Category Archives: C. S. Lewis

A Translation of MacDonald’s “Sir Gibbie”

Christine Norvell recently wrote an essay about one of George MacDonald’s novels that I’ve not read, Sir Gibbie:

Sometimes you read a book that causes you to marvel at the possibility of goodness in our human frame. As I reread George MacDonald’s Sir Gibbie (1879), I was filled with questions, the same questions I’m sure that prompted C.S. Lewis to call the novel a fantasy. In his Preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology, Lewis termed MacDonald’s novels “a rich crop,” yet at the same time writes that “none is very good.” He felt “they are best when they depart most from the canons of novel writing… to come nearer to fantasy, as in the whole character of the hero in Sir Gibbie.”

I think this book would make a nice gift for young readers, especially the recent translation from the Scots by David Jack.  I love that the original dialogue is given in double column format with the English translation to the side.  (You can read about it here)

And you may enjoy hearing David Jack’s “Scottish burr”  as he reads one of MacDonald’s poems, “Godly Ballant IV”.

 

Schlimbesserung

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Schlimbesserung is a German word for “a so-called improvement that makes things worse,”  elsewhere defined as a “disimprovement”. I found it in a comment on a blog I sometimes read,  First Known When Lost.   The word fits well the mood of this particular entry which begins:

I am conservative by nature.  But please take note, dear readers:  that is not a political statement.  I have no interest whatsoever in the acts or omissions of presidents, prime ministers, premiers, princes, or other potentates.  I feel the same way about utopian political schemes of any stripe, together with their mad inventors, purveyors, and true believers.  We all know the ultimate end of chimerical, delusive, and disingenuous dream-worlds.

Typical of this blog, there is some good poetry (a less known one by C.S. Lewis), and good art, in this case a series of three renderings of the same view in three seasons, to my mind, a comment on how things can change and yet remain the same.

Read it all here.

 

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From Alistair E. McGrath’s book, Mere Apologetics:

     Now there is much more to the Christian idea of faith than believing certain things are true.  For Christians, faith is not merely cognitive (“I believe this is true”), but also relational and existential (I trust this person”).  It is not just believing that God exists, but discovering that this God is wise, loving, and good—and choosing to commit ourselves to this God as a result.  As C.S. Lewis once remarked, you are not faced “with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence.”
    Faith is thus about trust in someone, not just a belief that he or she exists.  This point was made by Danish writer Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), who emphasized that true faith in God was a “qualitative leap” from one way of existing to another. Christian faith is not the mere addition of one extra item to our inventory of the contents of the world—that is, God.  It is about realizing and embracing the new “mode of existence” this trust makes possible.

Serious Worship

I’ve been reading Joe Rigney’s bookLewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God.  One of the things that strikes me is how Lewis always emphasized the otherness of God.  God is not like us.  It made me think of my own tame ideas of God, especially in relation to things I do that I know are wrong.  Somehow I expect God to excuse me, because He is so loving and gracious.  Not nearly often enough do I think what an awesome and terrible thing it is to be known by the Almighty, absolutely Righteous God.  Forgiveness in this context is truly amazing.

I think many Christians are like me, not often impressed with the otherness of God that is so wonderful but also terrible in relationship to ourselves.  I have felt the lack of apprehending God’s majesty in worship services.  I do not like glib comments that refer to God as we would to one another.  Maybe it is partly my age, but at least for me, it does not encourage me to think of God as different from myself.   And so I very much agreed with Jonathan Aigner’s recent post about worship.  Commenting on worship in an Anglican church he visited, he says:

Worship at Advent differs from common liturgical practice in the contemporary American church, to say the least. It is exceedingly beautiful, sublime even, evoking a sense of transcendence that seems strikingly out of place, even in one of the most historic cities in the country. …
On Advent’s website is their Liturgical Customary, a long document describing the movements in the historical drama that are played out in their rich liturgical worship. Some of you may not agree with every practice of Anglo-Catholic worship and that’s certainly your own prerogative. But after reading through entry after entry on liturgical posture, and possibly pausing just long enough to practice my own genuflecting in the mirror, I was bowled over by a concluding paragraph.
While the foregoing may seem excessively fussy, particularly in an age when manners are out of fashion and seminaries are apparently intent on turning the Mass into a rock-‘n’-roll show, remember that Divine Service is not a casual activity. The Lord’s Supper is a heavenly banquet, not a drive-thru lunch from a fast food shop. Lack of attention to deportment at Mass is as inappropriate as wearing torn jeans to a formal dinner. Sloppiness of appearance, movement or behavior will not show forth “the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty,” which is what we seek to present. (1)
After countless readings and re-readings of this paragraph, all with bated breath, I finally exhaled deeply with a series of questions.
Why aren’t we all approaching worship with reverence, seriousness, and sobriety?
Why are we trying to make worship accessible to those who don’t care about it anyway?
What’s wrong with us that we think we should get to have worship made in our own image?
Why are we so offended by the beauty of holiness?

