Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

Each year, the holiday season brings with it many historic traditions, like the red cups at Starbucks, the bad pop Christmas songs playing in every retail store in the country, and the revived rhetoric among certain Christians about “keeping Christ in Christmas.” Perhaps you have heard talk of this on the news or seen posts about it in your Facebook feed. I assume the underlying concern is that the removal of any religious references from the holiday might indicate a resistance against or stifling of Christianity in our country. I can appreciate that. But, first, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve got multiple holidays happening in tandem rather than one religious holiday being continually corrupted. C.S. Lewis identified three Christmases in his essay “What Christmas Means to Me” from God in the Dock: there’s the “religious festival,” which is “important and obligatory for Christians,” and the “popular holiday,” which is “an occasion for merry-making and hospitality” for many, regardless of religion or background. Lewis calls the third Christmas the “commercial racket” that “has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers.” He elaborates in typical Lewis fashion—smart, concise, funny—if you’re interested in reading the entire essay, but I’ve shared enough to make my present point. Continue reading Have You Kept Christ in Christmas?

The “Quieter Love” That Comes with Time

I met my husband when I was fifteen years old. We fell in love as kids. Jordan used to pick me up at my parents’ house in his white mustang to take me out on dates: to movies; to go swing dancing; to the local Albuquerque coffee shop where he had asked me to be his girlfriend in the first place. We dated for several years (broke up once in the middle) and married two months before my twentieth birthday.

The groundwork for our relationship was laid in the early days of our youth, which paired nicely with the pleasant dizziness of youthful love: love that is just starting out, just revving up, just blossoming and overwhelming you with its sweet fragrance.

Sometimes I miss those early days of being in love. I’ve seen more and more engagement announcements in my Facebook feed in recent years, always accompanied by photos of the smiling couple and the girl showing off her ring, always full of the particular excitement and giddiness that comes with still-young love.

Let me be clear: I love my husband more than anyone. He’s my favorite person in the world. I certainly haven’t “fallen out of love” with him (whatever that means). Our romance is still young in a lot of ways, and there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to next.

But our love is different than it was back in high school, or when we first got married, and I’ve learned that that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. We have both changed over the years, because that’s what human beings do as they grow and learn. We’ve gotten to know each other (and ourselves) better. We’ve faced some challenges and made some big decisions together. We’ve seen each other at our worst, our most vulnerable, and our weakest. We’ve enjoyed each other at our best.

There’s a passage about love from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity I’ve been thinking on lately (and which I’ve mentioned on here before). It’s long, but it’s great, so here it is:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

This quieter love is what, I think, Jordan and I are beginning to experience now, after entering our fifth year of marriage (and the eighth year of our relationship). Because not only do we as individuals change with time, but love changes, too. After you’ve left the stage of new, young love, you begin to experience what older love is like…not that I would classify what Jordan and I have as particularly “old,” but it’s older than it was eight years ago when we started dating or five years ago when we married. Like us, it’s aging and growing and changing. Love is not a static thing. And (Lord willing) in five, ten, twenty-five, or fifty years, I’m sure our love will be different than it is now.

Relationships are fortified through little, everyday things. Earlier this summer, Jordan and I were apart for over three weeks, which is the longest we’ve spent apart since getting married. (It unpleasantly reminded us of the roughly two years we spent long-distance dating, which, as I articulated in an exasperated Twitter post while Jordan was away, “SUCKED FOREVER.”)

Some of the things I missed most during that time were just the everyday parts of our relationship. I missed our evening routine of making dinner and watching something on Hulu or Netflix together. I missed having someone just to talk to about my feelings. I missed the silly little things we’d do to make each other laugh, like doing a dorky dance while taking the dishes to the kitchen or making up our own lyrics to cheesy love songs to sing to each other from the next room. I missed lying in bed together, staring up at the dark ceiling, and talking about our days or our future or how we want to raise our kids and all of the other little, secret things you only share with a spouse. This must be the stuff of Lewis’ “quieter love.”

I am excited by this new stage of love that, while not as flashy as its predecessor, is a little deeper and richer and growing more so day by day. I remember fondly the early days of our romance, but I wouldn’t trade what we have now to go back and start all over again.

Onwards and upwards.

Image via IM Creator.

Pull Question: The Origin of the Species

Why is the existence of God beyond the scope of science for Darwin?

Darwin’s Origin of the Species ends with the following sentence:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

I was rather surprised—and pleased—to find that Darwin does not immediately couple his theory of evolution with atheism. In this last sentence, he even alludes to life as being initiated by the Creator. There are several conclusions I can reach from a cursory glance at this ending:

First, Darwin is writing to lay people. Before this time, he had produced other scientific works, but none were directed to the common people. The Origin of the Species was meant to be read by the unscientific masses, and when Darwin published the book in 1859, most of the West was still Christian. To publish such a theory and not still attribute existence to God would have severely damaged the reception of the work.

