Philosophical Thoughts (book review)

C.S. Lewis once quipped, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” And there are very few people that have presented what I would call “good philosophy” like Lewis himself. The collection called Philosophical Thoughts is a prime example. 

Certainly, many of Lewis’ books would fall into the category of philosophy, or at the very minimum contain overt philosophical elements. This collection was different than many of his books because of the wide range of topics explored. Not only the topics but the “source material” as well. By that I mean, sometimes Lewis’ words are in the form of a conversation he had with a friend, some are from lectures he gave, and one is even Lewis sharing a very lucid dream that he had. All of them challenged the paradigms of my thinking. 

The word philosophy is a combination of two loanwords from Greek: philo and sophia. “Philo” is the love and appreciation of something, and “sophia” is wisdom. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good”? That is the exact opposite of the definition of sophia. Sophia is a lofty wisdom that is highly practical. This perfectly describes the pondering of C.S. Lewis: elevated thoughts that can be immediately applied to our daily lives. 

I don’t believe this collection is available as a written book, but that’s just fine because listening to the mellifluous voice of Englishman Ralph Cosham was sort of like sitting in Lewis’ study and listening to him speak. A very enjoyable experience indeed! 

Near Christianity

“The proclamation that Jesus died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life is not, in fact, what C.S. Lewis referred to as mere Christianity—Christianity at its most basic. Rather, I would say that this message, which offers as its primary hope forgiveness and eternal life, and which offers these to all who merely profess belief in Jesus—this gospel which is roundly proclaimed in perhaps the vast majority of churches throughout the land—should be referred to as near Christianity.

“The Good News that Jesus and the Apostles proclaimed is a message so comprehensive, so altogether new and radical, that it requires deep-seated, heart-felt repentance, complete surrender to the risen Christ, and whole-hearted belief leading to obedience in every area of life. It is the message of the Kingdom of God.

“Anything other than the Gospel of the Kingdom is not the Gospel at all, but a form of near Christianity that holds out promises germane to the Kingdom, prescribes means related to the Kingdom, but holds back on making the full vision and demands of the Kingdom clear to those who would enjoy the conditions of blessedness.

“Such a message obscures the magnitude of God’s grace, minimizes the scope of Christ’s achievement, fails to nurture believers in the full obligations of Kingdom citizenship, and holds out a lesser hope—mere forgiveness and eternal life, rather than the glory of the living God.

“Near Christianity, therefore, produces little in the way of Kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it.” —T.M. Moore, in The Gospel of the Kingdom

(Check out some other quotes from The Gospel of the Kingdom by clicking here.)

10 Quotes From C.S. Lewis

Any day is a good day for some C.S. Lewis quotes! 

“To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” —C.S. Lewis 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” —C.S. Lewis 

“For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Faith, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” —C.S. Lewis 

“And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?” —C.S. Lewis 

“A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.” —C.S. Lewis

On Living In A [COVID-19] Age

In 1948, World War II had come to a close and the nuclear age had dawned. The Cold War was beginning to ratchet up and the fear of nuclear annihilation was gripping people’s hearts. 

In this environment, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled On Living In An Atomic Age. I have changed the word “atomic” for “COVID-19,” and I think you will see the relevance. 

In one way we think a great deal too much of the COVID-19 virus. “How are we to live in a COVID-19 age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the COVID-19 virus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the COVID-19 virus, let that virus when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

For Christians, I would urge you to think in ways in which I am certain C.S. Lewis would agree: 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) 

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12)

Leaders Listen

“The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other Voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter Life come flowing in.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God said, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Yes?’ answered Abraham. ‘I’m listening.’” —Genesis 22:1 

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak. I’m Your servant, ready to listen.’” —1 Samuel 3:10 

“How much of God are we missing because we don’t stop to listen to the many voices God uses to speak to us?” —George Washington Carver 

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” —Proverbs 18:13 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” —Winston Churchill

A mark of a godly leader is one who listens to the counsel of other godly leaders. 

