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    [T]he safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden
    turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
                -Screwtape

I've grown accustomed over the years to reactions ranging from skepticism to hostility at my assertion that I am a Christian.  Folks greet this avowal with the rejoinder that since I was never baptized, don't attend church, and do swear, drink, etc., and so on and so forth, I somehow can't be a Christian.  But all of these objections focus on outer manifestations of piety, and I have never claimed to be pious.  When I say that I am a Christian, I mean simply that my world view is informed by a belief in the allegories of God, the Creation, Man's Fall and the Christ.  These are the stories that shape my understanding of the world around us and our purpose in it.

I understand the Bible as follows:
God--God is an aspirational figure for mankind.  He is  omniscient (he contains all knowledge), omnipresent (infinitely long lived) and, therefore, omnipotent (God's power is simply a function of having infinite knowledge and eternal life).

The Creation--At some point, the Universe was created by the conscious act of a Supreme Being.  Alone among the creations, Man is made in God's image, which grants each of us a unique dignity and enables us to aspire to but never to attain Godhood ourselves.

Man's Fall--God, however, did not want his creation to challenge him, and so he set Adam and Eve down in the Garden of Eden.  Their every need was taken care of and in exchange they were to remain docile.  But when Man ate from the Tree of Knowledge he began the approach towards Godhood; he had gained the capacity for knowledge.  Had Man also eaten from the Tree of Life and gained infinite life, he would have become Godlike--though morally unprepared for the power he would have wielded.  Therefore, God banished Man before this could happen.  This created the central dilemma confronting Man, the capacity for knowledge is restrained by a finite lifetime in which to develop that knowledge.  The task facing Man is to accumulate and pool knowledge and to develop as a moral being capable of using such knowledge wisely.

Christ--The God of the Old Testament is a vengeful petty being, very nearly unworthy of Man's admiration or Worship.  In order to better understand his creation it was necessary for him to come among us in human form.  As Christ he preached a Gospel of universal love and obedience to God.  But lo and behold, when He was tested upon the cross, even He cried out, "Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Even Christ/God experienced despair.  In this moment, Christ/God finally achieved a full understanding of his creation and he "died" admonishing, "Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do."  He had realized that Man's existence is such that despair is inevitable and understandable; despair of reaching the standards that God expects.  It is sufficient that Man strive for godliness and Godhood.

Conclusion:  Upon these understandings, I base my beliefs, understanding that they are, in fact, beliefs:  (1.) The Universe was created by an Intelligence (God);  (2.) Man is uniquely, among His creations, capable of aspiring to become a Creator (God); (3.) This would require the development of infinite knowledge and the internal restraints not to use it arbitrarily--something that is likely beyond our capacity as mortals; (4.) Man in the Garden was not capable of the reason (the scienter) to even recognize that he was made in God's image, but freely chose this capacity, rejecting the secure but beastlike existence offered by God; (5.) The life and crucifixion of Christ provide us with an important lesson, that even God was not capable of being perfectly Godlike when he assumed human form, so it suffices for us to make the effort, even though we will fail.  It is incumbent upon us to try to conform our lives to the laws of God and the teachings of Christ, but it is not expected, nor is it possible, that we will attain perfection.; (6.) But, the Law and the Gospel are absolutes against which we must measure ourselves and when we do not measure up, we have failed.  Morality is not malleable or relative; it is absolute.

Now I harbor no illusions about my creed.  I understand that C. S. Lewis would have been repelled by it.  He believed that one could not craft a Christianity of one's own, but must instead follow the teachings of the Bible and the Church.  Moreover, the afterlife is central to his vision of Christianity, whereas I view Christianity as more of a political (i.e., governing relations amongst living men) than a spiritual matter.  Nonetheless, I enjoy his writings immensely and have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters since I was a kid.

The Screwtape Letters, originally published in The Guardian in 1941, is an epistolary novel in the form of Letters from the demon Screwtape to his nephew, the apprentice demon Wormwood.  Each Letter is a beautifully crafted description of how the forces of evil seek to subvert good men and turn them away from Christianity.  Take the following example:

                             My dear Wormwood,
                             So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying
                             away," have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to
                             pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure.
                             Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

                             Humans are amphibians--half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's
                             determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things
                             that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As
                             spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit
                             time.

                             This means that while their spirits can be directed to an eternal object,
                             their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to
                             be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy,
                             therefore, is undulation--the repeated return to a level from which they
                             repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.

