Act well at the moment, and you have performed a good action for all eternity.
- Lavater, Swiss Theologian and Mystic (1741-1801)
Food for Thought
When people seek to share the message of Christ, most of their appeals are made in an attempt to speak to people’s hearts. From my experience however, most non-believers take great pride in thinking of themselves as guided by reason. A more effective way of reaching these people then, would be to make the case for Christianity not from an emotional standpoint, but from a logical standpoint.
That’s where you enter the realm of Christian apologetics. While I think it’s somewhat of an unfortunate label in that lends itself to being misconstrued, just realize that when we speak of Christian apologetics, it’s not a method of making apologies and saying you’re sorry for being a Christian, the word “apologetics” in this case is derived directly from the Greek, apologia: a rebuttal or verbal defense.
In having just finished C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, I want to tell you that it lays out the strongest, most rational case for Christianity I’ve ever encountered.
Again, we’re left with a title that’s a little bit subject to misinterpretation. We’re not speaking of “mere Christianity” here the way you might say a person acts like nothing more than a “mere child”, instead, Lewis borrows the phrase from the 17th century writer Richard Baxter, who wrote of “mere Christianity” as being the essentials of Christianity, the core beliefs shared by Catholics and Protestants alike. Lewis goes on to define it as “an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere’ Christianity, which omits the disputed points.” And doesn’t it make perfect sense to start the non-believer from the point where all the denominations agree, instead of getting lost in the points of contention?
At the age of 30 as a non-believer attending Oxford, Lewis says he finally gave in and admitted that “God was God”, describing himself as “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” It is from that perspective as a former non-believer that Lewis uses his great talents as a writer to document his own evolution from the non-believer to the true believer. In doing so, he makes a compelling case for Christianity.
At 229 pages, Mere Christianity has more thought-provoking passages per page than just about anything I’ve ever read. Allow me to share just seven samples in hopes it may inspire you to pickup a copy of the book yourself:
On being an atheist:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
On the devil:
Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil – hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.”
On free will:
When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of the cleverer and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all.
On the oft-repeated “respect” the non-believer gives in saying Jesus was a great teacher:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
On why we need Jesus to properly repent of our sins:
Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.
. . .
You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.
On propriety, or decency:
The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest,’ proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.
There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was ‘the sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it’. And I am afraid that is the sort of idea that the word Morality raises in a good many people’s minds: something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.
. . .
People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
I’ve done my share of travelling in both directions. I need ask myself of myself more often, towards which state am turning today?
We’re just scratching the surface here, but imagine an entire book of kernels of wisdom like the seven shared here, and for every kernel, even more to ponder as he expands on every thought. Mere Christianity is full of inspiration and full of ammunition should you enter in a discussion of God with the typical atheist who prides themselves on their logical thinking.
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Today the NFL and the sports world as a whole lost one of the all-time greats. Deacon Jones passed away here in Orange County, California at the age of seventy-four.
Deacon Jones was one bade dude, and I say that with all the respect in the world. Deacon may have struck more fear into the hearts of quarterbacks than any other man who ever lined up on defense, and he would make just about anybody’s short list of greatest defensive players in NFL history. He invented the term “sack”, as in sacking the quarterback and while the NFL didn’t officially start counting sacks as a statistic until 1982, it’s said that if the old films were to be gone over, Deacon Jones would hold the record by a large margin as the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks.
(Hey NFL, it would be pocket change for you to hire retired officials to go year by year over all the film from all the games and give credit where credit is due to all the defensive players who played in the years before 1982.)
In honor of the man, today I pulled off the bookshelf The Book of Deacon. It’s a great little gem of a book compiled by John Klawitter that has the wit and wisdom of Deacon Jones. It was too hard to narrow it down to a top ten list, I’m hoping with the plug, this list will still constitute “fair use”. This is just a small sampling and the book is well worth the purchase.
#25 – There are all kinds of smiles. On the football field I mostly used the one where the hawk spots the dove. – Deacon Jones, when kidded about never showing a sunny disposition during the game. (See photo.)
#24 – You hear all this stuff about inner peace. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I say, hit that line hard. Crack that book . . . Do your very best all the time and inner peace will take care of itself. The Deacon guarantees it. – Deacon Jones on the relative value of hard work versus meditation.
#23 – When it comes to your life’s work, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Even Jesus had an occasional joke with the boys, take walking on water, for instance . . . but there’s a time and place for fun. Jesus never faltered when it came time to tip over the money stalls or to take his hard walk up the mountain. – Deacon Jones on taking yourself seriously.
#22 – If you feel like you want to die, it’s time to sit down and make a list of all the things you haven’t done yet. – Deacon Jones talking about despair.
#21 – I believe that if you die trying to be your best, the world is still a better place.
#20 – I reserve the right to change my mind. But once I decide on something, I’m going to need a good reason to switch. – Deacon Jones on setting a course.
