C.S. Lewis

Quotes Suitable For Framing: CS Lewis

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The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the more congenital one of bewailing–but first, of denouncing–the conduct of others.  If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity.  Unfortunately, the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature.  By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’.  And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice.  You can say anything you please about it.  You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practicing contrition.  A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins'; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’

CS Lewis, The Dangers of National Repentance

Advent and Anti-Christ, Part III

Part three of my presentation of the four sermons of John Henry Cardinal Newman on the Anti-Christ delivered in 1835 before his conversion.  Part I is here and Part II is here.

In this sermon Newman considers the City and Empire of Rome and its relation to the Anti-Christ.  Many Protestant theologians since the Reformation identified the Roman Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the Pope as Anti-Christ.  Newman wrote a detailed attack in 1840 on this belief while he was still a Protestant.  It may be read here.  For Newman the Rome identified with the AntiChrist was the City and the Empire and not the Church.  Newman sums up the relationship of Rome and the Anti-Christ as follows:  “The question asked was, Is not (as is commonly said and believed among us) Rome mentioned in the Apocalypse, as having especial share in the events which will come at the end of the world by means or after the time of Antichrist. I answer this, that Rome’s judgments have come on her in great measure, when her empire was taken from her; that her persecutions of the Church have been in great measure judged, and the Scripture predictions concerning her fulfilled; that whether or not, she shall be further judged depends on two circumstances, first, whether “the righteous men” in the city who saved her when her judgment first came may not, through GOD’S great mercy, be allowed to save her still; next, whether the prophecy relates in its fulness to Rome or to some other object or objects of which Rome is a type. And further, I say, that if Rome is still to be judged, this must be before Antichrist comes, because Antichrist comes upon and destroys the ten kings, and lasts but a short space, but the ten kings are to destroy Rome. On the other hand, so far would seem to be clear, that the prophecy itself has not been fully accomplished, whatever we decide about Rome’s concern in it. The Roman empire has not yet been divided into ten heads, nor has it yet risen against the woman, whoever she stands for, nor has the woman yet received her ultimate judgment.”

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PopeWatch: Antje Jackelén

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Unless a major news story involving the Pope develops, PopeWatch plans in future that Saturday installments of PopeWatch will normally be lighthearted, however this installment is somewhat darkly humored indeed.  Catholics can often rightly feel that there is much amiss in the Church.  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who often has taken up the cudgels to defend the Church, reminds us in a current post at Midwest Conservative Journal that the problems of Catholics might seem trivial to Christians in various sects:

 

This one’s all yours, partner.  Just keep it clean:

The bookmakers were right. Today it was announced that the Church of Sweden’s new archbishop is Antje Jackelén. But who is the church’s new top leader, who has chosen part of the Muslim prayer call as her motto?

Many have been taken aback by the theological opinions Jackelén revealed during a questioning in Uppsala on October 1. The candidates for the highest position in the Swedish church were asked if they thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer Jackelén suddenly emerged as the bishop who couldn’t choose between Jesus and Muhammed. This provoked strong reactions on some editorial pages.

Kyrkans Tidning thought that the bishop’s answer might indicate that Christ is being relegated to the margins of the Church of Sweden and Dagens Nyheter encouraged the candidates to show some theological backbone. The editorial writer at the newspaper Dagen wrote that it is time to accept the idea of a split within the church – between Christians and those who think all religions are equally good. 

The bishop of Lund’s preference for Allah has prompted one of the church’s most preeminent theologians, professor Eva Hamberg, to leave her post as a member of the church’s theological council in protest against bishop Antje Jackelén’s failure to stand behind the Church of Sweden’s profession of faith. As a reaction to what she calls ”the inner secularization of the Church of Sweden”, she has also renounced her position as priest and her membership of the church.

In a number of interviews Hamberg has expressed her disappointment that not even the top leader of the church will clearly profess a Christian faith but wavers between Jesus and Muhammed.

It is not only Jackelén’s motto and her unwillingness to put Jesus ahead of Muhammed that has evoked strong feelings among many committed Christians. During her questioning in Uppsala, the new archbishop also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

PopeWatch: Pope Francis and Satan

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Well, I must say this will probably disconcert some of the erstwhile newfound friends of Pope Francis among the secular media and reassure orthodox Catholics:

In his Oct. 11 daily Mass homily, the Holy Father warned of the discreet presence of the devil, exhorting those gathered to be astute in their spiritual lives.

