Monday, January 26, 2009

The Inner Ring

In this article, Lewis talked that there is always an invisible system exists in every kind of community (society). The rules of these systems are undefined. It is very hard to understand those rules if you are a so-called outsider. But once you enter into the community. The invisible rules will begin to appear. Basically, we call the community the inner ring, and its system the second or unwritten systems as Tolstoi called.
There is a clear boundary between the inside and outside. However, it is hard to define the exact borderline for the ring. “People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it. Or before they have been allowed in; this provides great amusement for those who are really inside.” Somehow, as an insider, the man will feel a sense of satisfaction and pleasure even though they were asked to do more work than the outsiders. I myself am an example. I am an international student committee member. When I told my friends that I had a meeting at 3:30 and I had to go, I felt like that I was a useful person.
If the man doses not know how to control this kind of feeling, the Inner Rings will be potential to be a dangerous thing. As Lewis said, “I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable.” According to the nature of human sin, a man will soon become to be proud of himself and loss his rules played in this moral society. “A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous.”
I have to confess that I totally have the same feeling, which Lewis has described) that I would feel happy when people ask who I am. Indeed, most of times I wanted them to envy or admire me. There is an interesting invisible way to get pleasure from Inner Ring. One way is to make the entry test tougher. That is to be “mean” on the next entrant. Or at least, it should be harder than the previous one. Because of this, we can always see students around campus working on their resumes. The entrance interview has become harder and harder these days.
However, human is not always satisfied with what they have. Once they got the pleasure, their pleasure can barely be with them since he had already got the desire job. Human will rise up another desire to go into some other inner rings. As long as we are sinful, we may never be able to feel content. But if there is no exclusion (outsiders), there won’t be any inner rings. So don’t always bother yourself if you can’t enter into some sort of inner rings. Because without outsiders, no one can be in an inner ring.

The Problem of Pain

The day before I read this article, I was talking with my friends about human suffering when we had breakfast together. Is suffering a good or a bad thing? Most people would say that, of course, it is a bad thing. I did think so when I was in high school. Indeed, as I mention in the first blog. I suffered a lot during the time when I transferred from one culture to another.
The problem of pain for human is more likely be explained as suffering. It is necessary for human to suffer, especially for non-Christians. At this point, I don’t mean that non-Christians deserve to suffer a lot because they don’t accept God. Rather, it is an effective way for non-Christians getting to know God through sufferings. For most of students in Calvin College, they may grow up in Christian families and were educated to know that there is a God since they were very young. But as a Chinese, culture influence made me feel very uncomfortable to believe in a religion. In China, we were educated to look down on those people who have a religion belief. Chairman Mao (Mao Zedong) ever said that it is an excited thing to fight with God. He said that he knew God didn’t like Chinese because we were communists. Of course, it is not true. But since everyone was obsessed about him during the Cultural Revolution, people believed in his every single word. Being brought up in such an environment, we read Bible stories as legends. The promises in the Bible are more like the fairy tale’s “live happily ever after” which can only existed beyond human’s imagination.
If you want someone to believe in God, you have to let them experience God. One of best way to experience God is through suffering. If a man is satisfied with everything, he is less likely to accept God than a poor farmer who has lost everything in a flood. I don’t remember the exact Bible verse, but Bible did write about that it is much easier for a poor man to believe in God than a rich man. The poor and rich do not only apply to people economically, rather, it also apply to the spiritual life. When a man feels his heart is empty, he will automatically seek the comfort from anywhere.
If I can understand English very well and have a good communication skill when I came to United States, I would not find my Christian friends. When everyone was ignoring us, they came to me and helped me go through the toughest days in my life. At that time, I complained a lot. I didn’t know why God gave me such a difficult time. For two years, I hide myself from other people as possible as I could, since I didn’t want to lose face because of my bad English accent. There was one time when my family was encountering a financial problem. I still remember my dad came to my room and told me that he may not be able to afford my college if this situation continues on. The last two years was miserable, but it did let me gain a lot of life experience. I learnt how to be independent, and I got to know God.
So I did believe that suffering is part of God’s plan. The Bible says that human can (only) determine their own courses but God set up the important steps. If I didn’t have a tough life in the past, I might not accept Jesus since I would be so satisfied with my life. And, according to Chinese TAO (which Lewis mentioned in his “Abolition of Man”), everything in the universe has its opposite. If there is no dark, there is no light. If there is no miserable life, there is no happiness to compare to. I knew it is not easy to live through on earth; I am more desire the life in heaven. Since I know how hard life can turn to be, I learnt how to cease today’s happiness. God has his own plan on everyone. Even though if you are suffering right now, don’t complain, because, God must have his reason. The best thing is waiting for you in the future.

PS: For the question whether God can feel us suffering or not. I do believe that he can. God sent his only son on earth to save us; Jesus came to earth with a human form and was died on the cross. If God is not suffering with us, how can you explain those sufferings that Jesus had tolerated? How can you explain the trinity where father, son and sprit belong to one? If God can even suffer with us, why are we still fear suffering?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rabbit? Man!

