The End of Many Books

Mere Christianity

by C. S. Lewis

This is a classic, relevant before it was even published as a book, and relevant ever since, with eternally relevant questions for non-Christians and immediately relevant reminders for believers. You should read it.

I’d known about the book for a long time but had never read it. Then, a few weeks ago when war started (again) between Russian and Ukraine, I saw on the tweetstream someone mention that he had started reading Mere Christianity, and I remembered that Lewis originally prepared most of the material for the book as he shared it over a radio broadcast series in England during WW II. Similar contexts, then and now, made now seem like the right time for me to pick it up.

I didn’t realize how many Lewis-ian ideas came from Mere Christianity. This is where the “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” apologetic comes from. It’s where he says, “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next” and “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” It’s where he quotes George MacDonald that as a Father “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.” And it’s where he talks about how men who try to be original can’t be, but “if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before), you will, nine times out of the, become original without ever having noticed it.”

I don’t agree with Lewis (because I disagree with his reading of the Bible) on the degree of freedom in man’s will, and he is wrong (again, according to Scripture) about how some “people in other religions … [can] belong to Christ without knowing it.” While these false things can’t be ignored, they are, ironically, defeated by so many of the true things that Lewis says.

“It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost His crucifixion.”

God is killing our need to be needed, and He is doing more than making us “nice,” He is making us new men. Mere Christianity will edify and fortify such men.

4 of 5 stars

Every Thumb's Width

Establish the Work

The following are notes from my quick talk at tonight’s Comeford College Information Night.

The Lord will return and we want to have our lamps filled with oil. The foolish virgins took their lamps to meet the bridegroom, but they brought no extra oil, and as the bridegroom delayed, their oil ran out and their lamps went out. The door was shut and they missed out on the marriage feast (Matthew 25:1-13).

The Lord will return and we will give an account for the talents He has given us. That happens to be the very next parable (Matthew 25:14-30). Not all the servants were given the same capital to start with, but they were all expected to invest and give a return to their returning master. The one who buried his talent had his one and only talent taken from him. Each of the servants who had made more talents were told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21 and 23).

The Lord will return, and Jesus is Lord. That is the minimum confession of every Christian disciple (per Romans 10:9), but it is a minimum with no bottom, or top, or sides for that matter. It’s really less a minimum and more a maximum, even more, it’s a maxim. Maxim comes from maxima in Latin, the “largest or most important proposition.” What covers and touches more than all the things that Jesus created and cares about (John 1:3)? That’s the kind of confession that really keeps our lamps burning.

Because He is Lord He sets the cosmic curriculum for what we must learn and because He is Lord we are to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In short order we’ve got the what, the how, and the why. Because He is Lord He also tells us where.

And where we are is here. Jesus is Lord in and of Marysville no matter how many recognize it. This is our home, this is where we want to “take root downward and bear fruit upward” (see Isaiah 37:31, ESV).

It’s why we named this college Comeford), after James P. Comeford, who set up shop around two miles from this very spot, literally, in 1872. History records that he was a Catholic, and a capitalist. We are at least his geographical descendants, loving Marysville into greater loveliness by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ our Lord alone.

We want Marysville to be a destination for learning how to take dominion (Genesis 1:28) as men and women, and what God hath gendered asunder, let not man color light purple. We want so much more for our kids and grandkids, for our neighbors, and for our city, than the crippling crap spewing out of so many colleges and the mala fides credentials given with decades of debt.

As Abraham Kuyper put it in his inaugural address to the Free University of Amsterdam:

“To put it mildly, our undertaking bears a protest against the present environment and suggests that something better is possible.”

This isn’t just because of what we’re fearful of, but because we fear the Lord who gives wisdom and understanding and joy and fruit.

Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psalm 90:16–17, ESV)

May the Lord bless us with good sense and with strength. May we be faithful in this little place with the little we’ve started with, so that when He returns we will be ready for our larger responsibilities and enter into His joy.

Every Thumb's Width

A Fun Conniption Fit

I think it’s fun that Elon Musk bought Twitter.

