Faith, Hope and Poetry

When I tell people that I teach ‘Imaginative and Literary Apologetics’ I am often met with a non-plussed look.

Some people are simply unfamiliar with the term ‘Apologetics’. They presume it must have something to do with saying sorry for Christianity – when, of course, it actually means giving reasons why Christianity can be considered credible.

And those people who are familiar with the term ‘Apologetics’ often assume it has just one dimension: that it’s all about giving reasons for Christianity’s credibility by showing the rationality of its claims to truth. But ‘Apologetics’ means more than that, – and for good reason. To concentrate solely on the ‘truth claims’ of Christianity runs the risk of turning the faith into a mere system of thought, a set of reasonable propositions to which its adherents intellectually grant assent.

Of course, belief in Christianity does include assent to certain propositions, and those propositions need to be grappled with by our intellects working logically and rigorously. But Christianity is more than a set of propositions. It’s not just something that’s true, it’s also something that’s good and beautiful. There are moral and artistic dimensions to Christian faith as well as philosophical dimensions. If apologists are to show how Christianity is fully credible, it needs to be demonstrated as the answer to ethical needs and aesthetic desires as well as to intellectual enquiries.

These three dimensions – the ethical, the aesthetic, and the intellectual – can’t be treated in hermetically sealed compartments when it comes to Apologetics. Indeed, part of the credibility of the faith resides in the fact there is connection and overlap and interinanimation between these three areas; the Christian life is an organic and integral whole. However, for the sake of clarity we can usefully divide Apologetics into the rational, the moral, and the artistic. Continue reading

C.S. Lewis’s Wit

One of my favourite books is Frederick Buechner’s Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.

The chapter on Comedy is especially good, I think. And especially needed. Both church-life and the world of theological study are far too po-faced.

As my contribution to injecting a little humour into this situation, I thought I would do a quick survey of C.S. Lewis’s shining wit.

Lewis once wrote: ‘The English take their “sense of humour” so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame.’ It must be remembered, of course, that C.S. Lewis was Irish. If he’d had the great good fortune to be born English (as I, I humbly admit, did) he would have realised how grievous a thing it is to be humour-impaired.

To lack a sense of humour is to lack a divine attribute. Lewis himself observed, in a letter he wrote in 1956, that ‘there may be some humour [in the New Testament]’. He gives three possible examples:

Matthew 9:12 – “People who are well . . . don’t need doctors.”

Matthew 17:25 – ‘Jesus said, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons . . . or from others’?”’

Mark 10:30 – ‘Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands – ahem, with tribulations, – and in the world to come eternal life.’

If there are other examples of dominical humour, Lewis wonders whether he, as a Westerner, would be able to spot them. He wrote, ‘I’ve been much struck in conversation with a Jewess’ – he means his wife, Joy Davidman – ‘by the extent to which Jews see humour in the [scriptures] where we don’t. Humour varies so much from culture to culture.’

So don’t worry if you don’t find this blog-post funny. Humour varies so much from culture to culture . . .

Continue reading

The Unexpected Defenders

Christianity Today's April Cover Photo

Christianity Today’s April cover photo featuring HBU faculty

Christianity Today’s April issue focuses on women in apologetics, featuring the female faculty at Houston Baptist University. “The Unexpected Defenders: Meet Women Apologists” is a significant story for our time. While many other articles have shown the groundbreaking work of women in areas such as business leadership, law, and medicine, there has been a persistent, albeit fading, idea that the Christian intellectual life is only full of men and for men. Yet, there are many Christian women interested in the life of the mind and in how to take responsibility for understanding the faith they profess. Continue reading

The Gospel Project: Valuing Life

GospelProject
Last year, I wrote a session for LifeWay’s The Gospel Project on “The Meaning of Life.”  That session is in the current issue for Winter 2013-2014: “A God-Centered Worldview.”  My contribution is about meaning and purpose in human lives in a world void of God. It reflects on the writings of King Solomon (Ecclesiastes), the apostle Paul, William Lane Craig, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and others. It also looks at the value that Jesus’ resurrection gives to human life. Along with the study, I wrote some devotionals. LifeWay Christian Resources has made one devotional available online here: Valuing Life

Sinful, Scandalous C.S. Lewis, Joy, and the Incarnation

Sinful, Scandalous C.S. Lewis, Joy, and the Incarnation

LewisSmokingA couple years ago at a wedding reception, I was asked what I write about and I mentioned that I had co-authored a couple books on CS Lewis.  A woman at the table responded by asking me what I thought of his personal life.  In particular, she wanted to know if I was bothered by the fact that he lived with a woman much older than he was, and likely had a sexual relationship with her.

The woman involved in this juicy affair was Mrs. Moore, the mother of an army friend of Lewis’s named Paddy Moore.  He and Lewis made a pact that if either of them was to be killed in the war the one who made it out alive would take care of the surviving parent of the one who lost his life.  Well, Paddy Moore was killed in the war, and true to his word, Lewis allowed Mrs. Moore to move in with him and he took care of her the rest of her life.  She was at the time an attractive middle aged woman, and there is reason to believe Lewis had a romantic relationship with her, not unlike the notorious relationship depicted in “The Graduate” between Dustin Hoffman’s character and “Mrs. Robinson.” Continue reading

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