Anyone who would object to the notion of God on the grounds of suffering, should only do so with the knowledge that there exists one religion that conceives of a God who experienced more of that suffering than any other being in the universe, in order to rescue us from it.

If “God” is to be found guilty, then this God must be among those put on trial, as a suffering God is the only God Christians have ever proposed.

C.S. Lewis on Death

Death is, in fact, what some modern people call ‘ambivalent’. It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Ch. 14, ‘The Grand Miracle’

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

The same life that comes to a peak in old age also comes to a peak in wisdom, in that gentle sunshine of continual spiritual joyfulness; you encounter both old age and wisdom on one ridge of life – that is how nature wanted it. Then it is time, and no cause for anger that the fog of death is approaching.

Towards the light – your last movement; a joyful shout of knowledge – your last sound.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

He was wounded for… what?

The Cost of Forgiveness

Easter is at hand. I really believe Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, and the weekend that they compose, make up the most important of all Christian holidays. While the media and our society in general make a lot more fuss over Christmas (probably more to do with its position on the calendar than anything else), there is really no more pivotal an occasion for the Christian than the weekend on which, so says our doctrine, Christ died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. For the Christian, this event was the most important event in the history of mankind, because Christ’s death was the means by which we can be saved from our sins; thus the event is the foundation of the entire Christian worldview.

But unfortunately I think this event is misunderstood by non-Christians everywhere, as well as many Christians. This video, entitled “Richard Dawkins schools Howard Conder on morality”, is one of the clearest demonstrations of this lack of understanding:

I really do recommend watching the video, or at least the first few minutes to get the idea. But basically, Dawkins is drilling this Christian man about the whole thinking behind Jesus atoning death. Now I find a lot of Dawkins’ objections to Christianity to be rather childish, but what he raises here, I think, is a very legitimate concern. Christians claim that Jesus died in order that God could forgive our sins – his death ‘atoned’ for our sinfulness so that we could be made right with God, so that we could be saved from an eternity of punishment in Hell. Dawkins simply asks why this was necessary: why couldn’t God just forgive us? Continue reading

Whose Immortality?

Bruce Lee said, “The key to immortality is first to live a life worth remembering.”

People through history, particularly modern history, have said some profound things along these lines about immortality. And many of these insightful quotes are so striking because they wilfully play with the meaning of the concept. Of course, in its original basic conception, the word means ‘the capacity to live forever’, and means so in a very literal manner. An immortal is destined to live on through the ages, never to expire.

But of course, it eventually becomes clear that nature does not allow for immortality. In nature, all living things must perish; that’s how it works here. So when we accept this, we accept that immortality is ultimately a supernatural idea. It is only by the power of something divine or magical that one could escape the natural necessity of death.

But I do believe people still like something about the idea of immortality, and they want to hold on to some remnant of it. I think this is what causes people who don’t believe in the supernatural to come up with such beautiful proverbs redefining immortality.

“You don’t need to actually live forever in order to live forever. Just do something amazing with your life. Look at the ancients like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, like Socrates and Cicero. Look at the modern figures like Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill, Beethoven and Tolstoy. Consider the lives they led, and the impact they had. Have not their political systems still influenced the one you live in? Has not their courage inspired you, their wisdom edified you and their words moved you? Are these men not living and breathing today in their continuous causal interaction with all of us? Surely they are immortal! Do likewise, my friend. Live for something bigger than yourself. Do something people will remember. Then you will live forever in your legacy, in the memory of those who come after.”

The problem with this idea is that everybody who remembers you is gonna die too. And eventually the whole human race will see its end, and the greatest of all people will die with the last conscious breath. And all their achievements will finally amount to nothing.

“But maybe immortality is something still more profound. Maybe I like to think that humanity, though it be a short-lived phenomenon in the scheme of the universe, will always leave its mark. Surely the Earth is different because of us; after all the buildings and roads we built, and the landscapes reshaped, this planet will never be the same – it will never forget us. And then when the sun finally reaches its end, and expands to such a size as to absorb the whole Earth like a drop into the ocean, and the planet is incinerated and assimilated into the giant gaseous sphere, and when all those molecules that spent the ages circulating through our ecosystem are decomposed into their atomic sub particles and dispersed throughout the star, beginning their next journey as components in a new celestial body, I know that by the laws of causality all those atoms that composed me and that I came into contact with will be in a different place to where they would have been had I never existed.

This is my immortality: that I played a part in a larger causal network that extends across the entire universe, that after my body perishes, the actions I performed will forever affect the future. Whether the causal chains I set into motion are on a small scale or large, and whether their events will be witnessed or not, they will be my legacy. They will be the enduring continuation of my life. My immortality.”

Well if that’s what immortality is, then I don’t need it, and I don’t care about it.

lt may sound sublime and meaningful, but it only does so by rhetoric. All metaphors aside, it has no substance, no true meaning, and no genuine relevance for my life.

I, for one, am gonna chase something more real than that.

It’s funny how much we romanticise ‘dying to self’ until we try it: till we feel the burning, crushing injury to our heart of flesh. Death was never meant to be easy or fun. But the same Lord who requires it of us is the Lord our healer.