Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Inner Circle

The Inner Circle is about every person who has ever wanted to belong. It is about the desires we all have and the cliques that form because of these desires. Lewis says, "One of the most dominant elements [of life] is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside." Some people will go to huge extremes to not be left on the outside. They will compromise what they know about themselves to become who they think they need to be to fit in.

I think all of us, at some point in our lives, have been on the inner circle or at least tried to get there. But how often do all of our efforts pay off? How often are we happy once we reach "inner circle status"? Throughout elementary and middles school I was always jealous of the "popular crowd" because I was just a normal nobody. The think I failed to realize at the time was that I was in a clique of my own. It just wasn't the clique I wanted to be a part of. I had four best friends but I didn't think they were anything glamorous...

When high school started I began to branch out and make new friends. I joined showchoir and tried to find my niche there. Lewis says, "Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain." I learned the meaning of this statement my senior year of high school. When I looked around at all of my "friends" I realized that the only one I could count on was one of the four I had known since elementary school. I stopped caring about being in the inner circle and started caring about finding myself. My senior year turned into the best year of high school. I learned so much about myself and my friends and I soon got over the "fear" of being and "outsider".

Friday, January 23, 2009

As The Ruins Fall

As The Ruins Fall

C.S. Lewis

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you
I've never had a selfless thought since I was born
I am a mercenary and self-seeking through and through
I want God, you, all friends merely to serve my turn

Peace, reassurance, pleasures are the goals I seek
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin
I talk of love, a scholar's parrot may talk Greek
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin

Only that now you have taught me, but how late my lack,
I see the chasm and everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge, by which I might get back
From exile and grow man; and now the bridge is breaking

For this I bless you as the ruin falls; the pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

Professor Paulo shared this poem with the class today. I was in awe by these powerful words. The second stanza was especially vindictive. He puts my emotions into words and its crazy to think he wrote this before I was even thought of. It continues to amaze me that this man, C.S. Lewis, had so much insight into the world. He knows so much and has reached millions of people by simply writing down his thoughts. "I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin" Wow! What a slap to the face that line is. I know i am equally guilty of this charge as most other people are. We get so comfortable within ourselves and place ourselves on such a high pedestal that we forget to venture out into the world and meet with those who do not seek the peace, reassurance, and pleasures that we feel we have some right to seek. Often times we end where we began. We waste countless hours of time and effort on the things of this world and years from now we realize we've really gone no where. This poem better illustrates pain and promises that the gift of heaven will be so much greater than anything we can imagine here on earth.

I find this poem to be slightly depressing - disheartening even - but in the end the promise of joy shines through. C.S. Lewis was an incredible man and writer and I cannot wait to read more of his thoughts.

Human Pain

The Problem with pain is that we say God is loving yet pain is everywhere. Where is God in the midst of pain? And does God suffer? These questions brought about heated discussion in class today.

Pain is unavoidable. It is everywhere. We all see it, experience it, and live through it. As Lewis says, "Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil." But the question we all have is why does pain even exist? The answer is simple. Pain exists because we are a fallen people because of sin. We brought the evil upon ourselves. And as discussed a few days ago, God does not create evil but he allows it. It is because of that evil that pain exists but God exists too and he is the ultimate source of comfort.

Revenge, in my opinion, is one of the greatest of pains. Revenge is purposeful vengeance that usually results in more pain than the original situation presented. Revenge might feel good for a moment but the resulting pain can last for a lifetime. Revenge wants the victim to feel the pain they feel but in the end it just makes their pain run deeper.

So where is God? He is there, we just are not listening. Its seems that we all lead our lives the way we want to until we get into trouble or someone we love gets sick, or dies; we fall into bankruptcy or fall under a drug addiction before we cry out to God. God is our last resort. He is an interruption in our otherwise perfect lives until something goes wrong. Then all of a sudden we are dying to talk to him, begging for his attention, pleading for his help. Maybe if he were in a constant communicative relationship with God the pain wouldn't seem so bad.

