What Christians Can Learn From Game of Thrones (Shorter Version)

Many years ago, being a fan of fantasy, I saw Game of Thrones grow popular, and its advertisement drew my interest. I decided to give the show a try, when one of its seasons promoted itself by offering the first episode free to watch. It was an excellent promotion strategy that I’m sure worked on most. It didn’t work for me for the simple reason that I cannot stomach the amount of pornographic imagery rampant in the show, let alone the seemingly senseless violence throughout. As a result, I had to turn down watching the show, despite it nevertheless being very interesting.

However, I did keep what I call a “distant interest” in the show. For some reason, YouTube would constantly recommend me clips of the show as it progressed through its seasons, and I watched some of them. I’m one of those kinds of people who can take some information over here, some information over there, and begin to fill in the gaps myself, and that’s what I did. I essentially reconstructed the basic plot line while avoiding some of the most twisted scenes of the show.

Make no mistake, despite the graphic nature of the show, it is very well-written. You don’t have to like the way the show unravels to appreciate the complexity of the story and the characters themselves. There is much to learn in writing good dialogue on many of the scenes in the show, as well as plot progression elements.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is this big problem that I would sum up in a single question: Is there a point to all of this? By ‘this’ I mean, the pornography, the seemingly senseless violence, the disgusting love affair between a brother and his sister (who have violent sex in the show), consistent, sexual-based cruelty throughout, and down-right debauchery.

An Epic With No Resolution

Even with the antagonists of the show, like Ramsey Bolton, who was a complete nutcase, the writers put so much time into telling the audience that he was a psychopath that at some point, any rational person ought to begin to wonder why keep showing us this? Sure, the audience needs to hate Ramsey, to want him dead, and to do that, perhaps we need to suffer through maybe one or two scenes of him being a sadistic maniac. But why keeping hitting home his insane cruelty over and over and over again? There is a strange and honestly disturbing fascination with the sadism portrayed in the show.

No one in this show seems to have tremendous virtues about them, even Daenerys, who progressively becomes more evil and power-hungry as the show runs. But that’s not entirely wrong. After all, good story has flawed characters; people who demonstrate virtue in one area, and incredible inconsistency and weakness in others. But especially when the show ends, what does each character ultimately learn and what great problems are resolved? Think about that for a moment as you go back to the very end and watch Arya sail the seas, as you watch Daenerys’ body be flown away, Tyrion gathering with special interests to begin rebuilding King’s Landing, and Jon Snow setting off to God-knows-where. What did each character ultimately learn that changed them in the end, and for the good of the show?

The takeaway that I get is that this show offered next to nothing for a resolution in the end. What it offered was literally in the title, a game of thrones, where to get that Iron Throne, which represents absolute power over the realm, you had to fight for it, you had to kill for it, you had to murder, slander, cheat, steal, and prostitute yourself or anyone else into getting it–which make no mistake, is and was a reality. In the monarchical periods of Europe, there was indeed a great game of thrones that was far more complex that Game of Thrones made it, and even today in the United States, there is a kind of game of thrones for power and control of the most influential country in the world.

Fallen Man and Nihilism

The problem is that while this show may depict with, sometimes unnecessary graphic novelty, the reality of what fighting for absolute power does to people, it doesn’t offer you any resolution for what we all would agree is twisted human nature. And the reason it doesn’t is because it can’t. The worldview behind Game of Thrones has nothing to offer you to solve what it so well demonstrates as the human condition of corruption that goes deep into the heart, which then causes that twisted human to lust, and to covet, and to hate.

Ned Stark was obviously the most virtuous of everyone who sat on the Throne, and that’s exactly why they had to kill him in the very beginning. You can’t have a hero in a world like this, because in the worldview of creators of this show, there are no heroes. There’s just cruel mankind. Ultimately, the show is pagan in its roots, closes you off from any ultimate redemption, and pits you in an endless cycle of nihilism.

That’s why the best example of true leadership after Ned Stark, Jon Snow, has to leave (we can’t really have an honest man on the Throne), and the entire band of good guys simply splinters off, or in Tyrion’s case, helps rebuild the same institution that led to this entire twisted drama. No one’s asking questions about the condition of mankind. No one ultimately learns anything about even the Mad Queen, Daenerys; someone so innocent, so gentle, yet still having fallen in the end.

What do we learn then? What we learn from Game of Thrones is that man can be virtuous, but man has an inherent darkness within himself that desires power. The Iron Throne represents absolute power and dominance, just like the Ring of Power in the Lord of the Rings does. The power of the Throne is too great for any mortal man to hold. Let’s presume for a moment that there was a mortal even better than Ned Stark, who what full of virtue and justice and fairness. One day, he will die, and who knows who will take his place? Obviously then, it is not simply good virtue that man needs, but man needs to be immortal.