“We must always be on guard,” exhorted the Pope to those who attended Mass in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, “on guard against deceit, against the seduction of evil.”

Referencing the day’s gospel reading, in which Jesus has just healed a possessed man and is accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil, the Pope noted that often in history there have been those who wish to “diminish the power of the Lord” by offering different explanations for his works, urging that his is a temptation which has “reached our present day.”

“There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: ‘But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness.’”

“It is true,” he affirmed, “that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter. No!”

“The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”

Observing that the Lord has given many criteria in order to “discern” the presence of evil in our lives, the Pope stressed that “we should not be naïve,” and that one of the criteria which has been given is “not to follow the victory of Jesus” just “halfway.”

“Either you are with me, says the Lord, or you are against me” he said, noting that Jesus came to conquer the devil and “to give us the freedom” from “the enslavement the devil has over us,” which he cautioned, is not “exaggerating.”

“On this point, there are no nuances. There is a battle and a battle where salvation is at play, eternal salvation; eternal salvation.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

God and Suffering

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As superb look at suffering by Dr. Peter Kreeft, courtesy of Prager University.  I agree with his division of suffering into what Man causes through our actions, wars are a classic example, and suffering caused by nature, the type of suffering caused by the seizure that took the life of my son Larry on May 19, 2013.  He is also correct that when we cry out against such suffering inflicted by nature we are appealing to a standard that presupposes a God, since nature cares not a whit about human suffering or the lack thereof.  It is only by belief in God that the scales of what occurs to us in this brief life are ever balanced.  To us death is often regarded as the greatest of evils.  To God physical death is merely our gateway to Him.  CS Lewis captured this perfectly in Letter 28 of his Screwtape Letters:

They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. I know it seems strange that your chief aim at the moment should be the very same thing for which the patient’s lover and his mother are praying – namely his bodily safety. But so it is; you should be guarding him like the apple of your eye. If he dies now, you lose him. If he survives the war, there is always hope. The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it”, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.

The truth is that the Enemy, having oddly destined these mere animals to life in His own eternal world, has guarded them pretty effectively from the danger of feeling at home anywhere else. That is why we must often wish long life to our patients; seventy years is not a day too much for the difficult task of unravelling their souls from Heaven and building up a firm attachment to the earth. While they are young we find them always shooting off at a tangent. Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry – the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon – are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time – assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience. Experience, in the peculiar sense we teach them to give it, is, by the bye, a most useful word. A great human philosopher nearly let our secret out when he said that where Virtue is concerned “Experience is the mother of illusion”; but thanks to a change in Fashion, and also, of course, to the Historical Point of View, we have largely rendered his book innocuous. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Perennial Adolescence

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Strange, I had always taken your highness for a perennial adolescent, who cared only for his pleasures.

Bishop Folliot to Henry II in the screenplay for the film Becket

The modern world seems intent on destroying both childhood and adulthood:

 

The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” says child psychologist Laverne Antrobus, who works at London’s Tavistock Clinic.

“My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.”

Child psychologists are being given a new directive which is that the age range they work with is increasing from 0-18 to 0-25.

“We are becoming much more aware and appreciating development beyond [the age of 18] and I think it’s a really good initiative,” says Antrobus, who believes we often rush through childhood, wanting our youngsters to achieve key milestones very quickly

Go here to read the rest at BBC News Magazine.  The war on childhood has been on course for quite a long time:  easy divorce, sex education reaching down to kindergarten, using drugs to control perfectly normal children, and zero tolerance policies for child hood play that boys have engaged in as long as there have been boys.  For about the same time period, adolescence has been lengthening, so a brief period of tolerated irresponsibility, circa 14-18, has now been broadened to at least 30.  I see it in my legal practice, as paternity cases have tended to replace divorce cases for clients in their twenties who, to my jaundiced eye, have about as much of a chance of being responsible parents as a mouse has of learning algebra. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Liberal Christianity as a “Religion”

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Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels in defense of Catholicism so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, explains why liberal Protestantism deserves a place on the endangered species list:

Why is mainline Protestantism withering on the vine?  Because as Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland, California, there is no “there” there:

Liberal Protestantism is dying. Rod Dreher says so in a recent column in The American Conservative, and the statistics back him up: for decades, liberal and mainline Protestantism has been on the decline in the US, with some denominations (such as the United Church of Christ) losing adherents so quickly that their future is in peril. Meanwhile, more conservative and evangelical denominations have generally held their own, or even experienced growth (see graph below). But liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be: it’s tolerant of differences, non-judgmental, open to scientific knowledge. Good stuff, right? So why is it that the open-minded liberal churches are dying out? 

