Reading and Books

Will Christians Love Their Spouses In Heaven?

Long distance relationship.

That’s what my wife and I were in for over a year before we got married. I lived in Southern California. She lived in Arizona. And it was terrible. It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s not the way a relationship is supposed to be.

I remember how much I would miss her; how I’d look forward to holidays like Spring break and Christmas. Just to see her. And to get rid of Skype! (Which we were both thankful for and ready to never use again)

After we got engaged, I remember thinking, “I can’t stand the long distance factor in our relationship now — I want to be with her more than anything. Will there ever be a time, in heaven for example, when I’ll have to be parted from her again? Will marriage, and the love that it creates [which I was anticipating], be done away with in heaven?” I was hoping that heaven would be some kind of continuation of that blissful longing and loving.

What bliss marriage has been! But I think now, after being married for just a few months, I’m in a better space to hear C.S. Lewis’ answer to my question, “will I love Anna in heaven the same way that I do now?”

If you’re a married Christian, or hope to be married someday, will you love your spouse in heaven? In his discussion of “Charity,” the fourth love, in his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes,

Theologians have sometimes asked whether we shall “know one another” in Heaven, and whether the particular love-relations worked out on earth would then continue to have any significance.

It seems reasonable to reply: “It may depend what kind of love it had become, or was becoming, on earth.”

For, surely, to meet in the eternal world someone for whom your love in this, however strong, had been merely natural, would not be (on that ground) even interesting. Would it not be like meeting in adult life someone who had seemed to be a great friend at your preparatory school solely because of common interests and occupations? If there was nothing more, if he was not a kindred soul, he will now be a total stranger. Neither of you now plays conkers. You no longer want to swop your help with his French exercise for his help with your arithmetic. In Heaven I suspect, a love that had never embodied Love Himself would be equally irrelevant. For Nature has passed away. All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love.

It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it.

He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.

In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we do now.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pp 137-139

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What Would C.S. Lewis Say to People Who Dress Up Their Dogs?

Since this costume makes reference to a Greek/Roman myth, I think Lewis might actually like it

Since this costume makes reference to a Greek/Roman myth (Cerberus), I think Lewis might actually like it

The way that some people treat animals, dressing them up, doting over them, is (according to Lewis) a distortion of the first love: Affection. Affection is the love between a mother and a child; a professor and his student; the elderly man and his wife suffering from Alzheimers. It’s a wonderful love. It begins with the best intentions: e.g., to love animal found at the shelter. But like any other of the four loves, it’s spring loaded to turn in on itself. Each love (Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity) has its own unique way of doing this degenerative and ugly work. Affection, when not pruned and checked, turns itself into some form of, “Only I can give what you need.” See how this plays out, in his mind, with the way we treat animals,

If you need to be needed and if your family, very properly, decline to need you, a pet is the obvious substitute.  You can keep it all its life in need of you. You can keep it permanently infantile, reduce it to permanent invalidism, cut it off from all genuine will-being, and compensate for this by creating needs for countless little indulgences which only you can grant. [1]

There is a much better way to treat animals, according to Lewis. This way honors “the beast,” and in a way, encourages us.

…the higher and domesticated animal is, so to speak, a “bridge” between us and the rest of nature. We all at times feel somewhat painfully our human isolation form the sub-human world — the atrophy of instinct which our intelligence entails, our excessive self-consciousness, the innumerable complexities of our situation, our inability to live in the present. If only we could shuttle it all off! We must not — and incidentally we can’t — become beasts. But we can be with a beast. It is personal enough to give the word with a real meaning; yet it remains very largely an unconscious little bundle of biological impulses.

It has three legs in nature’s world and one in ours. [2]

1. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p.52-53
2.Ibid. 52

Justin Taylor’s Review of “What’s Best Next”

whats best next book cover 2Justin Taylor, blogger at The Gospel Coalition, has written a short review and roundup of opinions regarding Matt Perman’s new book, What’s Best NextTaylor writes,

To my knowledge, there is no one writing today who has thought more deeply about the relationship between the gospel and productivity. You will find in these pages a unique and remarkable combination of theological insight, biblical instruction, and practical counsel that would change the world if put into practice. I could not recommend it more highly.

I don’t think Taylor is exaggerating, and so I encourage you to pick up a copy on Amazon or WTS. It releases today, March 4th.

Treebeard in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

These are two quotes that show why J.R.R. Tolkien’s walking tree-herder, called “Treebeard,” comes across so much better in the book than in the movies. In the movie he is slow. Sluggish. In the book, he lumbers (no pun intended), but he’s also unpredictable. He’s alive, and real, and… fun? In a way, yes. His slowness is deliberateness. And what’s so lethargic in the movie becomes gripping in the book.

