God has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word.
God has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy Word.
Farrer described Lewis as ‘the most successful theological apologist our days have seen.’ He was of the view that Lewis’s imaginative and rational powers were ‘so fruitfully and so mutually engaged’ and that it was ‘this intellectual imagination’ which made the strength of his religious writings; ‘there lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader at home.’ Despite this mutual engagement, Farrer submits that Lewis’s imaginative side was his stronger suit: ‘his real power was not proof, it was depiction’ and he wrote of The Problem of Pain that, though ‘we think we are listening to an argument, in fact we are presented with a vision; and it is the vision that carries conviction.’
What is at issue here is a species of vision that breaks down the rigid lineaments of a world that interprets itself principally according to the brilliant glamour and spectacle of power, the stable arrangement of all things in hierarchies of meaning and authority, or the rational measures of social order and civic prestige … The scale of the reversal cannot be exaggerated: when Jesus stands before Pilate for the last time, beaten, derided, robed in purple and crowned with thorns, he must seem, from the vantage of all the noble wisdom of the empire and the age (which wisdom Nietzsche sought to resuscitate), merely absurd, a ridiculous figure prating incomprehensibly of an otherworldly kingdom and some undefined truth, obviously mad, oblivious of the lowliness of his state and of the magnitude of the powers into whose hands he has been delivered. But in the light of the resurrection, from the perspective of Christianity’s inverted order of vision, the mockery now redounds upon all kings and emperors, whose finery and symbols of status are revealed to be nothing more than rags and brambles beside the majesty of God’s Son, beside this servile shape in which God displays his infinite power to be where he will be; all the rulers of the earth cannot begin to surpass in grandeur this beauty of the God who ventures forth to make even the dust his glory. There is a special Christian humor here, a special kind of Christian irreverence: in Rome the emperor is now as nothing, a garment draped over the shoulders of a slave and then cast aside. Christianity is indeed a creed for slaves, but in neither the subtle Hegelian nor the crude Nietzschean sense: in contrast to Hegel and Nietzsche—to dialectic and diatribe alike—Christian faith speaks of the slave as God’s glory, the one who lies farthest out in the far country, to whom tidings of joy are sent from before the foundation of the world, and from whom the free and infinite God cannot be separated by any distance, certainly not that between the high and low, because he is the distance of all things. Indeed, the beauty of God reveals itself with its most incandescent intensity among those who suffer, who are as children, who are powerless, because—for all they lack—the ultimate privation of violence often has not entered into them, for the simple reason the they do not occupy the position of coercive force. Not that the weak are not sinners, or that spite and cruelty cannot make even of weakness a weapon, but nevertheless, the weakness of sinners is the strength of God, and when he dwells among the suffering, God is most truly known as the God he is.
There are many variations on this story, of course, and many other stories are coherent fragments of this one. It is a story that has been used mightily to awaken the imagination and stimulate holy desire in places where “religion” does not go. The principal point I am making here about it, though, is that it is not a story, but The Story. It is normative, the Zion of all stories, and draws all others to it. Because it has its foundations in the foundations of the world, it will not go away. It has made the world and will end it.
This means that the child in the ghetto can lawfully dream of her strong and loving king no matter what society does and no matter what smart people tell her about her prospects. It means the miserable and broken child of divorce may imagine in hope the faithful prince who, like the faithful bull, always loves his princess and no other, and that happily ever after means just that. It means the good fairy tales are good because God wrote them, and that the children are perfectly free to forget the ugly, stupid ones, since, quite contrary to what the wicked professors say, they aren’t true.
Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.
As a Christian, I think that all good things reflect God’s glory and my pursuit of or engagement with art is ultimately a pursuit of or an engagement with God. At the same time, art works have a definite character that is experienced simultaneously (a character that includes a reflection of mental or physical reality). If the overarching object for the Christian in, say, cooking good food or doing good research is to love God through these activities, the more immediate one is to cook good food and do good research. So too with art. And if you don’t have the latter, it seems to me you lose the former, too.
You cannot know at a book’s birth if it will become a classic. It will be a classic if it appeals to generation after generation of readers, and you would be able to know that only if you could hover in eternity and watch. Hovering over a work of fiction for merely a lifetime is the job of the literary critic, who is to a book reviewer as a pediatrician is to a midwife. The midwife is for a one-time event. The literary critic is for the life of the book. A book reviewer tells you, when a book first appears, whether he or she believes it is worth your time. The literary critic sees to your relationship with the book later. He or she tries to make sure that people continue to discuss a work as years go by. By talking about it over and over, through the years and centuries, we help to nudge it into eternal life. If we go on reading it, it is worthy to be read, proving itself to be not of an age, but for all time.
Whether in fully conscious thought, or in speaking, or in gesturing, the human individual is a being of speech in the broadest sense — a being of meaningful expression, a logos-being (to use an older term). Our bodies are, at every level of their activity, a gesture; we gesture our life, speak our life. We live in outward forms expressing an inner content.
But patience needs to be an end, not a means, if it is to become more than a way of coping with the demands of multitasking. The church teaches patience by setting aside Sundays for worship, which should be a restful alternative to the laborious efficiency of the workweek. Pattison belongs to a rural “evangelical Quaker meeting,” and much of this book is a new and improved defense of what people used to call honoring the Sabbath.
One way to slow down on Sundays, Smith and Pattison suggest, is to stay at the same church. Every time we move from one church to another we lose a little bit more of our patience for all things religious. Like a plant that is repotted, we require loads of fertilizer to keep our roots growing. Church mobility is not spiritually sustainable.
Tortured statements from CEOs, politicians, coworkers, spouses, or suppliers, in no hierarchical order, mean one thing: I have something to hide, but I want to be able to say I told you the facts.