“Believing as I do that the arts in general are not merely a mirror reflecting social and cultural values, but are, on the contrary, powerful forces which shape and mould the way in which people live and behave (a view, incidentally, held by every major literary critic from Plato to T.S. Eliot), I have examined contemporary literature, drama, music, painting and those two powerful ‘moulders’, the cinema and television. In all these various manifestations of the contemporary scene, one finds not only an absence of ‘moral control’ and ‘spiritual order’ but in most instances an overt and deep hostility to any such restraining concepts” (Duncan Williams, Trousered Apes, p. 152).
“One proverb expresses the principle well. He who takes the king’s coin becomes the king’s man. If we receive money from the government, we must know that the money comes with conditions. Today the conditions might be tolerable. In fact, they will certainly be tolerable because otherwise the bait would not hide the hook. But if they are not tolerable tomorrow — for example, if the rules change so that schools receiving such vouchers may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation — we will discover that getting out of the trap is a lot more difficult than getting into it” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 202).
“Wherever and whenever the biblical tradition morally incapacitates a culture’s sacrificial system, the aggravating effects of mimetic desire flourish precisely because there is no reliable way to focus them on one flamboyant object of lust or loathing and eliminate them at his or her expense” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 110).
“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
Growing Dominion, Part 101
“Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Prov. 17:1).
The book of Proverbs loves comparisons—this is better than that. And it loves combinations of comparisons—this with that is better than that with this. In this case, it is better to have peace and quiet and not very much than to have abundance coupled with pandemonium. This is an important standard for those to who have businesses to remember. There are those who identify hard work (which the Bible commends) with hectic panic (which the Bible does not). When there is strife and commotion, it doesn’t matter that you have a lot of things that are part of the commotion. And if you have peace, the fact that there is not very much there as part of the peace is still reassuring. The merchant or businessman therefore should not confuse frenzy with industry.
For those readers in New Zealand, you can skip over this post. Our election is tomorrow and for those in Idaho, here is a good breakdown. The only places I really differ with Dale is on the gubernatorial race (where I will probably vote for the Libertarian candidate, or maybe Dave Barry), and on one of the referenda.
The second place where my recommendation is different from Dale’s is on Prop2, which I intend to vote for. I agree that government by referendum is clumsy, and this will create problems that will have to be fixed later, and so on. Dealing with “protection of private property” issues this way is like killing ants with a baseball bat. But I would suggest that if the politicos who don’t like this kind of thing are really interested in preventing this kind of populist self-defense uprising, they should start by BEHAVING THEMSELVES IN BETWEEN ELECTIONS. If our elected officials stopped PILLAGING, that would be a good way to make things like Prop2 go away. And Prop2 is a good way to remind them all that this would be a good thing for them to start thinking about doing.
Learning how to say you were wrong about something, and that you are sorry, is one of the most important lessons anyone can learn in his life. It is basically a question of learning how to be genuinely honest. And as such an important lesson, it is not surprising that the Narnia stories are full of examples of this. We learn about real confession of sin in every book of the Narnia series.
In The Magician’s Nephew, remember that Digory woke up Jadis when he rang the bell. How does Aslan make Digory confess his sin honestly?
“‘You met the Witch?’ said Aslan in a low voice which had the threat of a growl in it. ‘She woke up,’ said Digory wretched. And then, turning very white, ‘I mean, I woke her’” (MN, p. 147).
And was Digory really enchanted in Charn? “No,” said Digory. “I see now I wasn’t. I was only pretending.” (MN, p. 147).
And what does Aslan require of Polly in this regard? “‘And you, little Daughter’ (here he turned to Polly) ‘are welcome. Have you forgiven the Boy for the violence he did you in the Hall of Images in the desolate palace of accursed Charn?’ ‘Yes, Aslan, we’ve made it up,’ said Polly” (MN, p. 152).