The Christian Answer: King of Righteousness

Could we find such a man? What if there was a man who was incorruptible, untainted by the sin that infests the rest of mankind? What if this man was also immortal? Could not be killed, and could reign upon the throne forever? He was incorruptible and could bear the power of the throne; he was immortal and so could reign forever. Can we have such a man?

In the Old Testament, God gives David a promise through Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. That promise was to establish David’s house forever. David’s line would not perish, hence. Israel would have a king that would never be removed. Ever since, Israel has been looking forward to that great promise, for that wonderful king who would fulfill the promise of God to David.

But how can anyone fulfill this promise? As Game of Thrones shows us, everyone dies, even the king. In the Bible, and in reality, it is no different. Old covenant Israel is replete with kings who lived and then died, and however good they may have been, their dynasty and legacy died with them. Generations to come would soon forget all the good deeds they may have done for Israel. Surely, then, God’s promise to David had to go beyond mere mortality. If in the end, death always wins over a great king, how can anyone truly fulfill God’s promise?

In the psalms, we have particular “royalty psalms” that speak specifically to this picture of a great king over Israel. Psalm 2 is one of these, and it speaks of a mighty king, who is almost a kind of divine figure; holding a very close relationship to God. In fact, in verse 6-8, the king in this picture is said to have been “begotten” by God. This king therefore bears a very unique relationship to Him, and to him, God gives the nations, indicating this king is sovereign over the world under the authority of God.

In Psalm 72, another picture of a great and wonderful king is given. He is a righteous king, who is merciful to the oppressed, and absolutely righteous and just against all evil-doers. In the midst of the psalm, in verse 5, one might almost say that this king’s rule is eternal. Psalm 102 may perhaps be the most telling of all our examples here of the character of this king. It begins with a mysterious saying, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.‘”

The construction of the words are strange. “The Lord says to my Lord” is what we find most peculiar. There seems to be some form of conflation going on. Two Lords are in view here. If we connect all of this with Psalms 2 and 72, we might say here that Yahweh says to David’s Lord (since in each psalm, Yahweh appears to exalt a king, and particularly in 72, one whom He calls a son) to sit at His right hand. The first Lord is capitalized in the text, which is the translator’s way of telling you that you are reading the tetragrammaton for Yahweh (YHVH), the covenant name of the God of Israel.

The use of the phrase “sit at My right hand” is to show absolute power and honor in the Bible. It signifies that the King of Israel is the ruler on behalf of Yahweh.

In Psalm 110, another fascinating statement is made, where Yahweh again speaks to David’s Lord, saying He will make him a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”. He will be a priest, forever. He sits at the right hand of Yahweh. What do we make of this? Three things. (1) He is a king; (2) He is a priest; and (3) He is eternal.

That great King, the Bible says, came over two-thousand years ago, and told the world that he was the King of the Jews, descended from the line of David, and fulfilled the promise of God to establish that throne forever. That King was Jesus Christ. The New Testament connects Jesus to the line of David (Matthew 1:17, Romans 1:3). Jesus is also declared to be divine and eternal in his nature (John 1:1-4, John 8:58, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8-12).

Jesus then is that great King that Israel had been waiting for, who would fulfill the promises of an eternal King. He is King because He is man, and He is eternal because He is God. As we have said earlier, corrupt, mortal men cannot truly rule the throne of the world. What about someone who is immortal, incorruptible, and is more than a man, and by his very nature alone has the right to rule the world? All of this, Jesus Christ is. Corruption cannot take hold of him, as it is shown in the gospels, such as Matthew 8:1-3. Leprosy was a form of extreme, physical disfigurement that infected anyone it touched. When Jesus touches the leper, rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the leper is cleansed. The power of Jesus and his divine origin is demonstrated here. He has the power over sin, death, and corruption.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The Old Testament was looking forward to a pivotal moment in the future for a figure to appear by divine appointment who was going to bring an end to Israel’s great suffering. That moment came in the person of Jesus Christ. If you read Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s great desire is to show a Jewish audience that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. The Messianic figure of Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 9:6-7 is fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus’s ministry and message was summed up into one phrase. He went about telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”. The call was a call to turn away from sin, because the kingdom of God was in their midst. God had come, and He “tabernacled” among His people (John 1:14). The King had finally arrived, and hence proclaims a warning to surrender to His reign and rule, or perish (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14, Mark 3:2).

After Jesus had lived, died and been raised from the dead, He gives the great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. He says that all authority had been given to him, and to therefore make disciples of the nations. The kingdom of God was here, and now the message of the gospel, of the risen King, who will rule with righteousness and justice commands us all to come to him in repentance and faith and service to his Lordship, bringing all nations into his subjection.