By far, this is my favorite essay.
Lewis started his essay with a question, “Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” I’ll explain my understanding later. I really like the way Lewis organized his writing.
At first, he talked about the different views of Christians and non-Christians. From a Christian point of view, a man can only gain happiness when he is walking and working on the road that God has prepared for him. Any “walking aside” may lead to an unhappy ending. However, a non-Christian is more materialistic. He won’t mind to work in the dark as long as he obtained what he called “good” things. In his world, happiness is only judged by either “good” or “bad”.
Even though sometimes when Christians and non-Christians have common goals, their fundamental beliefs will differentiate their goals (purpose) eventually. A Christian is more considered individual development. On the other hand, a non-Christian (Materialist) is more interested about the benefit of majorities
Objectively, we can not judge whose belief is right and whose is wrong. Both of them have their own reasons about their beliefs. However, this is not the problem which Lewis addressed at the beginning. Christians and non-Christians have made their mind on whether they should believe in God or not. Only those who are not sure about their beliefs ask question which Lewis mentioned beforehand. “The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true.” It is understandable that a man is questioning his beliefs in the beginning. But it is not right for him to just ignore his problem. At the middle of his “pilgrim process”, he decided to stop seeking the truth. For him who asked the question at first, it seems like he doesn’t want to admit that Christianity can lead him a better life than non-Christianity. “He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what the might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him.”
Now let’s go back to the beginning, when Lewis wrote, “One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing.” If you give a carrot to a rabbit, it just eats it; if you give the same thing to a man, he may wonder and “want to know” what ingredients are contained in the carrot. A man without intention to seek truth is like the rabbit. He doesn’t desire to find out whether Christianity can lead him to a good life or not. He is in a state of honest ignorance rather than in a state of honest error. You can not blame people, such as J.S. Mill, who had indeed thought over the questions. At least, they had made their mind. Nonetheless, honest ignorance is the reflection of worry, hesitation, cowardice, and laziness. I think that’s why at the end of the essay, Lewis appealed us to let “all the rabbit in us [is] to disappear-the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit.”
At the end, from Lewis own opinion, he admitted the idea that “reaching a good life” should be based on Christ. With sole human beings, we can only reach a certain level of so-called happiness, but we can not go further. However, with God, we can achieve the true happiness that a doubted man can never imagine.
So whenever we have problems, question them and try our best to find answers, don’t act like n almost-broken branch which is always dangling on the tree, and being blown in the middle of the air.

"Abolition of Man Ch3"

The Abolition of Man
As I read Chapter3 of this book, I began to fear our own beings. We seemed to be more and more distant from nature. According to Lewis, if this trend continues, human will finally cut their own posterity.
At the early time, because human didn’t have much technological skills, they deal with nature more than they deal with science. But as the modern technology developed, human become more depended on new technologies that make their life much more convenient.
Based on the fact, humans think that they are growing more powerful by possessing the skills of living a high-quality life. However, if we view this fact from another angle, we can possibly discover some disadvantages. At the very beginning, people invented many new things based on “nothing”. They had a wider space to invest their thought. But as time went by, people began to find and set up the rules of the world. Their next generation adopted those rules, and used them to develop new technologies. We think we are smart to make life more and more easily. Actually, we are losing our talents of invention. Because we have already got so many inventions, no one would bother to reinvestigate in those old inventions. Or, in other words, we are becoming lazy not because we want to be lazy but we are allowed to be lazy. Assume that if we become lazier generation by generation, human beings will eventually lose their ability to investigate any new things. We said that we conquest nature; in fact, it is the Law of Nature conquests us. When we loss all our abilities, we have to surrender to the nature. We are polluting our environment everyday, but the poisonous chemicals we dumped into the river are causing disease to human themselves.
When we are in absolute control of the nature, it is the time when nature will revenge on us. It is the day when Jesus Christ will come and save all of his believers. (I am not sure if that will be the time for Jesus to come, but since it is the time when human can not control themselves anymore, Jesus will come again and redeem us.)

Redemption Ch4

In the beginning, when Adam and Eve ate the fruits, they should heave died. However, since God loves his people, he clothed his sinners (Adam and Eve) by garments, which symbolized the mercy of God. For the following stories, God gave aged Abraham his son and guided Moses to lead Israelites out of Egypt. The Bible told so many stories about how graceful God is to his children. Even though we are keeping breaking his law, God is still holding his covenant with us. Later, he sent his only son Jesus to the earth to save our falling lives through his (Jesus) flesh and blood. God let his only son suffered on earth in order to deliver the message from heaven and prepare the coming of his kingdom.
I like Calvin said that “Jesus Christ did not rise alone. He rose as the head of a whole body of people elected to have faith in him” We don’t need to die physically, since Jesus has died for us. “All that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. When we believed in God, we are not feeling alone anymore. We are in a union.

As everyone can imagine, there is a long distance between earth and heaven. It is so hard for human to go to heaven without any help. However, Jesus came, because of our sin, he died for us on the cross; the cross became the bridge between heaven and earth. If we want to go to the heaven, we must walk through the bridge. In other words, we have to believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in human form and saved us.
For each Christian, we all agree with this concept. But dose that mean if once we are baptized, our sin is forgiven and we can do whatever we want to do now? As Plantinga said, “God doesn’t save people and then cut them loose to do what they want, because without the guidance of God ‘doing what we want’ is a recipe for failing right back into slavery.” There are some “Christians”, they tried so hard to please God before they got baptized. However, after the baptism, they stopped going church, refused reading Bible anymore. They thought they were saved; after they were saved, they can do whatever they want. They thought no matter what happen later, they would go to heaven for sure. From my understanding, redemption is a life-long process for every true Christian. Jesus Christ is not a tool to save people. It is not like a can opener, after you opened the can, you threw it away. Rather, we should use our faith which was given from Jesus Christ as a weapon to defend us from Devil. When we say that we are saved, we say that our minds are saved too. We get a new mind with Jesus Christ in it. We think in a new way to serve and honor God through our whole life. Redemption is not instantaneous, it is constant.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Eros? Venus?

