Either / Or..it’s mere Christianity

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money,
poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires,
slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God
which will make him happy.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“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?”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

According to our friends at Wikipedia,
Mere Christianity is a theological book by
C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944,
while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War.
Considered a classic of Christian apologetics, the transcripts of the broadcasts
originally appeared in print as three separate pamphlets:
The Case for Christianity (Broadcast Talks in the UK) (1942),
Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944).
Lewis was invited to give the talks by the Reverend James Welch, the BBC Director of Religious Broadcasting, who had read his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain.

Growing up as an Episcopalian, under the umbrella of the Anglican Church, I was first
introduced to C.S.Lewis when I was in about the 8th or 9th grade or so…
Our Sunday School class was assigned a book to read as part
of our Sunday School “curriculum.”

The book was The Screwtape Letters.

A book first published in 1942.
A time when Great Britain was in the throes of some of her darkest days…the midst of WWII.

This was a paperback book we were given and the cover actually scared me.
I made a point of always putting the book facedown when reading it.
I was not a huge fan of devils nor Satan for that matter…no fan of demonic images…
and with The Exorcist movie making its debut just about the same time,
I wasn’t having anything affiliated with Satan too close for my sense of comfort.

For you see, even early on in my life I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we were
living in a fallen world.
And in that fallen world we were (are) actually living in the middle of a massive
spiritual war…a war that was, and is, raging all around us.

Satan is very much real and will very much do what he can to thwart his mortal Enemy
who just so happens to be the Creator of both dark and light and of life and even of death…
And yet death with this Creator of ours is not a permanent predicament—

So in all of this, that being Spiritual war, there will naturally be casualties.
Casualties of a fallenness, a brokenness, a darkness and a sinfulness…in turn marking those
casualties prisoners of war.

The problem in all of this is that once captured and the battle finally ends with the Victor
coming again in triumph…the prisoners who fall to the whims of the dark enemy are then at the
point of being forever lost.

There is a narrow window in which one can choose which side of the battle one wants to be…
and sadly many have, as well as continue, to choose the wrong side.

If you scoff at such a notion…that’s fine.
But don’t ever say you weren’t informed.

And no that’s not Christianity being all about the big, the bad and the scary with a skewed
psychological tactic of punishment as its basis…it’s actually a matter of that being
exactly what it is—-that being the facts behind the story.

And so our Wikipedia friends once again explain that…
“The Screwtape Letters is a Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis and dedicated to
J. R. R. Tolkien.
It is written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format,
the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues,
primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it.”

First published in February 1942,
the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his
nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter.
The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a
British man known only as “the Patient”.

Funny that most young folks learn of Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia and with me,
I actually learn of him from the writings of devils.

There’s something to be said for that…and I think its because God always knew that I would
need to pass the allegorical early on, cutting straight to the chase.

Life has been that way for me.

However is wasn’t until when I was an adult that Lewis really came alive for me.
It was when I watched the 1993 movie Shadowlands…
a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
I’ve written about the movie before and if you’ve never seen it…
it is worth tracking down.

The movie is based on true events in Lewis’ life…such that I came away knowing that he totally
“got” this thing we call life.

Life with all of its curve balls…Curveballs that it loves to throw at those who call
themselves Christians as well as to the nonbelievers…it’s just that most folks scrutinize the
Christians when the bad things come—gauging their responses and reactions…
Nonbelievers like to mock and scoff Christians who suffer and hurt…sneering “where is your
God now?!”

But Life does not discriminate.
Life is hard.
It is not fair.
It often hurts and it can tempt us until we actually go practically mad.

And note that I say Life….not God, not Jesus…but rather simply Life…

For God nor Jesus torment.
Nor do they tempt or threaten or wreak havoc in our worlds…
That is merely the role Life plays in our lives.
Think back to what I said about living in a fallen world…

So when I read this latest quote by Lewis…I thought here is a man who despite speaking to us
from the depths of days long past…a man who spoke during a raging world war…
his observations are still very much current.

As this quote is particularly timely for our oh so modern 21st century smug
attitudes towards a no hold bar approach to sexuality.

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.

There is no getting away from it;
the Christian rule is,
‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner,
or else total abstinence.’

Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts,
that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong.
One or the other.
Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong …
God knows our situation;
He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.
What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.
Those who really wish for help will get it;
but for many modern people, even the wish is difficult…
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained
by any merely human efforts.
You must ask for God’s help.
Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help,
or less help than you need, is being given.
Never mind.
After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again.
Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this
power of always trying again.
For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be,
this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.
It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.
We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments,
and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.
The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.”