As we have said, it is the Gospel of the Kingdom. So far what we have given was the gospel of the King, however. He is the most central figure of that role, but there is good news for us as well. As I had mentioned before, we have a great sin problem, and how can a holy God allow sin to dwell in His kingdom? He cannot. What then must the just King do with us? He must destroy us. All corruption must end. But God has done something wonderful to answer this problem.

The Gospel of Redemption

First let’s remember what happened in the garden. Adam had not sinned yet, and hence he had no corruption. But once he committed the sin, he forever doomed his seed. Romans 5 is a great descriptor of what we call in theology the Federal Headship of Adam. All born under Adam’s seed inherit the sin nature at birth (Psalm 51:5). After Adam had sinned, God had the tree of life guarded by cherubim (Genesis 3:24) so that no one may enter paradise (Eden) again.

As the book of Hebrews shows us, all the constructions of the old covenant artifacts were a picture of the real ones, the heavenly ones (Hebrews 7:4-5). The symbolism was the return to Eden, to remove the angels guarding the way by a sacrifice. No one could do this, which we will see why as we explain how God redeems us in Jesus Christ.

Here is where Jesus fulfills the role of the High Priest. As Hebrews 10:1-4 sums up so well, the sacrifices of bulls and goats could never truly take away the sins of people. Man owed the debt. Only man could pay it. But for me to pay my debt means for me to die and perish. Then my salvation is hopeless in me. There is only doom.

Now we read on into Hebrews 10, in verse 5, where the Son speaks to the Father and says that a body had been prepared for Him. Now the Son, as a man, can pay the debt man owed, and He could pay the debt eternally because His life was of eternal value. In verse 11, the author again elaborates that the ordinary high priest could not truly fulfill all righteousness, being a sinner himself. Christ, who lives forever as High Priest, with an everlasting sacrifice in His own blood, offers one sacrifice, once for all who believe, purging their sins in eternity, becoming their Priest and King, and saving them fully and completely for the coming kingdom.

As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus our Savior was made sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. The idea here is a transaction. When I trust in Christ, all of my sin he bears, and I get in exchange all of his righteousness imputed to my account. Not to my present body, but my account, much like an actual bank account. God justifies me on the basis of what Christ did, not on the basis of what I have done. Hence it is through Jesus Christ, the Bridge, the Doorway that I may enter Eden again. As Jesus himself says, no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). All of my sin, therefore, has been dealt with on the cross. Does this mean I no longer sin? Not so. John says in 1 John 1:8 that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. How do we make sense of this, then?

From Death to Life

In the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Lord will make a new covenant with Israel, and in this new covenant, God will put His law in their hearts and remember their sins no more. This the author of Hebrews declares is fulfilled in Christ in Hebrews 10:17.

In a similar prophecy, Ezekiel in chapter 36:25, Yahweh says that He will cleanse His people of all their idols. In verse 26, He declares that He will remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh that He will cause to obey Him. He will give us a new heart. This we call regeneration. A dead man comes to life (Ephesians 2). The point here is that something takes place when my sins are forgiven. The Spirit of God dwells in me. To put this all together, once I am saved, God begins to work life in me. Sin dwells in my current body, but as Scripture tells us, we are to be killing this flesh daily.

In Romans 6, after explaining the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul asks a rhetorical question, which is that if I have been forgiven of all sin, doesn’t that mean we can just live our lives in sin and continually say we are forgiven since all our sin is forgiven? Not so. Paul’s answer is that if you have been truly born again, something has happened to you. What is that? That you were buried and raised with Christ. Your sin is killed with him. Hence sin here means more than just bad actions–your corrupt state under Adam’s headship has been dealt with, though it still lives in this world. Now begins the new creation in the New Adam, born from eternity, that shows forth into this world.

This is what baptism represents. Notice what Paul says in Romans 6:5-8. He speaks of dying with Christ and being raised with him. Baptism symbolizes the going down under (the grave), and coming up alive, anew, and washed of sin. Hence the story of redemption, if we can sum it all up, is a story of how God conquers death through it. Through dying in Christ, we shall live (John 11:25-26). He says that he who believes in him [the Christ] and that he has been sent by the Father, has eternal life; they will not face the judgment but have “passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

An Eternal Hope

Thus in the gospel of Jesus Christ we have that great hope, that great redemption that was fulfilled in Christ when he came over two-thousand years ago, and will one day, at the end of time, be fully consummated in a new heaven and new earth, and for us who hold onto him, follow him in faith and repentance, restoration unto a new, pure and sinless life.