Actually, I would like to say that I really learned two new words today.
Eros = Love between Man and Women
Venus = Sexuality
Before I read this chapter, I never thought about this topic. In China, parents never taught this to their children. In our biology class, teachers skip the chapter which talked about sexuality. But, C.S. Lewis’s writing about Eros (pure love) and Venus (sexuality) is really interesting.
In his writing, he explained the sexual experience can occur without Eros. However, Eros includes sexual activities.
In old times, young couples got married by their parents’ will. Some of them never met each other until they went to their marriage bed. There was no love growing up between them. But because the fear of God, they obeyed his words, (“Be fruitful, and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” Genesis 1:22), tried their best to “make” as many children as they could. Or, sometimes, we can explain that the Venus occurs depend on the human instinct instead of love (Eros). Most times, Eros only happened after several years of marriage.
In Lewis’s opinion, Venus should happen only after a couple falls in love. However, someone such as George Orwell, prefers the pure sexuality, or physical sexuality without Eros. If a guy wants only to have sex, he goes and picks any women on the street. Nonetheless, after the fruition, he simply abandons her. Why this happened all the time? As Lewis explained; because the sexuality happened without Eros.
“Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman.” Compare to old times, in the modern world, in most cases, sexuality happened after the “real” Eros. When a man fells in love with a woman, he is more concerned about the woman herself instead of her gender. But when the love (Eros) reaches a certain level, both of them began to have sexual desire. Having sex became a need-pleasure at this time. They are in love so deeply so that they want to be each other. As Charles Williams said, “Love you? I am you.”
There is distinction between Eros and Venus, when couples have Eros, they focus on each other; they express their love romantically. However, when couples have Venus, they focus on having the sexual pleasure in order to satisfy their own desire; they express love physically. Maybe, I want to say, in conclusion, Venus is more selfish than Eros.

The Road to Happiness

This is the first speech that I listened from the beginning to the end without missing any words. It is just wonderful
We were made to be happy.
As a Christian, we should know that happiness is a natural product of Christianity. God wants us to be happy in him.
The speaker talked about the relationship between happiness and fluency. To be happy is to make you life fluently. People are happy when they feel everything is going on fluently in their life.
If you are always worried about something, you are not fluent in your life. When you are fluent, you are neither self-centered (too confident) or self-conscious (less confident). If you really enjoy the life, you will loss yourself instead of think about “self”.
Little children are always happy because they often wonder around. They ask a lot of questions that you never think about. Why is the sky blue? Why is the lavender purple? Always ask questions will make people happy since they will have the hope to get an answer.
People feel happy when their skills meet their personal desire. In other words, when you are working on something, you are actually enjoying your work. You work “fluently”, so that you are happy.
However, it is impossible to not suffer any sadness in one’s life. When the speaker talked about this issue, she explained it as that sadness is the stairs which assist us to move on to an upper level of happiness. When we are encountering difficulties, we challenge ourselves to solve the problems. When problems are resolved, we are happy again. The quality of happiness we possessed is much better than the last time we got it.
There are two things that can cause unhappiness. They are “a sense of order” and “set up too many rules”. We always like to arrange our life in an order. We follow our daily routines. If we don’t finish our homework on time or we get up late in the morning and miss breakfast. We become upset; we feel a sense of disorder. Then, we feel like that life was chaotic. Also, when we are setting up so many rules for ourselves, we are more likely to break them than those people who set up fewer rules. And when we broke our rules, we felt disappointed about ourselves. Neither of the two situations will lead us to happiness.
So how can we obtain happiness? As the speaker said, happiness is equal to consideration of present. Why should we worry about past? It has become history. Why should we worry about future? For it is not coming yet. All we can do at this moment is to cease the present.
Like what I wrote in my last essay, I was always worried about my future. It made me depressed and felt disordered. But after this speech, I think I realized my weakness, I always want to finish the present work, and then start my “real life”. But I never thought about that I am having the real life right now. Right at this moment, right at this college.
Last night, I prayed for God. I hope I can be settled back to peace again. I asked God to tell me why I was depressed yesterday. And, he just answered me today. I didn’t know we have to listen to this speech today. He talked to me thorough the mouth of the speaker. So what should I worry about, God is always giving me the answer. All I can do right now, is to keep praying and honor him, and BE HAPPY as God made us to.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prayer of Confession

When I was cleaning my folder today, I found this note I made from "SHOW and TELL". I copied down the "Prayer of Confession". This piece of writing is really touching me. I wrote a note about this on my facebook. But still I want to retype this again in this blog and share my feelings about it.


Lord God, giver of life and source of beauty.
We know that you have assured us to ask for what we need.
Forgive us for all the times we thought we could solve our own problems.
We know that you have told us it is better to give than to recieve.
Forgive us when we have been slow and reluctant givers.
We know that you have told us not let our hearts be troubled.
Forgive the many times we have been consumed by worry and anxiety.
We know that you have said that if we love you, we will obey you.
Forgive our lukewarm love and our easy-going disobedience.
In your mercy, hear our prayer.
Forgive what we have been. Help us change what we are, and direct what we shall be. so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.