The question of the day for discussion today was "Does God suffer?" In my opinion, yes God suffers. He knows the ultimate depths of suffering that none of us can even imagine. Even though He is a supreme being God has emotions. This does not mean, however, that he necessarily suffers with us but that he suffers for us. Ever pain we feel he feels too. The difference between God and us is that he can conquer suffering with the snap of a finger but we have no control. God suffers because he loves us and made the ultimate sacrifice for us by sending his son to die for our sins. And while he can feel pain for us he also feels pain because of us. I believe that every time we sin God is pained. He is hurt by our repeated actions against us. But even though we mess up time and time again he is still forgiving and loving.

Suffering is a necessary part of life. It is part of what makes us stronger and better Christians if we can learn from it the way God intends us to. A fellow peer, Samuel, said that "when God wants to give us a present He wraps it in a problem. The bigger the problem, the bigger the present in the end." Life is a gift from God that we do not deserve. Suffering is just a small part of this great gift. As Professor Adriana said in class, "You might fall, but continue because every problem is a step towards eternity!" God never gives us more than we can handle so keep on pressing on!

Plantinga - Chapter 4: Redemption

It was said in class yesterday that the price of freedom, when we place ourselves in the center of it, is loneliness. I have never thought about freedom much before this course because I always thought of myself as free. But I am not free. No one really is. And the further we try to get away from the constraints the world puts on us the more alone we are. Freedom, like everything else, comes with a price. Professor Adriana said that we should develop discernment when looking at the world because it will turn into wisdom. So how does redemption tie into freedom, discernment and wisdom? It's simple really. We are a fallen world because of the sin that we have allowed to creep into every corner of our lives. We are not free from sin now nor will we be free from sin ten years from now. However, we can learn and grow in the area of discernment to grasp a better world view and understanding which can develop into wisdom over the years.

In the opening of the chapter Plantinga talks about God's never ending mercy and grace. He brings up the point that when Adam and Ever were found naked in the garden after they had sinned they could not even look each other in the eye for fear of what they might see there within. How often do you speak to someone who will not look you directly in the eye? We are a fearful nation. We are afraid to let too much out or to absorb too much in. The eyes never lie. In someone's eyes you can see the pain they harbor as well as the love and joy they have to offer. However, we often do not look each other in the eyes. We are afraid to learn too much about a person or to reveal too much about ourselves.

Plantinga made a metaphor of sin in our lives to wilting flowers. He says, "Sin traps people and makes them wilt; godly obedience liberates people and helps them flourish." Often times we find ourselves trapped in sin and we do not know how to get out on our own. Instead of crying out to God we rely on ourselves and contribute to our self deterioration. If we just obeyed God's commandments and did not get trapped by sin we could be the most brilliantly colored flower but instead most of us settle to be wilting flowers or even a weeds.Another point of Plantinga's that really struck me was this: "Through baptism God identifies a person as being "in Christ." Through faith the baptised person identifies herself the same way." I have never thought of baptism in this light before. I have always heard that baptism is an outword expression of faith that every Christian should do. Some people even go so far as to say that a person cannot go to heaven if they have not been baptised. In response to these people I say "I guess I'm going to hell then." Baptism has been an issue I have been struggling with for a long time. Because for me, at this very moment in my life, getting baptised would not mean anything. I feel like I have been waiting for something - some sign telling me when and where I should be baptised. I have a church at home but like I said in one of my previous blogs, that is no longer my home. My home is here and in four years it will be somewhere else. I guess what I'm waiting for is to find my church home and get baptised there. I don't know if that's right or wrong and I don't know if I'm even allowed to make that decision on my own. The way I look at it, right now I am with Christ and He with me. When I get baptised, whenever that time may be, I'll be in Christ and what a joyous day that will be.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

God in The Dock: Man or Rabbit?

This chapter was one of my favorite selections of Lewis' that we have read in this course. As usual, Lewis brings up a controversial issue that I'm sure a lot of us wonder about but few dare to ask. Can you be a good person without being a Christian and do good people go to heaven regardless of their faith?

