The World’s Last Night (book review)

I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan! His perspective on the spiritual world is unequaled in any other author I have read. In The World’s Last Night, Lewis shares seven essays ranging from how our prayers really impact things, to life on other planets, to the end of our world as we know it.

The title of this book (and the title of the concluding chapter) are taken from a question by John Donne: “What if this present were the world’s last night?” So all of Lewis’ essays are written from that perspective. If this is the world’s last night, why should we keep praying? If demons knew this was the world’s last night, why would they keep on tempting? If atheists knew this was the world’s last night, would they keep arguing the same way?

As with all of his writings, C.S. Lewis has a unique knack of giving his readers a perspective that is totally original. His skills in philosophy, literature, and understanding the human heart are unparalleled! If you are ready to have your horizons expanded, these essays will not disappoint!

(And for any fans of The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape himself makes a special appearance as he gives a toast in hell that is sure to evoke both smiles and chagrins.)

Christmas Wisdom From Ebenezer Scrooge

Scrooge and ghostI have been listening to an audio production of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The one I’m listening to is a podcast performed by Patrick Horgan (very well done!).

Two things have stood out to me—

(1) The genius of Charles Dickens. Check out this brilliant piece of wit.

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hand shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”

(2) The biblical message which comes through so vividly.

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now begin to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, ringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

“At this time of the rolling year,” the spectre said, “I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes in which its light would have conducted me?” (emphasis mine)

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis (book review)

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis wrote the first books I fell in love with as a kid, and he continues to be my “go to” author as an adult. One of the things which makes Lewis so widely read and appreciated is the variety of genres in which he wrote. This is the subject of an insightful book by Jerry Root and Mark Neal—The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis.

Lewis wrote satire, poetry, literary criticism, autobiography, apologetic, children’s literature, and science fiction, to name just a few of the genres. Scholars who study his works point to seventeen literary genres in which he was adept. The fact that he could write so eloquently in this many genres is amazing, but what’s even more amazing, say Root and Neal, is that he could stick to one genre, even when it would be so tempting to shift to another mid-book.

Lewis was fond of talking about the time he felt his imagination had been “baptized.” That is to say, when he was aware of the power of using imagination to open others’ minds to new worlds and ideas. Those who have read the Narnia books or the space trilogy books know how imaginative Lewis’ writing can be. But what Root and Neal point out is that this amazing imagination was on full display in all of the different genres in which Lewis wrote.

The Surprising Imagination Of C.S. Lewis would be a great pre-read the next time you are going to read something from C.S. Lewis. Each chapter in this book zeros-in on a particular Lewis book, so reading that chapter prior to reading the corresponding C.S. Lewis book will prime your mind to spot the brilliant imagination that was on display in every book he wrote.

I am an Abingdon Press book reviewer.

Links & Quotes

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At age 38, after playing 20 years for the Detroit Tigers, Ty Cobb had an amazing performance in the 1925 season.

“Everything you do is either going to raise your average or lower it. The next hire. The quality of the chickpeas you serve. The service experience on register 4. Each interaction is a choice. A choice to raise your average or lower it. Progress is almost always a series of choices, an inexorable move toward mediocrity, or its opposite.” —Seth Godin

Fight The New Drug shares 3 things that pornography doesn’t show.

“If Margaret Sanger had her way, MLK and Rosa Parks would never have been born,” said [Bishop E.W.] Jackson. “It’s an outrage the national museum would honor such a person and add insult to injury by putting her in the Struggle for Justice exhibit.” Margaret Sanger’s bust should be removed from the Smithsonian.

Married couples, have more sex to help slash the chances of prostate cancer.

Murray Vassar finds a very appropriate connection between what Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and what is happening with Planned Parenthood.

So House Speaker John Boehner wants to build a coalition by calling a member of his own party this?!

12 Quotes From “God-Breathed”

God-BreathedJosh McDowell has given us another outstanding Christian apologetic. In God-Breathed, Josh shares with us some astounding facts that show the amazing reliability of the Bible. You can read my book review of God-Breathed by clicking here. Below are some of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“The doctrines and commands of Scripture act as two guardrails to guide us down the right path of life. The teachings of Scripture (doctrine) keep us thinking and believing rightly. The instructions of Scripture (commands) keep us acting and living rightly. But without the proper context, we can miss the true purpose of Scripture, which is to guide us into keeping right thinking and right living in balance. … Scripture was given to lead us into a deeper love relationship with the One Who wrote the Book, and then also with everyone around us.” 

“The infinite God is personal. And because He is personal, we can love Him, worship Him, and please Him with our trust and obedience. Because He is personal, He can love us, rejoice with us, comfort us, and reveal Himself and His ways to us.”

“What is it that really parents our children? Is it the directives, instructions, and commands we give them? Those are behavioral guidelines, but they are not what raises our kids. It is not ‘parenting,’ as a concept, that brings up children; it is the parents themselves—relational human beings—who do the work and perform that role. That is the way God designed it. He wants kids to be brought up in loving relationships. Without relationship with another person, all attempts to instill right beliefs and right behavior will be ineffective, because they are detached from the necessary elements of personal love and care. … The Holy Spirit administers Scripture to us like a loving parent, in order to provide us with wisdom through its lessons (Proverbs 3:5), security through its boundaries (Exodus 20), caution through its warnings (Ephesians 4:17-22), and reproof through its discipline (Philippians 2:3-4).” 