Whenever we are telling a story (to ourselves or to others) in which we did not behave very well, we have a very natural (and sinful) tendency to clean it up (just a) little bit. But this is the kind of dishonesty that Aslan never tolerates. Notice that Digory is not telling an overt lie—he did meet the witch—but he is still leaving out some important parts of the story. And he is leaving them out because it would him look bad to keep them in. Aslan sees this kind of dishonesty immediately, and he doesn’t tolerate it. This means that we learn the lesson almost as well as Digory did.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter and Susan had been really worried about Lucy and her crazy stories about Narnia. They had been afraid that she was losing her mind, but then it turned out that she was completely right after all. So how does Peter respond to finding himself in Narnia? “Peter turned at once to Lucy. ‘I apologize for not believing you,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry. Will you shake hands?’ ‘Of course,’ said Lucy, and did” (LWW, p. 55).
Now compare this to how Edmund thought he was apologizing in the same circumstance. “‘I say, Lu! I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. I see now you were right all along. Do come out. Make it Pax.’ Still there was no answer. ‘Just like a girl,’ said Edmund to himself, ‘sulking somewhere, and won’t accept an apology’” (LWW, p. 30). He says the right words at first, but his apology is only on the surface, as we can see by his behavior right after this when he meets the witch.
In The Horse and His Boy, after Shasta went back and face the lion, what did Aravis think of Shasta? “‘I know,’ said Aravis. ‘I felt just the same. Shasta was marvelous . . . now he turns out to be the best of us all. But I think it would be better to stay and say we’re sorry than to go back to Calormen’” (HHB, p. 151). Aravis is speaking true wisdom here. It would be better to stay and say you’re sorry.
And in the same place, what words of wisdom does the Hermit give to Bree? “‘My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense’” (HHB, p. 151).
Prince Caspian contains this same wonderful truth. When Lucy leads them all to Aslan, how does Susan apologize?
“‘But I’m far worse than you know. I really believed it was him . . . deep down inside’” (PC, p. 152). In other words, she doesn’t apologize “just enough” to patch things up. She apologizes for the true problem, which Lucy had no way of finding out.
And how does Peter seek Aslan’s forgiveness? “‘I’ve been leading them wrong . . .’ said Peter” (PC, p. 153). And how does Aslan forgive him? “‘My dear son,’ said Aslan” (PC, p. 153).
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Caspian wants to abdicate and go on to the end of the world, he loses his temper when the others oppose him (and realize that their good opposition to a king misbehaving is yet another lesson on true authority). But later, when Caspian comes to his senses, he says, “‘I might as well have behaved decently for all the good I did’” (p. 240). In other words, Caspian doesn’t try to gloss over his behavior.
When Eustace falls off the cliff in The Silver Chair, how does Jill justify herself at first? “It’s not my fault he fell over that cliff” (SC, p. 19).
But then a few pages later, what happens? “Human Child,” said the Lion. “Where is the Boy?” “He fell over the cliff,” said Jill, and added, “Sir.” She didn’t know what else to call him, and it sounded cheek to call him nothing. “How did he come to do that, Human Child?” “He was trying to stop me from falling, Sir.” “Why were you so near the edge, Human Child?” “I was showing off, Sir.” “That is a very good answer, Human Child. Do so no more” (SC, pp. 23-24).
Aslan is doing the same thing for Jill here that he did for Digory. “You met the witch?” He hears the story, and he knows that it is an incomplete story. And he doesn’t drop the subject until he has the complete story.
Quite a bit later in the same book, the same kind of thing comes up when Eustace and Jill speak to one another before trying to get out of Underland. “But when Scrubb shook hands with Jill, he said, ‘So long, Jill. Sorry I’ve been a funk and so ratty. I hope you get safe home,’ and Jill said, ‘So long, Eustace. And I’m sorry I’ve been such a pig.’ And this was the first time they had ever used Christian names, because one didn’t do it at school” (SC, p. 191).