“Wise, godly leaders know they must listen to the counsel of wise, godly leaders.” —Craig T. Owens 

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” —James 1:19 

“There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not listen… and none so foolish as those who think they can change those who will not see, hear, or listen.” —Warren Bennis

“Correct the wise, and they will love you.” —Proverbs 9:8 

“What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? … He is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.” —Jane Addams, in a speech about George Washington 

“People don’t lose intimacy when they stop talking, but when they stop listening. Leaders seldom realize how much their listening empowers the other person. Because they are leaders, the sheer act of listening speaks volumes that even a great speech can’t communicate. …   

“A leader’s communication must be consistent, clear, and courteous. But leaders must also be good listeners. When leaders don’t listen: They stop gaining wisdom. … Leaders listen; leaders learn; and then leaders lead.” —John Maxwell 

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Gospel Of The Kingdom (book review)

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis presented a series of radio talks which became the book Mere Christianity. It was in this book that Lewis went beyond any denominationalism to the basic tenants of Christianity as outlined in the Bible. T.M. Moore persuasively warns us today of the trend away from “mere” Christianity to what he terms “near Christianity.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is an important book for those who desire to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). 

An increasing number of people who call themselves Christians—and even more alarmingly, those who are in positions of church leadership—aren’t living or preaching the full Gospel as presented in the Scriptures. Moore sounds the clarion call: “We are in danger, I believe, of having embraced, not the Gospel Jesus and the Apostles proclaimed, and for which our forbearers in the faith lived and died, but another gospel, a shallow, self-centered, merely sentimental gospel, which ‘assures’ us of heaven but does not equip us for the kingdom of God.” 

The followers of near Christianity tout how they have been saved from hell, but their profession and lifestyle don’t go beyond that. In other words, there is very little—if any—evidence that Jesus has become the Sovereign of their lives, and that they are living as citizens of God’s Kingdom. “Near Christianity, therefore, produces little in the way of kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it,” says Moore. 

In The Gospel of the Kingdom, Moore fully defines the imposter known as near Christianity, and then systematically details the characteristics of the Kingdom of God that should be evidenced in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. This isn’t just Moore’s opinion, but this short book is thoroughly cross-referenced with over 100 biblical passages.

All Christians—and especially those in the pastorate or other leadership roles—would do well to digest this book. If we aren’t vigilant, near Christianity may dominate the landscape of our churches, which really isn’t Christianity at all. 

I am a Wax Tablet Publications book reviewer. 

Poetry Saturday—Evolutionary Hymn

Lead us, evolution, lead us 
Up future’s endless stair; 
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us. 
For stagnation is despair: 
Groping, guessing, yet progressing, 
Lead us nobody knows where. —C.S. Lewis

Let It Go

Scholars are unsure of the date that Obadiah wrote his book. We know that it took place after invaders had caused problems in Judah and Edom responded in a way that angered God. Some scholars place this date after Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah in 586 BC, and others think it’s more likely to have occurred during the reign of Jehoram around 840 BC. The bottom line is that the date doesn’t matter because the underlying feud which led to God’s pronouncement of judgment had been smoldering for hundreds and hundreds of years! 

The feud was between Jacob (the father of the nation of Israel) and his twin brother Esau (the father of the nation of Edom). Esau was born first and should have received his father Isaac’s blessing, but Jacob took the birthright that was supposed to belong to Esau. 

As you might imagine, “Esau seethed in anger against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him; he brooded, ‘The time for mourning my father’s death is close. And then I’ll kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41). Jacob escaped Esau’s initial rage, but 400+ years later, when the Israelites left Egypt and were on their way to Canaan, the Edomites—trying to even the score—refused to let the Israelites pass through their territory. 

Now another few hundred years have passed and when Judah was invaded, the Edomites not only didn’t do anything to help their brothers, but they piled on with the invaders (vv. 10-14). Once again, their rage at the descendants of Jacob exploded!  

For this, God pronounced judgment on the nation of Edom through His prophet Obadiah. 

Edom’s downfall is very instructive because we are ALL liable to the same fate! 

