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.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Plantinga - Chapter 5: Vocation in the Kingdom of God

Plantinga says, "Redemption goes far beyond personal salvation... God's redemption means justice is coming, liberation is coming, the King of all the earth is coming!" Plantinga puts a spin on the subject of redemption that I had never considered before. He points out that in Bible times, believers wanted so bady for the second coming of Christ to happenin their lifetime. Now we read the Bible and believe in the second coming but how many of us actually believe that the second coming will happen in our lifetime? We think we have so much time. But who knows? The world may end tomorrow... This reminded me that I need to live everyday as if it were my last and as if there is no tomorrow.

Kingdoms inside Kingdoms. Plantinga states that we all have a little kingdom that fits in the bigger kingdom which fits in God's kingdom. I am the queen of my kingdom. That is so cool to think about. God regards me as royalty over my kingdom as long as I am serving for the good of His kingdom. And Plantinga says that we need powerful Christian education in order to serve in the kingdom of God most effectively.

Vocation in the Kingdom of God. Plantinga says that our primary vocation is to become a prime citizen in the kingdom of God by actively going to church, taking part in government, yearning for shalom, building up a family if called to do so, choosing a God glorifying career, and working to better his kingdom.

Vocation and Education. Plantinga cautions against going to a secular school and trying to uphold the virtues of a citizen of the kingdom of God. He warns against going with the flow of a secular college. But what Plantinga does not address is that this 'flow' is present on Christian campuses too. Just because we are at a Christian college does not mean that everyone here is a believer and follower of Christ. I think we, as Christians, have to guard our hearts and minds no matter where we go.

Plantinga talks about the knowledge, skills, and virtues that we will gain from a Christian education. Although I believe it to be true that we will gain knowledge, skills and virtues while at Calvin College I think it is not realistic to say they will only be gained here. There are plenty of lessons to be learned outside the bubble of Calvin College and it is not fair to say that we should not go outside of these walls to learn further knowledge, skills and virtues of the world. I think we can learn a lot from our surroundings and it is good to expand our horizons with experiences outside of the Calvin College bubble as long as we use discernment for right and wrong. Some of life's greatest lessons cannot be learned in a classroom.

Learning in Wartime

"The University is a society for the pursuit of learning." I know several people that would disagree with this statement; people that would disagree with the need for education entirely. However, I believe, as discussed in class before, that education is a necessary evil. Vocation is something I have struggled with greatly during my first semester of college. Choosing a career path seems like such an important life decision but as seen in this reading and through Professor P. Ribeiro's testimony God will guide. Education may not be for everyone. I believe that as long as you follow the will of God and listen to his guiding voice in life's decisions then you are on the right path.

Ok. Now that I've given my rant about education and vocation, let me focus on the points brought up in the essay Learning in War-Time. The point that my mind kept reverting back to while reading was that "life has never been normal." I don't know if I, or anyone else for that matter, can give a definition of normal because we all have different ideas of 'the norm'. But this is especially key to remember in wartime that even though there is a war going on life is no more or less normal than it was the day, month, or year before.

In class we discussed duties and whether or not every duty is a reliegious duty. Some may agree, but I think every action, every decision, every move we make is part of our duty to Christ. Everything we do must glorify God and yes, even the littlest of decisions make an impact in the Kingdom of God. As Lewis says, "there is no middle way." We cannot half heartedly do something for Christ. It's all or nothing.

Lewis wrote about the enemies that war raises against the scholar. The first is excitement. This relates to my life now as well as it did during the war when Lewis wrote it. We are always waiting for something, always anticipating the end of a current situation that we wait and do nothing. Like Lewis says, "favourable conditions never come" so we "must do the best we can."

The second enemy is frustration. There never seems to be enough time to finish the things we wish to accomplish. But we must not let that frustration stop us. We must press on and we will see that the reward in the end is unimaginable to our human minds in the beginning.

The third enemy is fear. Lewis speaks specificall of the fear of death because war makes death real. Loosing a loved one makes death real. But for me, the fear that encompasses me is not a fear of death but rather a fear of failing in the hear and now. I'm not fearful in regards to the end of my life. I'm afraid about the necessary steps to get there. This is where faith comes in to play. If my faith were stronger I imagine I wouldn't be so fearful.