To be honest, I really don't know how to describe the feeling about this.
I am kind of person that always worried about things. Tommorow always has uncertainties to me. Even though I am always a positive person, every once a while, I would feel very depressed for no reason. At that time, I would sit down and spend hours to think about what's wrong with me. It is a periodical thing, even there is nothing important happened, I still tried very hard to find a reason to know why. If I really can't find the answer, I went to sleep. Usually, when I woke up, no matter how big the problem was, it was solved automatically, and I became the happy me again. But the moment, when I was in a depression, to be honest, it wa really really annoyed, I felt I was useless, wasting time. I felt unsecure. I wanted to cheer myself up and did everthing I should do. However, in fact, I didn't know where to start. I even doubt about the existence of God when I was in the depression. I thought things very rationally but too rationally, I draged my thought into a dead corner, I walked around the corner again and again, tryied to find a way out. To be honest, right now, when I am writing this journal, I am confused. I am depressed. I didn't want to write any journal or any books (maybe I'll write a journal later), I just want to talk, maybe, or write down my thought with paying no attention about the grammar. (Please, professor, could not grade this journal based on my English grammer, I just want to write now.)I even feels like that I am wasting my time to write this journal, since, I may not get any grade from this. But, please, forgive me professors, I want to write and just tell what I am thinking right now. I feels like I am a little bit crazy, but I know that after I finish this journal, I'll calm down again and back to normal me.
Ok, I am a liitle bit worried about my studys, my relationships, my families and friendships. It is sort of mixed up. I am a little bit overwhelmed now. I know that later, or let's say, tommorrow, I'll be happy agian, but now, I am worried, I had such a busy schdule this week, I have to review the exam, I have a group project, I have my integration paper to finish, I have to plan out the ISAC winnter retreat, I have to work, and I really want to hang out with my boyfriend and talk with my friends too. Plus, the Chinese New Year is comming, I'll cook Chinese food with my friends on Saturday and watch the traditional Chinese New Year TV show on Sunday. Or, maybe, probably, I am stressed out now. A lot of things just overlapped on my schedule.
When I was with my boyfriend, I felt that life is perfect; when I was with friends, I felt like I was so lucky to get so many good friends; when I was at class, I feel like that I am so energetic to discuss the topic. When I was at work, I just smiled to everyone, and expected them to smild back. Basically, every single moment in my life is considered of happiness. I am maybe that kind of person who can not be alone. I mean, sometimes, I really enjoy to just stay in the room and admire the sunshine peaked through the window. I listened to the music and looked over Facebook. Or, my favourite, cleaning up my room. But I can't stay by myself that much long. Sometimes, I doubt if I had ADD. I felt more secure to be around people. Maybe, my high school experience in the states made my present characteristics. When I was in high school, people simply ignored me. I like to be within a community, so that I won't feels like that I am living all by myself.
Well, anyway, I remembered today, when we talked about that Devil can get us through money, adultery and depression. I just told myself that if Devil can't get me from money and adultery, he must can't and should not get me from depression. Plus, I should not worry, "if God is for us, who can against us? (Romans 8:31) ". "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV
Sometimes, I just like to look through the Bible verses and think them, they inspired me a lot. Honestly, if God is with me, who am I going to worry out that will against me?
But, there is still a problem, I doubt the existence of God sometimes, I mean, he has given me a lot of good things which I prayed to get. When I got into Calvin College, I knew that was God's plan. He didn't want me to loss my newly-established faith. I was just so lucky to get a lot of faithful and honest friends. They are so nice to me. In fact, I prayed for God to send me friends since I was so alone in my high school. And when I broke up with my first boyfriend, I began to pray for God to bring me the right person to me, and he is just so merciful to give me a person who I felt like he is so right for me. Sometimes, I doubt if I was actually in a dream. I am those type of person who will be so easily satisfied. I never complain about God, but I am really afraid of my own mind when I questioned the existence of God. Maybe Devil is trying to drag me toward a wrong way. I don't know, but I'll try me best to resist.
However, I know sometimes, I am very very faithful, that I just feels like if God wants me to die right away , I 'll die with happiness. But, I think I'll keep making my faith stronger. But, if God has given me so much as I prayed for. I should have no reason to deny him. I mean, every single time, he anwsered me, every single time, he responded to me in many different ways. But how can him just reply to you every single time, isn't that amazing?
All right, this journal has been too long. But the more I wrote, the better I feel about myself right now. For me, when I was depressed, I talk or write, after that, I will feel so much better. Right now, I am, sorry, I just feel like I am happy again. :D
Thank you , professors, for just reading this journal, maybe most of my writing in this one won't make any sense, but after I poured out my thoughts, I felt released. Hehe, I think I just like to tell stories so much.
Ok, I am back to normal again. The only thing I'll go right now is to go to sleep. When I get up, tomorrow will be a brand new day again. Don't worry about me, see you tomorrow in the class.

PS: For other readers, I know this journal is kind of ridiculous, but enjoy reading it, this is a person's real thought without any decorations of essay-ish words.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chapter 3 The Fall

We are predestined to have sin since our ancestors Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. When Eve asked Adam to eat the fruit, he ate it. “He starts out with a choice, he ends up with a habit.” We are not being able to avoid the sin. And it seems like that having sin has become a habit of human being.
In this chapter, Plantinga wrote about causes of the Fall, and who should we blame about the Fall. At the beginning, our ancestors were corrupted by the serpent. One of their sons killed another. From then on, the next generation always lived shorter than the previous one since their sin was increasing by time. We can’t avoid it since we were born with it.
However, “God hates sin not just because it violates law but also because it violates trust.”
Since we have sin, we learnt how to lie which usually would destroy the trust completely between people. This may let many people feel depressed as we all have sin when we were born. But, think about another way, if there is no sin in the world, how do we know that what is good? Everything is comparable, we should be happy that we are actually having good things in contract to bad things.
Another sin of us is selfishness; it is so hard to avoid. When I was young, I didn’t like to share my toys with other kids. And usually people just become more and more self-centered as they grew up.
It seems like the only method to save people is the redemption.

Learning in War-Time

In this sermon, Lewis talked about one of weaknesses of human beings.
During war time, people usually forgot God. All they thought about was to protect themselves. Our faiths were “interrupted by death or military service”. People thought that God would forgive them since they had a good reason to ignore God. But should we have excuses to avoid the existence of God?
Lewis thought that we should always be aware of God and serve him at anytime, any situation. If people were not at war, they might not be able to notice their indifference toward God. Actually, human beings were always ignoring God, they didn’t like to confess that until they had to face the fact at a certain period of time such as war time. Our levels of devotion toward God don’t change; it is only time and situation changed. As Lewis mentioned in the essay, “The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.”
Then Lewis directed us to the weakness of human beings. As he wrote, “Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun.” After reading this article, I just realized that I am actually ignoring God involuntarily. I am always thinking to start my daily devotion sometimes. But everyday, I felt like that I had so many things to do. I had to go to class in the morning; I had to do my homework in the afternoon and at night; I had to work and so on. Each day, I told myself, after finishing these things, I would sit down and read my Bible. In that case, I would have the entire left-over time to devote myself to God. But that never happened: I always had something to do. It seemed like that your “something” can never be finished. The ideal condition when I would have free time to serve God becomes some empty promises.
If we think that we should search something only after we secured everything else around us, we will never begin to search. We are always distracted when we are searching things. We think that we should focus on doing one particular thing, but it can only end up missing something else. If we want to serve God, it is better to start right away instead of doing it later.
As students, we should not take study as an excuse to ignore God. Especially in a Christian college, what we can do is to study but at the same time, to honor God through our work.