And at the end of the book, what does Jill think of when she sees Aslan? “And in less time than it takes to breathe Jill forgot about the dead King of Narnia and remembered only how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarrelings . . . ‘Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia’” (SC, p. 236).
We can see here that Aslan cares about confession of sin, but there is always something beyond it. In other words, being honest about our faults and failings is like washing up for dinner, so you can enjoy that dinner with clean hands. But imagine if someone just washed up for dinner, all the time, over and over, but they never came to the table? Washing is important, but it is so that we can enjoy the meal.
In The Last Battle, when he first sees him, what is Puzzle’s reaction to Tash? “‘I see now,’ said Puzzle, ‘that I really have been a very bad donkey’” (LB, p. 95). Learning how to make such applications to yourself is one of the great themes that runs throughout all the Narnia books. And if Puzzle can do it, we can do it.
And how does Tirian prepare for battle? “‘Kiss me, Jewel,’ he said. ‘For certainly this is our last night on earth. And if ever I offended against you in any matter great or small, forgive me now.’ ‘Dear King,’ said the Unicorn, ‘I could almost wish you had, so that I might forgive it’” (LB, p. 111).
Not only does C.S. Lewis show us many honest confessions, he also shows us many examples of poor confessions. We have already compared the apology of Edmund to that of Peter. But there are others as well.
For example, what does Eustace do to avoid a duel? “He apologized sulkily” (DT, p. 35). And what continues to be Eustace’s problem? “Caspian tried to stop Eustace talking as if everyone except himself was to blame” (DT, p. 45).
In The Magician’s Nephew, does Digory have a sensitive conscience? Well, no, we would have to say. Not really. “‘Sorry?’ exclaimed Digory. ‘Well, now, if that isn’t just like a girl! What have I done?’” (MN, p. 80).
When he is confronted with the folly of his entire way of living, does Uncle Andrew want to repent? Not at all. “‘Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!’” (MN, p. 185).
When Edmund finally meets up with Lucy again (after he met the witch), how does Edmund apologize to Lucy? Fully? “‘All right,’ said Edmund, ‘I see you were right and it is a magic wardrobe after all. I’ll say I’m sorry if you like. But where on earth have you been all this time? I’ve been looking for you everywhere’” (LWW, p. 41). He says the right words, almost, and then moves on immediately to change the subject. Because he did not apologize rightly, what was his problem with going back to England?
“But Edmund secretly thought that it would not be as good fun for him as for her. He would have to admit that Lucy had been right, before all the others, and he felt sure the others would all be on the side of the Fauns and the animals; but he was already more than half on the side of the Witch” (LWW, p. 43). And the reason he was already more than half way on the side of the witch was because of his dishonesty in simple things.
There is one more great thing we can learn about confession of sin in Narnia. It is a very important lesson. We may confess our own sins honestly, or dishonestly. But we are also tempted to confess other people’s sins. In Prince Caspian, how does Aslan head off Lucy’s complaint? “‘They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—’ From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl” (PC, p. 142). Aslan doesn’t like it when we confess other people’s sins. We can do that all day long, and our joy will still not come back.
What did Aslan want Lucy to do even if the others didn’t follow? “‘Oh well, I suppose I could’” (PC, p. 142).
And what are we almost never told?
“‘To know what would have happened, child?’ said Aslan. ‘No. Nobody is ever told that . . . But anyone can find out what will happen’” (PC, p. 142).
Confessing our own sins is an important part of our own story. In fact, it is one of the most important parts.
Chapter eight of Deuteronomy (like chapter seven) is structured chiastically. But because of the richness of this material, we will take two sessions to cover the one chiasm. “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers” (Deuteronomy 8:1-10).
Again, the central point of this chapter is emphasized at the point of the chiasm. This point is then reiterated in the last two verses of the chapter, which stand alone.
A Land was sworn to forefathers; the command is given today (v. 1).
