Archives For The Modern Church

Christian Marriage

February 14, 2012 — 8 Comments

Not all people should marry. But those who are led to marry—if they establish their marriage on the cornerstone of Christ—are in for a most glorious adventure. Yet, even with faith, marriages still require effort (i.e. proper choices) to bloom.

Sadly, it is possible for a marriage to end, even when one of the members is unreservedly devoted to “making it work.” Still, when wife and husband focus their eyes heavenward . . . when they recognize their marriage is, in a sense, a figure of the Trinity, including God as well as themselves . . . it can weather any storm the world throws at it. That’s one consequence of possessing that earnest love which “covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

And, never doubt it, the world and the lord of this world, love few things more than destroying a marriage. All of that holy promise, crushed. The joy and peace that come from living in lifelong intimacy, devastated. The miracle of two becoming one, forfeited.

One of the things that often surprises young Christian converts as they enter the Church, is the longevity of the marriages there. In some congregations, the thirty-five years my wife and I have been married still qualify us as “newlyweds.”

In light of these thoughts on this Valentine’s Day, the following quotation from C.S. Lewis is extremely apropos.

The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism . . . The male and female were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out.

As a consequence, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life.

I was recently reminded that February 2012 marks the seventieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters. Other bloggers have remarked on the anniversary, for example here and here.

Lewis dedicated the book to his dear friend and fellow Inkling, J.R.R. Tolkien.

If you’re unfamiliar with the letters, you really should rectify that gap in your knowledge. The letters are penned by Screwtape, a senior Devil, to Wormword, a less experienced tempter. They illuminate Satan’s demonic tactics and provide keen insight into our fallen human nature, replete with its countless vulnerabilities.

There’s even a graphic novel version of the collection which was published in 1994 by Thomas Nelson in partnership with Marvel Comics.

While the anniversary of the Letters in and of itself is certainly significant enough to merit a blog announcement . . . this post includes something quite rare. The fact is we’ve come into possession of one of Screwtape’s instructional emails, written to another subordinate demon.

For the benefit of those who would arm themselves against the snares of the Enemy, we reproduce it in full below.

(Oh, and as a reminder, when Screwtape refers to his Enemy, he is actually talking about the Creator of heaven and earth. Also, you can’t actually trust anything he writes since he’s a Liar, just like the archangel he followed so long ago. For example, note his incorrect reference to his own “immortality.”)

My Dear Esculentus,*

Another decade has passed since that puppet of the Enemy released to the world a portion of my correspondence with Wormwood. Of course, the lamentable Wormwood has had ample time to regret his carelessness in that matter, as I often remind you.

A decade’s but a snippet to immortals such as us, of course, but to the mortals it marks a significant portion of their brief lives. Why the Enemy loves those pitiable insects so much goes beyond logic!

Still, another halfscore has flown past and that damaging treatise remains in print. In fact, if anything, it continues to grow in popularity.

We simply cannot have our “patients” made aware of our treatment regimen for them. If they come to realize that our most successful deception is untrue, the relentless work of centuries will be undone.

We have labored tirelessly up to the present day to persuade humanity that all truth is subjective! Fortunately, the vast majority of the population in what are ironically labeled “enlightened nations,” has accepted our suggestion. This allows them to eagerly swallow the comforting lie that “all roads lead to god.” If they realize that all roads do indeed lead to a ‘god,’ they might abandon one of the many paths that lead to our Master who is ever-eager to “swallow” them in turn.

Better by far that those entrusted to our misleading, nourish our infernal Father than that you and I sate his appetite. (As you know, I say that figuratively, since our Father’s hunger for power can never be truly satiated. His all consuming hunger is one of his infinite qualities, which we rightly extol.)

But, back to your primary concern my appetizing friend, your patient. By all means keep him from reading The Screwtape Letters. In fact, the farther you keep him from anything written by Clive Staples Lewis, the better!

Keep him in the company of liberal companions who have embraced the myth of there being no objective truth. That way, we can prevent him from ever meeting the Enemy who proclaims himself to be—yes, disgusting isn’t it—the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Never pass up an opportunity to impress upon your patient that such a claim is politically incorrect to the utmost. Remind him he will be shunned by society if he argued there was a single truth. Indeed, make him think the very suggestion that anyone sincerely following another path might be lost, is repugnant.

Many of your fellow tempters have experienced great success in motivating the humans they treat to replace in their world views the virtue of Truth with the sentimentality of Sincerity. This you must do as well.

Persuade him that the eternal destiny of all who believe in something, is secure. Convince him that it is by their sincerity that they are saved. Oh how sweet it is when they accept this dark epiphany!