He is all that man was supposed to be, but couldn’t be and more. Like Game of Thrones, the Bible tells us of a great story. In the story is great evil, great pain, destruction, sacrifice, betrayal and loyalty. There are epic battles, and history-defining moments. But unlike Game of Thrones, the God who has written this story, who is telling this story always has a divine purpose; He is telling not simply a story of the reality of where we are now, but of a coming reality beyond this, where He will redeem all the evil, and all the pain, in something far greater than what we have.

There will be no sin that corrupts, corrodes and destroys. There will be no factions, no need to take sides. For all there are neighbors, all there are reconciled children of a great and merciful God. And they will serve a King whose reign never ends, whose glory is their light in the day, whose justice will never, ever fade away.

A Case for the Supernatural

C.S. Lewis’s Peculiar Argument for the Supernatural

For my whole young adult life, I had struggled with the existence of God. I always called myself a Christian; I was raised in a Christian home. But my dad instilled into me from a very early age the idea of asking questions and having curiosity for the reality of existence itself. Though many trends came and had gone from me in my growing up, this one part of me was just always there. I have thus always had a love for philosophy to some degree–to a point in which my own theology was subject to my philosophy.

That has changed now. I don’t really give much in the way of philosophy anymore; I don’t find I really need to since the Bible speaks on all matters relating to life. And seeing Christ as the beginning and end of all problems answers the philosophical questions (this subject I will soon explore in a separate article). However, before now, when I did indulge philosophical wanderings, who is one of the most likely figures that such a young person like myself would flock to to satisfy my philosophical desires? There are many, but few so likely as Clive Staples Lewis (better known as C.S. Lewis). For what is likely the vast majority of my young twenties, C.S. Lewis’s thought dominated my own thinking. He does not play as prominent a role today in my faith, but he will always be treasured in my mind as a blessing from God to someone like myself.

Thanks to his Mere Christianity book, I was pretty much solidified (at least intellectually) into the Christian worldview on a basic level. It gave me such a rich foundation on the philosophical power of Christianity. Today, I take a far less philosophical approach to Christianity, coming from a reformed tradition, and so I wish to therefore take this time to quickly mention for the record that I do embrace what is called the Presuppositional approach to apologetics (an approach Lewis did not take) and am not here trying to promote a purely rational, philosophical approach to Christianity’s truth. Christian truth is founded on the conviction of God’s divine revelation in Scripture, and I rest in that.

However, though I am a presuppositionalist, that does not mean I cannot appreciate good, rational arguments for the truth of Christianity. It is always good to learn new things, especially things as thought-provoking as what I am about to explain here and that is simply C.S. Lewis’s peculiar case for the existence of the supernatural.

The Origin of Religion

This blog article may be understood more or less as a commentary of one of Lewis’s books since that is the book, and in particular one of its chapters, that I am going to be deriving the entirety of the material of this article from. It is chapter one of C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, one of his most underrated books, in my opinion.

Lewis begins the chapter asking himself a hypothetical question that if, when he was an atheist, anyone had asked him why he did not believe in God, what would his reason be? Lewis spends the next couple pages giving his answer. In short, his answer would be what the typical answer to doubt the existence of God is, which is the problem of pain and suffering (that is what the book is about, after all). There is too much death and evil and suffering in the world, the atheist Lewis argues.

When he’s finished with the answer, he then goes on to critique his own answer. How does he do this? Your standard apologetic reaction is probably that Lewis began pondering how he knew evil in the first place. While he documents in Mere Christianity that this was a huge reason why he could no longer support an atheistic philosophy, this argument is surprisingly not how he questions himself here. In fact, such an answer is not at all addressed throughout the entire book.

Instead, C.S. Lewis asks the question, “If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that.” on page 3 of the book.

That certainly is a strange question to ask. Is it not so obvious? Even I myself when I was surprised by that question thought it was silly to ask. How does simply asking how men, in their foolishness, would conceive of a universe so full of death actually be in the hands of a powerful and good spirit, offer a single foundation-shaking argument to the atheist question of evil and suffering?

But the more I thought and read his argument on the matter, the more it struck me that C.S. Lewis was onto something I don’t think most apologists, even in the strictly rational, evidential world are aware of. Lewis begins quickly by shedding doubt on the obvious rebuttal from the skeptic; that the simple answer is our ancestors were cavemen–buffoons with not even half the scientific and progressive discovery of life we have today. Of course when they see lightning bolts, they may attribute to it some kind of god activity. Today, we know better. Easy answer… Or is it?

Lewis’s response to this is to say that the ‘nightmare size and emptiness of the universe’ was already known then just as much as it is today. In other words, the skeptic’s argument depends on the cognitive understanding of death in relation to their scientific understanding. The less they knew of science, the more they delved into mythology, says the argument. But when we step back, we see that the scientific understanding is irrelevant since the entire argument rests on the fact that the universe is filled with cold, overwhelming emptiness and death and suffering. It was known then just as it is today. It is therefore too simplistic and inconclusive to come to this position.