I’ve always preferred Twitter more than Facebook. In the early days, the most that someone could waste my time on Twitter was limited to 140 characters. Plus there were a variety of apps to choose from, the timeline was chronological not algorithmic, replies were more limited (and also limited to 140 characters), there weren’t long tweetstorms/threads, and again, a tweet was just a tweet and not a treatise.

I signed up for Facebook a few years ago because it seems to be the preferred place of communication for a lot of the people in our church and school. Fine. I decided it was important to carry my own digital man-purse. I’ve never had FB installed on my phone, though, and still don’t enjoy the experience of using the service (let alone being used by the service).

As for Twitter, it has gradually become more fussy and less fun. I actually thought Trump’s tweets were entertaining, not least because his tweets clearly weren’t run through any White House PR person. Banning him seemed wrong, and later suspending The Babylon Bee was petty.

So I’ll admit that it’s fun to see someone effectively hassle the expurgators. “Free speech” requires a definition, and, at least at the moment, I wouldn’t say I’m for absolute free speech, but I certainly think that political (and medical, which was obviously political these past couple years) disagreements should be uncensored. Let the best arguments and ideas and data fight it out. But don’t put your thumb on the scale and call that democracy (though we don’t live in a democracy anyway).

I’ve already seen some “Elon isn’t the savior” church-lady scolding. Who knows for sure what, if any, changes (or Twitter prison breaks) there will be? I don’t think Musk is a social media messiah, but I can appreciate watching the conniption fit being thrown by at least some of the corrupt/censor-happy liberals who wouldn’t know true liberty if a bird bit them in the face.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Out of Bounds

What if I told you that peace with God isn’t only something that we can have, it is something we must obey.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, ESV)

A βραβεῖον was a prize awarded in contests, and is the substantive cognate with the imperative “let…rule.” It was given by the judge, the umpire. Think of Aeneas presiding over and awarding prizes for the funeral games after his fleet fled Carthage (though he did it in Latin).

Paul commanded God’s chosen ones, the ones who were to be bearing with one another, loving one another, even forgiving each other if one had a complaint against another, to let Christ’s peace be the umpire. The NASB says, “Let the peace of Christ rule,” with a footnote of, “act as arbiter.” The NET Bible translates, “Let the peace of Christ be in control.”

When there is a temptation “in your heart” to anxiety, and especially when there is temptation to resentment or bitterness against another, peace whistles when you’re out of bounds. “You were called in one body,” so, beloved, stop yelling at the other players, let complaining at the umpire. Peace is the referee, and peace always calls for peace.

What if you don’t feel the peace? Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. What if you don’t understand how it’s all going to work out? That’s okay, God’s peace surpasses our understanding, and it will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). There are many members but in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). So we share one bread, in grace and peace (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Unsupervised Kids

In my most recent exhortation to parents I said, “God demands perfect obedience, and any disobedience, even candy-demand or candy-envy, earns death.” Before that I said that what’s good about obedience is that it enables fellowship, and that without fellowship obedience hasn’t reached the end of good. And before that I said that we are raising not just raising kids but raising parents, and that we should show our kids how to parent, first of all in faith.

The thread is obedience of faith. Not only do we obey God when we believe Him, but we obey God because we believe Him. Paul uses the phrase “the obedience of faith” in both his introduction and conclusion to the Romans; he had received grace to bring about the obedience of faith among the nations (Romans 1:5), which is according to the command of the eternal God (Romans 16:26).

It is obedient faith that fulfills the Great Commission. We make disciples by baptizing them and by “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:10, NIV).

So, parents, the obedience of your kids is to be a fruit of faith, it is what enables fellowship, but obedience is not optional.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

The reason parents don’t expect perfect obedience is not because it is too high a standard. It is God’s standard, and He holds it without being harsh (see Matthew 5:48). The reason we don’t expect THIQ obedience from our kids is usually because we have a soft spot for our own sin, and letting our kids run around unsupervised is a perfect picture of letting our feelings run around undirected.

Rightly Dividing

Peace Is Prominent

I’m sharing my work a little differently this time. Instead of making the Greek line diagram prominent, you can view it for Romans 5:1-2 here. For the main action, here’s a block outline in English.

