C.S. Lewis

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 All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.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

A Truly Wide Taste in Humanity

face in a crowd

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.

The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet everyday. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there.”

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 37.

God is love. Love isn’t God.

It happens in marriage:

…when we realize we’ve married someone selfish, we discard the dream and become cynical about the possibility of love. We set ourselves up for failure by overloading love with far more than it can bear. Married love as a source of life crashes on the rocks of human depravity. … But love and relationships were never meant to be the center. Love is not god. God is love.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, pg 38.

And it shows up in the Bible:

St John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “[love] begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 6-7.

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.

A Few Resolutions for 2014

I promised a friend I would post my new years resolutions.

Here they are:

Read and understand one C.S. Lewis book every two months

abolition_of_man_791Over Christmas break I read John Piper’s tribute to C.S. Lewis (available for free here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The small eBook is not a “biography” in the traditional sense. It’s more concerned with C.S. Lewis’ impact on Piper’s life than with Lewis’ life itself. Nonetheless, it exposed me to a sampling of Lewis’ works and gave me the bug.

I dived right in and just finished Lewis’ small (but weighty) book, The Abolition of Man and only understood about half of it. I’m sure that trend (and the requisite multiple readings) will continue once I get to Miracles, and The Four Loves. Thus the pace: one book every two months. Slow, but steady, is the goal.

Complete a “through the Bible in a year” plan

I hate having to rush through Bible reading. That’s why this year I’m using the “Discipleship Journal” reading plan. This plan gets me through the Bible in a year without taking an hour a day (which is about how long my old plan would take). I can linger in the places and scriptures that I used to rush through. I’m really looking forward to it.

Because the people who created this plan are undergoing website construction, I couldn’t find the pdf online. Anywhere. But I want to make it available, so I converted my pdf version to jpgs. Here they are:

Discipleship Journal page 1

Discipleship Journal page 1

Discipleship Journal page 2

Discipleship Journal page 2

You can also get it through OliveTree here. YouVersion has it here. If you’re on Android you can get it from Google’s play store here.

Study Luke’s gospel

That’s a hopelessly broad goal. If I were to leave it like that I’m sure that I’d accomplish nothing. So here are a couple sub-goals:

  • Record and answer every question I have about Luke’s gospel. I’ve already written and organized about 100 of these questions. In the coming months I might do some posts about what I discover.
  • Read through relevant sections of Darrel Bock’s commentary on Luke. I’m using a commentary because there are certain issues (like the political deliverance Jesus’ was expected to bring) that I simply don’t have the expertise to understand on my own. For that reason, Bock’s commentary has been indispensable so far. You can find Volume 1 on Amazon here, and volume 2 here.
  • Write small summaries of important sections. One example would be Luke’s version of Jesus’ sermon the mount/plain. I can’t tell you, as of this evening, what it’s all about. I hope to change that this year.

(Sidenote: The way I think about goals has been impacted significantly by Michael Hyatt’s article “The Beginner’s guide to goal setting.” I heartily recommend his counsel to you.)

So those are my goals. At least, the ones I’m willing to share with everyone here on the blogsphere. If you read my blog regularly:

  1. I hope you see these topics in future posts! That’ll mean I’ve actually followed through.
  2. I hope you get to read better posts. I want to write gooder. But it’s taking time to find my voice and style. Let’s all trust this year is one of growth. For your sake and mine.

The Screwtape Letters: In Less Than 600 Words

screwtape-lettersToday I was reading Andy Naselli’s blog and came across his wonderful summary of C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Screwtape Letters. In case you’re unfamiliar with C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters is written from the perspective of a demon/tutor. This “head demon” teaches his student, the recipients of the letters, how to lead a new Christian away from Christianity. Sounds a little strange. But it’s fantastic.

Here is Naselli’s “one sentence summary of each chapter.” I’ll post the first ten. Follow the link to see the rest!

  1. Make him preoccupied with ordinary, “real” life—not arguments or science.

  2. Make him disillusioned with the church by highlighting people he self-righteously thinks are strange or hypocritical.

  3. Annoy him with “daily pinpricks” from his mother.

  4. Keep him from seriously intending to pray at all, and if that fails, subtly misdirect his focus to himself or an object rather than a Person

  5. Don’t hope for too much from a war [in this case, World War II] because the Enemy often lets our patients suffer to fortify them and tantalize us.

  6. Capitalize on his uncertainty, divert his attention from the Enemy to himself, and redirect his malice to his everyday neighbors and his benevolence to people he does not know.

  7. Keep him ignorant of your existence, and make him either an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist who regards his cause as the most important part of Christianity.

  8. Make good use of your patient’s series of troughs and peaks (i.e., “the law of undulation”), and beware that the Enemy relies on the troughs more than the peaks.

  9. Capitalize on trough periods by tempting him with sensual pleasures (especially sex), making him content with his moderated religion, and directly attacking his faith as merely a “phase.”

  10. Convince him to blend in with his new worldly acquaintances.

Read the rest here, and check out Andy’s blog here. And the book is pretty cheap on Amazon! Just 10 bucks.

Why I Write

CC Image courtesy of Antonio Litterio on Wikipedia

CC Image courtesy of Antonio Litterio on Wikipedia

A Preliminary Diagnosis

Every time I interact with others I’m tempted to highlight my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. Blogging (and the online world in general) only exacerbates this tendency. A blog post (published after 5 revisions) allows me to always put my best food forward, and so it looks like I’m always on top of my game.

At the root of this tendency is a desire to be accepted into what C.S. Lewis calls “The Inner Ring.” He described this longing as “The lust for the esoteric, the longing to be inside.” Most of us will do anything to be accepted into this pseudo-guild. Lewis certainly was familiar with it. Reflecting on this self-inflicted pang for affirmation, he says, “To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of ‘Insides,’ full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no ‘inside’ that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction.”

I’m faced with this desire almost every time I write a blog post. I want people to affirm me. I want them to really notice. 

But there is a remedy. There is another way to approach this “morally neutral” thing, as Lewis describes it. And his words have helped me think about a better way to approach this very public form of writing,

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know.

Read the essay here.

I know that sometimes I write as a way to sneak my way inside The Inner Ring. But my hope is that, more often, I’d write excellent material so as to be a “sound craftsman.” I want my words to sing and soar and pierce.

But crisp sentences – ones that clear away confusion – take time to craft. They come from a steady, seasoned hand that knows the lay of his white-page land.

Conclusion: 2 Reasons I Write

I write because I’m not a natural writer. My thoughts are not “naturally” clear — they’re usually fuzzy and need the focus that reflection brings. To me, this focusing work is worth the effort. It gives me such satisfaction to watch an idea come out of the shadows (where it did exist before, if only veiled) and into the light.

And I write because I love helping other people see the things I see. That’s why this blog isn’t private — it would defeat (part of) the purpose. I want to show others what I’ve seen. In an article over at Desiring God, David Mathis provides a quote from Lewis that captures what I’m hoping for,

The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him. . . . To see things as the poet sees them I must share his consciousness and not attend to it; I must look where he looks and not turn round to face him; I must make of him not a spectacle but a pair of spectacles. (The Personal Heresy, 11)

That’s why I write.