C. S. Lewis Journal

Here you will find the journal entries I have written in response to various books I have read, written by C. S. Lewis. In particular, these are in response to the HON 303R course requirement.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Till We Have Faces

I don't understand the title. True enough the Queen Orual says that we can't meet God face to face till we have faces, but it was in the context of coming to believe the truth instead of our own lies about "the gods". The tie from lies to faces wasn't clear to me.

Ok forget the title. It was a terrific book. It was long, but I didn't ever feel that reading it was a chore. I often wondered why all the pagean gods in a book written by a traditionally Christian author. Toward the end of the book many of Lewis' teachings from other books became more obvious. It got pretty emotional toward the end. The ending was beautifully done. As I said in class, it seems that many answers to the mysteries in the book are given at the end, but I didn't understand many of them. I probably read over the last couple chapters in the book twice just as I was reading them the first time to try to not miss anything. Still there were parts where I furrowed my eye brows.

There were many parts in the book that I thought were really cool. And other parts where I felt infuriated and wanted to shout at the characters. Anyway, the one time when Orual is putting the gods on trial, and then the gods remind someone that she is not on trial, at least not yet, they say that a higher and greater judge would be required for that. I thought it was cool that a mortal being, a child of God, would need a higher judge than even the gods had.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The 4 Loves

I only read the last chapter, the one on Charity. These are the highlights that I explained to my wife when she explained what the chapter was about:
First, that there is a charity that is the love of giving. When we give, we play the role of Christ and do as he would do if he were here. It is Christ-like to give and to love unconditionally.
Second, that there is a charity that is the love of receiving. You recall that in the story of the Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief the man in need was actually Christ, rather than the Christ playing the role of the giver. You see, in the play of a needy person and a giving person, Christ plays both roles. And we need to receive in a Christ-like way just as much as we need to give in a Christ-like way. We mortals love to believe that God loves us because we are somehow remarkable in our own unique way--that we are worthy of merit. Much more certain is that God loves us because He is Love. God loves us because we are His children, not because we have earned His love. We need to be satisfied with being loved merely for that sake, and not make believe that we can earn it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

On Temptation

From The Magician's Nephew in the Chronicles of Narnia:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

"No Fear!" said Polly. "We don't want any danger."
"Oh, but don't you see it's no good?" said Digory. "We can't get out of it now. We shall always be wondering what else would have happened if we had struck the bell. I'm not going home to be driven mad by always thinking of that. No fear!"
"Don't be so silly," said Polly. "As if anyone would! What does it matter what would have happened?"
"I expect anyone who's come as far as this is bound to go on wondering till it sends him dotty. That's the Magic of it, you see. I can feel it beginning to work on me already."
Digory goes on to ring the bell, and lives to regret it. Later he discusses with Aslan how this woke up the Witch:
"She woke up," said Digory wretchedly. And then, turning very white, "I mean, I woke her. Because I wanted to know what would happen if I struck a bell. Polly didn't want to. It wasn't her fault. I - I fought her. I know I shouldn't have. I think I was a bit enchanted by the writing under the bell."
"Do you?" asked Aslan; still speaking very low and deep.
"No," said Digory. "I see now I wasn't. I was only pretending."
You see, temptation is like that. I believe that temptation by itself is very weak. Weaker perhaps than even those inklings of the Holy Ghost that we feel from time to time. So why do they feel so strong to us? Because they entice our carnal natures. Satan is weak, our bodies are strong. If Satan can convince us that He is the one overpowering us, all the while fooling us into overpowering ourselves, then he has won. We will cave under the temptation and say we were overpowered--that the temptation was too strong.

If only we would see his lie for the simple hoax it is. Take control of yourself! When those initial inklings from the adversary come, immediately control your own body and dismiss the invitation to do evil. Don't let the mild inclination to do evil convince you that you have no choice. The choice to shun evil is easier than you think if you keep it at bay rather than entertain it. I think you will find temptation really is a very weak force and see it for the lie it is.


Here are just some disjointed thoughts I had while reading the book:

[he was sure of himself, but fell in love accidentally]
[he loved her "too much"]
[he knew all the answers before he asked the questions -- until she died.]
[he then asked questions that he didn't know the answers to--apparently to make the students think, and seemed to hope that they could help him find the answer]

Pain later is part of the happiness now. That's the deal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Poems and the World's Last Night

The poems were very nice. I especially liked the one called "Joys That Sting". I read it to my wife.

In the World's Last Night, once again Jack seems to have drifted off topic. That is just how it appears to me. He starts out discussing the apocalypse, and then starts talking about evolution of all things. I liked his point about the hardly known character in King Lear, First Servant, who died trying to save Gloucester. He acts as he knows he should, without any concern for what its effects will be later on. It's like Dr. Laura says, "Do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may."

A Grief Observed

I was amazed the the questioning of faith that the death of Jack's wife caused. I have always been amazed at people who "question all they believe in" with the death of a loved one. Don't they realize people are dying all the time? Why doesn't that assault their faith? Why do they wait until it's up close and personal to let it challenge them? Of course people need to die. Why question the existence or goodness of God just because it happened to a loved one?

So in short, I was amazed that it happened even to Jack. But then, if the question must be asked, it is good that it is asked. One's faith must be strengthened when it is thus weak. And it starts by questioning all you believe in.

I was pleased when I read his passage on pages 36-37, where he asks
"What grounds has it given me for doubting all that I believe? I knew already that these things, and worse, happened daily. ... If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards."
Very well put.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Problem of Pain

I especially liked the quote from St. Augustine, because I find that it can relate to many of us. It is so well put as to not offend, yet still enlighten us of the plight we so often put ourselves in.
God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full--there's nowhere for Him to put it.

