“Nonsense Remains Nonsense Even When We Talk it About God”

The Problem of Pain book coverI started C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain today on a flight to Honolulu. Now, before you get envious, it is for work. However, I sill stipulate that there are far worse places and things to do for work. 🙂

In either case, it is yet another thought-provoking work by him, and I am sure it will generate a good number of posts here on Traditores…this being the first. Getting on with that…

How many of you have ever heard someone ask, “Can God create a rock so large He cannot lift it?”

To them, hopefully with kindness in your heart and voice, you can respond:

[God’s] Omnipotence means the power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. There is no limit to His power. If you chose to say “God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,” you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words “God can.” It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but non-entities. It is no more possible for God than the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

It is easy to see how this quote from chapter two applies to the rock question, but we humans fall afoul of this far more often than we realize; whether as believers building a self-contradictory systematic theology, or non-believers rationalizing our rejection of the Divine through an intrinsically impossible standard for an acceptable God.

Nonsense remains nonsense.

“We must play.”

The right way to be merry…

We must play. But our merriment must be that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.1 — C.S. Lewis

1Lewis, C. S. (2001). The weight of glory: And other addresses. New York: HarperCollins. Page 46.


Why does God not make certain things clearer?

Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience.

C.S. Lewis from Weight of Glory (page 33 in my HarperOne edition).

Choose Your Train (You Must)

Recently I heard the track “Dark Passenger” by the group Fozzy. It starts off with:

Jesus is my co-pilot
Or that’s just what they say
But it’s not the Savior
Who guides me every day

Although the lyrics are a bit ambiguous, and it almost sounds like the anti-hero of the song wants to repent, you know it is the Devil who is guiding the tune’s subject every day.

Fozzy’s song brought another train one to mind (for some reason, when I hear the word “passenger” I think of trains…I give credit to my train-loving 6 year-old :-)). Curtis Mayfield wrote this classic (“People Get Ready”), which begins with:

People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
on’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

And…as my mind continued it’s odd way of traveling down the tracks…”Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne was next in line. It’s initial verses are:

Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing
Life’s a bitter shame
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train

So…based on how they all start…which train would you like to ride?

But my brain didn’t stop there. It seemed to me that those three songs, in a slightly different order, also mimicked the choices C.S. Lewis wrote about who Jesus is in Mere Christianity:

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.

Jesus is either part of the Crazy Train, is a Dark Passenger, or He is Lord. What say you?

And…as Lewis says…”You must make your choice.”

(Not choosing is a choice against “Lord”…)

Now, in case you are interested (and understanding that YouTube links don’t always remain working), here are the three songs that inspired this post in the order they were mentioned: Continue reading Choose Your Train (You Must)

God Gives Us What We Want

I’ve heard this C.S. Lewis quote before…but was glad to run into it in page 72 of my The Great Divorce:

There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.

It should be noted that these are the words of a fictional inhabitant of heaven, not theological apologetics by One of my favorite writers.

“It has every available quality except that of being useful.”

Although some might argue that this means I am not a Christian (in that I do not hold all the "common doctrines of Christianity"), I think C.S. Lewis (from Mere Christianity) has the definition of "Christian" right:

Far deeper objections may be felt—and have been expressed—against my use of the word Christian to mean one who accepts the common doctrines of Christianity. People ask: 'Who are you, to lay down who is, and who is not a Christian?' or 'May not many a man who cannot believe these doctrines be far more truly a Christian, far closer to the spirit of Christ, than some who do?' Now this objection is in one sense very right, very charitable, very spiritual, very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful. We simply cannot, without disaster, use language as these objectors want us to use it.