Blog Archives

CLXXXXIII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Ancient men marveled at the regularity of the movements of the heavens, which enabled them to predict the paths of the planets.  It was not until modern times though that we were able fully to appreciate just how mathematical are the laws that govern the operations of the physical universe—all of it, not just the visible parts.  Music is mathematics applied to pitch and time.  It is more than that, but not less.  So poets from Milton to MacDonald to Lewis and Tolkien have, in an appropriate metaphor indeed, portrayed creation as a song or a dance.  It was in Job all along: at creation the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

 

COMMENTARY, JOB 38:7

The Novas were the trumpets,

The Black Holes played the bass,

The Comets were the clarinets,

The concert hall was Space.

 

The Stars were violins,

The Angels sang in thirds,

The Planets danced a minuet,

Jehovah wrote the words.

 

And still they sing together,

And with the inner ears

The clear-souled man can listen yet:

The music of the spheres.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Need the Perfect CHRISTMAS PRESENT?

Need the perfect Christmas present for your book-loving friends and relatives?  Look no further. Have I got some answers for you!  All are books that I can recommend highly with the greatest confidence, having, er, written them myself.

BethlehemStar2

We lead off with my newest tome, literally hot off the press: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016).  What is the theology that lies behind the Narnia Books, the Space Trilogy, and the popular apologetics?  What are its strengths and weaknesses as a guide to biblical truth?  Where can we follow Lewis and where do we need to withhold our judgment or even dissent?  Why is he in the final analysis the great theologian of wholeness?  These are the questions this book will answer from the entire body of Lewis’s work.  Order from the publisher or from Amazon.

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

 

The other perfect gift for a fan of C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien:  Mere Humanity: G. K. chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006).  What a piece of work is a man (or woman)?  I set forth the strong biblical answer to that question given by these three Christian writers in their expository works, and then show how they incarnated in in their fiction.  In Lewis’s Space Trilogy you have hrossa, seroni, pfiffltriggi, and the Green Lady of Perelandra–rational and spiritual but non-human species that serve as foils to set off, by both their similarities and their differences to us, the essential characteristics of true human nature.  (Tor and Tinidril on Perelandra are humanoid, but not human, not being descended from Adam and Eve.)  In the Narnia books, Talking Beasts perform the same function.  In Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, elves, dwarves, and wizards play that role.  In the book as a whole you get both a strong defense of the biblical view of humanity that has traction against various modernist and post-modernist reductionisms, and also interesting explications of the popular fiction from that standpoint.  $14.99.  Order from the publisher or on Amazon.

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Perfect gift for a lover of literature in general, especially high-school kids studying literature in home school or their parents, or those thinking of majoring in English in college and needing a biblical place to stand against the sterile winds of secularist literary theory in our day:  Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd ed. (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012).  Christians are a “people of the Book.”  What does this say about them and the place reading should have in their lives?  What should Christians read?  How?  Why?  Explore such questions as you watch some of the finest Christian minds wrestle with them through history.  Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings are not the primary focus of this book, but they play a major role in it–the pun in the title was made with benevolence aforethought.  $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Inklings of Reality Donald Williams cover

Perfect gift for a lover of poetry:  Stars through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2011).   Jim Prothero says, “Williams has returned poetry  to the writing of poetry.  Here you will find new life breathed into the great forms that graced English verse for centuries.  Owen Barfield insisted that poetry must cause the reader to undergo ‘a felt change of consciousness.’  That’s a tall order, but Don Williams achieves it.  Someone said reading C. S. Lewis ’caused one to grow in sanity.’  I find very few other authors of whom that may be said: tolkien, L’Engle, Frost–not many more.  But it can be said of the poetry of Donald Williams.”   $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Stars Through the Clouds

Perfect gift for a person interested in theology, philosophy, and apologetics:  Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012).  From the introduction:  “Francis Schaeffer was right: In the Post-Christian world, lay men and women can no longer afford to remain ignorant of critical issues and questions that used to be the domain only of philosophy majors.  The biblical world view can no longer be taken for granted, even by Christians.  If we do not think in terms of world view, that is, think philosophically, we will be able neither to discern the biblical world view, nor to retain it, nor to disciple others in it, nor to communicate it to non-Christians.  Not only is the unexamined life not worth living, in is not even possible any more for  those who wish to be faithful Christians and faithful witnesses for Christ.”  $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Interested in the case for God? For more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams' book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO'S CAVE, in the Lantern Hollow E-store.

In all these books I have tried to follow C. S. Lewis’s example and write in such a way that I combine substance and serious wrestling with significant issues with a writing style that is approachable for people who are not necessarily experts in those fields.  If I have succeeded only a little in that, then I can safely paraphrase Emperor Palpatine:  “You want them, don’t you.”  Yes, you do.

Need the Perfect CHRISTMAS PRESENT?

Need the perfect Christmas present for your book-loving friends and relatives?  Look no further.  Have I got some answers for you!  All are books that I can recommend highly with the greatest confidence, having, er, written them myself.

