“The Four Loves” and Thoughts on Charity

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The sumptuous Botanical Gardens in Oxford.

The Four Loves has to be one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, right along with its fictional counterpart, Till We Have Faces.  It is a highly convicting read, though, and my first exposure to it this past Spring for a class in my graduate program was quite challenging for me, to tell the truth.  I am one of those affectionate sorts who can sometimes pride themselves on being able to love even the most unlovable people.  Some things that Lewis wrote in this book pierced my heart to the core.  It was a good thing for it revealed the painful truth that my love is nowhere near as unselfish as I would like to think.  Oh, how easily we deceive ourselves!

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The Daughter of Saturn Arrives at Jupiter

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“What we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a body of people familiarized with certain ideas.  If we could even effect in one per cent of our readers a change-over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning.”  Dr. Ransom of C.S. Lewis’s “Out of the Silent Planet”

On July 4, 2016, NASA’s space probe JUNO successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit.  It  was the second spacecraft ever to do so after the Galileo probe which orbited from 1995–2003.

For me, it is beyond ironic that NASA chose to name the probe JUNO and I think C.S. Lewis would have been delighted that they a chose pagan myth to tell the story of their scientific endeavor.  Here is the thinking from NASA:  “In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. It was Jupiter’s wife, the goddess Juno, who was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter’s true nature. The JUNO spacecraft will also look beneath the clouds to see what the planet is up to, not seeking signs of misbehavior, but helping us to understand the planet’s structure and history.”

The stated mission?  They hope to improve the understanding of our origin.  JUNO will spend twenty months orbiting the gas giant, peering into its clouds with the hope of penetrating the myriad of mysteries that mask its making.  JUNO hopes to pull back the colorful veil of gases behind which the king of planets hides his truth from us.

This is exciting, indeed, but even if JUNO is able to expose all her beloved’s secrets, will we truly be closer to knowing all there is to know about our origin?  Perhaps.

What about the “why” of our existence?  Can science alone answer such a question?

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Unexpected Fellowship, Part Two

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Addison’s Walk, Magdelen College, Oxford

“I will not walk with your progressive apes, / erect and sapient. Before them gapes / the dark abyss to which their progress tends / if by God’s mercy progress ever ends, / and does not ceaselessly revolve the same / unfruitful course with changing of a name.” – by J.R.R. Tolkien from the poem “Mythopoeia”,  written in response to that night on Addison’s Walk where he challenged C.S. Lewis.

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This weeping willow filled me with that “spirit of divine discontent and longing” to take a boat and disappear down the River Cherwell.

One of my favorite spots in Oxford was Addison’s Walk.  It was a welcome escape from the chaotic streets of Oxford.  I love people, but I need my breaks from them, too.  I found the grounds to be just wild enough to make me feel miles away from city, yet they were comfortable, welcoming, and filled with a benign beauty that soothed.  Did I mention the trees?  Truth be told, I preferred the  simple beauty of the trees to the intricately adorned architecture of the city.  We actually got lost on the walk and I am not entirely sure that I would have been disappointed if we remained lost.

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Unexpected Fellowship, Part One

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Houston Baptist University’s MA in Apologetics students at C.S. Lewis’s home in Oxford with Dr. Holly Ordway (HBU) and Dr. Jonathan Kirkpatrick (resident scholar and host).

“So then, I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to behave yourselves in a way that is worthy of the calling with which you are called. I urge you to behave with all humility, and gentleness, and patience. I urge you to bear with one another in love. I urge you eagerly to preserve that unity which the Holy Spirit can bring by binding things together in peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3

We spoke of love for our Lord Jesus Christ, though our words were different.  It was that love and a desire to reach our broken culture that inspired our group of Master’s level apologetics students from diverse Christian traditions to trek across the Atlantic to Oxford, England for lectures and fellowship.  Amid the awe-inspiring architecture and sumptuous gardens of the city of “dreaming spires”, we met to learn about a small band of believers from similarly diverse backgrounds that had gone before us in the endeavor to draw others to Christ – the Inklings.  Unity in Christ formed a bond for both the Inklings and our small band of merry travelers.  Would we be able to overcome our differences and work towards a common goal, as the Inklings had done?  Given its history of religious conflict, England was quite an interesting place to explore an answer to that question.

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“Philomythus to Misomythus” by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Addison’s Walk with Magdalen College in the background.  

“Philomythus to Misomythus” by J.R.R. Tolkien (after a long night’s talk with C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson on Addison’s Walk – read more here)

To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

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“Is Theology Poetry?” by C.S. Lewis

Sunset over the Callanish Stones

The Callanish Standing Stones are located near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.The stone circle was constructed by Stone-Age people some 4500 and 5000 years ago, and is believed to have been used as a sort of astronomical observatory. This photo was taken at sunset in June by Micheal Blanchette

This is one of my favorite essays by C.S .Lewis.  It was first presented to the Oxford Socratic Club on November 6, 1944.  This lecture is as rich as poetry for it contains some of the key ideas that led Lewis out of atheism and finally into Christianity – namely the argument from reason and Christianity as the true myth.  Here is just a taste and a link to the entire lecture below.  As I have mentioned before, the argument from reason is very important to me, too, for I clung to it during a long season of spiritual doubt.

Enjoy!

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The Euthyphro Dilemma

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The Statue of Plato at the Academy of Athens in Greece

The Euthyphro Dilemma is something that is often brought up to undermine the Christian conception of God as the ultimate measure of goodness.  In particular, when theists discuss the Moral Argument for God, atheists like to ask whether a thing is good because God says it is good (therefore, what is good is arbitrary), or whether God says it’s good because it is good (so there’s a principle of goodness that is higher than God to which he is beholden). This a form of the question that Plato asked in a famous Socratic dialogue on the nature of goodness.

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