Dr. Lyle Dorsett. Dorsett is the former director of the Marion E. Wade Centre (an archive housing the world's largest collection of “Lewisania” and the premiere C. S. Lewis research hub in the world) and he is notably one of the foremost experts on the life and writings of Lewis. I have already begun perusing the book in preparation for this Sunday’s message. Dorsett focuses on the journey of sanctification and spiritual growth of C.S. Lewis after his conversion. In the introduction, Dorsett comments on the vast amount of excellent biographies that focus on Lewis’s conversion to Christianity or his mature years with Joy Davidman. Very little addresses Lewis’s growth from early convert to the colossal giant of the faith he is known as. This book is Dorsett's attempt to rectify this gap in Lewis scholarship and, most importantly, to edify and encourage the saints in their own spiritual formation.

Also over the course of the next month, I hope to read Lewis’s The Four Loves, which was the first C. S. Lewis book I ever read (12 years ago!). I still have a lot more Lewis books I would like to read this year and I am nearly five months in! Where did the time go?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

uncharted waters...

This coming Sunday night I will conclude my foray into the subject of the Christians and Literature. This subject is not new to the church at large. There have been many wise and highly intelligent people who have already written and spoke on this subject: scholars like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and Dorothy Sayers. However, the subject is new to many 21st century Christians in the evangelical church. The subject is also new to me... as a subject to speak about from the pulpit. As a Christian student and teacher of literature, I have spent considerable time developing a Christian perspective and theory of literary study. What I have begun to realise during this series I am presenting is the need for Christians to develop their understanding of literature. The messages are available on SermonAudio.com. This is uncharted waters for both my church and for me. It is less like preaching, more like teaching. Nevertheless, the congregation has received the messages enthusiastically and positively. I am grateful for their interest and support. As we move forward in this study, I am becoming increasingly convinced by John Piper’s assertion: “imagination is not merely a device for writers, it is a duty for all Christians. We must exercise it or be disobedient.”

These four messages merely scratch the surface of the Christian Imagination. We have lost much ground over the course of the last century. This series, I hope, is a start in the right direction.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Shakespeare: The Gifted Observer

This Sunday night, I will present Session 3 in the series, “The Christian and Literature.” Sunday's message is “Shakespeare: The Gifted Observer.” The value of Shakespeare for the Christian is Shakespeare’s application of a decidedly Christian worldview in his plays.

Whether he was a Christian or not is unclear. Some scholars argue that Shakespeare was a Puritan, and others suggest he was Anglican; some put forward the idea he was Catholic while others further propose he was an unbeliever. The mystery about Shakespeare’s personal spirituality remains a mystery simply because we know very little about the man behind the works.

My case this Sunday night will not be the spirituality of Shakespeare, but the spirituality of his works. George Macdonald writes, “Truth is truth, whether it's spoken by the lips of Jesus or Balaam's donkey.” It doesn’t matter---per se---if he was a Christian or not; what Shakespeare shows us is truth. He is a keen observer of God’s creation, in particular, the human being. We have much to learn from his insights into the human experience. The events in his plays unfold in a world baptised by the Christian imagination, taking place in a universe ruled by a Sovereign God.

At the core of Shakespeare’s writing is the Bible. Out of the 66 books of the Bible books, Shakespeare quoted 57. Shakespeare also presents countless Christian themes in his plays as well as biblical allusions.

Christians should pay attention to Shakespeare, not only as the greatest English-speaking writer in Western literature, but also as the Gifted Observer of God’s world.