And then this:

I fear we aren’t just guilty of domesticating the one true God, itself a grave error. In our petulant insistence on me-worship, we have shown where our ultimate allegiance lies and crowned ourselves lord of all. More terrifying still is my suspicion that most of the church doesn’t even recognize what the hell we’ve done.

Aslan is Not a Tame Lion: The Serious Mistake of Casual Worship

 

Who Do I Worship?

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This book helped me understand what is humanly knowable about the God who created the universe and all that is in it, who created man in his own image and for his pleasure.  It made it possible for me to worship the God who is revealed in scripture, not a god of my own (even well meaning) understanding, and it gave me even more reason to do so.

James Pringle, writing about worship and music, says  “If we don’t know Who we worship as He has revealed to us in His Word, we worship a god of our own making. That is idolatry, and Scripture has a pretty clear stance on that.”

Often, when I am preparing to worship I remember C.S. Lewis’s prayer “May the real me meet the real You.”

 

 

 

Toward a World Welfare State

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This is the book that transformed my prejudice against science fiction.  I only read it because it was written by one of my favorite writers, C. S. Lewis, who I’ve been reading and re-reading for 45 years.  I doubt I would have been insightful enough to have understood That Hideous Strength back in the 1970’s, but it stunned me when I finally read it, in the last 10 years.  It still does.  My blog name, “Into the Liquid Light” came from a passage in the book.

Benjamin Hutchison has written about the book in a recent article titled C. S. Lewis: Critic of Progressivism.

[W]hile most of us associate Lewis with theological literature, the man who gave us Narnia also mounted firm opposition to the progressive-leftist ideals that swept swiftly across the world stage in his time. Lewis’s resistance to European progressivism was, first and foremost, a reflection on the reality of man’s nature, and the failings of progressivism to account accurately for man’s fallen state. He rejected progressivism’s assumption of man’s inherent goodness, of the state as an idol. Lewis succinctly described progressivism as “state worship,” predicated on the assumption of man’s inevitable rise to god-hood.

Entering onto the stage of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ fixation on progress and the industrial revolution, a notable Lewis work on contemporary issues of his day (moral, spiritual, and practical) was his collection of essays called Present Concerns. This work, largely unknown to anyone but Lewis devotees, was recently discussed in this journal by scholar Gary Gregg. But perhaps the best insight into Lewis on progressivism and politics was a work of fiction—namely, his 1945 science-fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, the third and final book of his “Space Trilogy.” Covering a wide range of themes from marriage to human pride, the book’s plotline is centered on a progressivist organization called the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments (NICE), and its determination to use science to mend all of man’s ailments.

The story begins with the ordinary and quiet lives of the recently married Jane and Mark Studdock, but quickly expands to a provocative narrative. Mark, a new senior fellow and sociologist at Bracton College, soon finds himself in the “inner-circle” of the “Progressivist Element” at the college. In opposition to the “outsiders” and “obstructionists” (read: conservatives), the Progressivist Element soon starts formalizing a deal with the larger, nation-wide progressive organization, NICE, which intends to buy land from Bracton for its new facilities.
“The NICE was the first-fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world,” Lewis satirically noted, underscoring the progressive tendencies of state-controlled science, common to so many European (and American) governments of Lewis’s day. After being duped and flattered by Progressivist Element leader Lord Feverstone, Mark soon finds himself in a bittersweet relationship with NICE. Desperate for recognition and acceptance by the leadership at NICE, Mark becomes dependent on its employment, yet he remains unaware of his ambiguous job description.
………Lewis later warns of this dangerous scientism in government, cautioning that if we accept scientism in full, “we must give full weight to the claim that nothing but science, and science globally applied, and therefore unprecedented Government controls, can produce full bellies and medical care for the whole human race: nothing, in short, but a world Welfare State.”
And all of this, of course, is done in the name of “niceness.”