Lewis further details that many modern science books (in his day at least) asserted that the men of the Middle Ages were foolish enough to think the earth flat, but he rebuts this by saying that Ptolemy disproved this theory during this time. Our ancestors were not so foolish as we like to make them to be. In fact, so much of what we know today is built on the foundation they built. One might even say they were far more sophisticated and perceptive than we are today. What Da Vinci was able to do without a calculator is demonstrative that they were likely far smarter than we are. They simply did not have the technology then to do what we can now.

Therefore to dismissively imply our ancestors were ignorant and foolish is simply inconclusive and ahistorical . Lewis furthers this point by saying that not only is this insufficient, but that in light of our medical technology today compared to what they had then, our ancestors were contrarily far more aware of the reality of the dense darkness of the universe and yet religion dominated even more then. Lewis hence concludes that “religion has a different origin”.

The main point to be taken from Lewis’s argument is that we live in a world dominated by a philosophy of materialism. That is to say that all of reality that we can know can be made sensible purely by material and not non-material means, including religion. Anything that is not material is non-existent. But if religion does have a different origin, it cannot be explained by the materialist.

If such a simple answer as this will not work, the answer must be sought elsewhere.

The Experience of the Numinous

Lewis begins, therefore, to delve into the origin of religion. We are going to focus primarily on the first stage (but inquire somewhat into the others). He lists three elements in all developed religion, but in Christianity there is a particular fourth one not found present in the rest of religion. The first one is what Lewis says, quoting a professor in his time, the “experience of the ‘Numinous’”. Lewis goes on to explain what this is. I will briefly explain it here.

There are essentially three stages of the Numinous, according to this. The first stage of the Numinous experience is merely the fear of physical danger, and this is not a true experience of the Numinous. The example used is that of a tiger. The natural reaction to the idea of a tiger in the vicinity is often becoming startled and fearful. This is what we may call the fear of physical danger.

The second stage is what Lewis describes as “the fringes of the Numinous”, and that is the idea of, instead of hearing of a tiger, you hear of a ghost in the vicinity. Assuming one believed it, one would feel fear, just like before, but yet different and Lewis describes this fear as ‘uncanny’ or simply as Dread. It is not of physical fear, since a ghost, having no physical form, cannot inflict physical pain. Yet one fears it simply because it is a ghost.

The third stage would be considered Awe, and it would be triggered by the feeling that instead of a tiger (Physical Fear) or a ghost (Dread) it was a mighty spirit that was so far beyond you in every way. It would strike you with awe.

What is Lewis getting at here? His simple point for this present moment is that this pattern of the experience of the Numinous has haunted man for his entire existence. Man, unlike the rest of the animals, has a peculiar “sixth sense” if you will, in which he concludes that the universe was haunted by spirits. Lewis traces a long history of poetic literature throughout all mankind, all the way down to the very holy Scriptures themselves, the evidence that men have been haunted by the Numinous experience.

What then is all this to prove? Remember, the materialist says that all that we know about reality, and all that is true is physical in nature. Anything that is not physical is not worth believing and cannot exist in reality. This is their fundamental reason for their rejection of religion and the supernatural (in other words, the Numinous). But if this is true, how then did the idea of the supernatural come into existence? How can what is purely material spawn what is inherently immaterial?

This is where things get truly interesting as Lewis deals with this issue. Lewis writes:

“Now this awe is not the result of an inference from the visible universe. There is no possibility of arguing from mere danger to the uncanny, still less to the fully Numinous.”

Chap. 1, Page 8.

In other words, the “Awe” is not something you can infer from the physical, material world. The skeptic would agree, but far from favoring his view, it actually provides at the very least, a two-edged sword. Because insofar as it is not able to be explained by material means, it is likewise not able to be explained away by material means. It has no origin in the material, and hence the material has no claim to its truthfulness. As soon as the materialist tries to explain away the supernatural (the Numinous) he must rely on non-material means. If he does not, he is already presupposing some form of supernatural means or otherwise ‘non-material’ means of its existence. Lewis writes:

“Most attempts to explain the Numinous presuppose the thing to be explained–as when anthropologists derive it from fear of the dead, without explaining why dead men (assuredly the least dangerous kind of men) should have attracted this peculiar feeling. Against all such attempts we must insist that dread and awe are in a different dimension from fear.”

Chap. 1, Page 9.