BethlehemStar2
Perfect gift for a fan of C. S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tolkien:  Mere Humanity: G. K. chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006).  What a piece of work is a man (or woman)?  I set forth the strong biblical answer to that question given by these three Christian writers in their expository works, and then show how they incarnated in in their fiction.  In Lewis’s Space Trilogy you have hrossa, seroni, pfiffltriggi, and the Green Lady of Perelandra–rational and spiritual but non-human species that serve as foils to set off, by both their similarities and their differences to us, the essential characteristics of true human nature.  (Tor and Tinidril on Perelandra are humanoid, but not human, not being descended from Adam and Eve.)  In the Narnia books, Talking Beasts perform the same function.  In Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, elves, dwarves, and wizards play that role.  In the book as a whole you get both a strong defense of the biblical view of humanity that has traction against various modernist and pos-modernist reductionisms, and also interesting explications of the popular fiction from that standpoint.  $14.99.  Order from the publisher or on Amazon.

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis

Perfect gift for a lover of literature in general, especially high-school kids studying literature in home school or their parents, or those thinking of majoring in English in college and needing a biblical place to stand against the sterile winds of secularist literary theory in our day:  Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd ed. (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012).  Christians are a “people of the Book.”  What does this say about them and the place reading should have in their lives?  What should Christians read?  How?  Why?  Explore such questions as you watch some of the finest Christian minds wrestle with them through history.  Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings are not the primary focus of this book, but they play a major role in it–the pun in the title was made with benevolence aforethought.  $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Inklings of Reality Donald Williams cover

Perfect gift for a lover of poetry:  Stars through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2011).   Jim Prothero says, “Williams has returned poetry  to the writing of poetry.  Here you will find new life breathed into the great forms that graced English verse for centuries.  Owen Barfield insisted that poetry must cause the reader to undergo ‘a felt change of consciousness.’  That’s a tall order, but Don Williams achieves it.  Someone said reading C. S. Lewis ’caused one to grow in sanity.’  I find very few other authors of whom that may be said: tolkien, L’Engle, Frost–not many more.  But it can be said of the poetry of Donald Williams.”   $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Stars Through the Clouds

Perfect gift for a person interested in theology, philosophy, and apologetics:  Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012).  From the introduction:  “Francis Schaeffer was right: In the Post-Christian world, lay men and women can no longer afford to remain ignorant of critical issues and questions that used to be the domain only of philosophy majors.  The biblical world view can no longer be taken for granted, even by Christians.  If we do not think in terms of world view, that is, think philosophically, we will be able neither to discern the biblical world view, nor to retain it, nor to disciple others in it, nor to communicate it to non-Christians.  Not only is the unexamined life not worth living, in is not even possible any more for  those who wish to be faithful Christians and faithful witnesses for Christ.”  $15.00.  Order from https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

Interested in the case for God? For more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams' book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO'S CAVE, in the Lantern Hollow E-store.

In all these books I have tried to follow C. S. Lewis’s example and write in such a way that I combine substance and serious wrestling with significant issues with a writing style that is approachable for people who are not necessarily experts in those fields.  If I have succeeded only a little in that, then I can safely paraphrase Emperor Palpatine:  “You want them, don’t you.”  Yes, you do.

IS GOD GOOD?

Is God good?  What does it mean to claim that He is good?  Can a case for a good God be made in a world so permeated by evil and suffering as ours seems to be?  For many people who doubt God’s existence, the issue is not really His existence as such, but really His goodness.  There is after all no successful argument against God’s existence, for that would be proving a negative. But many people think they have a compelling argument against His goodness from the suffering He permits in His world—and if He is not good, why bother with faith in Him anyway?  So one step toward restoring our ability to have faith in Him must be to examine more carefully the idea of His goodness.  Is it even a coherent claim for Christian theists to make?

Let’s begin by assuming for the sake of argument that God exists and created the world as Genesis teaches.  When God created the universe He obviously gave it being and form; He also gave it value by calling it “good” (Gen. 1:4, etc.).  Goodness then flows from God as much as being or design does.  It is therefore also one of His essential attributes.  As C. S. Lewis summarizes it, “God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and his goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good” (Problem of Pain 88).

But what does this mean?  Is it simply circular to say that the good comes from God because God is good?  It is hard to talk about goodness and God without Plato’s “Euthyphro Dilemma” coming up:  Is something good because God says it is, or does God say something is good because it is good?

Plato

Plato

Lewis understood that the dilemma is of course a false dilemma.  The correct answer to it is “neither.”  God’s attribution of goodness to His creation is not an arbitrary decision, nor is it based on some standard external to Himself.  Rather, his own character is the standard for goodness, and we see that this standard is not arbitrary but necessary once we ponder His identity as the Creator alongside Augustine’s analysis of the nature of evil as a privation or perversion of the good.  For creation is inherently a constructive, not a destructive, act.  Creation is creative, not destructive; giving, not taking; orderly and purposeful, not chaotic.  How else could it produce a world that could hold together?  And what else do we mean by “good’?  Evil, on the other hand, is always a perversion of some prior good; otherwise it could not exist at all.  So Lewis asks,   “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?”  No, he concludes: such a God “couldn’t invent or create or govern anything” (A Grief Observed 27).