Some Thoughts on "Vocation in the Kingdom of God" (Chapter 5)

Some thoughts on “Vocation in the Kingdom of God”
About the coming Kingdom of God
When I was reading this chapter, there is one thought that called my attention. As the book was written, “Your kingdom come,” Christians pray, and hope it won’t. “Your kingdom come,’ they say, “but not right away.”
To be honest, I have the same thought sometimes. When I pray for “Your kingdom come”, actually, I was a little bit afraid of the coming kingdom. I still remember one day, when my family drove back from a night worship service. That’s night’s topic was “Coming of God’s kingdom”. It was 11P.M. there was no star in the sky; the radio was playing some Christian songs. I looked into the sky, suddenly, I felt very scary: Is Jesus going to come back today? What if he suddenly appears in the sky and come down, and took all the Christians to the heaven? What if he burns (I don’t know why I think that Jesus wants to burn pagans) all non-Christians? Since both my grandparents are non-Christians, dose this mean that I am not being able to see them anymore? NO!
I don’t know what God’s kingdom looks like, but I know that there will be only happiness there. However, if there is no conflicts exist, wouldn’t life be boring? I am an easy-to-be-satisfied person. It is more like the book described, “When our earthly kingdoms have had a good year, we don’t necessarily long for the kingdom of God to break in. We like our own setup just fine.” We know that there is a wonderful place we can go after death, but we are just not ready for it.
I am afraid of death, and I am a little afraid of trying news things too, so I think I am not for the kingdom yet. Although I know that I will someday.
All in all, I would like use one of my favorite Bible verses to comfort myself, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

About our Vocation in College and College’s Vocation
In Chapter 5, Plantinga talked about “Kingdoms inside Kingdoms”. God’s Kingdom is the supreme kingdom, but not the only one. In the book, Plantinga indicated that every community is a small kingdom. When we were born, our families are our kingdoms. When we went to schools, those schools are our kingdoms; rather, our churches are our kingdoms too. And at this time, Calvin College is my kingdom. Since all kingdoms belong to God’s Kingdom, living a good life in Calvin would mean that to live as a good citizen in God’s Kingdom.
Everyone has a vocation to complete in this world. People also have different vocations at different times. To be honest, I am not sure what my life’s vocation is, but I know that my vocation right now is to be a good student. In our “English Syllabus”, Lewis indicated that most Christians thought that by receiving a better education, people could serve God more properly with their knowledge. I think that one main purpose of Christian Colleges is that we are not preparing students to find a job in the future, but to teach them how to honor God through their work. In other words, Calvin College is teaching us how to fulfill our life-long vocation.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Poison of Subjectivism

To be honest, I was a little confused about this article. I wrote my reflections below, but I am not sure these are correct.
It is good to have your own thought, people think about the world subjectively. However, if those subjective thoughts become some theological truths, they will turn into poison to kill other’s new thoughts toward certain things. Sometimes, when new thoughts conflicted with old ones, they bring miseries to thinkers.
Lewis talked about that, in today’s world, the devil has driven human into a self-centered situation. We always considered our selves first, which is contradicted to the Bible. The Bible says “love our neighbor as ourselves”, but in fact, in the modern world, almost everyone considers his/her benefit first. We like to say that we are watching this world objectively; however, if we ask ourselves, do we really think the world with a general opinion? The answer is “No”. For example, a beggar on the street may think that the world is cold and hopeless, it is so hard to get a penny and keep living in such a poor life; on the other side, a rich man may think the world is full of opportunities to invest and make more money. A mother who has lost their son in Iraq war is praying for peace to come, while President Bush is having a meeting to arrange another attack to Middle East.
People took every event in their life personally. That is what Lewis called as “poison”. We set up our own moral standards since it is so hard to find a universal moral standard which can be used globally regardless of cultural. But it seems like the standard law dose not really exist. So there will be no standard to be “wrong” or “right”. I think this essay is alike the “mere Christianity”. Since the Law of Human Nature is set “subjectively”, there will be no standard to judge right or wrong universally, UNLESS, THERE IS A GOD.

Mere Christianity

Chapter 1
The Law of Human Nature
In this chapter, Lewis distinguished the Law of Human Nature from the scientific meaning of the Law of Nature. In the human world, a person sets the standard rule of right and wrong for both himself/herself and other people. He/she can so easily spot others’ fault when they are violating the standards. But at the same time, when he/she can’t behave properly in the same way, he/she can hardly find that he/she is actually breaking his/her own rules. As Lewis said, “we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people.” Because this happened, people usually like to quarrel with each other and try to correct another one. And the quarrelling became worse especially when two persons have different sets of rules.
It is easier for people to disobey the Law of Human Nature than any other laws; since it is made by themselves and is not shared by other things.
However, there is something in common. For example, people have “always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first.” Most people thought that they can not disobey those common behaviors since they are too common to violate. But in fact, people are breaking those common rules every day.
Chapter 2
Some Objections
Some people thought that “Moral Law= Human Instinct”. However, Lewis pointed out that was wrong. Moral Law always led people to a right way. On the hand, human instinct usually instructs people to act the way which can benefit himself/herself the most. For example, when someone asked for help, moral law made us want to help the person. At the same time, human instinct tells us to keep away from the danger.
Human instinct has its negative side, considered selfishness. A man’s instinct can only help the man do his own staff the best way but may not worry about anyone else. But the Moral Law would consider the common good will objectively
Chapter 3
The Reality of the Law
The Law itself can not be defined as wrong or right. It depends on the one who made the law. If the inventor thought that’s right, then, that is right. Lewis compared the Law of Human Nature to the Natural Law. If you see a person is doing something wrong, it will more likely to say that a stone has a wrong shape. When we are talking about human, we may not notice that how ridiculous we are when we are using our own standards to judge other ones. But if we replace the person with the stone, we may ask, “Should the stone have a certain shape, who cares?” So the reality of law must have a real thing to depend on.