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God." - Psalm 143:10

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Plantinga - Chapter 3: The Fall

The fall. We all know about the fall and I have probably read more books on the subject this year alone than I will ever read on the topic again in my life. But it seems that every book I read I get a different opinion that helps me dig deeper in my own learning and comprehension.

Plantinga states that evil is the main human problem. He goes on to describe what evil is and why it contributes so perfectly to the fall. "The human problem [of evil] is not just ignorance; it's also stubborn pride." How true this is in our society today. Pride is an issue that seems to be growing by the minute. We live in a 'me' society where everything is about making a name for ourselves. We become so big headed that we forget to look outside of ourselves to see the people in need around us. Evil doesn't always come in a tragedy. It's in the simplest of things like pride that we all suffer from on a daily basis.

Plantinga ties the 'evil' back to the concept of original sin, or "that the corruption and guilt of our first parents have run right down the generations, tainting us all." From this statement I understand that we are inherently evil. I do not believe that to be true. I believe everyone is born good. Evil is a choice. By saying that evil is passed down from generation to generation and that it is unavoidable simply gives us an excuse to be evil. We cannot excuse our actions. We must take responsibility for our actions and prevent the 'evil' from spreading to future generations.

Corruption. Something that stood out to me while reading was the section about idolatry. Plantinga says that "idolatry is also the act of putting fame alongside God and trying to serve them both." I had never thought about idolatry in this sense. I always thought of idolatry as the worship of idols and idols only. And when I say idols, I mean gold statues. I never fully realized that idols can be anything that we place above God. I have never intentionally put anything before God but now I can see that even things like friends and family can be idols and have been in my life.

Plantinga relates corruption to spiritual AIDS. This caught my attention. No one sets out to get AIDS but many contract it by meddling in sexual impurities. So are we all infected with spiritual AIDS? Is there hope for any of us to remain pure? I'm afraid not because put very plainly we are all sinners and we are all corrupted by the world we live in - the culture around us forms our character whether we like it or not.

So who is to blame? I think we are the only ones to blame. We are responsible for the way we are. It is not God or even Satan that destroys us by corruption. It lies within us. Plantinga states that "the evil one seduces only those who are in the market for seduction. Satan deceives only the already self-deceived." We cannot blame Satan for our sins. We are sinful and our weaknesses make Satan stronger - but only because we are already self-deceived.

Another point that Plantinga makes is this: "People often take pride not only in their accomplishments but also in their intelligence, good looks, good breeding, and good coordination, as if they had gifted themselves with these things!" I laughed upon first reading this statement until I realized the severity of the truth behind it. Like I said, we live in a 'me' society but the fact of the matter is that we are nothing without Christ so who are we to boast and brag about our accomplishments when they are not ours to brag about?

The Poison of Subjectivism

I must confess that this essay was confusing for me to read and try to comprehend. I do not know if the reason for my lack of understanding is because I am visiting a friend for the weekend and was distracted while reading or because this material is just too difficult for me to fully comprehend. I am afraid that I do not quite understand the meaning of subjectivism so I cannot adequately understand what the poison of it is. I looked on to get a definition of subjectivism which is...

1. Espistemology. The doctrine that all knowledge is limited to experiences by the self, and that transcendent knowledge is impossible.
2. Ethics.
a. Any of various theories maintaining that moral judgments are statements concerning the emotional or mental reactions of the individual or the community.
b. Any of several theories holding that certain states of thought or feeling are the highest good.

Lewis says that a reason we are miserable is because we are too greedy and prideful and believe to easily in false philosophies. I believe this to be true but I am not sure how it relates to subjectivism.

At one point in his essay, Lewis says "All this is so obvious..." Well none of this material seems obvious to me. I do not analyze a situation from a subjective then objective point of view, decide which view is better and then act on my implications. I simple act as I feel I should as long as my decisions won't negatively effect or influence another. I suppose that plays into the idea of 'do as you would be done by'. But I do not see anything wrong with following that philosophy in life.

