Valentine’s Day is known for the exchanging of gifts due to romantic affections and intentions, but few know the the true story behind Saint Valentine. More important still is the fact that all love that truly is love comes from God. Gretchen Passantino Coburn of Answers in Action shares her knowledge of Church history and her profound insights on this edition of Mere Christian Radio.
On this weekend's show I did my best to memorialize a man who deserves more than an hour of radio. By the various blogs and social media posts I've seen, Lewis is getting quite a bit of coverage. It does my heart good. Lewis says somewhere that we read to know we're not alone. I know without an inkling of a doubt that I am not alone in my love of all things Lewisiana. The thing is, though, I struggle to explain why. I like it that way. See, it's like asking me why I love my parents. Once I start making a list it begins to undermine the whole thing. Lewis has helped me have a deeper understanding of Christianity. He's helped me understand the broader implications of the Gospel. But to put it succinctly, I think I have to echo Peter Kreeft: Lewis helps me see God.
With hindsight being what it is, we can see that God was present in Lewis's life in profound ways. One of the deepest examples-and one that gives me goosebumps-is Lewis's lifelong desire for joy. It had come to him in various ways, and as a Christian he began to see more clearly what joy is and from where (and Whom) it comes. God, though, has a grand sense of humor and irony, and both were on display as Lewis (known to his friends as “Jack”) fell in love with a woman named Joy. He writes that the love that passed him by in his 20s was found in his 50s.
Lewis knew the darker side of life. Perhaps that is what made his longing for joy even deeper. He had fought in WWI where he witnessed the evils of modern warfare, the loss of fellow soldiers (some were his closest friends), and the nagging sense that life is meaningless. Before the war began the seeds of despair were planted in Lewis's heart when, at age 9, he lost his mother to cancer. He called for her, but she was gone. His father's despair alienated him from his two sons (Lewis had an older brother named “Warnie.”). The collective dark night of that family's soul paved the way for Lewis to become an atheist. He reasoned that if God were good, and if God were omnipotent, then God would not have let his mother die. In his early 30s Lewis began to believe in God again, and a couple of years later he became a Christian. The wounds in his soul, however, kept him from getting too close. He turned 50 as a confirmed bachelor. Little did he know that Aslan was on the move.
Yes, Lewis found joy. And yes, he even found Joy! But he once again found pain. God's humor and irony began to feel like a cruel joke when Joy died of cancer. His faith shaken, the great apologist had no answers. The silence he had heard at age 9 when he called for his mother had come back with a vengeance, only this time the silence came as he longed for his wife and as he called for the God he had come to believe in, preach, and defend. He had written so profoundly about suffering in The Problem of Pain, but all the arguments in the world cannot heal a broken heart. The loss of Joy was, for a time, the loss of joy. New life began to emerge, but from what I've pieced together, Lewis died of a broken heart. It would be deceptive to leave people with the idea that Lewis's faith had failed him or that he had come reject God. Far from it. His doubts brought him to deeper insights and experiences of the richness of God and His work in this world. And God has left us a great example to follow, for God is God of all, not just the good times in life. Lewis's honesty in the face of suffering (seen clearly in A Grief Observed) has strengthened my faith by allowing me to ask the hard questions about life, paradoxically removing the incessant need to know and understand everything. Without that freedom, I don't think I could be real.
Lewis has helped me find joy. I don't know who I would be without having read Lewis. I know God better because of the writings of a middle-aged bald man from an England that no longer exists. I see God more clearly because of Lewis. To have a show named after his famous work is an honor. Lewis helps me see God. I hope I can help people see the man who can help them see God!
Jack found his joy. May you find yours.