Chapter 4
What Lies Behind the Law
In this chapter, Lewis talked about the Law of Human Nature from two views: world view and religious view.
The world view is connected to the scientific view of the universe. In science, everything originally comes from observation. Because our scientists have not yet be able to observe the creation of Universe, so some of the scientist denied the idea of God.
But at the same time, from a religious view; if God dose exist, god will act on our inner spiritual feeling instead of materialistic satisfaction.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Praying without end

Nicolaes Maes: Old Women Praying (Praying without end)
Copyright © 2001-2008 Art to Heart Ministries LLC

The Danger of Small Choices (Letter XII)

In Screwtape’s letter addressed to his nephew Wormwood, he discussed the potential dangers of lukewarm behavior or the dangers of small choices.
Devil loves to make us became careless of small choices. The more faulty small choices we made, the more chance we may be drag into hell. Most people in our world dose not care about little choices; because they are little, what’s the matter? Even we chose to do something wrong, as long as we don’t make decisive mistakes, we are OK! Is that true? Although I don’t have much experience on this case, I do believe that small mistakes will lead us to bigger ones gradually.
In real life, I cared about the small choices. However, because I cared them so much, it was very hard for me to make a final decision. Usually, at the end, I would pick up whatever choice sparked in my mind at the instant moment. I wouldn’t notice if the choice was right or wrong immediately, I simply made it. I guess that’s what Lewis described as “lukewarm behavior”. Devil dragged us so slowly toward the door of hell that we even didn’t notice our mistakes until we are standing in front of hell. I like the bible story told in the “further reflections”. Later in the story, when Angels told Lot and his family, “do not look back”. Lot’s wife, as many other housewives, who thought there were still a lot of things they would take with, didn’t listen to angels, instead, she turned her head, and stayed beside her desperate village forever. Do I need to look back or not? Lot’s wife only need to make this decision in a few seconds; in such a short time, her destiny was doomed. I think Devil is using our weakness of hesitation to lure us in his cradle. As the chart “For Every Choice One Makes”, those people who are uncertain about their choice will go to hell eventually. Only those who make their mind by themselves and follow God’s lead go to heaven.
I like the sentence above the chart, “ Everyday we are becoming or helping other become Hellish or Heavenly creatures.” Screwtape is helping Wormwood walk toward God. He helped his nephew to walk in the righteousness and be aware of devil when making even very small choices.
As a college freshman, I was reluctant when I was choosing my major. Like every other classmates, I don’t really care what department I am right now, since I still have one year to go. I always told myself let’s try one major, if I don’t like it, I’ll just change it. After reading this letter and the further reflections, I just realized that, sometimes, I can never turn back after I make my decision. If I decide to major in a subject, and changed to another later, those major-related courses I’ve taken may become totally useless. At the same time, I was wasting my money and time to learn something I’ll never use later.
So, from now on, I am going to be more careful on making choice. Sometimes, even the small one may change my whole life.


When I was young, I always had the same question as every other child. “Where do I come from?” Since, in China, none of my friends were brought up in Christian families, neither did I; we were told that we were send by a mysterious person. Someday, when our parents wished for a child, the mysterious person would know it immediately, and bring one to them. “So one day, when I open the door, I saw a basket; when I looked into it, you are lying there.” That was how my mom told me where I came from. At such a young age, plus, I was affected by the fairy tales; I did firmly believe that there must be one person who has the power to bring baby to his/her parents. When I looked back, I think that “person” is God. But we don’t have religion beliefs in China, we generally call “that guy” “the mysterious person”.
When I grew up, I studied biology, from the book, I learnt the process of “producing a baby”. But still, I thought the Darwin’s evolution was the foundation of creation.
For a child who grew up in Christian families, it is so natural for them to believe that they are created by God. When I came to a US church the first time, I attended a bible study class for beginners, we read through the first several chapters of Genesis. Honestly, we thought those were nonsense. I read bible before when I was in China. But in China, people treated Bible as a legend. Like Greek legend, people read them for fun rather than taking it seriously. How can a guy create the universe in only 7 days, I doubt it, or rather, I wouldn’t believe this at any time.
But God is amazing, he send people to me and converted me gradually into a Christian. When I read the creation this time, I was shocked by how proud and how empty I was at the time when I first read Genesis.
Why we say that God created us instead of constructed us? Doesn’t God make us in the same way as the workers put different body part of a Barbie doll into a whole, or as those construction workers build the skyscraper floor by floor? I remembered that I had this question before. I am so excited when I found the answer in this chapter.
As the British author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “the whole difference between construction and creation is…that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created before it exists.” When we are building a skyscraper, we are not sure how it will turn out to be. We wait, until one day, we saw that it was finished. Then we judged the building by its function, by its outlooking, by the profit we get from building it. People only love the skyscraper if it is well built and getting producer money. It is so different from how God created us. He knows that we have sin since we were born. But he still gives us a chance to live in the world. God loves his every single child despite of their look, personality, disabilities and family backgrounds. A child is created by LOVE, since his/her mom gets pregnant, the whole family prepared to welcome the new life, no one will hate the coming new life just because they are unsure what’s their baby will look like or what can he/she do in the future.
And the most wonderful thing is, God will love us, but only in the process of creation but also through fall and redemption.