It is my personal belief that God reveals himself in many ways through creation, people that come into our lives and the little miracles that happen everyday. I do no think it is possible for a person to be so ignorant that they cannot look at the beauty of creation and not think there has to be a higher power that made it. Ignorance is not an excuse for the non believers. We all chose to believe in something whether we realize it or not. God knows our hearts and minds and he knows who are his true followers.

Lewis says "The idea of reaching 'a good life' without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up 'a good life' as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence." I believe this statement to be true. Who are we without Christ? We are nothing. Sure there are plenty of 'good' people who are not Christians but what is the purpose of their life? Good comes from God and without God we cannot be truly good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abolition of Man

According to Lewis everyone should be guided by the Tao, or way of life according to ancient Chinese philosophy, while keeping the natural law in mind. Lewis talks about the constant power struggle between men and how technology is taking over our lives. From reading this essay, the conclusion that I can reach is that we are the cause of our own abolition. We are leading ourselves down the path of destruction by our actions.

Lewis incorporates subjectivism and impulse into this essay, stating again that subjectivism is the basis of morality and that our impulses rarely produce fruit in the end as giving into impulses is no different than giving into irrational behavior. However, we are all subject to the impulses of nature as we have no control over the way nature acts out.

A lot of this essay did not make sense to me but something P. Ribeiro brought up in class today was that we must train our emotions because the head (which discerns right from wrong) rules the belly (which has an animal appetite) through the chest (where emotions rage). For some reason, that statement stuck with me. My emotions are very controlled - almost too controlled - but I had never thought of emotions involving so many parts of the body.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Four Loves: Eros

Eros is defined as the state which we call "being in love" or the kind of love which lovers are "in". Carnal love, or Venus, only wants to fulfill our sexual desires. Eros wants the beloved and does not even see them as an object of pleasure. Lewis describes it best when he says, "That is why Eros, though the king of pleasures, always has the air of regarding pleasure as a by-product."

There is a clear distinction between Eros and Venus that became clearer to me as I read through the chapter. Venus is a mocking, mischievous spirit that tempts us into giving into sexual desires. Venus mocks love while Eros enhances it. I imagine Venus creates a relationship built on taking. With Eros, taking and receiving become on in the same. Eros, as the deepest form of love between a man and a woman, runs so deep that it is no longer about the sexual desires Venus presents.

There is also a clear distinction between friendship and Eros. In friendship each man stands for himself but with Eros the individual disappears as the couple becomes one. Sometimes people cross the boundaries of friendship by involving Venus in the relationship and giving in to sexual desires. But love does not follow sex. Quite the opposite, sex follows love.

Eros is a love of sacrifice. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loves the church and women must be submissive. However, even after all of the sacrifices, happiness is not guaranteed. This is proven in thousands of couples that stay together through unhappiness because they would rather be unhappy together than happy with someone else.

We must be careful in regards to Eros as over time "being in love" can potentially evolve into a sort of religion. It is very easy to fall into the trap of idolizing Eros or our partners. This sort of idolizing can destroy a marriage from within causing all sorts of blame to be cast because of the love lost.

Another problem with Eros is that people often confuse falling in love with being in love. There is a difference. It is much easier to fall than to be because after the falling is done we find ourselves wondering "What do I do now?" Lewis says that the passion of love goes away over time. However, I disagree with this statement because I see couples like the Ribeiros who are still very obviously passionate about each other and know that passion only disappears if the couple allows it to do so. Love by itself will not keep love alive. It takes commitment, sacrifice, and the grace of God to keep the love alive.

I feel as if all of this material is revelant to our society and needs to be spoken about even though it does not directly apply to my life at the moment. I have never been in love as I am only 18 years old and love seems more like a game than an emotion to me at this stage in my life. I am more in love with the idea of being in love and the enchantment that comes with love. Professor A. Ribeiro warned us against falling into the enchantment of love so I must be careful to guard myself. I have already made very strong sexual boundaries for myself so that I will not give into Venus should he ever tempt me. I do not know when the day will come that I will wake up and suddenly know I am in love. I don't even know what that will feel like but I can only imagine it's one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. So many people come to college to find their future spouse and fall in love. Me? I am not looking for love. I figure it will find me soon enough.