This is my third year as a delegate for the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin annual convention. Each year has offered something unique. Two years ago saw the installation of a new bishop. Last year Georgette Forney of Anglicans for Life gave an address that had everyone in tears. This year the focus is on catechesis. I've been impressed with each lecture. I like analogies, so here's one that I hope works: I feel like a football team that has been down and out for a while and is in training camp. The sports prognosticators pick the team to finish last in the division again, but the players on the team are seeing something they haven't seen in a while: signs of life, hard work, dedication, and a strong, but quiet confidence. (Maybe I'm just projecting what I wish my beloved Oakland Raiders had going!) Anglicanism in the United States has been through the fire with various issues involving the Episcopal Church, issues ranging from the authority of Scripture to the nature of God to human sexuality and abortion. As individuals, churches, even entires dioceses have sought refuge, there have been lawsuits over property, loss of buildings, laymen and clergy being put out of fellowship, and various and sundry personal attacks. From the ruins have emerged new churches, church plants, realignments, and even a new governing body: the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America). At this year's convention I'm seeing new life spring forth. I'm very ecumenical. I love the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. I was raised Pentecostal; I was a member of a Roman Catholic parish; for the last five years I've been a member of an Anglican parish. I never want to be alienating (I really do believe in “mere Christianity”), but I have no qualms about expressing my belief in-and love for-sacraments, liturgy, the creeds, and the authority of the Church. It's good to see the Anglican Church growing again.
This shouldn’t go on.
Veteran apologist, Gretchen Passantino Coburn, has started a book club under her well-known apologetics ministry, Answer in Action. Please join for reading, fellowship, and edifying discussion.
Adam’s words from Genesis 3 came to me earlier as I spent time in prayer and reflection. I’m sure I’m not alone in relating to Adam. It’s fitting that his name literally means “man”, for we have all hid. So many fears. So many places to hide. The deepest part about Adam’s words is that he was confessing to God why he had tried to hide from…GOD. “I was afraid of You, so I hid.” Why? Why would anyone try to hide from God? It’s because God is the Truth, and the truth can be unbearable.
Sin leads to hiding because God is holy. His universe is meant to run on goodness. Sin disrupts the entire cosmos. Cursed is the ground. Hard are the days. Lonely are the nights. And the hiding continues.
But it’s not just sin itself that leads to hiding. It’s the collective effect of sin in and around us: the fear of being known. Mask after mask do we wear to keep people from our real selves, to keep ourselves from our real selves! “I was afraid you would reject me, so I hid behind this mask.” “I was afraid you would leave me, so I hid behind apathy.” “I was afraid of being alone, so I hid in a crowd.” The places to hide are legion. The reason to hide is one: fear.
Aslan’s words from The Magician’s Nephew come to mind: “Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” God is good. Still we hide. We need each other. Yet, we hide. We need to know ourselves. We remain hidden. Our sins become our identity, and our dysfunctions become our character as we tell one lie after another: “I can handle my liquor.” “I never really loved her.” “I’ve never had to rely on anyone.”
Going to confession has been a huge blessing for me. It is there that I am reassured of God’s love for me, and sacramentally I am renewed and forgiven. I realize, though, that there is more. If I want to go deeper in Christ, I have to stop hiding. I have to stop wearing the masks. I have to confront fear. My deepest fear happens to be my greatest longing: to be known. The crippling fear of being relationally vulnerable has often kept me echoing my father, Adam: “I was afraid, so I hid.” Thank God for the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, who responds to me: “I knew you went and hid, so I went and found you.”
Recently I had to face a significant disappointment. At first I reacted with anger and frustration, and while the pain does linger even as I write, I can't help but see the obvious; pain can take me back to the ultimate square one: the Cross. Among the many promises in Scripture, carrying a cross and suffering with Christ is at the top of the list. No need to seek suffering, for it will come. I want God to heal my pain and fix my problems, but doing so might mean helping me walk away from what I NEED. I admire people who have endured suffering and loss, and on the surface I long to have their depth of character. But will I do what it takes to have that character? Will I return good for evil? Will I pray for those who have hurt me? Will I follow God when life looks like a farce?
There is a reason why I've never enjoyed reading many of the Psalms. The pain, agony, and longing is so gut-wretchingly real and honest that I squirm. Thank God for them. And thank God for His answer: the Resurrection of our Lord and the resurrection that is to come. One day God will wipe away every tear. One day. Not today.
This weekend’s show is the latest in MCR’s love of music. C.S. Lewis said the world doesn’t need need more Christian books, rather the world needs more good books. When it comes to popular music and entertainment, I agree. That is why it is so important to THINK and not merely react. What is the song saying? How does it tell me about the Good, the True, and the Beautiful?