  1. It starts with pride. Pride keeps us from forgiving our offenders because we think WE have to be the one to even the score. As C.S. Lewis noted, “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”
  1. It then becomes thoughts of plotting our revenge. Jesus warned us of the dire consequences for dwelling on these kinds of thoughts (Matthew 5:21-22). 
  1. It next morphs into cheering on those who attack our offenders.
  1. It eventually becomes our revenge in action, which then brings God’s judgment against us!

Always remember this: It is God’s place to judge, but our place is to forgive our enemies and “get revenge” by blessing them beyond what they deserve (Romans 12:17-21). 

You might say, “But what they did to me is absolutely inexcusable!” You are probably right, but you are not going to make anything right. Making things right—handing out appropriate justice—is God’s business. Again, C.S. Lewis reminds us, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

There are three important words to remember when someone has wronged you: LET IT GO!

Carrying a grudge against someone who has inexcusably wronged you is toxic to your life and doesn’t leave room for God’s justice. LET IT GO!

If you missed any messages in our series called Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can check them out here. 

Friendship Is…

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” —C.S. Lewis 

Friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” —Thomas Jefferson 

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” —Aristotle 

Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.” —Eugene Peterson 

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Emerson 

“If the first law of friendship is that it has to be cultivated, the second law is to be indulgent when the first has been neglected.” —Voltaire

Friendship is agreement with kindliness and affection about things human and divine.” —Cicero 

“The light of friendship is seen plainest when all around is dark.” —Grace Noll Crowell 

“For spiritual friendship, which is what we mean by true friendship, should be desired not with a view to any worldly good, nor for any reason extrinsic to itself, but from the worthiness of its own nature, and the feeling of the human heart, so that it offers no advantage or reward other than itself. … For in this true friendship one makes progress by bettering oneself, and one bears fruit by experiencing the enjoyment of this increasing degree of perfection. And so spiritual friendship is born among good people through the similarity of their characters, goals, and habits in life.” —Aelred of Rievaulx 

“The quickest way to initiate friendship is to give people freedom to be themselves.” —Andy Braner

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holding Two Extreme Truths

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Holding Two Extreme Truths

     This is a deep, unsearchable mystery. Man walks without a leash yet treads in the very steps that God ordained him to tread in as certainly as though manacles had bound him to the spot! Man chooses his own seat, selects his own position; guided by his will, he chooses sin, or guided by divine grace, he chooses right. And yet in His choice God sits as sovereign on the throne, not disturbing but still overruling and proving Himself to be as able to deal with free creatures as with creatures without freedom. As able to effect His purpose when He has endowed men with thought and reason and judgment, as when He had only to deal with the solid rocks and with the imbedded sea.

     O Christians! You will never be able to fathom this, but you may wonder at it. I know there is an easy way of getting out of this great deep either by denying predestination altogether or by denying free agency altogether. But you can hold the two: You can say, “Yes, my consciousness teaches me that man does as he wills, but my faith teaches me that God does as He wills, and these two are not contrary the one to the other. And yet I cannot tell how it is. I cannot tell how God effects His end. I can only wonder, and say, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!’” (Romans 11:33). Every creature is free and doing as it wills, yet God is freer still and doing as He wills not only in heaven, but also among the inhabitants of this lower earth. 

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose

The debate has raged for years: predestination vs. freewill. 

People will sometimes ask me, “Are you a Calvinist (predestination) or an Arminian (freewill)?” And I always give the same answer, “Yes, I am a solid Cal-minian!” As with most things that are difficult for our finite, human minds to grasp about God’s nature, the answer is not either-or but it’s both-and.

C.S. Lewis captured the same sentiments as Spurgeon. Lewis always said the best course between two immovable ideas was right between them. He added, “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem” (emphasis mine).

Spurgeon would agree—there never was any problem, at least not with God. Any problems of understanding are in ourselves, not in Him. So far better than choosing one over the other, choose the both-and, and then stand in awe and wonder and worship that our infinite God is sovereign over all. Even over our puny, limited theologies and doctrines. 

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