One thing Lewis said that made complete sense to me was this, "The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary colour in the spectrum." So often we do something or make something that we think is completely original. This goes back to a thought from a previous post that we are not our own. We are not our own and we cannot create anything anymore than we can change the sun. Creation is from God, not man. We just like to think we had some part in the miracle of it.

Lewis mentions the 'goodness' that relates to 2b of the definition I found. He compares subjectivism to the objectivism that is the Law of Nature. Objectivism is defined as "a tendency to lay stress on the objective or external elements of cognition." I do not understand the difference between objectivism and subjectivism and why one or the other is the better way to go about things. But it is obvious that Lewis prefers objectivism over subjectivism when he says, "unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish." Subjectivism is definitely something I will have to spend more time on at a later date.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mere Christianity (Chpts: 1-4)

I like this text because even though it is titled Mere Christianity it is not only for the Christian to read. This is a book that addresses all of humanity with topics so relevant to our daily lives that we don't stop to think of on a regular basis. Lewis states that he is not writing his book for a specific denomination of peoples. This makes me think about the differences between denominations, and why we, as Christians, even divide ourselves into denominations. So often we focus on the differences between denominations when we should be focusing on the similarities. If we focus on the similarities we can grow together in community regardless of our denomination because after all isn't the most important aspect of Christianity our personal relationship with Christ? The denomination shouldn't matter. That is the meaning of mere christianity.

If you had asked me what the law of human nature is before I read this excerpt I would probably have given you a blank stare. The law of human nature or the 'moral law' is the code by which we all live by inherently so. It is the law that all of us are supposed to know even though it is not taught in schools or discussed in daily conversations. But if you sit back and observe people you can see the law played out in your surroundings. Everyone has their own thoughts as to what is right and wrong and this law of nature pulls all of those thoughts together so as to decipher right from wrong, fair from unfair, etc. However, there is a flaw with this law being that it is not an official law at all. It is not recorded anywhere and each person interprets it differently. The fact of the matter is that the moral law is not like the law of gravity. The outcome is never certain and the consequences may very.

Lewis uses the analogy of the piano to further explain how this law works. He says that "the Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play; our instincts are merely the keys." Being the musical person that I am, this analogy makes perfect sense to me. When reading music the musician sees what notes to play. There are no right or wrong notes in terms of the piano but there are right or wrong notes in terms of a certain piece of music. A note might be right at one point but wrong at a different point. However the musician has creative license to play whatever notes he or she wants. They have the choice of notes just like we have the choice of which instincts to follow. Lewis says that there is no such thing as a good or bad impulse. How we react to that impulse is what makes it good or bad. So there is no bad music, no wrong notes but the way we play the notes can be interpreted as good or bad.

At the end of the fourth chapter Lewis states, "I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way." This statement is almost comical to me because as much as we all try to be individuals we are not. We are just as unique as everyone else. Our friends, family, teachers, co-workers, and peers influence us in our decisions every day. Another thing to remember is that we are not our own. We belong to Christ so we should remember to act the way He wants us to act instead of acting the way "somebody or something" wants us to behave.

Screwtape Letters (Letter XII)

The Screwtape Letters put an interesting twist on the way we interpret the devil and how he intervenes in our lives. We don't often think of sin from the devil's perspective. The Screwtape Letters are very erie to me because I find as I read them that I am guilty of giving into some of the temptations that Wormwood is feeding to his patient. There are times when I go days without reading my bible or make church nothing more than a habit. There are times when I falter but justify my actions by saying "it's ok, I'm still a Christian". Lewis uses reverse psychology in The Screwtape Letters to teach a lesson to all of us of what Christianity should look like.

From letter XII I particularly like the line, "He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space." I think a lot of the time we give into temptation and sin knowingly without thinking of the consequences. We may hesitate to sin at first but once we give in we do not realize that by allowing ourselves to sin just that one time that the next time the opportunity presents itself to sin we will not be so hesitant to take it. Walking away from the Lord is a slow but very dangerous process that is usually not a result of intentional actions. It simply "happens" and we wake up one day completely alone, drowning in sin, wondering what happened to our faith and where God is in the midst of everything.