B Wilderness was a place of humbling, testing and provision (vv. 2-6)
C The land before you is good (vv. 7-9)
D You will eat and be full; bless the Lord (v. 10)
E Do not forget the Lord (v. 11)
D’ You will eat and be full (v. 12a)
C’ The land before you is good (vv. 12b-14)
B’ Wilderness was a place of humbling, testing and provision (vv. 15-16)
A’ Wealth, covenant with forefathers, as today (vv. 17-18)
And then verses 19-20 go back to reinforce the central point—do not forget the Lord. There is to be no compromise. Observing the command of God, and living, and multiplying, and possessing the land, are all to be considered together (v. 1). God is fulfilling His gracious promise to their fathers.
As God takes us through this process, we frequently forget that testing is a test. Why me? Why now? Why this? These are questions we commonly ask whenever an affliction of any magnitude comes upon us. The Lord leads us in trial (v. 2). He humbles us by means of trials (v. 2). He does this in order to reveal what is truly in our hearts, whether we are sunshine Christians only (v. 2).
We learn here that man does not live by bread alone. Of course our Lord Jesus applied these words to Himself when He was tempted in the wilderness to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:4). We are to see the Word of God becoming our bread, not stones becoming our bread. And the Word of God is not heavenly jam for earthly bread. The Word of God is our bread.
God humbles us and makes us hungry (v. 3). Remember that Adam was created hungry. God makes us hungry so that He might provide us with heavenly bread—bread outside the categories of rebellious “wisdom” (v. 3). He did this with a lesson in view; God did this so that He might make us know that man does not live by bread alone—that is, bread ripped out of the world God made. Of course, God’s provision is not limited to food; He includes clothing and health. Notice how Jesus connects the same sort of items (Matt. 6:25).
Consider this in your heart. The way a man chastens his son, so the Lord God chastens His children. If you do not receive chastening, then you are illegitimate bastards, and not true sons (Heb. 12:8). Because God chastens, therefore keep His commandments, walk in His ways, and fear Him (v. 6).
God does not opt for a permanant solution for idolatry by removing good gifts from us entirely. He does test us for a time, but then He always gives us responsibility again, and tells us (again) to remain faithful. The land He gives is a good land (vv. 7-9). The land contains water, grain, orchards, honey, much bread, and mountains full of metal. The Lord blesses us, and we are to bless Him in return (v. 10). This has no good synonym in English; it means that we are to extoll Him as an overflow of satisfaction.
The lessons we must remember from this small portion of Scripture are profound. Unify the world—we are to see all things as formed and given by the Word of God. Bless the Lord—we must be a glad, happy, contented and obedient people. Do not forget—teach your children. We forget these truths most easily as one generation gives way to another.
The festival of Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out. But recall, carefully remember, that throughout the Scriptures, when God’s power comes down in the person of His Spirit, He is always poured out upon something. He comes to rest.
In the visitation of God’s Spirit, we do not find the vaporization of material things, but rather their anointing and consecration. The spiritual man is not one who finds himself becoming a ghost, but rather one who finds himself walking obediently, in step with the Spirit.
This is spiritual food, but not because of some magic going on within the elements. This is spiritual food, but not because a miracle has occurred which has transformed the substance of the bread and wine. This is spiritual food because the Holy Spirit, a Person present here with us today, uses this moment, this bread, this wine, this faith of ours, to knit us together as a perfect man. We are being built up into Christ, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. This is a great mystery, Paul says. Who can know it?
But not being able to know it in the sense of giving detailed mechanical explanations does not keep us from knowing it in the biblical sense of that word. We come to know God by faith. We take Him at His word. A materialist could look at the Rock that accompanied Israel in the wilderness and not see Christ there, but only Rock. And when water came from the Rock, he could explain it all as coincidence. When faithful Jews drank from Christ, and ate Christ as He fell from the heavens every morning, they would fail if they tried to give a mathematical explanation, just as we fail when we try.
But you should not be explaining this just now. You have other things to do with your mouth, like tasting, chewing and swallowing. And the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the Church forever, will do His holy work. Trust Him.