Let’s remember that Lewis is approaching this case as if a skeptic himself, using materialist presuppositions to see if they are adequate to explain man’s experience of the numinous. But the very fact that man has any conception of the supernatural actually puts a wrench into the entire idea of it being false. If man is entirely material, man can only make material conclusions about anything. “Not true!” the skeptic may cry, “Human beings have always come up with absurd, supernatural explanations for things that are perfectly explained naturally”. I don’t doubt this as a reasonable statement, but the skeptic is missing the point.

If all there is, as we have described, is merely the physical danger and not the other two stages of the numinous experience, then that means it would be impossible to attain to the other two by the physical dangers. Hence they ought not even be conceivable. There’s no way to get from the physical danger to the uncanny and more still, to the awe. There’s absolutely nothing in a bolt of lighting–in itself–that suggests that it has supernatural significance. To a creature that has entirely materialistic properties and therefore no connectivity to any higher perceptions of such things like lightning, it simply cannot follow that any such creature would come to any supernatural conclusion at all. The other animals certainly do not do this. Only man does. Let us quote C.S. Lewis once more as he explains this:

“You may say that it seems to you very natural that early man, being surrounded by real dangers, and therefore frightened, should invent the uncanny and the Numinous. In a sense it is, but let us understand what we mean. You feel it to be natural because, sharing human nature with your remote ancestors, you can imagine yourself reacting to perilous solitudes in the same way; and this reaction is indeed ‘natural’ in the sense of being in accord with human nature. But it is not in the least ‘natural’ in the sense that the idea of the uncanny or the Numinous is already contained in the idea of the dangerous, or that any perception of danger, or any dislike of the wounds and death which it may entail could give the slightest conception of ghostly dread or numinous awe to an intelligence which did not already understand them. When man passes from physical fear to dread and awe, he makes a sheer jump, and apprehends something which could never be given, as danger is, by the physical facts and logical deductions from them.”

Chap. 1, Page 9.

When Lewis speaks of “a sheer jump”, what he means is there is no purely rational reason, and therefore no material reason for why man would ever make supernatural conclusions in the first place. Hence, the question the materialist should really be asking is not, “Why are men religious?” in the skeptical sense of ‘why are we so stupid as to be religious?’ but rather he should be asking, “How can it be that if man is but a natural being that there is any conception of the supernatural at all?”

At first sight, it seems as though the skeptic has a substantial argument against the idea of religion and spirits and supernatural existences. But in further, closer examination, his very own question poses a serious problem for his claims. And once more, if there was ever a time in which the supernatural idea of a wise and good Creator was least popular in history, so far from it being modern man, it was ancient man that should have far less likely have believed such preposterous things in light of the overwhelming death he was surrounded by and so little technological and medical amendments to such illnesses.

Lewis finally concludes on this point by leaving the question open to interpretation (yet with a slight sarcasm towards the materialist conclusion):

“There seem in, in fact, to be only two views we can hold about awe. Either it is a mere twist in the human mind, corresponding to nothing objective and serving no biological function, yet showing no tendency to disappear from that mind at its fullest development in poet, philosopher, or saint: or else it is a direct experience of the really supernatural, to which the name Revelation might properly be given.”

Chap. 1, Page 10.

The Moral Experience

Our primary point has been argued, but I thought it fascinating to look into the other parts of the religious or supernatural experience all humans encounter.

The next contention Lewis moves on to is the moral experience. Lewis’s argument is primarily the same. Firstly that if we assume man has no transcendent, spiritual Creator, man is merely the product of natural events, i.e., the physical universe. But if this is so, why is a purely natural creature, with purely natural features producing unnatural thoughts? The physical world itself is not able to explain these.

Just as with the Numinous, or the supernatural, the moral experience also has no physical or material existence and yet it is inescapable to us. It is so much embedded within our thinking that all men feel a sense of guilt within their conscience that they must try and sedate in some way. Here again we run up against any idea that men were merely flirting with wishful thinking and desires to give meaning to their meaningless lives. History records that so far from trying to be vastly virtuous people, mankind is plagued with men trying to escape the moral guilt of their wickedness, going so far as to try and banish morality from their thinking altogether. Lewis writes:

“The actual behavior which the Numinous haunts bears no resemblance to the behavior which morality demands of us. The one seems wasteful, ruthless and unjust; the other enjoins upon us the opposite qualities. Nor can the identification of the two be explained as a wish-fulfillment, for it fulfills no one’s wishes. We desire nothing less than to see that Law, whose naked authority is already unsupportable, armed with the incalculable claims of the Numinous. Of all the jumps that humanity has taken in its religious history this is certainly the most surprising.”

Chap. 1, Page 12.