— C. S. Lewis, p. 95
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

brave knights and heroic courage

“I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”
Andrew Jackson


(Autumn and Poppie or Papa, depending on who you ask / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Andrew Jackson and Autumn seem to have much in common / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sometimes life is more than simply chasing the proverbial dream…

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

C.S. Lewis

past, present and future

“The Future is, of all things,
the thing least like eternity.
It is the most temporal part of time–
for the Past is frozen and no longer flows,
and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

C.S. Lewis


(a 1980 replica of an original glass medallion in the ornate ceiling of The Hermitage Hotel /
Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Among the various indications that make the holiness of God known to men,
the most convincing sign is the holiness of men, who are sanctified by the divine indwelling…
In teaching us the words, ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ our Lord also bids us,
when we pray, to ask that God may be glorified by our lives.
The sense of the prayer is this: ‘Grant us so to live, that all men may glorify Thee through us.’
God is sanctified or hallowed in the minds of other men through us,
to the extent that we are sanctified by Him.
Hence when we say: ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ we pray, as Cyprian remarks,
that God’s name may be hallowed in us.
Following the lead of Christ, who says: ‘Be holy, because I am holy,’
we beg that we, who have been sanctified in Baptism,
may persevere in the state in which we began.
Furthermore, we pray daily to be sanctified in order that we,
who daily fall, may wash away our sins by a constant process of purification.”

St. Thomas Aquinas
p. 350-51
An Excerpt From
Aquinas’ Shorter Summa

nothing more to give…

“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds,
his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications,
by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what
belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will,
by obedience, gives to Him all that he has,
and can say:
Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 191
AN Excerpt From
The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguiori


(city mural /Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)

The ins and out in and out of a city…as seen in the lives of the fortunate and unfortunate.


(sign posted within a doorway near an area known for the homeless/ Julie Cook / Nashville/ 2018)


(two images of a bird with a broken wing just off the park where the homeless congrugate
in Nashville / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a very sick dove sits out amongst the throng of 4th of July revalers, over looked and
basicaly ingnored by the enormous crowd / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a couple of wild turkeys and a squirrel resting during a heatwave on the grounds of
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(a squirrel pays no attention to the tourists gathered by it’s side at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage/
Julie Cook / 2018)

“But there must be a real giving up of the self.
You must throw it away
“blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own personality
is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.
The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.
Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His)
will not come as long as you are looking for it.
It will come when you are looking for Him.
Does that sound strange?
The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters.
Even in social life,
you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort
of impression you are making.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original:
whereas if you simply try to tell the truth
(without caring twopence how often it has been told before)
you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self,
and you will find your real self.
Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death
of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and
you will find eternal life.
Keep back nothing.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred,
loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.
But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

come in out of the wind

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day.
Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings;
coming in out of the wind.”

C.S. Lewis


(Papa, or Poppie as it depends on who you ask, and Autumn on the last day of
business/ Julie Cook 2018)

50 years is a long time to wait for that final day when you don’t have to unlock shop and carry
on the business of life in retail.

There will soon be, on this mile marker along life’s journey, more to this story
but there is still a good bit of moving, settling and simply exhaling after such a
very long haul.

We’re turning a page…for good or bad…


(anticipating being able to actually fish when they say the fish are biting rahter
than waiting for a stray day off when it’s windy and cold)


(it was such a cake filled day of celebration as well as tearful good-byes…
and thank you Melissa and Mark for all the added sweetness)

One very long and tiring chapter is now complete as we look forward to
the next chapter…
and that chapter’s name is Autumn…


(Autumn with mom Abby as they survey Papa’s cake / Julie Cook / 2018)

After the storm

“Let the Word of God come; let it enter the church;
let it become a consuming fire, that it may burn the hay and stubble,
and consume whatever is worldly; there is heavy lead of iniquity in many;
let it be molten by divine fire; let the gold and silver vessels be made better,
in order that understanding and speech, refined by the heat of suffering,
may begin to be more precious.”

St. Ambrose


(the break following a very stormy day / Julie Cook / 2018)

“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 this moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

C. S. Lewis, p. 92
An Excerpt From
Mere Christianity

courage, courageous or more of the same ol’ lies…

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point,
which means at the point of highest reality. ”

C.S. Lewis


(image from the movie of Hacksaw Ridge)

Okay, so lately we’ve been reading, hearing and seeing a lot being made mention
concerning the notion of courage.

You know what I think of when I hear or see the word courage?

Hacksaw Ridge.

If you have not seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge…well you need to watch it in order
to understand the notion of courage.

It’s the courage of being both verbally and physically abused…not by some twisted
martyristic desire but rather as a result of one’s convictions.
To be beaten to a pulp because you’ve opted to stand up for your Christian faith of
pacifism because you feel deeply called to do your part against the onslaught and scourge
of fascism during a world war.

A subjugation of abuse simply because of your belief and faith.
Ridiculed and maligned because you know deep down, God has called you to serve and you
believe that serving means to do so without a gun.

And as a faithful servant, you know you must answer God’s call…
it is simply what you must endure.