The Screwtape Letters put everything into perspective. The devil knows us well. He knows our weaknesses so it is up to us to recognize the devil for what he is and resist his temptations. The most important thing I gained from this reading is that we are nothing without Christ. We cannot stand up to the devil without Christ and we certainly cannot resist temptation without Christ's guiding hand in our lives. Life is so hectic. There is always somewhere to go, someone to see, and something to do that we get distracted from what is really important. Nothing on earth is more important than our relationship with our heavenly father. I need to focus on my weaknesses and get rid of the distractions in my life so my focus can stay solely on Christ.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Show and Tell

In class today each of us shared a little bit of how we have applied the things we have been discussing and learning in class to our personal lives. I shared a song by Phil Wickham called Desire from his album Cannons. Phil Wickham is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary Christian artists because his lyrics are so alive and applicable to my life. Each song tells a story and this song tells of the desire to be with Christ. From the reading, The Weight of Glory, I learned that glory should be a desire and that we should all strive to have that desire to be with Christ. One of the phrases from the reading that stuck with me is "We remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy." The lyrics of the song I chose for class today speak of that desire. (to hear the song go to

I'm running through the gates of love, as fast as I can
I can't wait to see You I'm a desperate man
You made the light and sent it down
To show us who You are
Now It's bursting out my heart

My desire is burning like a million stars
And I'll keep reaching out, reaching out for You
My desire, is burning with the fire You sparked
And I'll keep reaching out, reaching out for You

I'd be nothing without You, yeah I would die
If I didn't have Your hand if I couldn't look into Your eyes
Jesus if Your love's the fuel then I'm the desperate flame
That's screaming out Your name

This is glory rising, over a new horizon
I See Your love, I feel Your smile
Your in my heart and I will run with all I have to You

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Plantinga - Chapter 2: Creation

"The way to thrive is to help others to thrive; the way to flourish is to cause others to flourish; the way to fulfill yourself is to spend yourself." This quote, found on page 22 of Engaging God's World speaks volumes to me. So often we spend so much of our time on ourselves, thinking of how we can thrive and flourish that we forget that the ultimate reward comes in helping others.

On the next page, Plantinga says that "Creation is neither a necessity or an accident." God did not create the world because it was needed and he certainly did not get bored and accidentally create the world. As Chesterton wrote, "the whole difference between construction and creation is... that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists." Creation was not a mistake on God's part and he loved us even before he created us.

Plantinga gives three reasons as to how human beings are like God. I do not necessarily agree with his statements. We cannot even compare ourselves to the divinity of God. We are not capable of anything God has done and we certainly cannot create something out of nothing.

In class we got into a debate about the material presented on page 35. Plantinga says, "...the original goodness of creation implies that all of it... is potentially redeemable... so everything made by God retains at least some part of its goodness and promise." Bjorn stated that according to some theologians there is no evil and that evil is simply the misuse of good. This started a debate of whether evil exists or not and if evil does not exist then who or what is the devil? It is my personal belief that every living creature is born good. Being a good person, however, is a choice made by the individual later in life. But if a person chooses to be 'evil' I believe that goodness can never fully leave an individual because it is part of their origin. Now some people may forget their goodness or choose to replace it with bitterness, vengeance, and destruction but that goodness still lies in their heart however inactive it may be. As far as the discussion of the existence of evil goes, I believe that evil does exist. Evil is the absence of good just as darkness is the absence of light. As Professor P. Ribeiro stated, "Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse."

Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from ?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong ?

Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working. darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father Mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

I have heard this song before but never have I listened so carefully and meditated on the lyrics as we did in class today. This song is related to the essay The Weight of Glory because all the 'lonely people' from the song are the people who need glory the most. They need to be reached out to and it is our responsibility, as Christ's followers, to do so. We should create a community where all the lonely people can finally belong.

I believe that everyone has the desire to belong somewhere. Professor A. Ribeiro said something that really stuck with me this morning. She said that we are all "looking for something that is not there." How true that is! We spend our lives looking forward to something and striving toward a goal that in the end doesn't even matter. We waste our days trying to look important and have all the right answers. But the truth is that none of us really belong anywhere because our eternal home is not here on earth. Earth is just a temporary stop toward eternity in heaven.

It amazes me that this song can be so impactful when it was not written from a Christian perspective. This just goes to show that not only Christians can make the world a better place. There are millions of good people in the world that are making a difference. They just don't have a direction in their lives. What are they working for? What are we working for? Where do we belong?