And it has never been easier to win humans over to this view than it is today. If you wish to embellish the doctrine with vague language about “God being love” and all that, so be it. Just see to it that they never open the Enemy’s book to recognize how grossly they have edited and distorted that concept!

Oh, and in closing, allow me to once again remind you of how I began this digital epistle. (We both know that it frequently takes a dozen or more reminders to make a firm impression on your dull mind.)

Do whatever it takes to ensure that your patient never reads the Letters! And, be wise to guard our own correspondence, lest you end up in the agonizing company of the afore-censured Wormwood.

Your affectionate adoptive Uncle,

Screwtape

*Esculentus translates from the Latin as either “delicious” or “succulent,” and if you have read The Screwtape Letters you know what that suggests about Screwtape’s interest in his protégé.

C.S. Lewis on Xmas

November 28, 2011 — 19 Comments

Advent has begun! As the Christian Church celebrates its “New Year,” it’s fun to look at C.S. Lewis’ essay, “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” He describes the predicament of secularized western civilization. Reversing the spelling of “Britain,” Lewis points out how a new holiday has displaced a profound holy-day.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound, [the Niatirbians] have a great festival called Exmas, and for 50 days they prepare for it (in the manner which is called,) in their barbarian speech, the Exmas Rush.

When the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens, being exhausted from the (frenzies of the) Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much as on other days, and crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas, they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.

A few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.

But as for what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, this is not credible. It is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and so great things (as those involved in the Exmas Rush), in honor of a god they do not believe in.

Niatirb might just as well be the Setats Detinu. We see the same signs all around us. One shocking fact is how the secular seasonal movies now do not even feel compelled to offer the slightest nod to the true meaning of the season. Santa, for many, has utterly eclipsed the Babe in the manger. And “Christ” has literally been crossed out of Xmas.

May this entertaining portrait remind each of us of the true significance of the approaching season. And, may God also use the season of Advent to prepare our individual hearts to receive the most priceless and precious Christmas gift ever given.

Stained Glass Fiasco

November 14, 2011 — 4 Comments

It’s shocking, what you come across on the internet. You see many things that were never meant to be. I place this stained glass window of Mr. T in that category.

Yes, I recognize that he is a Christian, and his gold (24 carat) cross is prominently displayed. But still . . .

I was surfing in search of a good portrayal of Saint Martin of Tours. Not quite sure how the most distinctive member of the A-Team appeared in the list.

At least it provides an excellent reminder that a person should be prepared for the unexpected whenever they enter the worldwide web. (It’s not likened to a spider’s domain without reason.)

Addendum:

I realize that you are not comparing Mr. Tureaud to an arachnid, but you really should be much more careful in how you jump from thought to thought.

See No Evil

Some years ago I was a member of an “online” fiction critique group. It was secular, and few members worked with religious themes. I recall how one of the other writers bemoaned the fact that she had become “trapped” in a cycle of needing to write pornography. She said, “I can’t stop because it’s so easy to write and the market pays so well.” Now, I can’t attest to either of those statements . . . but her next sentence sure rang true.

“It simple to write and profitable . . . but writing this stuff makes me feel dirty.”

This impressed me. Even the theologically unenlightened mind (spirit/soul) recognizes the corrupting influence of immersing oneself in filth. God has written his (natural) law on the conscience of all those created in his image.

An article in today’s news brought this story to my mind. It appears a Roman Catholic publishing house has been found to include pornography in its frontlist. My first reaction is that this had to be a mistake, but the evidence seems quite significant.

The facts are simple. The press is in Germany and called Weltbild, and it’s second only to Amazon in book sales there. It publishes material most would deem pornographic. (The legal but vile industry calls itself “erotic” literature, but it’s eros-defiled.) While it’s sad enough that such material even exists, that’s not all. The more depressing issue is that Weltbild is owned in whole by the dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll want to give the church the benefit of the doubt. After all, you think, some unknown editor probably slipped a single title into their immense publishing list. I’m sure the senior people were never even aware of the mistake.

If you’re like me, you’d be mistaken. Turns out over 2,000 titles are found in their online store under the category of erotica. And, back in 2008 a group of concerned Catholics brought this matter to the attention to the attention of the bishops. In a seventy-page document.

What a tragedy.

But there is a lesson here. Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” should strive to maintain the highest possible standards. Associating ourselves with ugly things reflects poorly not only on us, but also on our Lord. This story is shameful, and I pray the leaders involved will repent of their error, no matter what the financial consequences may be. On the other hand, I too need to avoid shameful actions. And, whenever I do fall short of the Christian ideals which are my goal—I need to be swift to acknowledge my sin and seek to restore what has been lost.

Addendum:

Very true. Paul’s counsel to the church in Philippi remains timely. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”