**spoiler alert** This book must get two separate ratings, I feel. It was amazing (which is the five-star assertion). But also, I liked it (which is t**spoiler alert** This book must get two separate ratings, I feel. It was amazing (which is the five-star assertion). But also, I liked it (which is the three-star assertion). Rather than getting it wrong from both sides and making an average, I will embrace the duality of Woolf herself and give it both, and neither.
It was a house full of unrelated passions, thinks Lily Briscoe upon returning to the Scotland summer home in search of closure. The woman artist stands on the lawn facing the house, trying to finish her painting after years of neglect. She feels she has escaped somehow, the life that these people, with their unrelated passions, have led. She pities them, and yearns for them.
To the Lighthouse is about "subject and object and the nature of reality." It is about "nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge." It is about fear and need, unresolved.
It is about beauty, and it is heartrending, broken beauty. "It was love, she thought, pretending to move her canvas, distilled and filtered; love that never attempted to clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of the human gain."
It is about Virginia Woolf, and about lost humanity. Men, women, husbands, wives, children, friends, artists, all in her eyes and within her own life story, are answering or not answering the questions. What is truth? What is love? Why are we here? It is about choosing one's own way, and leaving others free to do the same.
I see gushing reviews and know that Woolf's writing deserves the praise. But her answers to the questions, espoused by so many now, have not resolved the fear and the need. Oh, that the world would come to know and glorify God, and find in Him all the abundance He freely offers through His Son, Jesus Christ!
"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error i"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They have both locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with the sun and stars; they are both unable to get out, the one into the health and happiness of heaven, the other even into the health and happiness of the earth. Their position is quite reasonable; nay, in a sense it is infinitely reasonable, just as a threepenny bit is infinitely circular. But there is such a thing as a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity."
G.K. Chesterton's writing is terribly likeable--no wonder even those who reject Christian ideology enjoy reading him. He is a master of argument, as the above quote shows, and this little book is full of such forcefully clever nuggets. The five star rating is not for the whole book, however, but for the section entitled "The Ethics of Elfland," which I loved so ecstatically that I cannot quote you my favorite part without quoting the greater part of it. In a pitiful attempt to summarize it, the rules governing fairy tales, which enable us to accept magic beans and the like, are far more reasonable than rules which limit one's worldview to what can be measured empirically. I'm not even going to try to do more, so you have to read that part. You'll want to go read some fairy tales afterward.
So, one fantastically great section, other parts with good and clever bits, other parts I found a little sluggish, and some just-plain-wrong stuff too (I laughed when I read another author who had scribbled in his copy of Orthodoxy, "Don't listen to what Chesterton says about Calvin. He's nuts!"--because that's just what I thought). It's a true cheese platter book. But the good cheese is so good. ...more
This is a really good book. In my opinion, it's a must-read for Christian parents, and certainly for any Christian educator as well. The reason for suThis is a really good book. In my opinion, it's a must-read for Christian parents, and certainly for any Christian educator as well. The reason for such a strong recommendation is that the arguments of this book--that true education is for the whole person and is fundamentally religious, that parents are biblically responsible to 'inculturate' their children into a thoroughly Christian world view through Christian education--have very important implications. Whether or not a parent would agree with all of Wilson's assertions, he ought to be willing to challenge his thinking in this area. I believe that the majority of Wilson's arguments are quite well-grounded. I cannot possibly outline here all of the reasoning and explanations Wilson gives, but some of my favorite elements were: 1. understanding the shift in late 19th century America to more democratic philosophies which brought about socialized education, contrasted with the historical belief in Christendom that parents and the church are together responsible for the education of children 2. understanding that, as we are image-bearers of God, an education that attempts to marginalize Him, even when parents are attempting to counteract that teaching at home, results in confusion and compartmentalized belief and devotion 3. seeing the Trivium (the three stages of learning employed by the classical model) in the Biblical context of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, realizing that true knowledge in a Christian world view makes us worshipers of God, not of our own intellects 4. understanding that a thoroughly Christian and a classical education need not be at odds with one another, as some have argued. "Therefore the seven liberal arts, like maidservants, have entered into the sacred and venerable dining-room of their mistress, Wisdom, and they have been redeployed, as it were, from the lawless crossroads to the strict and severe superintendence of the word of God and they have been bidden to sit down" --Rupert of Deutz. Also, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Ps. 24:1). 5. recognizing that the ultimate goal of the classical model is borne out in the rhetoric stage, in which knowledge and understanding come together and are tempered by wisdom, in which true imagination and creativity are expressed. "True creativity assumes a foundation of imitation. Spurious creativity wants to assume that no outside influences can be permitted and that the freer an artist is from influence the more creative the person is. But such a person (could he or she exist) would be autistic, not artistic." 6. realizing that this goal of providing a thoroughly Christian Classical education (especially at home) IS overwhelming, but the devoted Christian educator and/or parent is walking in grace. My least favorite elements had to do with Wilson's strong stand in "covenant theology," which is prevalent in several chapters of the book. So, if you have a dispensational understanding of the Church, just know that for many of the arguments for which he reasons covenantally, one could just as easily argue dispensationally (with one or two minor exceptions). ...more