On pages 95-96, Jack talks about our tendency to use God as an escape hatch: to ignore Him until we need Him as a last resort. From page 96, I quote Jack:
[God] would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had.
I like something Jack said on page 107, because it fits a quote I have heard from President Ezra Taft Benson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here is Jack's quote:
And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.
Here is the quote from President Benson (I don't know the direct source, but write to me and I'll give you the information I have).
God is very patient, while he waits for some of us to step up to our responsibilities. He usually gives a man a long enough rope, and a long enough time, to either pull himself up to the surface, or fall off somewhere below.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Last Battle

At least for now, this is my favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia, because of the emotion I feel when I read it. I want to strangle the monkey. I want to tear down the covering of the stable and expose the hoax of a Lion that the poor donkey is innocently playing. I feel the love that Rillian has for his friend the Unicorn.

But most of all, during the last battle, I feel the love, the respect, the hopelessness and determination. I feel sorrow as I read about the deaths of the King's valiant and loyal followers. I feel very sad at the victory of the bad guys over Narnia.

This book reminds me of the last episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, which was also very well done in that I felt the emotional attachment between the actors as they went their different ways.

Oddly as it may sound, the very end of the book, where everyone runs up the mountain and meets all their long-gone friends, did not do that much for me. It was a very good ending, and one I could largely believe was based on Christian truth, but I didn't get as much into that part as the scene of the last battle.

The Magician's Nephew

In this book, when Diggory pleads with Aslan to save his mother's life, Diggory notices that Aslan also has tears in his eyes regarding his mother. This makes Diggory wonder if Aslan is even sorrier about his mother than Diggory is himself. Because Aslan represents Christ, this suspicion is true. This comforts Diggory when he resists Jadis' temptation to take an apple for himself and for his mother. He remembers that Aslan loves his mother too. It is interesting to me that it is enough alone for Diggory to know that Aslan loves him and his mother--that he doesn't insist on knowing what Aslan will ultimately do for his mother before he is willing to resist the temptation.

It is often enough for us to know just that God is here, now, for this situation. Sometimes the answers to life's problems are not given to us. But man can deal with very difficult things if he knows that God is there, and will help him when necessary.

On Stories

Lewis presents three ways (not suggesting that they are the only three ways) to write books for children:
  1. Write about things that interest children (not necessarily the author)
  2. Embellish a story told to an actual child
  3. Write about a subject that interests you, and can best be expressed as a children's story.
Lewis' favorite one is No. 3, which is the only one he claims to be any good at. This of course implies that he must believe that a children's story is the best presentation for the principles and morals taught in the Chronicles of Narnia. But when it comes to teaching morals, Lewis doesn't belive you should try to do that directly either. He suggests that if you try deliberately to include a moral, the moral will come out of your own desires and will likely be wrong. On the other hand, if you write about your own life and struggles, morals will surface by themselves and will be true-to-life.

The World's Last Night

Lewis brings up an excellent point on the first page when he says, in essence, that just because one man has exaggerated a point, doesn't mean we should react by snubbing the point. This point was also made in example in his book The Last Battle, from the Chronicles of Narnia. In that story, animals pretended to be Aslan, the great and loved God. When the hoax was discovered, many of the animals reacted by dismissing any belief that they once had for Aslan, rather than reverting to their prior belief in the true Aslan.

On the third page of his essay, Lewis uses the ignorance of Jesus with regard to the timing of the Second Coming, very near his statement that it will happen in his own generation, as evidence that only completely honest men copied the Bible, or they would have removed the error. I believe his reasoning here is faulty. A less-than-honest man may just as easily have inserted the error as an honest man might have left it there. Therefore, the apparent contradiction in the text is no more proof of the Bible's reliability than that it proclaims itself to be the Word of God.

For those of you lost on that point, here is an explanation. There are many people who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. When asked why they believe this way, many of them answer that the Bible itself proclaims itself to be the Word of God. Certainly, if it is true and the Bible is God's word, then any claim made in the Bible must also be true, for God is not a liar. But if the Bible were not the Word of God to begin with, then any claim made does not have to be true, including a claim that it might be the Word of God. To put it another way, I could write a book, and insert text that stated that my book was the Word of God. Must everyone suddenly believe my book is true? Of course not. Then why do they feel this way about the Bible? "Because God wrote it," comes the answer. "Well, how do you know that?" "Because it says so." And we continue in the same self-sustaining truth/lie paradox.

I believe the Bible to be the Word of God. That is stated in the 8th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I find the reason most conventional Christians believe the Bible to be unsatisfactory. I personally believe the Bible because the Holy Ghost has born witness to my soul of its truthfulness.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I read this book long ago as a young child, but I was very surprised to find the book only two hours long to read. Lewis packs a lot of story into a small volume. If he wrote Perelandra this way, Perelandra would have been a very different book.

The symbolism was obvious and good. Something I still wonder about is the prophecy that the White Witch's life would end when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve sit at Cair Paravel. Her life was "ended" before that, when Aslan leaped on her during the battle. So that doesn't seem entirely consistent to me. Also, later in the series of books I vaguely recall that the witch comes back. What's the deal with that? "Whoever heard of a witch dying completely?" I believe is a quote from the later book. That's not that big of a deal though.

So the witch was white, a color which in our culture symbolizes purity. Yet, as a student in class pointed out, the color white in nature is very rare. Snow, and clouds, are the only natural occurrences of it that I can think of.

Last of all, the way Aslan told Edmund's siblings to not talk about the past. I think that was good. After repentance, it is best to look forward. Edmund used what he learned from the experience to benefit others all the same.