                             If you had watched your patient carefully, you would have seen this
                             undulation in every department of his life--his interest in his work, his
                             affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As
                             long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and
                             liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The
                             dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not,
                             as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural
                             phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of
                             it.

                             To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy
                             wants to make of it, and then do the opposite.... in His efforts to get
                             permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more
                             than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through
                             longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.

                             The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the
                             absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of
                             selfhood at its expense.

                             But the obedience the Enemy demands of men is quite a different
                             thing.... He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome
                             little replicas of Himself--creatures whose life, on its miniature scale,
                             will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them
                             but because their wills freely conform to His.

                             We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who
                             can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out.
                             We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war
                             aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings
                             into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but
                             still distinct.

                             And that is where the troughs come in.... Merely to override a human
                             will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated
                             degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot
                             ravish. He can only woo....

Now obviously I like that because it jibes with my view of the Human Dilemma.  Even better is this, from Lewis's Introduction:

    I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin."  The greatest evil is not now done in those
    sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and
    labour camps.  In those we see its final result.  But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded,
    carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white
    collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.  Hence
    naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the
    offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

This metaphor, of course, proved to be more prescient than even Lewis could have forseen.  For as the Letters were being published, bureaucrats in Berlin and Moscow were exterminating humans by the millions and the Depression and the War would give rise to increasing huge and intrusive Welfare State bureaucracies, bent on destroying Religion, Family, Community, any institution which could rival the power of the State.  All the while, and ever so gradually, citizens were willingly ceding more and more of their autonomy (their hard won Free Will), as we slid into the modern Liberal godless Hell.

To read Lewis now is to realize that things could have been different; that a few voices, crying in the wilderness, warned of the authoritarian netherworld that Western man exiled himself to for much of this Century as he abandoned God and Christianity in favor of the State and statism.   We are now in the midst of a twilight struggle that will decide whether we retain sufficient confidence in our ultimate god-given dignity to reclaim our freedom from the grasp of the State, or whether Western man's crisis of confidence will lead us back to the Garden of Eden, with our needs taken care of and our souls extinguished.

There is no better way to gird yourself for the battle than to read this book.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A+)

  

Websites:

C.S. Lewis Links:

    http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m2185/2_13/83520009/print.jhtml>-ESSAY: C. S. Lewis vs. Sigmund Freud on good and evil (Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., March 2002, American Enterprise)
   -ESSAY: A Mind That Grasped Both Heaven and Hell (JOSEPH LOCONTE, 11/23/03, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Why There Are Seven Chronicles of Narnia: A British scholar discovers the hidden design of C.S. Lewis' perennially popular series. (John Wilson, Christianity Today)
   -ESSAY: To See Truly Through a Glass Darkly: C. S. Lewis, George Orwell, and the Corruption of Language (David Mills, July/August 1998, Touchstone)

Book-related and General Links:
    -C(live) S(taples) Lewis (1898-1963)(kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: " c. s. lewis"
    -C.S. Lewis Foundation
    -C. S. Lewis Classics (Harper Collins)
    -Narnia.com (Harper Collins)
    -C.S. Lewis & Public Life
    -Into the Wardrobe: The C.S. Lewis website
    -C. S. Lewis Mega-Links Page
    -C. S. Lewis: His Enduring Legacy (Todd Kappelman)
    -15 Best Devotional Books of All Time (Christian Reader)
    -WEBRARY : 1995 Book Discussions: Screwtape Letters
    -Restoration of Man: Lecture for Fiftieth Anniversary of The Abolition of Man (J. R. LUCAS)
    -The Title and Epigraphs of Surprised by Joy (John Bremer)
    -Literary Research Guide: C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963 )
    -ESSAY: C. S. Lewis in the Public Square (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
    -ESSAY: C.S. Lewis on Mere Science (M. D. Aeschliman, First Things)
    -ESSAY: The Everyday C.S. Lewis (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
    -ESSAY : When Worldviews Collide : C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on life, pain and death (Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)
    -ESSAY : C.S. Lewis : The atheist scholar who became an Anglican, an apologist, and a "patron saint" of Christians everywhere. (Ted Olsen, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY : Still Surprised by Lewis : Why this nonevangelical Oxford don has become our patron saint. ( J. I. Packer, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY : Marketing 'Narnia' Without a Christian Lion (DOREEN CARVAJAL, June 3, 2001 , NY Times)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Mere Christianity Study Guide
    -Personal Best: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis  (LAURA MILLER, Salon)
    -REVIEW: C. S. Lewis: A Biography By A. N. Wilson Passions for the Ordinary In an Extraordinary Life  ( CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: C. S. LEWIS A Biography. By A. N. Wilson THE MAN FROM NARNIA  (PENELOPE FITZGERALD, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS A Dramatic Life. By William Griffin YES, I ADMIT, GOD IS GOD (ROGER LEWIS, NY Times Book Review)
    -Lewis Remembered: C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections. By John Lawlor (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)

