Thursday, September 20, 2012

C.S. Lewis—A man who kept his commitments


One of the most strange (and possibly disturbing) facets of Lewis’ life was his consistent commitment to a woman who is called, “Mrs. Moore”.

A recent Lewis’ biographer sets the background,

"Jack," as Lewis was known to his family, enlisted during the First World War while still a teenager. While undergoing training, he befriended a young man named Paddy Moore, who had a divorced mother (Mrs. Moore) and younger sister, Maureen, back at home. The young men promised each other that if one of them were to be killed in combat, the other would look after his friend's parent.”


As providence would have it, Jack survived and made good on his promise….a promise that would last for more than 30 years.

To those who are unfamiliar with this feature of Lewis’ life, this commitment likely seems very noble and even ethical.

Yet it was the degree of commitment and concurrent mystery surrounding this relationship that concerned many of Jack’s friends. Since Jack lived with Mrs. Moore, provided for her financially, the natural question posed often in the form of a whisper, “Did C.S. Lewis have an affair with Mrs. Moore?”

Lewis’ biographer speculates,

“Were they lovers? Owen Barfield, who knew Jack well in the 1920’s, once said that he thought the likelihood was “fifty-fifty”. Although she was twenty-six years older than Jack, she was still a handsome woman, and he was certainly infatuated with her. But it seems very odd, if they were lovers, that he would call her “mother”. It seems most likely that he was bound to her by the promise he had given to Paddy and that his promise was reinforced by his love for her as his second mother.”

So here is the pertinent question: How can I become a person who is dependable?  


                                         

#1--Keep your word.

Christians should be honest, trustworthy and dependable. This means “keeping your word”. If you say, “Yes, I will do that for you.”, then at all costs you should fulfill your commitment.


#2--Be on time.

Though I don’t have concrete data, I would guess this is probably the commitment that is most commonly broken. We even have a cultural term to describe our tardiness, being “fashionable late”.

Is “being late” a big deal? Is it in offense to others? I believe it is. Furthermore, I believe most of the time we are late because we are unorganized, lazy and mostly…selfish. If we consider others most important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), then we will care enough to do what it necessary to be on time, even if it requires great sacrifice or personal inconvenience.   


#3--Don’t over-commit yourself.

The reason why people over-commit is because they won’t say “NO”. These individuals are horrified at the thought of others being “displeased” with them. Yet the irony is that these people often become labeled as unreliable, because they are constantly “double-booking” their lives.

How do you fix this? Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.

And if you need help with this, pursue a mature believer who can give you an outsider’s perspective.

Remember our Savior was faithful to one task: Doing His Father’s will.

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

C.S. Lewis—A man who smoked and drank alcohol


One of the most engaging seminars on C.S. Lewis was done by Dr. Knox Chamblin (who died earlier this year) at Reformed Theological Seminary. This series explored primarily Lewis’ life, his works and his theology. In one of the earlier seminars, Dr. Chamblin shared this historic interaction between the well-known fundamentalist Dr. Bob Jones Jr. and C.S. Lewis. Asked afterwards for an assessment regarding the Oxford Don, Dr. Jones stated,
“That man smokes a pipe….and that man drinks liquor….but I do believe he is a Christian!”

This quote leads us into the central thesis of this blog post, “What is the Christian’s position regarding alcohol and tobacco?”

I admit grappling with this issue is nothing new in the blogosphere or in pockets of evangelicalism. 

Furthermore, I will gladly confess that this blog post will not bring anything original to this provocative topic.

Being a Christian is not about abstaining from alcohol or tobacco.

I used to judge the individual who put out his cigarette and heads into his local church. To me, this person was a sinner, a hypocrite and a person who needed to cleanse himself of his addictions before he walks into the house of the Lord. In the judgment of my youthful self-righteousness, this person certainly could not be a Christian.

But what does the Scriptures say?
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
It is amusing to me that through the puffy haze of a pipe and a frosty pint, Dr. Jones was convinced he saw a man whose greatest affections were for Jesus Christ, the Savior of drunkards.

The above verse reveals what the legendary Fundamentalist saw: Trust in the alien righteousness of Christ; Peace as one reconciled with God; Joy as one given new desires by the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean Lewis was correct in his approach to alcohol and tobacco? Not necessarily. But again, this is not the essence of this point. It is simple fact that consumption does not make the man, but it is what comes out of man.