#19 – I did come up with the term “sack” to describe the devastation I was bringing on the poor, cringing quarterbacks in the NFL. “Sack the quarterback.” That was nice. I thought it was lots better than saying, “Jones tackles the QB behind the line for another loss of yardage . . . ” It had a ring to it, and it caught on with the sports writers. But I tell you, doing it was a lot more fun than talking about it.
#18 – When I flew from Orlando to Los Angeles in 1960, I sat next to a guy from Disney who was paying 75¢ an acre for land. I thought he was some special kind of fool . . . and since they built the park, history has proven there was a fool sitting in one of our seats.
#17 – First, you’ve got to get the job. “Yeah, I can do it,” I would say. When I was a kid, I could do anything. Lucky nobody ever asked me if I could fly a jet plane.
#16 – Know the difference between famous and great. – Deacon Jones, chiding a novice sportswriter who called him a famous football player.
#15 – When I was a teenager, I was so dumb my mamma knocked me off the porch with a broom. You wish you had so good a mamma. – Deacon Jones on a parental discipline.
#14 – Somebody told me when Abe Lincoln was a young man, studying by firelight, he said, “I will work hard. I will prepare myself. And my time will come.” And you know, that’s exactly what I said about myself and football . . . What do you think? Were Abe and I both just lucky ducks?
#13 – How can you possibly be sympathetic to every fool on the planet? Just the other day, I heard a man whining about his hopeless love of cross-dressing. Call me unenlightened, but I started to laugh. – Deacon Jones on his own impatience with political correctness.
#12 – I never was very big on praying for victory. For God to give a big win to the Denver Broncos, wouldn’t He have to take it away from somebody else, say, the Green Bay Packers?
#11 – And so now you think society is to blame for the mess you made of yourself? – Deacon Jones on whiners.
#10 – The only thing Native Americans ever did better than the rest of us is spirituality. Of course, that’s everything, isn’t it?
#9 – A nation that spends billions to fix international problems will not have much left over for the victims of tornadoes in Oklahoma.
#8 – You are one of a kind, one in a billion, an incredible unique individual. The problem is, so is everybody else.
#7 – It took me a long time to figure out that real big-time success comes from taking lots of small, ordinary steps in the right direction. And you can’t ever take the next step until you take the first.
#6 – You’ll find your life greatly simplified if you only worry about stuff you can fix.
#5 – Be patient with the negative people of the world. Take a moment to think how they are helping you clarify your own thinking and firming your own resolve. Then headslap them out of your way.
#4 – The problem a guy who lies all the time faces is he never can tell when anybody else is telling the truth.
#3 – The only rules not meant to be broken are those of love and virtue.
#2 – Memory is what you did. Life is what you’re doing.
#1 – All men are created equal. After that, it’s up to you.
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Ha ha! See, it’s funny because they should swap plates so the small-breasted girl could eat more and have bigger breasts . . .
Being a married man, I don’t actually look at other women’s breasts anymore (and that’s the worst lie I’ve ever tried to float at this blog) but were I a single guy, I would honestly have just as much fun with either one of that pair of women, or either one of those pairs.
So a new study tells us men who like big breasts are more sexist. Seriously, how do studies like this even get funded? You needed to do a study to find out there are millions of big breast obsessed and sexist Al Bundys in America? All you have to do is listen to an hour or two of The Howard Stern Show to know guys who are obsessed with big breasts tend to view women as sex objects.
Howard Stern is one of the funniest guys alive, I’ve read both of his books, laughed through the movie Private Parts and listened to his radio show for a couple years back in the day, but the guy is unrepentant in looking at women as sex objects and his fixation on big breasts is just a direct extension of that. The bigger the implants, the better they are in his mind, in fact, you could even say there is no greater advocate for plastic surgery in America than Howard Stern.
I couldn’t be any more different how I view it, although sometimes it’s best to keep it to yourself. I was one of the groomsmen at a friend’s wedding some years back, lovely bride, beautiful ceremony (and God bless them, they’re still married.) After the dinner, with everyone high in the spirits, I’m hanging out with my buddy Ray and his girlfriend at the time, and we’re exchanging pleasantries about how nice everything was and how lovely the bride was and how gorgeous that one bridesmaid looked with a handsome guy like me escorting her down the aisle – alright, she was gorgeous on her own – and I said she was definitely gorgeous, but did you see how fake those boobs of her’s were?
What followed was my worst outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease ever (okay, let’s just say it ranks up there.) I began a bit of a monologue on how I just don’t understand the whole fake breasts thing and that God doesn’t make mistakes and that getting fake breasts is like a slap in the face to God and, and . . . and I might have been going on as long as twenty or thirty seconds before I noticed the two of them just staring at me expressionless before I realized I hadn’t even considered the possibility that Ray’s girl Tracy had fake boobs as well. At that point, what could I do but just apologize, do a facepalm and mutter something about being such a dumbass.
Of course, I’ve always known that what a woman does with her appearance is her own business and that my theory of “just go with what God gave you” is nothing more than personal preference, but that one moment was sufficiently embarrassing that ever since, I’ve managed to keep my opinion to myself in casual conversation.