Golly gee willickers, it has to be painful to be this clueless.  “Liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be,” only to someone who has absolutely no idea what religion actually is.

I guess I’m going to have to try to dumb this down even further and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick with the monotheistic religions but these principles apply to all religions.  So here goes not much of anything.

There are people out there who believe that there is a God.  They believe that this God is responsible for existence itself as well as their presence in that existence.

Once they accept that, they’re kind of forced to accept three more concepts.  Even if they never figure out what it is, there’s a reason why they’re here; after all, if you’re talented enough to speak existence into existence, why would Christopher Johnsons ever just sort of randomly turn up?

So if you’re here for a reason, even if you never ever understand what that reason is until you die, if then, does that not imply that the God who deliberately made you exist feels that your existence is important?  And if your existence is important, does that not rather obligate you to try to live the way the God who made you exist wants you to live?

You can’t do that as well as you want to, of course.  God, in His mercy, understands that and has provided vehicles of escape, the most sensible and efficacious being, according to this Christian, that vehicle provided by the Christian religion.  That fellow on the Cross.

Then there are people who don’t believe any of that. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Prayer in Time of Grief

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O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

 

Hattip to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii.  Since the death of my son Larry I have found this prayer by Father Robert Fox to be of comfort:

God of life and death, You have taken a beloved one from me.  My heart is very heavy.  I recall that Your Son, Jesus Christ, became man in all things except sin and that He groaned in sorrow at the death of His friend, Lazarus.  I unite my grief with Yours dear Jesus, as You stood at the tomb of Lazarus.

O Virgin Mother, you know what it was like losing your husband Joseph, and then your child.  dying suspended between earth and heaven, with a sword piercing your sweet soul.  To you do I come in sorrow, begging strength from your intercession, from you who fully understand what it is like to lose one so dear and close.

Share with me, dear Mother of God, the courage, the strong faith that you had in the future resurrection.  Even after Jesus came back to life and ascended into heaven, you knew you were to be left alone for many years before your own assumption into heaven. You comforted the Apostles as their Queen and Mother during those years. Grant comfort to me now as I sorrow in pain at the loss by the separation that has come as a result of the sin of our first parents and my own sins. Wipe away my tears with the merciful love of your Immaculate Heart as you unite me with my loved one through the grace of the Sacred Heart of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Very Few Atheists in Fox Holes

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The blog Science 2.0 repeats something that most combat soldiers have always known:  there are few atheists in fox holes:

But does war really transform people, or does it simply make the fleetingly religious more so for a short time? A recent analysis of archived surveys of Army Infantry soldiers after a battle –  Samuel Stouffer’s “The American Soldier” World War II  research (1) - found self-reported reliance on prayer rose from 42% to 72% as that battle got more intense.
“The question is whether that reliance on faith lasts over time,” said Craig Wansink, author and Professor of Religion at Virginia Wesleyan College, who did the analysis and co-wrote the paper with his brother Brian Wansink, food marketing expert and Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. The World War II generation is a good one for analysis because the interest was religiosity long-term and young people in the 1940s were more religious overall than more recent generations.

A second analysis of survey results from 1,123 World War II veterans showed that 50 or more years after combat, most soldiers still exhibited religious behavior, though it varied by their war experience. Those facing heavy combat (versus no combat) attended church 21% more often if they claimed their war experience was negative, but those who claimed their experience was positive attended 26% less often.
The more a veteran disliked the war, the more religious they were 50 years later.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Why the Episcopal Church is on Life Support

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Christopher Johnson, the non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, demonstrates in the following post at Midwest Conservative Journal why the Episcopal Church is dying and the Catholic Church is living:

Long-time readers of this site know that there are two Episcopalians that I don’t mention around here if I can possibly avoid it.   One, of course, is former Newark Bishop John Shelby “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!! Spong.

MCJ veterans have long since given up sending me e-mails with “Did you see what Spong just said?!!” in the subject line.  Because I already know that whatever the megalomaniacal old fraud just said had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity and was sneeringly contemptuous of anybody who holds anything close to a traditional view of the Christian faith, in whatever Christian church they find themselves.

The other is homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson, who is a homosexual, formerly of the Diocese of Nobody Ever Gave A Crap, Bitches, Shut Up.  As most people figured out a long time ago, if you ever stand between Robbie and a camera, you run a considerable risk of a concussion when Robbie knocks you down and runs over you.  Publicity is Robbie’s crack and I don’t want to feed his habit.