Lewis was certainly right about this.  We often ask why a good God would create such an imperfect and often painful world.  The answer is that He didn’t.  He permitted the Fall of His world.  But if He had been destructive rather than creative, harmful rather than beneficent, chaotic rather than intelligent and purposeful, there would and could have been no world to fall in the first place.  Creation is of necessity an act of superabounding goodness.  A world that continues to exist and to be redeemable simply cannot have Satan as its source.

"And God saw that it was good."

“And God saw that it was good.”

Lewis confirms the biblical teaching that God is good—or, perhaps more accurately, perceives its necessary truth—by performing two different thought experiments.  The first was trying to imagine an evil god and finding that the idea just won’t work, as we saw above.  The second involves the difficulty of knowing God as evil.  If God were evil, how would we ever know it?  Lewis reasons,  “If a Brute and Blackguard made the world, then he also made our minds.  If he made our minds, he also made that very standard in them whereby we judge him to be a Brute and Blackguard.  And how can we trust a standard which comes from such a brutal and blackguardly source?” (“De Futilitate” 66)

An evil god by definition then is not a knowable god; but we do know something about God.  At least, we have some idea of God.  And so once again we see that to affirm His goodness is not to spin a logical circle but to bow to the necessity of who He is and must be.  Logically, then, God’s goodness is just as necessary a concept as His existence.  And this is consistent with the way Scripture presents Him: as Creator, Judge, Shepherd, and ultimately as the One whom Jesus called Father.  What could be better than that?

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College and President of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.  For more of his apologetic work see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012) or his other Lantern Hollow books.  Order them ($15.00 + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

No Cheap Answers

ANONYMOUS CORRESPONDENT:  My faith seems very impractical and fanciful, as though it exists in one reality and my life in another. What I experience day in and day out seems to be empty of anything but the temporal, and I am only talking myself into believing in the eternal as there is really no proof for it besides half-guesses. Most Christians use Christianity for their own purposes, particularly myself. I find myself thinking things like, “This is all based on authority with no proof of anything.  I could believe it if it actually worked in someone’s life; but it doesn’t. Instead, I’m supposed to bank everything on another, invisible world that I may get to some day, at which point everything will then be okay.”

I find this hard to share with many people because it would make them uncomfortable. Any books I get my hands on seem to not get close to touching this part of me that feels like it is dying.

A lot of it has to do with de-toxing from six terrible years in _____ with a lot of people who were very mean and ugly to one another.  I find myself asking, “All my life I’ve built everything around this belief . . . and it really hasn’t gotten me anywhere.  In fact, in some ways I’m just more hurt from believing it.” I find myself living practically like an agnostic. God doesn’t speak to people; God doesn’t make everything okay; we don’t really know if we’re eternal beings; and yet this God demands we limp through each day believing anyway.  I’m not sure I have the energy to do that; in fact, trying to do it actually makes me a much gloomier, more short-tempered person.

Then I look at the person of Jesus and think, how lovely!  Everything He said is so true of how we should treat one another, of how life should look.  He spoke like no one else . . . and I find it hard to believe a bunch of guys just sat around and made that stuff up and organized themselves and were martyred for it just to fool everybody. And I find myself caught in the middle once again.

Words of wisdom?

Part of the Answer:

Part of the Answer?

ME:  You already hit on the key.  Look at the person of Jesus.  Jesus, exactly.  Jesus, more.  Jesus, not me and (especially) not those folks you’ve been around.   Either He was more than just a martyr or there is no hope. You see the alternatives quite clearly. It’s Jesus or nothing. Pascal’s wager is still the best bet.

I know this sounds pretty empty when what you really need is not intellectual answers but emotional support, and it doesn’t seem like God is giving you any, and why not if He is actually there and all that loving? Do I have it about right?  [I did.]

OK, then, it’s not a question of what is true but of what you are able to feel. I don’t have answers for that. Why we feel the way we do is often very complicated.  You may have cut yourself off from God’s normal means of supplying emotional support by choosing to cast your lot with a group of legalists; it may have been abundantly available but you had made yourself incapable of receiving it (like C. S. Lewis for a time  in A Grief Observed).  I don’t know.  I can only say that lots of saints have had the same struggle at various times (including me). I would just hug you if I could. Cyber hugs aren’t good enough, but it’s all I can give you today. And encourage you to start every day by reading the scene in The Silver Chair where Puddleglum stomps the fire and makes his speech about following Aslan. I don’t know what I would do without dear old Puddleglum. He’s my patronus.

Portrait-Puddleglum1

Puddleglum

And think about this: Could Lewis have written that scene if he, the greatest apologist and Christian intellectual of the 20th century, was not able to relate to where you are coming from? We are in good company, dear sister. Lift up your head!

[This seemed to help my friend.  Will it help you?  Only you can tell.]

For more unconventional apologetics from Dr. Williams, see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy and his other books from Lantern Hollow Press.  To order, go to

https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

If you are interested in the case for God or more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams' book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO'S CAVE in the Lantern Hollow E-store.

If you are interested in the case for God or more on the Christian world view, check out Dr. Williams’ book REFLECTIONS FROM PLATO’S CAVE in the Lantern Hollow E-store.