The Weight of Glory

This essay was slightly more difficult to relate to my life than some of the previous essays we have read because I do not associate my life with glory on a daily basis. On page one of Lewis' essay he says, "We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire." In this sense Lewis is describing good desires that we, as Christians, are supposed to harbor as a means to grow. I do not typically associate desire with good. I associate desire with longings that are not pleasing to God so in a way this statement that we are to have desires is confusing to me.

I liked Lewis' explanation of the 'schoolboy' and the illustration that we all start somewhere and that we cannot appreciate what he are doing now because we are so short sighted and cannot see the reward our current efforts will bring us in the future. Christianity is a journey and just like everything else in life it must be learned step by step.

I also liked Lewis' explanation of heaven. In the essay he states, "Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience." In other words, we cannot possibly fathom what heaven will be like because it will be like nothing we have experienced our whole lives. It will be so much better that there are not even words to describe it.

When Lewis writes about the "promises of Scripture" he says that we shall have "glory". He goes on to further explain his outlook on glory but in all of his explanations and illustrations I still do not understand how we can achieve glory. I've always learned and thought that glory was reserved for God. The idea that we, as humans, can attain glory is a strange concept for me. I do not feel glorified nor do I feel I deserve to be glorified. However, from Lewis' perspective it seems as if we all are allotted that glory and should take advantage of that as it is supposedly one of our deep desires. I personally do not desire glory but perhaps that is the problem and the reason I do not understand Lewis' point of view. In my small group today we talked a great deal about pride and how it can get in the way of our own personal glory and keep us from Christ. Maybe I am too prideful in myself to accept that I could be filled with God's glory. This is something I will have to work on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our English Syllabus

Our English Syllabus explores the difference between education and training form Lewis' humble perspective. There is a distinct difference between the two but Lewis points out that we must have a balance of both in our lives in order to become well balanced individuals. With too much training we will become like animals who perform tasks out of habit with no thought process necessary. However, education is "a necessary evil" according to Professor P. Ribeiro. I agree with Professor Ribeiro as I have never much cared for education. It seems that I learn the most from life experiences outside the classroom but I suppose education is a necessary part of life.

One of the most important aspects of education is learning how to learn. We must learn to appreciate the subjects we do not like and attack them as dilegentlyas we would the subjects we like. Learning is a process just like anything else. It is a process that can be grasped and manipulated and used to the educated individual's advantage. Education is a powerful tool if used properly but it can have devistating results if misused. (i.e. thousands of wasted dollars and disappointed parents.)

Lewis explained that "nothing more could come out than what we had put in." This is particularly true in the society we live in today. Education is everything it seems. With out a proper degree a job search is useless. So even though school may seem a necessary evil it is important that we realize that we will only get out of it what we put in. If we work hard our efforts will be reflected in our grades and other achievements. My father always says "Are you working hard or hardly working?" I'd like to think that I am working hard to recieve a well rounded education with a broad understanding of a lot of subjects. This way I am sure to be a success in life...

But what if it's not all about the education one possesses but the growth they have experienced because of life's adventures. Who determines whether education is found in books or on the street? I suppose this is a question I will always struggle with. But in the mean time I think I will continue succeeding in school and figuring out the benefits of the schooling system and this world renowned concept called education.

The Logical Song

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well theyd be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Wont you please, please tell me what weve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or theyll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Wont you sign up your name, wed like to feel youre
Acceptable, respecable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night, when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man.
Wont you please, please tell me what weve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

I enjoyed listening to this song in class. The first stanza is about being young. When we are young everything is so simple. There seem to be no problems in life except which color shirt to wear and whether to eat mac & cheese or grilled cheese for lunch. Every problem has a simple solution. However, eventually we all must grow up. And with that growth comes schooling. We are sent away to become "sensible, logical, responsible, practical." But in this process commonly called 'getting a proper education' we often lose sight of who we are. We start to fit the mold of 'the student' until one day we find ourselves lying awake in bed wondering what we have learned, if anything.