“By AD 100, the apostles had died, but the Christian Church was still in its infancy, with fewer than twenty-five thousand proclaimed followers of Christ. But within the next two hundred years, the fledgling church experienced explosive multiplication of growth, to include as many as twenty million people. This means the church of Jesus Christ quadrupled every generation for five consecutive generations!”

“In AD 367, Athanasius of Alexandria compiled the first official list of books that we know today as the New Testament. There were twenty-seven books listed in all. These books were then canonized officially by the church at the councils of Hippo (AD 393) and Carthage (AD 397). Again, these councils didn’t authorize which writings were God-breathed works; rather, they recognized that these writings were authorized by God Himself.” 

“The Old Testament, comprised of thirty-nine books, was officially recognized as God-breathed Scripture as early as the fourth century BC and certainly no later than 150 BC.”

“The Bible is now the most translated book of all-time. The United Bible Society reports that, as of 2014, the Bible or portions of the Bible has been translated into 2,650 languages. Their Digital Bible Library now hosts more than 800 translations in 636 languages spoken by 4.3 billion people.” 

“Compared with other ancient writings, the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it then the top ten pieces of classical literature combined.”

“No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament.”

“Once archaeologists completed their search of the Qumran caves—eleven caves in all—almost 1,050 scrolls have been found in about 25,000 to 50,000 pieces (a number that varies depending on how the fragments are counted). Of these manuscripts, about 300 were texts from the Bible, and many of the rest had ‘direct relevance to early Judaism and emerging Christianity.’ Every book of the Old Testament was represented, except for the book of Esther, and the earliest copies dated from about 250 BC. … Once the Dead Sea Scrolls were translated and compared with modern versions of the Hebrew Bible, the text proved to be identical, word for word, in more than 95% of the cases. (The 5 percent deviation consists mainly of spelling variations. For example, of the 166 words and Isaiah 53, only seventeen letters are in question. Of those, ten are a matter of spelling, and four are stylistic differences; the remaining three letters comprise the word light, which was added to Isaiah 53:11.)”

“The writings of the most authoritative writers of the early church—the leaders scholars referred to collectively as the Apostolic Fathers—give overwhelming support to the existence of the twenty-seven authoritative books of the New Testament. Some Apostolic Fathers produced extensive, highly accurate quotes from the text of the New Testament. … Early church writers provide quotations so numerous and widespread that if no manuscripts of the New Testament were extant, ‘the New Testament could be reproduced from the writings of the early Fathers alone.’” —Norman Geisler and William Nix 

“The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of…first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again. ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ was there constant and confident assertion. And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened. … One of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers; they not only said, ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ but also, ‘As you yourselves also know’ (Acts 2:22). Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.” —F.F. Bruce

Links & Quotes

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“Another point is that on that view you would have to regard the accounts of the Man as being legends. Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there are no conversations that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence. In the story of the woman taken in adultery we are told Christ bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger. Nothing comes of this. No one has ever based any doctrine on it. And the art of inventing little irrelevant details to make an imaginary scene more convincing is a purely modern art. Surely the only explanation of this passage is that the thing really happened? The author put it in simply because he had seen it.” ―C.S. Lewis

“It takes more than academic rigor to win the world for Christ. Correct doctrine alone isn’t enough. Proclamation and teaching aren’t enough. God must be invited to ‘confirm the Word with signs following’ (see Hebrews 2:4). In other words, the gospel must be preached with the involvement of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.” Read more from Jim Cymbala in his post With Signs Following.

The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life (book review)

The Christian's SecretAlthough originally written in 1875, The Christian’s Secret Of A Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith is as relevant today as it was 140 years ago.

Hannah is quick to point out that happiness is not the goal for a Christian, but a closer walk with Jesus Christ is. When we are walking close with Him, happiness that comes from peace, security, and consistent growth in faith is the natural byproduct.

Hannah is a Quaker and she wrote nearly two centuries ago, so some language differences are to be expected. But I found that when the “old English” began to show up more liberally in certain passages, it was the author’s way of really getting excited about what she had to say! Other than that, the principles and the examples she uses to make her points are fairly timeless.

The book is divided into three sections, and the middle section—called Difficulties—was one of my favorites. What made it so intriguing was the practical and biblical way Hannah explained the difficulties Christians face, and the God-honoring way out of those problems.

This is an excellent devotional-style book for both new and experienced Christians.

“The Lord’s part is to do the thing entrusted to Him. He disciplines and trains by inward exercises and outward providences. He brings to bear upon us all the refining and purifying resources of His wisdom and His love. He makes everything in our lives and circumstances subservient to the one great purpose of causing us to grow in grace, and of conforming us, day by day and hour by hour, to the image of Christ.” —Hannah Whitall Smith

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