Jesus said,
And He called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." (Matt. 15:10-11)
Young men love to invoke Spurgeon to defend their enjoyment of cigars and Lewis to support their taste for beer. Yet I would rather have young men look to emulate the Giants’ orthodoxy, affections and zeal; since it is by these standards the God of Justice will either smile or frown.


Don’t drink to numb yourself.

Here are some interesting facts:

--There were over 3.3 Billion prescriptions filled in America in 2002 (12 times the U.S’s population - that’s 12 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. that year).
--65% of North Americans take prescription medications daily, 43% take mood altering prescriptions regularly.
--Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the US (these two medications totaled almost $5 Billion in sales in 2002.  
--Recreational drugs are also used to cope with anxiety. 42% of young adults in America regularly use recreational drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

The point: People regularly use recreational drugs to NUMB themselves from the ache of their inner soul.

Is this why you drink alcohol…to forget? To find relief? Is your union in Christ not enough? Are the Scriptures not sufficient to give hope to a hurting heart?

Pink Floyd’s legendary song Comfortably Numb, says it all:

Come on
Now…I hear you're feeling down
I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again 
O.K….Just a little pinprick.
There'll be no more, ah!
But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe it's working, good.
That'll keep you going through the show
Come on it's time to go.
 

Though the lyrics are likely referring to cocaine or heroin, either way, the desire was to become numb to the pain of this existence.

What is the answer to the hurting Christian? A big view of God.

A proper (i.e. big) view of God attacks our anxious thoughts and replaces them with a peaceful confidence in Him.

Addiction is sin.

Why? Because addiction reveals that something or someone is controlling you other than the Lordship of Christ. Another way to put it is that addiction is not acting in faith and whatever is not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).

Was Lewis addicted to nicotine? Probably. Testimonials reveal that Lewis’ doctors advised him to stop smoking and apparently he declined to submit to this encouragement.

And yet I would caution the reader in their judgment on Lewis or others. Is the sin of pride such an addiction? Does the evil lure of lust ever completely resolved in this life? Is there much difference between these types of addiction? If you were being honest, which addiction does the most damage to a person’s soul (and often the souls of others)? Is it not the addiction of pride?

To be clear, I am NOT saying that we should therefore be indifferent to addictions. By no means! Rather, we must fight for holiness, whether the snare of pride or any other physiological addiction, since all addictions are rooted in the individual’s replacement of true worship for false worship (Rom. 1:24-25).

Drinking can be a hindrance to “personal holiness”.

Notice I wrote can and not is. In other words, drinking has the ability to be a hindrance.

I am referring to drinking to excess? No, drunkenness is clearly forbidden in scripture and therefore, is not relevant to this discussion.

So when is drinking a hindrance to holiness?

If you have a propensity to drink to excess, maybe it is time for some biblical amputation (Matt. 5:29-30; Romans 13:14).

If you are still torn in your conscience, you shouldn’t drink (I Cor. 8:11). Furthermore, why spend so much energy fretting over something like drinking anyways? Again, it is not that important.

If you are in a cultural environment where drinking is viewed as sinful, immoral or irresponsible, you should be prepared to abstain for the sake of the gospel. Some of you will say, “Why do I have to curb or limit my freedoms for a legalistic Christian or church or culture?”

Because God said so.
1 Corinthians 9:15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
In other words, the liberty which we have attained through the gospel, frees us to lay aside our rights for the sake of the gospel.

Period.

One more thing, if this statement bristles you….YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED THAT YOU CARE MORE ABOUT YOUR LIBERTIES THAN THE GOSPEL.

Drinking has nothing to do with being “reformed” or any other group with Christianity.

I am so sick of the recent resurgence for the consumption of alcohol within the YRR (Young, restless and reformed) movement. Is this what contemporary evangelicalism needs, more blog posts about the historical precedence of beer consumption, the reality of wine in the ministry of Jesus or the possible interpretation of future eschatological banquets involving wine, specifically during the millennial reign of Christ.

I am well aware that Luther’s wife brewed her own beer, which by the way, is impressive, especially since she used to be a nun. But who cares? Is Luther remembered in the pages of church history because he fought for the doctrine of justification by faith alone or because his wife had a brewery in their house?

Have a beer…or don’t have a beer. I don’t care. But stop making it a badge of honor for many in the Reformed community and concurrently, stop acting like it shouldn’t matter to other Christians, specifically those who come out of alcoholism or who are still trying to purge themselves of their fundamentalist roots. Quite frankly, God seems to care more about those people then the imaginary badges you enjoying hanging on your elite green jacket worn in Club Reformed.