The last few lines of the song especially stuck with me. They read "Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned. I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am." These three lines represent the reality of the world today. Who am I? I am a student. I am a listener, a comforter, a daughter, sister, and friend. But what does that all mean at the end of the day? What have I really learned? And did this so called education come from years of schooling or years of experiences with the people who have shaped me over the last 18 years. Who defines learning anyway?

I believe college is a time of self discovery. However we all struggle with the concept of 'self'. We want to be what the world expects us to be. But what about what I want? Can someone please tell me who I am?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Sermon and the Lunch

In The Sermon and the Lunch Lewis explores the concept of 'home' and the possible hypocrisy of one preacher in his description. Pastor Vicar says in his sermon that home is the place where character is formed and where we are allowed to be ourselves. However upon dining at the Vicar's home, Lewis observes that Vicar's family is slightly less than functional. They all talk over each other and don't listen to what the others have to say. I'm not sure if this makes pastor Vicar a hypocrite because I know that my family is not perfect but my home life has formed me into the individual that I am. Without my home, my parents, friends and other influences I would not be who I am today.

In his writing Lewis says, "He [pastor Vicar] keeps on talking as if 'home' were a panacea, a magical charm which of itself was bound to produce happiness and virtue." This rings true for me, especially now after having completed a semester of college. After spending 4 months away from home, the place I had spent 14 years of my life, I was excited to go back to the familiar. I had grown accustomed to the routine of school but I missed the familiarity of home. I figured that home would not feel the same as it had 4 months prior but I was hoping that my assumption would be wrong and that home would be exactly how I had left it. Sadly home was nothing like it was 4 months ago. It no longer had it's magical charm. It did not bring endless happiness. It brought quite the opposite emotion as I realized that my family relations and friendships had changed drastically. This realization brought about a second realization that I have changed as well and that the place I had called 'home' for 14 years was no longer my home. Home is where you are. My home is here, at Calvin College. And four years from now I will chose a new home for myself.

Homes are not always functional. They are not supposed to be. They are supposed to be chaotic yet wonderful. If they were perfect we would not grow and growth is one of the most important aspects of having a home. I am building a new family here at school that I did not know existed 4 months ago. This does not mean that I am leaving my family and friends from Findlay, Ohio in the dust. It just means that as they change and grow I will change and grow as well until I've formed a whole new family to learn from here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We Have no 'Right to Happiness'

This excerpt about Mr. and Mrs. A and Mr. and Mrs. B raises the controversial question of what is 'happiness' and whether or not we as individuals have the 'right' to that happiness. In the story, Mr. A leaves Mrs. A for Mrs. B. Did he have a right to do that? C.S. Lewis says that the concept of a 'right to happiness' sounds "as odd as a right to good luck" because we depend on our happiness from outside sources depending on our circumstances. Mr. A left Mrs. A because he was not happy but I believe that he did not have the 'right' to do so.

Lewis says, "To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of the beloved will confer, not merely frequent ecstasies, but settle, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness." From this I interpret that being married and being in love is a choice. Every day one must wake up and say "I will love an cherish my wife today". I realize that in some circumstances this is extremely difficult but if both people in the marriage attack the marriage from this mindset happiness would be reached and this nonsense of divorce would not be possible. We search for happiness inside ourselves instead of looking to others. If Mr. A had simple talked to Mrs. A and worked out their differences then I believe they could have reached happiness together. But Mr. A did not do that. He gave up and ran to the next best thing that he thought would bring him happiness. Chances are that a few years from now he will have moved on the Mrs. C because he will still be searching for happiness.

Happiness is not a right. We do not deserve it just as we do not deserve anything else in this world. Happiness is a gift from God that we must work for. In class we talked about the difference between happiness and joy. This was not touched on in the reading but it is still valid to the discussion. Happiness is a selfish earthly concept that we all search for. Happiness does not bring peace. Joy on the other hand is the feeling of ultimate peace when Jesus is first in your life then others than yourself. Joy is not about the individual but it has the most rewards to the individual if it is reached. Joy is contentment for Christ for life; for all of eternity. Happiness is contentment only for a moment.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Plantinga - Chapter 1: Longing and Hope

Plantinga's first chapter focuses on longing and hope. He talks about Lewis' concept of sehnsucht which is the exploration of human longing or yearning. There are several things that we innately long for. We are always searching for more and more but the truth of the matter is that we will never be fully satisfied until we place our hope in Christ. As St. Augustine said, we are restless and we will continue being restless until we rest in him. Plantinga makes the point that hope is important for existence. However it is not healthy to only hope for ourselves. We must have hope for the future and hope for each other.