Favorite Quotes from The Weight of Glory ( The Weight of Glory)

I like to read this article since I found a lot of good quotes in it. In this blog, I picked two of my favorite quotes; and I am going to explain them from my own understanding. (I also got some comments from the group discussion.)
Quote #1
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily.”
At first, I didn’t really understand the meaning of “half-hearted creatures”. Why did Lewis call human like that? As Christians, most of us pray and read Bible everyday. Interpreting from the Bible, we know what is good and what it bad. We are not supposed to get drunk; we are not allowed to have sex before getting married; we can’t steal and so on. But are all Christians obeying God’s rules? The answer is “No”. I think that’s why Lewis called human half-hearted creatures. Even though we clearly understand what God wants us to do, we still run to the opposite direction.
Part of our hearts are obeying Lord, at the same time, another part of our hearts are following a human’s mind. I like the example Lewis listed here, when we are doing those untrue things from a human desire, we are like children; we are too naive to know more wonderful things. We are too easily to be satisfied by a normal human’s faulty desire. God has prepared the most wonderful things in front of us, since most of us can’t really imagine how good those things are, sometimes, we just automatically give up getting those gifts from God.
As Proverb 3:5-6 said, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Yes, what we think is good may not as good as God thinks, we should totally put our heart in his hands, and believe that God will always straighten our way and prepare the best for us. At a certain period of time, we may feel uncomfortable to obey him instead of doing things from our own perspectives, but just wait, God always has his plan on every event that have been and will happen on us.
Quote #2
“Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.”
Jesus Christ died for us on the cross. He is one of the trinity. He supposes to be the king of our world. However, in this quote, Lewis said that “the cross comes before the crown”, I think he is telling us that even though Jesus is the kings, he came to earth as the form of human being, he died for us. Have you ever seen a king who actually died for his people? He carried our sin and healed us with his own flesh and blood, he put down his crown, and used his death to save us, he is the most humble king. For the second part, as Lewis wrote, “and tomorrow is Monday morning.” After Jesus forgiving our sin, a brand new day is coming. We forget our sin and start a new life. Just like what professor said in the class, Satan doesn’t want us to forget our sins, so we’ll continue repeat them. However, like Lewis said, on the opposite, God wants us to forget our sin and have a new beginning. Although we’ll still have sin all the time, our sin will become less and less as we are keeping realizing them and forgeting (don’t remember how to get the sin anymore) them, we will become more like our father Jesus Christ day by day.

The Purpose of Education (Our English Syllabus)

The Purpose of Education (Our English Syllabus)

What’s the real purpose of our education? Seriously, before I read this article, I never thought this question before.
I was send to Calvin by my parents, I chose Calvin because of the scholarship and Christianity environment, but what is my real purpose to be here?
When I was young, my parents told me the best way to get a job is to have a higher education. They are expecting me to get a college degree and later a master degree or PHD. Growing up under such a circumstance, in my mind, my purpose for going to college is to get a good job later. Until I read this article, when C.S. Lewis said, “You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves.” I think that I should reconsider my purpose for being a college student.
According to our culture, people go to college not because that they will enjoy the college life, instead, they go there since they have to. In China, it will be really really hard to find a job if you are only a high school graduate. I know someone who went to other colleges. They worked very hard everyday, and tried to finish their college as soon as possible. They barely have friends since they replace all their social life by studying time. Of course, someone finished their college degree in three years. But they seemed really unhappy. They thought study is everything. But is that really true? In my opinion, they wasted three years of their life. No joy, no happiness.
In class, we discussed that people usually don’t learn much in College. Honestly, I disagree with that. I think college is one of the most important stages when people started turn from a premature teenager to a mature adult. We are not only learning from classes, but learn from real life. We have to learn how to corporate with friends, how to work (most students found internships during their junior and senior years) and so on.
After all, college is all about learning. We were here being educated, but at the same time, we are learning from every kind of field but not only our majors.
From this view, I really like Calvin College; we are not only learning to find a job, but to find a way to live.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Longning and Hope, Good or Bad? (Longning and Hope)

When I was reading this section, I was really excited about the topic. Why do people always have longing and hope?
Many people were longing for the coming of their soul when they were young. Sometimes, the things they are longing for don’t even make any sense to anybody else. For instance, I really enjoy watching love sad story. Even though, at the end of it, I might cry, I felt a kind of happiness from my heart. I can’t explain that, it was just an instant feeling which makes me satisfied with the movie.
But no matter how old are you, you are always longing for something. At different ages, people long for different things. When you are a kid, you might want to have a toy. When you are at high school, you might long for a nice car to compare with your classmates. When you go to work, you are long for money to satisfy not only need but personal wants? However, have we ever satisfied? Because there are some desires can never come true, no one ever quiet satisfied with what they have. When I got something, I would always look forward to seek other things beyond this. I guess that’s why corruption began to increase in our days. From Genesis, when Eva allured Adam to eat the apple, the sin of human being has been planted in our soul.
Nonetheless, if we look at the “longing and hope” from anther angle, you may find that it is a gift from God. If we don’t have any desire, do we still have any hope to go to heaven? We probably have satisfied with Satan’s world already. If we don’t have hope, we won’t work hard in order to get a better life. If we are only hope for ourselves, we are not going to help other people and make the whole world better.
So “longing and hope” is a bad thing as well as a good thing.

PS: It not just enough to have good hope. Hope without work is dead. Once we know our hope, we have to work hard for it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

90% & 1% (No Right to Happiness)

90% of our happiness depends on the outside circumstances which are out of our control. Even though I believe that I can make myself happy as long as I want, in fact, my personal ability can only make up 1% of my own happiness.
Lewis believed that human has no right to happiness. To be always happy is not a human nature. He also agreed with Clare that “behind the laws of the state, there is a Nature Law.” The laws of states have to be based on Natural Laws. “The pursuit of happiness” was written into the Declaration of Independence of the United States. However, it doesn’t mean that human can do “anything” to make them happy. It must have a moral role behind it. And the moral role here is more likely referred to Natural Laws. When a country is making laws, the governors have to make sure that the legal laws are not contradicted to Natural Laws. Otherwise, there will be no right laws exist.
In the article, Lewis gave some examples of right such as he had right to drive on public roads. However, since a civilized country has to be guided by both Natural Laws and legal laws, apparently, there is no absolute freedom. I drew a picture in my mind.