GENERAL :
    -Studies suggest human behavior isn't as predetermined as some thought. (Salon)
    -Is God in the Details?  From cosmic coincidence to conservative cosmopolitics (Reason)
    -England's Doubt: When Christianity in England reformulated itself in the 18th century as a scientific hypothesis, it became vulnerable to scientific refutation.  (Prospect)
    -C. S. Lewis and Related Authors (Upland Campus)
    -Lewis, C. S. (Educational Paperback Association)
    -C(live) S(taples) Lewis (1898-1963)(kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: " c. s. lewis"
    -C.S. Lewis Foundation
    -C. S. Lewis Classics (Harper Collins)
    -Narnia.com (Harper Collins)
    -C.S. Lewis & Public Life
    -Into the Wardrobe: The C.S. Lewis website
    -C. S. Lewis Mega-Links Page
    -C. S. Lewis: His Enduring Legacy (Todd Kappelman)
    -15 Best Devotional Books of All Time (Christian Reader)
    -WEBRARY : 1995 Book Discussions: Screwtape Letters
    -Restoration of Man: Lecture for Fiftieth Anniversary of The Abolition of Man (J. R. LUCAS)
    -The Title and Epigraphs of Surprised by Joy (John Bremer)
    -Literary Research Guide: C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963 )
    -ESSAY: C. S. Lewis in the Public Square (Richard John Neuhaus, First Things)
    -ESSAY: C.S. Lewis on Mere Science (M. D. Aeschliman, First Things)
    -ESSAY: The Everyday C.S. Lewis (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
    -ESSAY : When Worldviews Collide : C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on life, pain and death (Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)
    -ESSAY : C.S. Lewis : The atheist scholar who became an Anglican, an apologist, and a "patron saint" of Christians everywhere. (Ted Olsen, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY : Still Surprised by Lewis : Why this nonevangelical Oxford don has become our patron saint. ( J. I. Packer, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY : Marketing 'Narnia' Without a Christian Lion (DOREEN CARVAJAL, June 3, 2001 , NY Times)
    -STUDY GUIDE : Mere Christianity Study Guide
    -Personal Best: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis  (LAURA MILLER, Salon)
    -REVIEW: C. S. Lewis: A Biography By A. N. Wilson Passions for the Ordinary In an Extraordinary Life  ( CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: C. S. LEWIS A Biography. By A. N. Wilson THE MAN FROM NARNIA  (PENELOPE FITZGERALD, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS A Dramatic Life. By William Griffin YES, I ADMIT, GOD IS GOD (ROGER LEWIS, NY Times Book Review)
    -Lewis Remembered: C. S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections. By John Lawlor (Gilbert Meilaender, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis (complete review)
    -ARTICLE : New Narnia books drop Christian ethos : 'Prostitution' of C.S. Lewis: Publisher dreams of Potter-size sales (Heather Sokoloff, National Post)
    -ESSAY : What Lewis Wouldn't Do : When you take God out of Narnia, is there anything left? (Lauren Winner, Slate)
    -ESSAY : Off with his head: C. S. Lewis devotees point to corporate effort to de-Christianize his work (Marvin Olasky, World)
    -ESSAY : Holy War in the Shadowlands (Scott McLemee, July 2001, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis: A Critical Summary and Overview (Dr. Bruce L. Edwards, Professor of English, Bowling Green State University)
    -ESSAY : The "Reluctant Convert" in Surprised by Joy and The Great Divorce (David Allred )
    -ESSAY : The Title and Epigraphs of Surprised by Joy (John Bremer)
    -ESSAY : One Man's Road to Jesus (Dr. David R. Reagan)
    -ESSAY : C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Mathematics (David L. Neuhouser, Taylor University)
    -ESSAY : From joy to Joy: C.S. Lewis and the numinous in the world of relationships. (Jesse Thomas, Ph.D.)
    -ESSAY : C. S. Lewis' Images of the Character of God : According to his Writings on Grief and Pain (Brenda Erikson, May 2, 1997 )
    -ESSAY : Fellow Patients in the same Hospital: Law and Gospel in the Works of C. S. Lewis (Angus J. L. Menuge)
    -ESSAY : Lewis & Tolkien - An Analysis (Sarah J. Elliott)
    -ESSAY : "DARKNESS AT NOON": THE ECLIPSE OF "THE PERMANENT THINGS" (Peter Kreeft)