(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I'm not qualified to offer any other.) "If God is good, why does he cause or allow us to experience painful circumstances? Perhaps he is not good. Or, perhaps he just isn't powerful enough to protect his creatures from pain." These are the difficult questions, natural to many of us, that C.S. Lewis attempts to address in this book. It is one of his earliest works as a Christian, predating Mere Christianity by three years. Because of this, and because he takes a mostly-apologetic stance rather than simply addressing what the Bible has to say about pain, a significant number of his ideas reflect his secular academic background imposing itself upon the supernatural. But I will start with the positives first: The chapter entitled "Divine Goodness" is truly excellent. It addresses the idea that God's goodness and the fact that He perfects his children through trials go hand-in-hand. It brings into perspective our cultural tendency to assume that God must be a "senile grandfather-type" who just wants everyone to have a good time. His arguments are intellectually and scripturally sound, and I believe this chapter can stand alone for many believers struggling with trials of various sorts. Secondly, I appreciated the times when Lewis qualified his views as "simply opinion," "a layman's ignorant perspective," "subject to correction by real theologians," etc. This is a message he sent often in Mere Christianity as well, and it shows a measure of humility that (from what I learned in Surprised by Joy) did not come naturally to him. On the other hand, in this early book, the places where Lewis so qualifies his opinions are rather few, and he presents some things as fact which most Christian theologians and a respectable number of scientists deny. Most prevalently, his belief in the Theory of Evolution permeates two chapters of this book--"The Fall of Man," and "Animal Pain." In the first, Lewis treats the Biblical account of Adam and Eve as a doctrine rather than a narrative, and posits that somewhere in the evolution of the species, mankind (in whatever number) were given souls and became "Paradisal Man." At some point, by some means, Paradisal Men fell. The tragic result of Lewis' false assumption is that he consequently has no understanding of the Scriptural concept of a federal head--"as 'in' Adam all died, so 'in' Christ we can be made alive together with Him." If Adam is just the mythical name for "Paradisal Man," that "in" really doesn't make any sense, and the word "in" is admittedly mysterious to Lewis. The second chapter (on "Animal Pain") argues that the animal species cannot have experienced its first pangs at the fall of man, since the evolutionary record shows us that carnivorous behavior in animals predates humanity. He posits that perhaps Satan, who seems to have fallen before the creation of mankind, might have corrupted creation first, and mankind second. Again, this completely ignores the narrative of biblical creation, which bears no trademarks of a parable or myth as far as Scripture goes. I realize it was not Lewis' intention to be cavalier about Scripture, and indeed many of us in modern Christendom have at one time or another been deceived by compromising doctrines that claim to be intellectually superior to orthodox Christianity. However, Lewis' belief in Evolution was not the only area this type of deception occurred. He also posited that, because Christ lived in a human body, with a human brain of an average size, He may well have spoken historical or scientific error without impugning his Deity. In this context, Lewis mentions that we might take as truth Jesus' teachings about the Devil because they don't contradict any verified scientific findings, only our cultural beliefs. Truly, it is a great mystery that Jesus "grew in wisdom" as well as in stature, and we know He was not always or perhaps ever omniscient in the body before being glorified at His resurrection, but we also know that He possessed knowledge well outside the reaches of the human intellect (many places in Scripture tell us that he knew people's thoughts), and I cannot easily count the number of references to the Christ as "perfect." Add to that the fact that Scripture declares itself to be perfect (2 Timothy 3:16), and it becomes clear that the idea of Jesus' having spoken error at all, and that error then being recorded forever to misdirect us in the infallible Word of God, is quite contrary to the precepts of our Faith. These compromises with the secular climate in which Lewis lived were disheartening, and at times as I read I actually felt sick to my stomach. The chapters that were neither excellent nor nauseating seemed at times beneficial and at times self-indulgent. I don't believe I would have felt so strongly if I didn't so respect the man God made Lewis as he continued his Christian life. I'm so thankful that his reliance on Scripture certainly grew as he matured in his walk, and his likeness to the world around him lessened. I reassert the value of the chapter entitled "Divine Goodness," but urge extreme caution and a discerning eye when reading the rest.