Look at the picture. Suppose the entire paper represents the universe. The circle inside represent legal laws of the country; the circle outside represents Natural Laws created by God. The legal laws are subordinated to Natural Laws. In fact, the actual freedom human have is at the center of the two circles. Since God is in charge of the universe, there is no absolute freedom exist. I also believe that if there is an absolute freedom, life in the world will become a disaster since there is no guideline: people can do whatever they want. If we erase the two circles, robbery, treason, rape and other bad things will happen everyday. To someone who is doing them, they may feel happy; however, for the victims, they will be in miseries for sure.
Plus, as Christians, if there is an absolute freedom or happiness, how can we continue to abbey the Ten Commandments which were written in the Bible?
In this article, Lewis argued the freedom or happiness to have sex. He indicated that Clare’s happiness means “sexual happiness” in particular. “Having sex” is God’s gift to marriage. However, there are some people, who thought that they should have absolute happiness, prefer to have sex before marriage. In other words, they thought they have the right to pursue whatever can make them happy. I like the example Lewis had in his article. Obviously, Mr. A chased his happiness by not considering other people. He simply wanted to live happily. But dose he really have the right to be happy according to the moral roles (Natural Laws)? No. I don’t think he would be happy when he heard the suicide of Mrs. A. Just like what I said in the beginning, there are 90% of human’s happiness depend on outside circumstances. Unfortunely, Mr. A could only make 1% of his happiness.
All in all, I believe that if people want to be happy, they have to follow certain laws and roles first. As Christians, we can not only follow the legal laws but also obey the moral and natural laws which are taught in the Bible. We certainly have a right to happiness, but we just need to find a correct way to get this right. No laws, no freedom nor happiness.

Bulverism: Should we make an argument rationally or personally?

To be honest, the first time I read this article, I didn't get the main idea. But after I read this several times, even though I’m still not sure if I am right, Lewis seems to try to show how to make an argument. The problem is, should we take an argument personally, or rationally?
Well, I would say that people can make the argument in either way depend on the situation. In my opinion, I prefer (that is also what I usually do) to argue personally. For our girls, sometimes, when we went out shopping, we all liked to discuss the style of clothes tirelessly. When one of us wanted to buy a shirt, she would always ask others’ opinion. Is the shirt looking good or bad? At this point, since everyone has a unique body, the shirt may fit someone perfectly and looks ugly on others. For example, since I am skinny, I like to wear tight shirt. For some of my friends who is little bit heavier, they may rather like to wear a loosely shirt. If I argue personally, I don’t want my friends to buy a loosely shirt as I didn’t like the style. But if I think about it rationally, I would suggest them to get the shirt since it fitted on them better.
So sometimes, when we make an argument, you’d better stand on someone else’s position and think in their way.
I’ll still use buying clothes as an example. When people buying clothes, they can not only consider the quality and style but also the price. Can you be able to afford the clothes? As a friend, I know their economic situation. Even though the shirt looks good on them, by thinking rationally, I won’t recommend them not to buy it if they are almost run out of money.
Like what I said, people has better to make argument in either way depend on the situation. However, since God creates everyone as to have a unique mind, I would always like to argue with others personally. Maybe it sounds selfish, but if everyone judges every case rationally, can human being still have argument with each other? If everyone takes every case objectively, there will be no argument: like what Lewis said, “it was supposed that if a thing seemed obviously true to a hundred men, then it was probably true in fact.” In other words (according to my understanding), if people don’t have their personal opinion toward something, instead, they just follow what other people said and thought, the “something” will became a fact since no one bother to think about it based on their own situation. Nonetheless, since God creates us, and gives us the gifts of creativity and ability to think and argue. Why do we waste them? When we make an argument, it’s better to put ourselves inside the argument and think about it by our mind but by the fact.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meditation in a Toolshed

In the article, Lewis talked about the difference between looking at and looking along.

In my opinion, looking at is observing while looking along is undergoing. In fact, the two things are very distinct. People will usually change their opinion after they experienced something.

For example, how is the life like in the United States? Before I actually came to this country, I tried to find the answer through media. “American’s high school is easy!” I thought that was true after watching plenty of American movies. My friends in China always talked about how relaxed those American kids are; they party every night; they only have six classes each day; they don’t have any homework during breaks. Plus, it is said that people can go to college easily with even a very bad grade. As a student who has to work very hard to get into a Chinese college, I desired to go to American high school. When I really came to US, I dreamed to have an easy-going life. However, when my life changed from observing into experiencing, my dream was shuttered. American high school was not easy at all. Especially as a foreigner, I had to study English while I was taking regular courses. In order to get a good grade, I aimed to read every single page of my text book. Because there were many words which I didn’t understand, I read very slowly. I never finished my homework before 10:30 each night. Plus, it was not that easy to get into a good college like Calvin. I had to keep my GPA high above 3.8 and got a good ACT score. This summer, when I came back to China, I told the truth about American high school. Even though some of my friends still couldn’t believe that, I can’t agree with them anymore.

If people are trying to convert people to believe in God, we can not only teach them the Bible but also instruct them to experience God’s grace. I would like to use myself as an example again. When I started to go to school in US, since my English was very bad, many students just ignored me. However, there were some Christian students who came over and helped me a lot. They walked around the school until I was familiar with all the classrooms; they ate with me everyday; they taught me English with patience instead of laughing at my heavy Chinese accent. I didn’t know why they were so nice to me at that point. I asked them, and they said, “We think God wants us to help people.” Later, I went Church with these friends, and began to accept Christianity gradually. I read the Bible when I was in China, but I thought it was totally stupid. However, by experiencing it, I decided to believe this religion.

People can learn more by being inside a matter than being outside. Even according to Lewis, people can be deceived when they are inside something. I still want to say, “If you are not experiencing something, never say that you ‘totally’ understood what happened.”