THE INKLINGS :
    -CS Lewis and the Inklings Home Page
    -Avenging Aardvark's Aerie: The Inklings
    -C. S. Lewis & The Inklings
    -C. S. Lewis  (and the Inklings)
    -Tolkien and the Inklings Forum at Xenite.Org science fiction ...
    -The Inklings - CS Lewis - Upland Campus
    -A Beginner's Bibliography of the Inklings
    -The Inklings
    -The Bird & Baby
    -the inklings
    -The Inklings:   Religious and Literary Reflections  (drew university graduate school ~ conference in the humanities ~ october 31, 1998)
    -Inklings ?
    -Inklings Resources Web Site
    -The Mythopoeic Society, a non-profit international literary and educational organization for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantasy and mythic literature, especially the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams
    -LINKS : The Inklings Site List : A collection of online resources on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and other members of 'The Inklings'
    -LINKS : Mythus : Verlyn Flieger - Studies in Comparative Mythology - University of Maryland
    -WEB RING : The Inklings Webring
    -REVIEW : of Humphrey Carpenter, The Inklings (Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Green Man Review)

Comments:

I dissagree with many of your philosophies - Christ was fully God. It says so in the Bible. You said he was less Godlike when He was man, but that is definately not true, except for those things he gave up willingly and knowingly - i.e. omnipresence(humans can only be in one place at a time, though the others of the Godhead were still omnipresent) His glory, but not his authority. He was omniscient - he knew people's thoughts and intentions, he knew people's pasts and futures and he knew their hearts better then they did. Obviously, he was still full-God.

- J.

- Dec-14-2006, 20:13

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god is all knowing , thats how he mad e the universe , at least thats what i believe

- josh manky

- Sep-17-2006, 22:21

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I think you're all wrong, being a christian is not what know, it's what you put your faith in. there is a verse in the bible that says "even the demons believe in God, ans shudder at his name" (i'm not sure what the verse or book is) putting your faith in Christ makes you a new creation. all good works are is something to praise him with, not yourself. satan is not a christian. he is the enemy. God is all knowing. cussing doesn't make you a non-christian. "for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. not by works, so noone can boast." John 3:16. it's the verse that you learn when you're a small child. this is what i believe, and always have. it doesn't say "don't drink, do this, do that, and God will let you into heaven." no he sent his SON to DIE. that's real love.

- Josh

- May-31-2006, 12:45

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In reguards to your beliefs: While my first reaction as someone raised in a gospel saturated enviroment is to be shocked and appauled I must admit that I found your beliefs on the utter ignorance or man in the garden to be quite thought provocing.

- Greg

- Apr-08-2006, 00:36

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Yes, you're right. God obviously isn't all-knowing. He just knows a heck of a lot more than we ever will.

I don't get the point about Satan--obviously Satan believes in Christ.

- oj

- Oct-23-2005, 19:49

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I must agree with those below me, by your very own descriptions, Satan himself would also be a Christian.

Christ came to die on the cross for the very reason you say He failed... because we cannot be perfect. He took the punishment for us. He also rose again, conquering death.

Also, I must ask you how you can beleive that God is all knowing and at the same time choose to beleive that He still needed to better understand the very thing He created. It seems to me you're conradicting yourself.

I'll be praying for you and thanks for sharing your opinion.

- Jessika

- Oct-23-2005, 19:42

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By your creed the devil would also be a Christian. Even the devil BELIEVES in the existance of GOD and Christ as His Son! Mere belief does not a Christian make.

- sallyt

- Aug-10-2005, 07:57

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Well, I'm sorry you feel that you can be a Christian and drink, swear and not go to church. It's not enough to believe in God to be a Christian. You have actually got to do his work. If you swear, drink, and don't go to church, how can you expect to be a force of God. YOU CAN'T! I suggest getting in a church and seeing what the Bible has to say about your beliefs and not your own sense of self knowledge.

- Brandon

- Nov-07-2004, 14:29

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wow! i wasn't expecting a review quite like that! now i just have one question - do your beliefs have a basis?

- sofia

- Jan-08-2004, 21:02

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I don't know--is it annoying? Please forgive my solipsism.

- oj

- May-25-2003, 08:41

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Just read your review of Screwtape Letters. Why did you feel compelled to share your own belief system with the web before you wrote your review?

- Phyllis

- May-25-2003, 08:21

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