Merry and Pippin’s first encounter with him:

TreebeardThese deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating. They were brown, shot with a green light. Often afterwards Pippin tried to describe his first impression of them. ‘One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake. I don’t know, but it felt as if something that grew in the ground—asleep, you might say or just feeling itself as something between root-tip and leaf-tip, between deep earth and sky—had sudden waked up, and was considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years.’”

They try to figure out who he is exactly, asking his name. He responds, with wit,

‘… I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.’ A queer, half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. ‘For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.

Free Book: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church - A Guide for MinistryA free book from logos.com this month: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry by Michael Lawrence.

From the Logos website: “Do you want to understand how each part of the Bible fits together to form one unified, unfolding message? Michael Lawrence helps you to do just that. This essential volume presents the substance and practical importance of biblical theology for ministry. He begins with an examination of a pastor’s tools of the trade—exegetical, biblical, and systematic theology—and commends biblical theology as the tool that should never be on the shelf. Lawrence helpfully distinguishes between biblical and systematic theology, but also emphasizes the importance of their collaboration in ministry.”

Usually, you have to go to different sections of the bookstore to find good books on biblical theology, systematic theology, ministry, the church, and the Christian life. At the very least, the relationship between theory and practice seems strained. However, this book brings these concerns together. Michael Lawrence believes that good shepherds are theologians and good theologians are shepherds. For anyone who believes that theology needs the church and the church needs theology, this will be a welcome resource. For anyone playing with the idea, it will be a compelling one.

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary, CA

Should You Follow Your Feelings?

My father once told a young woman, a lingering hippie who had inhaled the spirit of our age, that she didn’t have to act on her feelings. She said, “Really?” she had never heard that before. She’d always assumed that to be “true to yourself” meant you had to act on your feelings. The conversation was a moment of liberation for her. She realized that when we follow our feelings, we eventually become trapped by them. They define us. We think we can’t love our spouse because we don’t feel like we love him or her. We’ve defined love as a feeling over which we have no control. We are trapped.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, pg 33.

A Loving Life by Paul Miller

A Loving Life - Paul Miller

My wife and I are going to begin reading this book together in the evenings. After watching Justin Taylor interview the author, I’m really excited. Here’s what two men, Scotty Smith and David Powlison, whom I deeply respect, have said about Miller’s book:

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the most honest, timely, and helpful book I’ve ever read about the costly and exhausting demands of loving well. And at the same time, A Loving Life is the most faithful, alluring, and encouraging presentation of God’s love for us in Jesus I’ve fed on in years. …
— Scotty Smith

“The word love is often either a vague sentiment or just another four-letter word. But in Paul Miller’s hands, the quiet, compelling reality emerges. You will witness how love is thoughtful, principled, courageous, enduring, and wise—all the things you know deep down it should be. And even more than those fine things, you will be surprised and delighted at how true love is grounded in God.”
— David Powlison

Admitting Defeat to C.S. Lewis

It’s natural to not want to admit that a book is too hard for me. But it’s happened more than a few times. About a year ago I picked up Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise Concerning Religious Affections and was lost. Completely lost. And humbled. In opening this book I came toe-to-toe with America’s greatest theologian and was ready to throw the white flag after about 10 pages.

C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis just did the same thing to me, with his book, The Abolition of Man. But for a very different reason. An amazing reason.

Usually “difficult” books are difficult to understand because their arguments aren’t clear. The author is smart, but they reduce the accessibility their argument with layered prose. This kind of difficult book might be brilliant, but it’s difficult to get that brilliance into your hands. It takes sifting and thinking and annotating to bring the idea up to the surface. It’s lurking there, between the lines. That’s what makes them frustrating reads: it’s hard to know that their ideas are.

Lewis isn’t like that at all. He’s easy to understand. But his ideas are hard. His presentation is crystal clear. But his content is thick. He does the heavy lifting for you by bring the idea up out of the water. In The Abolition of Man he does this frequently. If you read it, you’ll see him using metaphors all the time to make (extra) sure that the reader knows what he means.

Which makes me all the more frustrated/humbled. After reading The Abolition of Man almost twice, I still can’t put his own argument into words. Lewis essentially handed me the idea, I took a look at it, and realized, “hmmm… here it is. I don’t understand it.” While I’m reading the book, I just barely know what he’s saying. But as soon as I put it down and try to process it all on my own, I’m lost.

If you’re curious, the book is Lewis’ defense of objective morality. He argues that moral values really do exist outside the people that experience them, and that these moral values don’t simply depend on the cultures they show up in. What he calls the tao is this grand set of standards that all people somehow know.

And that’s about all I can tell you.

I wonder if anyone else has ever had this experience with a book. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read one of Lewis’ more philosophical works. Take a hack at The Abolition of Man. Or his book Miracles.

I’d be interested if you have any similar experiences. Leave me a note in the comments if you have.