The truth is, getting a bigger rack may indeed get a woman a few more head turns, so I may be a bit in the minority of men on this, but myself personally, as wonderful as cleavage is, I also think perky is just as nice. A-cups, b-cups, c-cups, and on and on to the truly ginormous, thank goodness I have enough self-control to always look women directly in their eyes because I love breasts of all shapes and sizes.
As a matter of fact, going by the findings of the study, I may be the least sexist of all the men you know.
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I had the great fortune of not tuning into the Oscars last night, so today, I don’t have to blog about the four hours of my life I’d like to have back if somehow I’d been given the Clockwork Orange treatment and been forced to endure watching that awards show, but in reading through a pretty funny bit of “live snarking” by Nikki Finke I learned from the comments that good old Hanoi Jane was honored by Hollywood with a role as presenter of some award or another.
So it got me to thinking about Hollywood and its long and storied love affair with Communism, which got me to wondering what the world would look like if the preponderance of Commies in Hollywood had seen their hearts’ desires come true and it was actually the Communists who won the Cold War.
First off, voting would be a whole lot easier . . .
No longer would the masses have to trouble their heads with the issues, the choice would be as easy as showing up to the voting booth and marking the one box available. Just as surely as Hollywood respects a guy like Woody Allen, who has the courage to say what most of the rest of them are thinking in saying that Obama should be granted dictatorial powers, having one man on the ballot and one man in control of everything would make life in America so much more efficient and simple, and what could possibly say “national unity” so loud and clear as a nation where our Dear Leader gets 100% of the vote each and every election until his death?
Speaking of unity, if the Commies had won the Cold War, imagine the joys of those Soviet-era bread lines for all the citizens of the world to take part in. Nothing says getting to know your fellow comrade like standing in line for hours to receive your fair share of the delicious loaves churned out by our state-run bakeries.
If the Commies had won the Cold War, there’d no longer be any desire to “keep up with your neighbors” when it comes to the kind of car you drive because there’d only be two types of cars, cars with the kind of quality and craftsmanship we saw in the Yugo for the proles, and of course, a luxury vehicle for every member of the Politburo, who should never have to suffer the indignity of driving the same types of vehicles as the working class.
Best thing is, it would only take about a dozen years of diligent savings for every prole to have their very own death bucket – er, I mean, fine automobile.
Of course, there would also be Obama phones! Obama phones – free to each and every member of our great society! Just imagine the glorious type of technology that would be free to all comrades, as shown in this depiction of what this year’s latest Obama phone would look like had the Commies won the Cold War.
Finally, we could ban Fox News and all the other news channels would no longer have to waste any effort in trying to have some superficial semblance of objectivity to their reporting. It would be all good news, all the time, a non-stop celebration of our socialist utopia, in this, the best of all possible worlds.
Ahhh yes, it brings back fond nostalgia of the New York Times celebrating the great progress and prosperity of the Soviets under Joseph Stalin while tens of millions were purposefully allowed to starve during his great reign.
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The end of the world came, and then it went, and yet the world still exists! The exact moment of the winter solstice occurred at 6:12 a.m. EST (1112 GMT) this morning, the “end” of the Mayan calendar. Of course, once a year we pass into the winter solstice, but what was special about this solstice was the fact that it marked the point where the Sun is aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.
What an incredibly advanced society of astronomers the Mayans were to forcast this alignment of the Sun and the center of the galaxy in a calendar which stretched back thousands of years before their time, beginning their “Long Count” on August 12, 3114 B.C. and looking forward to the end of the calendar 5,126 years later on this date, December 21, 2012.
What it really amounted to however, was not the end of the calendar but the end of the thirteenth baktun and the start of the fourteenth, as the “odometer” of 126.96.36.199.19 yesterday rolled over to 188.8.131.52.0 today. The world is still here and tomorrow will be 184.108.40.206.1 on the Long Count.
The reason I became somewhat transfixed with today’s date was that I began my own countdown to today’s date in 2008 as I added a new feature to my date reminder software program that had always worked as a handy reminder for yearly occurrences such as birthdays and anniversaries and created a new event type which allowed people to track a specific date years ahead or years in the past. To test the new feature, I added an event marking The End of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012. I’ve been watching the approach of today’s date for over 1,700 days.
One of the benefits in watching the end of the world approach for years in advance is that you get a real sense of how the time we have on this Earth is a finite thing and you develop a sense of urgency in realizing that we cannot count on an endless expanse of days to accomplish the goals we were born to achieve.
Of course, there can be unintended consequences of half-heartedly convincing yourself the end of the world is just around the corner, you might find yourself maxing out the credit cards or convincing yourself with a wink and a nudge that there’s really no need to quit smoking today because the world’s going to end in a few months or years anyways, but if and when December 22nd rolls around and you and I are still here to enjoy it, we can tell ourselves hey, the world was supposed to end yesterday, all our remaining days are just gravy – an unexpected bonus.
My wife worries about my obsession with the apocalypse and the end of the world. When I told her the solstice came and went and the world’s still here, she replied simply, “Life is beautiful if you make it beautiful.”
Enjoy the overtime period, my friends.