But every now and then, Robbie writes something so titanically and magisterially stupid that I’m forced to break my own embargo.  In the Washington Post’s “On No Particular Faith Of Any Truly Meaningful Kind” section, Bishop Stompy Foot is increasingly frustrated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church refuses to be instructed by him:

Polling shows that ex-Catholics are the third largest religious group in the United States. Many Catholic laity are experiencing a painful disconnect between the official teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic hierarchy and what they believe in their hearts. It’s no wonder they are voting with their feet.

The Detroit Free Press recently reported on comments made by Edward Peters, who teaches Catholic canon law and was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 to advise the top judicial authority in the Catholic Church.

Peters stated that Catholic teaching makes it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. He goes on to write, “Catholics who promote ‘same-sex marriage’ act contrary to ‘Catholic law’ and should not approach for holy Communion…They also risk having holy Communion withheld from them…being rebuked and/or being sanctioned.”

Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, offered this clarification: “For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches.’ In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”

Which is bad and stuff.

I believe that using Communion as such a manipulative tool surely profanes the sacrament. Perhaps these Catholic leaders should revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist. Reception of the body and blood of Christ at Communion is God’s gift to God’s people, not a reward for right behavior. We receive Communion not because we are worthy of it, but because God’s offers us the body and blood of Christ despite our unworthiness.

Two responses immediately suggest themselves.  The first, of course, is, “Who the hell asked you, hot shot?”  And the second is that before you suggest that bishops of another church than your own need to “revisit their church’s theology of the Eucharist,” you might want to learn “their church’s theology of the Eucharist” yourself.

I’ll give you a head start.  Two words.  The first one’s “real” and the second one is “presence.”  If you teach that Christ is really there in the Eucharist, then indiscriminately giving the real Lord Jesus Christ to everyone who calls himself or herself a Catholic but who takes it upon himself or herself alone to decide what that means is, at the very least, hypocrisy and, at the very most, blasphemy.

After all, Judas didn’t get the very first Communion, did he, Robbie?  And then, blissfully unaware of the trap he is walking into, Robbie plays this card. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Ayn Rand Rants Against CS Lewis

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“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

CS Lewis

I have always found amusing a fifth rate mind coming up against a first rate mind in a debate and being reduced to muttering imprecations with all the intellectual content of scrawlings on a bathroom wall.  Such was the case when Ayn Rand decided to read CS Lewis’ Abolition of Man and scribbled out her hate in the margins:

C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man Ayn Rand’s marginalia
I am considering what the thing called ‘Man’s power over Nature’ must always and essentially be. No doubt, the picture could be modified by public ownership of raw materials and factories and public control of scien­tific research. But unless we have a world state this will still mean the power of one nation over others. And even within the world state or the nation it will mean (in principle) the power of majorities over minorities, and (in the concrete) of a government over the people. And all long-term exercises of power, especially in breeding, must mean the power of earlier generations over later ones.… So in the pre-science age, there was no power of majorities over minorities – and the Middle Ages were a period of love and equality, and the oppres­sion began only in the U.S.A. (!!!) The abysmal bastard!!!
The later a generation comes – the nearer it lives to that date at which the species becomes extinct – the less power it will have in the forward direction, be­cause its subjects will be so few. There is therefore no question of a power vested in the race as a whole steadily growing as long as the race survives. The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great plan­ners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future. … It is unbelievable, but this monster literally thinks that to give men new know­ledge is to gain power(!) over them. The cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity!
There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who fol­lows the triumphal car.… So when you cure men of TB, syphilis, scurvy, small pox and rabies – you make them weaker!!!
In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao – a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart.… And which brought such great joy, peace, happi­ness and moral stature to men!! (The bastard!)
We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture. To many, no doubt, this process is simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected, and the old opposition to Galileo or to ‘body-snatchers’ is simply obscurantism. But that is not the whole story. It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scien­tists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost. This is really an old fool – and nothing more!  

 

 

 

Ad hominem!

And what does he think an abstraction is, that great “advocate of reason”?

Here’s where the Kor­zybski comes out in him

 

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Brave New World

I may have mentioned this before, but one of my favorite novels is C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. It was the final part of what is known as Lewis’s Space Trilogy. A brief summary of the book is available at this link. The villain in this book is an entity called the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments – N.I.C.E. – which seeks to build a Utopian society based on science. Of course they are basically nothing more than totalitarian, atheistic thugs.