And yet there are a myriad of examples of courage…
it’s just that that one example first came to mind.

Of course, you can walk down any children’s hospital across this Nation and you will
readily see courage on a day to day basis on each and every face of each and every child
in each one of those hospitals…
but that is a different tale for a different day.

However, the courage we keep hearing about these days is a different type of courage.
It is a man-made notion of courage that has been molded to fit neatly into a post-Chrisitan era.

Courage as in it is courageous to come out of “one’s closet”
Courage as in it is courageous to admit to being gay.
Courage as in it is courageous to be born, say, a man, and decide to be a woman…
or visa-versa…only to decide differently agian…and on and on…
Courage as in it is courageous to stand up for beliefs that are for all things progressive
as in contrary to anything conservative or even orthodox…

Yet it seems that this modern-day courageous business hits a speed bump when
one thinks that being courageous simply means to speak out and against middle American
conservative values…

Values such as the concept of a traditional family, sexual morality,
life versus abortion, to possess a strong work ethic versus a governmental handout,
opposition to illegal immigration, patriotism etc…

Today’s society believes it is courage to scorn traditional beliefs.

That is not courage…that is egotistical arrogance pretending to be courageous.

And so when reading our friend the Wee Flea’s latest post,
I am reminded of the importance of courage.

Well actually…it’s from reading his last two posts…
as one is a book review and the other is a piggyback from both the book and
its review as well as a rebuttal to the author.

His is a post that was written to refute the latest adulations over a former Chrisitan singer
(Vicky Breeching / Undivided)
who has let herself out of the proverbial closet and who has written a book describing her
now liberating ordeal as brave because she has been a lifelong victim of
conservative Christianity…

So that’s it now???

As a sinner, one is now simply a victim??

A victim of sin…but what of repentance?
Sin, it seems is now without a cross, without a Savior and without saving Grace…

Well, that certainly lets us all off the hook now doesn’t it…

This woman is currently making the US and UK book tour circuit and has been met with a
resounding level of applause from the liberal press, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
and those of the LGBT sector.

David reminds those of us who remain opposed to any sort of notion of a Biblical
condoning of a homosexual relationship as being perfectly fine that we are not,
in the eyes of God, wrong…
no matter how much our progressive society tries to paint us as wrongheaded
and backward in our thinking.

This new trend that seems to be known as “Gay Christianity” is actually a most
dangerous trend that is working fast and furious to drive a wedge straight into the heart
of the Chruch.

And so David, in his recent post, list points for Christians to hold to and to be
accountable to in this latest fight…
with one such point being that of courage and courageousness.
And it is with courage that we stand united against the growing assault by a
progressive post-Christan culture.

8) We must not be cowards – we respond with courage.

One person wrote and told me that after they posted a ‘like’ to my review on
‘Undivided’, they were reported to a British Government institution for being homophobic!
This is the kind of intimidation that causes many to be silent.
Vicky talks about British evangelical churches putting their heads in the sand and being silent.
She is right. We need to speak out against the intimidation and the lies…
even, or especially, when it comes from those who are pleasant and plausible.
Are you prepared to speak out with grace and truth?
And we need the courage to rebuke those who would take the same view as us but are abusive
and full of hatred.

David concludes his post with a lesson…

One final lesson I have gleaned from Vicky’s book and interviews.
In her woundedness and hurt, she has become a very intolerant and demanding person.
She won’t attend churches that hold non-affirming theology, like HTB.
She demands that churches she goes to should never have someone in the pulpit who says
that marriage should be between a man and a woman –
because otherwise she might be triggered.
(I note in passing that there is not a great deal of humility or tolerance in her approach…’
do what I want or I will condemn you’ is the mantra.
She has also ‘unfollowed’ me on Twitter…which kind of gives the lie to
‘lets have respectful discussion’ –
I find that most liberals are like that –
we have to agree with them, or we are beyond the pale).
She wants the warmth and friendliness of the evangelical church –
just without the evangel.
My fear is that there are far too many of us evangelicals who are dangerously
close to a similar position – in private if not in public.

Liberal evangelicals want a God without judgement, a Cross without atonement,
a Bible without hard things and a church without the Jesus of the Bible.

Those of us who believe in that Jesus must hold fast and not be intimidated or deceived
into giving up on him.
I leave you with these apposite words from that Jesus to the church in Thyatira –
Words that today would see him accused of ‘hate speech’ and condemned by the liberal
evangelicals of being ‘unChristlike’!

“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet
are like burnished bronze.
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance,
and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Nevertheless, I have this against you:
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.
By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of
food sacrificed to idols.
I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
So I will cast her on a bed of suffering,
and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely,
unless they repent of her ways.
I will strike her children dead.
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds,
and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

An Open Letter to the Evangelical Church about Vicky Beeching and ‘Gay Christianity’