Lewis then goes on to document the remarkable reality that even the pagan and pantheistic religions, such as Stoicism, cannot escape the reality of the Law. He once more makes a skeptical conclusion; providing two explanations to the phenomenon (while once more, offering a kind of sarcastic remark towards the skeptic view) by saying:

“Once more, it may be madness–a madness congenital to man and oddly fortunate in its results–or it may be revelation. And if revelation, then it is most really and truly in Abraham that all people shall be blessed, for it was the Jews who fully and unambiguously identified the awful Presence haunting black mountain-tops and thunderclouds with ‘the righteous Lord’ who ‘loveth righteousness’.”

Chap. 1, Page 13.

The Fourth Element: The Christian Distinction

Remember that Lewis, throughout this chapter, goes through what he identifies as three elements of religious development. The first being the experience of the Numinous, the second being the Law, the third being the identification and connecting of the Numinous (the supernatural) with the Law and we concluded this with the Jews taking that full step. But why must it only be the Jews, one might ask? Lewis takes quite a leap from that point to concluding it was the God of the Jews who is the true Numinous experience connected with the inescapable Law. Why not Horus? Why not Zeus?

It is indeed the fourth element that makes the Christian distinction and makes it of infinitely greater significance than the rest. The fourth element is what Lewis calls “a historical event”, which I will let him describe:

“There was a man born among these Jews who claimed to be, or to be the Son of, or to be ‘one with’, the Something which is at once the awful haunter of nature and the Giver of the moral law. The claim is so shocking–a paradox, and even a horror, which we may easily be lulled into taking too lightly–that only two views of this man are possible. Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way. If the records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must submit to the second. And if you do that, all else that is claimed by Christians becomes credible–that this Man, having been killed was yet alive…”

Chap. 1, Page 13.

The Incarnation of the Son is the fourth element of religious development, and only the Christian faith has this element. It is the historical reality of the man Jesus. What makes the Christian view so distinct, among other things, is it has historical significance. The prophetic fulfillment of holy Scripture, not only in worldly events, but in the Christ himself. He was prophesied centuries before His coming in Scripture and there He is. This reality should give any sane human being immediate pause. It was this that, later when I reflect on my Christian journey, truly caught me and changed me forever.

And as Lewis said, we only have two options about this man. Many want to make Jesus part of their cause, but His entire life, to be truly known, must be understood by those who were closest to Him. Those characters are the authors of the gospels and what they said about Him connect Him emphatically to the ancient Jewish Scriptures as the Messiah, Imanuel, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Logos made flesh. This in itself, the reality of the Incarnation is the end of discussion. His existence cannot be denied; He is the single most significant character in all of history and the truth about Him can only be found in the gospels.

If all that I have said is true, then every person in the world is absolutely under obligation to find out who He was, and more still, who He is. He is of eternal significance and He cannot be simply ignored.

Finding the Balance

Why “Finding the Balance”? Throughout my young adult life, one thing has been commonly put upon my mind as I reflect on important issues in life, and that is simply finding the proper balance to these important issues. This is especially important in topics regarding politics, religion, worldviews, and culture. These are areas that deal with life itself, and can themselves be a matter of life and death. How do we find the right balance to an issue that does not have us falling off the proverbial horse on either side?

Whenever I would consider an issue, I found that there were primarily two positions vying for acceptance. In some cases there were more, but the primary separation was between two parties. Almost as often as I found two separate parties, I also found that I disagreed with both, finding that the two sides tended to have their ups and also had their downs. In some cases, one side had less faults than the other, and visa versa. I am not here saying that I am the standard to judge by which they are right, but the point being made is that where most saw that you are either “left or right” I saw that it didn’t need to be that way.

Black, White and Gray

It is often called a false dichotomy, or a fallacy of false alternatives. If you don’t support universal healthcare, you must hate society, and sick and disabled people, and love big corporations. If you do not support the wars, you must hate the United States, the military and everyone serving. If you support a border wall, you must hate all immigrants. If you don’t support the presidential nominee, you must be in favor of the other. In each of these cases, there is a false dichotomy problem, where not every option is actually considered. Just because I do not support the wars in the Middle East does not mean I think the US military is a bunch of gun-ho, blood thirsty haters of Muslims. And just because I don’t support government-run healthcare does not mean I don’t like disabled people, or very sick people. There are better ways to solve these issues, and I stand for neither of the major sides. Both sides suffer serious imbalances that I cannot afford to help make more imbalanced.

Very often in movies, TV shows, video game plots and various other storytelling outlets, you see things in the plot painted in a sort of black and white scenario, where there is a clear bad guy and a clear good guy. Much like in Star Wars, you have the Light Side and the Dark Side, and it’s very obvious which is which. These are popular story mechanics, but I find that the more interesting stories are the ones that blur the lines, that provide that “gray area” where good and bad are not always that easy to tell, or when the right choice has poor consequences. Why not have three sides fighting for control, with three different views on how to solve the problem? That would cause some real conflict with the main protagonist. Because while one side is clearly unacceptable, two others may be, but which one? This is the sort of thing I try to do in my own novel-writing. In such a scenario, it would be even more complex of a story, and provide a more realistic, if not more interesting plot, because the reality of the matter is that history tells us that there was very rarely (if ever there was) ever a “black and white” scenario, where the good guys were clearly the good guys.