My admiration for the book is based on the fact that Lewis was a prophet. At least, that’s what struck me when I read this headline and accompanying story:

Britain on course for ‘three parent babies’

Britain is on course to become the first country in the world to legalise the creation of IVF babies with three biological “parents” after the fertility watchdog announced that the public is in favour of the controversial technology.

And then Bob Grant’s voice entered my head: They’re sick and they’re getting sicker.

But hey, evidently a majority of people would be down with completely re-working the laws of nature.

A major consultation found that a majority of people would back the therapy, under which a small part of a mother’s genetic material is swapped with that of a healthy donor to eliminate the risk of passing on a host of hereditary diseases to her child.

By removing faulty DNA from the mitochondria, which is always inherited from the mother, experts believe the child and future generations could be spared from a collection of devastating conditions affecting the heart, muscles and brain.

And this is how we’ll convince people that we aren’t entering Frankenstein-levels of biological tinkering. You see these great minds are merely making sure that no one should endure the burden of an imperfect child. Don’t you feel so much better about this project now?

And then on top of the ethical and moral concerns, there’s this:

The HFEA, which carried out the consultation, advised ministers that if they do legalise the therapy, donors and patients should remain anonymous and have no right to contact one another.

Yeah, that always works out well.

And if you’re concerned that we’re at risk of making Gattaca a reality, don’t you worry your little heads off.

Dismissing fears that allowing the treatment could be the start of a “slippery slope”, she emphasised that the therapy – which could become the first treatment to alter the human germ line – would only be available for people at risk of passing on mitochondrial disease.

For now. Oh, she didn’t actually add those words, but I’m sure that’s what she meant, at least if she had a moment of honest self-reflection.

Fortunately, despite the repeated insistence – based on absolutely no data presented in the article – that this procedure has broad public support, clearly not everyone in jolly old England has lost their ever-loving minds.

But opponents of the technique have questioned the moral justification of engineering embryos, and questioned how the resulting child’s sense of identity might be affected by the knowledge that they have three biological parents.

Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “Historians of the future will point to this as the moment when technocrats crossed the crucial line, the decision that led inexorably to the disaster of genetically engineered babies and consumer eugenics.”

Now, now, Doctor, our best and brightest have assured us that we have nothing to worry about. That should make us all feel much better.

CS Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debating Christ

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I look forward to seeing this play Freud’s Last Session when I have an opportunity:

Toward the end of the play Freud’s Last Session, a fictional conversation about the meaning of human life between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis concludes,“How mad, to think we could untangle the world’s greatest mystery in one hour.”Freud responds, “The only thing more mad is to not think of it at all.” The combined sense of the limits to human knowledge and the unavoidability of the big questions is one of the many impressive features of this dramatic production, the remote origins of which are in a popular class of Dr. Armand Nicholi, professor of psychiatry in the Harvard Medical School. Nicholi penned a book, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life, which the playwright Mark St. Germain turned into an off-Broadway play, now in its second year in New York and just beginning a run in Chicago. 

I had a chance recently to see the successful New York production, directed by Tyler Marchant and starring George Morfogen as Freud and Jim Stanek as Lewis. The play is not perfect; some of the dialogue is wooden, the result of the attempt to squeeze elements from the major works of the two authors into their conversation. Nicholi does a better job of this in his book, largely because he is free from the dialogue form. But the theatrical revival of the dialogue is what stands out in this production. In this case, the theater is an arena for the contest of ideas. There is a healthy reminder that philosophy itself has taken on various dramatic and literary forms; indeed, philosophy as a theater of debate hearkens back to the very founding of philosophy in the Platonic dialogue. Something of that original sense of philosophy as a live debate between interlocutors whose views and lives are at stake is operative in Freud’s Last Session. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Lent in a Sinless Age

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I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

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The Devil You Say?

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Considering all the extravagant evil in the world, I have always found it remarkable that so many people do not believe in the existence of Satan and his fallen angels.  Pope Leo XIII I believe foresaw this, which is why he gave us the prayer to Saint Michael.  In 1942 CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters wrote what may be an epitaph for the age in which we live:

When humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and  skepics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force,” the worship of sex, and other aspects of psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work — the materialist magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” — the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey orders.

Man without God is nothing but prey for Satan.  With God and Man united Satan is  impotent.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn when asked why Communism seized power in Russia, used to say the following:

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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