Second, Darwin never claims to know the source of all life. He writes in his conclusion, “It may be asked how far I extend the doctrine of the modification of species. The question is difficult to answer…it does not seem incredible that…all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth may be descended from some one primordial form.”

Notice here that while Darwin postulates that all life may have descended from one original species, he makes no move to claim that this species sprang into existence of its own volition. He does not cite the big bang theory. In fact, he states, “I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one.” Darwin simply steers clear of the original source.

The existence of God is outside the scope of Darwin’s work. Darwin understands that speculating on the original source is a question of Why and not of What. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states:

But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes – something of a different kind – this is not a scientific question…The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. (Book 1, Chapter 4)

Science is an observational practice. This means that it is relegated to answering the question What? It cannot move to answer the question Why?—that is the job of religion. Darwin very wisely sticks to answering What? He observes that species gradually change over time, and conjectures that perhaps they modify from one species to another over longer periods of time. But he stays away from guessing at the original source of all life, because that would be answering Why life exists.

Atheists have since encompassed the source of all life in the theory of evolution, which  moves the theory from the realm of science to that of religion. Darwin never made that claim. At one point, he comments, “My conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection…I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.”

However Christians may disagree with Darwin, we cannot rebuke him for denying the existence of God. He never did it.

Weekly Roundup (Shutdown Edition)

If the cover image worried you for a moment, fear not, faithful readers.  The Evangelical Outpost did not shut down this week.  We’re an essential service!

Politico takes us on a photo tour of the previous 17 federal government shutdowns.  (What might be most surprising to many people, given the current level of rhetoric in the media, is just how many times the government shut down during the Reagan administration with a Democrat-controlled House).

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Matt Welch writes at CNN that, while the shutdown is bad politics (especially for Republicans), it’s ultimately nothing to worry about.

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In the midst of all the budget battles raging these days, with frequent calls from Republicans to lower taxes and cut entitlement spending, Andrew Quinn argues that it’s time for conservatives to make explicit what is already implicit in their economic goals: championing the poor.

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Not only is the world still spinning during the federal government shutdown, but worlds beyond our solar system are too.  Here’s the first cloud map of one such exoplanet.

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Warning: This article is graphic and not for those with sensitive consciences, but it is a must read (especially for those with children):  Experiment that convinced me online porn is the most pernicious threat facing children today.

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From r/atheism to the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s Facebook page, online atheists love their memes, especially the ones that are “devastating” to religon as well as being humorous.  Here are few such Devastating Arguments Against Christianity (Courtesy of the Internet).  As it turns out, the arguments are indeed devastating…just not to religion.

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Stanford Team Sheds Light on the Medieval Foundations of Modern Science.

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Desiring God’s 2013 National Conference was all about C. S. Lewis, with some fascinating topics and a stellar speaker lineup (including Phil Ryken and Kevin Vanhoozer).  The free video and audio is availabe here.

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When creativity and love meets technology, magic happens:  Creative Dad Takes Crazy Photos Of Daughters.

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Essayist and programmer Paul Graham has written a brief and helpful article on How to Disagree.  For the visually inclined, here is a an image based on his essay ranking the 7 types of disagreement.

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33 Of The Most Hilariously Terrible First Sentences In Literature History:

Betty had eyes that said come here, lips that said kiss me, arms and torso that said hold me all night long, but the rest of her body said, “Fillet me, cover me in cornmeal, and fry me in peanut oil”; romance wasn’t easy for a mermaid.

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Part two of the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, is going to be a massive hit at the box office, despite the underwhelming first installment.  How do I know?  Two words:  The ‘Batch (just listen to the final moments of the new trailer):

How Does It Feel to Be the Next C. S. Lewis?

C. S. Lewis is dead and we need a new one, someone who can articulate a smart mere Christianity, not just a vague pan-Christianity. We need someone with imagination and intelligence, uniting the visible with the invisible, helping people accept the unseeable God behind the tangible world and like what they have received. Surely, someone must rise to the challenge. Wherever that person is, whatever he or she is doing, I bet I know what it feels like to be the next C. S. Lewis. Continue reading How Does It Feel to Be the Next C. S. Lewis?

Stick with the Basics: On Study and Learning

Once in a Bible study at church, a guy said something that has become paradigmatic for me: he said that in following Jesus, we always have to stick to the basics. We have to continually revisit the basics of the faith so that we do not fall like a massive tree with no roots. Sticking to the basics does not keep you from taking advanced courses in theology, but losing the basics of the gospel often comes when we forget simple human realities, let alone basic Christian realities. I see this a lot as I have traveled and lived overseas: cross-cultural information in books and on the internet helps, but I basically have to throw all that out and start over again when I deal with real people. Even though I have to throw it out, I get to go pick through the garbage when I get ready for the next go round. Continue reading Stick with the Basics: On Study and Learning

Consider the Birds of the Air

Consider the birds of the air. Specifically, consider the sparrow. A person can learn as much from a bird such as this as they can from any other element of Creation. Maybe that’s why Jesus drew the eyes of the people to the birds of the air—he knew they were some of the best teachers, and they spoke to the literate and the illiterate, the rich and the poor.