This was not Lewis' best work, but its lacks can be understood in light of what else we know of him. First, he wrote it as a brand new Christian, haviThis was not Lewis' best work, but its lacks can be understood in light of what else we know of him. First, he wrote it as a brand new Christian, having rejected worldly philosophy but not having lived much of the Christian life yet. Having read his later work, Surprised by Joy, I recognized many autobiographical elements relating to his own philosophical journey away from Christianity, and then back toward it. However, there were other elements I did not recognize, which seemed to be an attempt to generalize the landscape of philosophical reasoning as it relates to God's Truth. Some of it was insightful--his understanding of things "North" and "South" of the narrow road correlating to either the cold, hard, and unfeeling exaltation of thought or piety, or the unyielding pursuit of thrills, religious or pagan. Other parts were very obscure--Lewis himself later described these parts as "needlessly obscure"--parts which were an attempt to describe his own journey allegorically, a journey which he later discovered was quite uncommon within Christendom. I also remembered the comment of a professor I met who had studied Lewis extensively, saying that the academic community in which Lewis worked hated him with a passion. Unfortunately, some of his characterizations in this book probably contributed to those feelings. I was thankful for his afterward in the edition I read that apologized for that "uncharitable temper." True, he himself had been deceived by these philosophies, saw them warring in his own community, and (quite naturally) wanted to debunk them. He just wasn't very gracious about it. I was also quite curious about the residents of "Puritania," where John was born. They didn't resemble any Puritans I've read, as they were obsessed with talking about rules, although private conversations showed they really did find the rules a bit much. They lived in a land of contradictions and didn't seem to mind it at all. I know that Lewis returned to the Anglican church of his youth after his conversion to Christianity...perhaps his view of the Puritans was prejudiced by his denominational ties. In any case, it was quite inaccurate. I love C.S. Lewis--the 'little Christ' he tried to be as years went on, the unique talents he possessed, and the way he submitted them to his Maker as he grew in grace. In light of that love, and my genuine fascination with the life and writings of this man, I have to say that this allegory fell short of the one for which it was named. For an uplifting and inspiring understanding of the journey to the Celestial City, read Bunyan; to understand C.S. Lewis' thoughts about philosophy and God, read Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy. In my opinion, you can do both very well without The Pilgrim's Regress....more
My initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his lifeMy initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his life that had made him the man he was, and who indeed was he? I had no idea from the simple language and many metaphors of Mere Christianity that the man Lewis was so cerebral and INTIMIDATINGLY well-read. In fact, if I were to write my own subtitle for this book, for humorous purposes only, it would be "You Can Never Read as Much as C.S. Lewis." But that would be only part of the point. ;) I say "part of the point" because Lewis' reading really did play a key role in the intellectual and spiritual journey that brought him to Christ. What gave him the feeling of longing he described as Joy? Reading. What helped to convince him that atheism was unreasonable (in addition to key friendhips)? Reading. And on, and on, through his journey, the reflections of God's truth that he recognized as Joy came to him through the written word (in addition to rhetorical banter with a few good friends), and also through nature. The lessons he learned through his reading and also through his experiences with nature were to "close his mouth, open his eyes and ears, and take in what there is." This lesson was much harder for him to learn in his philosophy of life, but the book shows how God's faithful hand guided him to that final point of submission, when he finally realized the futility and shame of resisting the call of Christ. I'm not going to lie--this book is quite heady. There were pages I had to read three times before I even thought I'd assimilated it. But the book reflected Lewis at each stage of his journey, and in the end his philosophical musings took a back seat to the truth that Joy is simply a guidepost--a reflected glory of the One behind it--and the business of journeying heavenward must be his new occupation. P.S. I also got a few more books for my "to-read" list out of the deal, which had been of great influence in Lewis' life. :)...more