Though the paragraph probably includes the first five verses of the chapter, I’m finding plenty about peace to keep me occupied.

Enjoying the Process

A Compliment with Charisma

The following paragraph is just the bees knees. The entire article is edifying, and it includes the newest phrase I’ve added to my commonplace book. But it’s like this particular quote smacked me in the head and left me rolling in the aisle laughing out loud.

The only exception that I have ever run into—from a high-profile evangelical Bible teacher, that is, the kind with something to lose—is John MacArthur. I just finished his recent book Slave, which was very good. And as I listened to it, it almost induced me to abandon my dearly-held cessationism. There he was, out in public, being honest with the slavery texts. It was a miracle.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Forefeast

Hear the prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make 
      for all peoples a feast of rich food, 
   a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, 
   of aged wine  well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain 
   the covering that is cast over all peoples, 
   the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, 
   and the reproach of his people he will take away
      from all the earth, 
   for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day, 
   “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him,
      that he might save us. 
   This is the LORD; we have waited for him; 
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 
(Isaiah 25:6–9, ESV)

This communion meal on Resurrection Sunday is a foretaste, a forefeast.

We eat today while we wait for that day. We can eat it while rejoicing, but often still in heaviness (1 Peter 1:6).

The sorrows are real. My dad died sixteen years ago today. My sister professed faith six years ago on Easter, and died less than a year later. My dad didn’t get to meet his only grandson, and neither of them got to meet our new grandson. Just this past year, some of you have lost a husband, a son, a brother-in-law, a brother-in-Christ, friends, some old and some so young. In addition you have born griefs from the world, you have carried concerns about your responsibilities.

But, beloved, your faith and labor are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20, 58). Jesus is risen from the dead.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne
will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:17, ESV)

That will be a glorious day.

Lord's Day Liturgy

An Awful Lot

Because God is kind we do not always get what we want. In our flesh we will do an awful lot (and I mean that both ways) to get what we want. And when we get what our flesh so desperately wanted, do we not find that it’s not only unfulfilling but also self-defeating?

Cases abound. An effeminate man wants his lusts and finds another man to be his partner, and both of them are wrath-ed (Romans 1:26-27). A married man wants his anger and argues his position to the death, and though he wins his point he may lose his marriage. A mom communicates successfully that she just wants a little peace and quiet so that her kids can’t wait to get away and let her have her precious peace.

Adam got what he wanted when he ate the fruit and it killed him. Satan got what he wanted when God’s Son was crucified and he was nailing his own coffin shut.

It’s not hard to find examples. It is not easy to lose your life, but it is the only way to find it. Jesus Himself is the ultimate example, doing the Father’s will instead of His own, and that will prospered in His crucified hands (Isaiah 53:10-11). More than that, if we give Him our sinful wants He bears them for us and buries them that we might have something better.

I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. (John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress)

Confess your sins to Him. Let Him raise you to walk in newness of wants.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Triumphal Prophecy

What do you think about Palm Sunday, not just as the Sunday before Christ’s resurrection, but as the day of Christ’s triumphal entry? The “palm” part comes from the palm branches laid on the road in front of Jesus (John 12:13). The Sunday part comes from the day of the week, sure. The entry part comes with Him entering Jerusalem. But, knowing what happened the following Friday, where do we get off calling it triumphal? I’ll give two reasons.

It performs triumphal prophecy. Matthew and John made that connection clear (Matthew 21:5; John 12:15) when they quoted Zechariah.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9, ESV)

The king of David (Mark 11:10) was promised as “one shepherd” over His people (Ezekiel 37:25-25), and here is the Righteous One (Acts 3:14).

It provides triumphal prophecy. On their way in, Jesus gave word to His disciples about what was going to happen.

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33–34, ESV)

This is at least the third time Jesus foretold that He would be delivered over and that He would be raised (Mark 8:31; 9:31; and see Romans 4:25). He was in full control.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18, ESV)

The crucifixion of the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8) and His resurrection is His triumph, and this Table is one of victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57, ESV)