Love plays a big part into this human process of yearning. We all want to love and be loved. And love works side by side with hope. Plantinga says that biblical hope has faith on one side and love on the other and that love gets us out of the shell we build around ourselves leading to the concept of Shalom, or peace. Plantinga says that shalom is "the way things are supposed to be" meaning that they are not. We lack peace in life because we do not place our hope in the Lord. This is an amazing truth to me that has taken quite some time to understand. We are not our own. We are Christ's. Once we accept that as fact then we are able to find peace within our selves and the satisfaction that only comes through Christ.

In speaking about nostalgia, C.S. Lewis was quoted saying "where except in the present can the eternal be met?" Nostalgia is merely an exercise of discontent. We always wish that we had done something differently in the past and want something that we do not have in the present. This makes us long for earthly things and if we waste all of our time yearning for things of the world we will fail to ever reach shalom in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

God in the Dock: "Bulverism"

When I began reading this excerpt I did not fully understand what the term Bulverism meant. As I continued reading the definition became clearer to me. Bulverism is everywhere and has been an issue as long as people have been in existence but it is not commonly addressed. Bulverism is pervasive. It is the thought process that all of us as humans go through when we think "I am right and you are wrong." Bulverism is not necessarily logical. Often times it lacks reason and is therefore worthless but that does not keep us from arguing.

Lewis mentioned that "until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs." I do not believe that Bulverism will cease to exist anytime soon because we thrive on arguments and being 'right'. Bulverism is the lack of humility and our personal ideas and thoughts are shaped by our experiences so we must react to our circumstances wisely and humbly.

In class it was mentioned that women are usually more emotional in their responses to an arguement and men are usually more rational. This is why arguing with a woman can get messy. It is sometimes hard to argue a point without taking the opponents views to be personally offensive. This is why it is important to develop friendships with people that can challenge you as a person and challenge your beliefs. Without this basis of a strong friendship you will never be able to get to the truth of the arguement.

Professor Adriana Ribeiro said that there are flexers and extenders in life. The flexers shower you with compliments until you have curled into a solid ball of pride. They may appear to be your friends but they are not helpful in your development. The extenders are the important people. They push you and tear you down so that you can build yourself up to become a stronger person. Insults build your character and make you a stronger person than the man who only has his pride.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meditation in a Toolshed

Meditation in a Toolshed is a short excerpt about the difference between looking at something and looking along something. Lewis raises the point that "you get one experience of a thing when you look along it and another when you look at it." and "The people who look at things have had it all their own way; the people who look along things have simply been brow-beaten. I think brow-beaten is an interesting term that is not often used in discussion but definitely paints a vivid picture.

From studying this text I realized that I have never made a clear distinction between looking at things and looking along things in my life. It seems like most people look along things because it is easier than looking at things. But the good news is that we learn from our experiences if we stop being so critical and doubtful towards life and simply live.

A lot of good points were brought up during class discussion. It was noted that looking at something involves a logical thought process and looking along something involves more emotional thought.

Parts of this excerpt were confusing in the way that Lewis seems to attack his point from every angle causing contradiction. However, it is important to look at a situation from all angles to be able to better understand it. Take love for example. One must experience love by being in love, seeing love and feeling the effects of broken love to be able to understand the emotion. This way of looking at things and gaining a deeper understanding of perspective also plays a role in religion. It is not enough to simply go to church. One must be immersed in the church, and in the word of God in daily life with prayer to fully understand it. Also, it is important to be aware of other peoples' views and perspectives. Not everyone thinks from the same point of view and this can cause conflict.

Science and truth play into the experience of learning. However emotions contribute to the difference between experiencing and observing. Truth comes from Christ and wisdom and humility are found in Christ. This wisdom and humility are necessary to understand the difference between at and along.

Final thought: The sun has risen not because I see it but because I can see everything else.