The sparrow is the ultimate example of a worldly creature. Not worldly in our peculiar Christian dialect, but worldly in the fundamental sense. The sparrow is worldly in that it lives, breathes, and dies wholly dependent on the divine World-Maker. We should take note; we should be more worldly.

Saint Francis was perhaps one of the worldliest men to ever walk the earth. He owned a brown, rough-spun cloak that he was quick to give away. He allowed himself the luxury of canvas shoes when his feet became too old to walk the ground uncovered. He talked to animals. To make a remarkable biography short, Saint Francis lived in the world as the perfect houseguest. He enjoyed creation, and created things. He was worldly, not in that he acted as other men did, but in that he sought to reconcile God and our fallen world, without seeking to shackle himself to it.

We so often dream and speak of Heaven that we forget that our eternity will be spent in a new earth that God makes for us. Our bodies will be resurrected and our world will be redeemed. We will be—in a perfect and whole sense—worldly. The world may be broken, but the sparrow is held by its Creator. Even in death, the sparrow is courageous; he knows no other hand but the hand of the Father, and rests in His providence.

People who amass money and fast cars and houses with private butlers aren’t necessarily bad people, but they certainly don’t deserve the title of worldly. They aren’t interacting with the world well; if anything, they should be pitied as fearful. They haven’t learned to rely on the world and the God sustaining it; instead, they try to protect themselves from it. The wind-whipped sparrow tucked in its nest is worldly. A man in his mansion is hiding—hiding from the sparrow, for the sparrow reminds him that his mansion is nothing more than a gilded nest of sticks.

Consider the sparrow—that wholly dependent being. If God should choose to feed it, God will feed it. When the wind picks up, and trees are shaken, it can do nothing but trust and carry on. And when it drops to the ground, never to rise again, Christ himself kneels down to carry it away. Where man lies to himself, the sparrow is honest. Where man is frail, the sparrow is strong. Man is rich. The sparrow is free.

Being poor isn’t fun, or so the old phrase goes; yet is it wrong? Folks who toss this expression around seem to hold that life is intended to be comfortable and fun. This is a dangerous stance to take; as C.S. Lewis wrote, “If everything seems to come simply by signing cheques, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.” Putting our very souls in the hands of a street preacher isn’t fun or safe; regardless, it is life to the fullest. In many ways, we should envy the sparrow, which through its very nature is made dependent on God. All things are permissible to the sparrow, while we are so often owned by the world, unable to flit about on the breeze because we are too tied to the ground. Saint Francis preached to the birds—and the birds listened. The birds preach to us, and we so often go away sad, and take our seat at the bar with the rich, young ruler.

This does not imply a life of foolish neglect, for even a sparrow builds its nest and gathers food. Even a sparrow knows to take care of its young. When Jesus calls his listeners to consider the birds of the air, he is not calling them to a life of carelessness, but to a life of trust—in many ways, the blind trust of a sparrow. The sparrow doesn’t worry, doesn’t store up food in barns; instead, it trusts its Creator for its next meal—for its next breath. It has no other choice.

Remember the old saying: God takes care of fools and little children. It seems fitting to add sparrows to that list—those birds who are so foolish as to dance through life, flitting from heavenly perch to heavenly perch—perfectly worldly beings.

Pagan “Northernness”

C.S. Lewis once spoke on the allure of pagan “northernness” and how it ultimately lead to his conversion to Christianity.  He was “engulfed” by “a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northnern summer; remoteness, severity.”  I have come to experience a similar love of this northernness.  Like most Americans, I was introduced to Greek mythology at an early age (it saddens me now to admit that I enjoyed all the “Greek-inspired” pop culture of the 90’s, from Disney’s Hercules to shmaltzy television shows like Xena: Warrior Princess), but I had never read, and barely knew of, the Norse myths until late into my college years.  I was instantly drawn to them, and by comparison Greek mythology seemed less interesting.  Now I am always eager for anything and everything that wades in northernness.  My fondness for The Lord of the Rings approaches the fanatical (and now is a good time to be a Tolkien fan!).  I even enjoyed Marvel’s Thor (despite the narrative problems and the significant departures from actual Norse myth). Continue reading Pagan “Northernness”

There is Nothing, Son, Under the Gnu: Or, Originality is Overrated

If you want to make a name for yourself, a good way to start is to attack something people believe without question. The broad-minded will hear you, the doctrinaire will attack you, and everybody else will check you out just to learn why everyone is so excited. “Blind” faith can be a sort of scurvy of the mind, so it is right to disturb the unopposed from time to time. On the whole, though, originality is overrated. Continue reading There is Nothing, Son, Under the Gnu: Or, Originality is Overrated