While the Allied powers against the Axis powers were the guys to root for, men like Winston Churchill were not without their great sins and power grabs, particularly Churchill’s dealings with Stalin towards the end of the war, and even before Berlin was captured, all sides were in a race for the city, to be the first to claim the hill. In the French Revolution, one could argue very easily that the population’s revolt against the corrupt aristocracy was just. But they lost all sympathy when they went mad, led by Robespierre in the Reign of Terror.

Even in biblical history, though the patriarchs and apostles were favorite characters to follow, they still had their great sins. The only one who didn’t was Jesus. Otherwise, conflicts are simply not as simple as we make them out to be, not so easily balanced out. It is because of this reality that we need to be careful not to fall too far into leftist extremism, or rightist extremism.

The Narrow Way

It is this necessity of proper balance that I think Jesus meant when He said these words:

[“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”] -Matthew 7:13-14 ESV.

Whenever I read this passage, I have always pictured a man walking down a long, stretched-out bridge, from one side to the other, and the bridge extending across a large canyon. But this bridge has no rail guards to it, and it is very narrow. Too far the left, you fall, and too far to the right, you fall. There is a proper balance that must be walked to get across safely. That is the kind of imagery Jesus is giving us here. So what does he mean? For many years, I struggled with its meaning, but I do believe it carries many applications. The main point is that we must walk this life with the right balance, and an imbalance will cause great trouble and even death.

Take for instance the discussion of the nature of Christ in the fifth century, at the Council of Chalcedon. Two parties were vying for acceptance (it wasn’t so simple, but for the sake of discussion, we will mention just these two), both of which eventually were condemned as heresy. One was Nestorianism, which argued that the human nature of Christ and the divine nature were so divided, that they were indeed separated from one another, arguing that Christ was a duality of persons in one. The other was the Monophysite party, arguing that the divine nature and human nature of Christ are so intimate, that they are fused and mixed with each other.

You see the contrast of both views. The former separates the two natures of Christ to a point that He is two different persons. The ladder joins the two natures in such a way that they become confused, and in essence some kind of mutated hybrid of divine humanity is made. Instead, a balance had to be found, where you do not fall too far into the Nestorian heresy, and then too far into the Monophysite heresy, and so the Chalcedon Creed, which defined the Hypostatic Union of Christ was formed, showing that Christ was truly God and truly man, in such a way that the two natures are not separated, but neither are mixed together.

One of the hardest lines to walk in the Christian life is the walk of faith and grace. Very often we can get caught into feeling that we need to do righteous deeds, and certainly, we are commanded to do, but we also risk becoming too reliant on the law for our position in God’s sight that we fall into legalism. But if we turn that around, and decide to go the other direction into grace, we may go too far and remove the law from any sense of purpose at all, and conclude that because we are forgiven in Christ, we are free to live however we want, and sin however much we want. This also must be avoided.

So the risk here is to emphasize too much of the law, and fall off into legalism, or to emphasize too much of grace, and fall into antinomianism. We must walk that fine balance, which Scripture provides, that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28) but that that faith is a faith that produces works of repentance and growing faith in the Christian life (Ephesians 2:10).

In the triune nature of God Himself, we must understand that God is both One and Many at the same time. But if we emphasize too much of His Oneness, we risk Unitarianism in the form of modalism, where God’s Oneness overshadows His Manyness and hence the three persons become three modes or mere masks that the one God puts on at various times. On the other hand, if we emphasize too much of God’s Manyness, we risk forms of trithesim (three gods) or polytheism. We must have the right balance, a balance that Scripture provides, between the One and the Many of God. In the Trinity do we find true balance of unity.

You see how in these important matters (and there are countless more), we must be able to find the right balance. In essence, what this blog/project of mine is meant to be is to be me speaking genuinely how I feel about issues regarding religion, theology, politics, culture (and as a bonus, I’d like to talk about writing, art and related topics as hobbies I enjoy). The gospel is the primary focus of all my writing, and it is the biblical conviction of finding the proper balance in every situation that drives me. Because as I see the world unfold, I see that there is a scale, and most people end up on one side or the other. We need to remove ourselves from the think tank of the standard talking points of each imbalanced side, and take the biblical view, allowing it to define our categories, our worldview, and to give us the tools to find that straight road, that balance that brings forth life, truth and understanding.