In a short paper all I can do is whet your appetite, if you have a taste for philosophical investigations. In other words, the best I can do is tease you. By ‘a taste for philosophical investigations’, I mean a fascination with certain questions-questions about ultimate meaning, but whose meaning is, ultimately, the question. For example, “What is truth?”; “What is reality?”; “What is knowledge?”; “What is the self?”; “What is meaning?” These are philosophical questions, both because the answers we give to them will shape the way we live our lives (and in that sense are ultimately meaningful), and because they are questions whose meanings are themselves so puzzling.
All paths seemingly lead to despair as Harry Potter and his two closest friends sit in the drab tent they have been living in for several weeks, continually on the run from servants of the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry’s primary mission-to destroy Voldemort and his power over the wizarding world-seems impossible as he, Ron, and Hermione feel more alone than ever. Suddenly, they hear familiar voices on the radio, voices that belong to “those friends of Harry Potter’s who are suffering for their allegiance” (Deathly Hallows 441; ch. 22).
In his introduction to English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, C. S. Lewis thrashes the bushes searching out potential causes for the surprising efflorescence of brilliant literature that sprang up near the end of the sixteenth century. At the beginning of the century, “the prose is clumsy, monotonous, garrulous; their verse is either astonishingly tame and cold or, if it attempts to rise, the coarsest fustian. In both mediums we come to dread a certain ruthless emphasis; bludgeon work. Nothing is light, or tender, or fresh. All the authors write like elderly men. . . . Then, in the last quarter of the century the unpredictable happens.
A number of years ago a musician named George Benson wrote a beautiful song entitled, “The Greatest Love of All,” and these lyrics captured my attention. A few selected lines from the lyrics read as follows:
[…] Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
At first these lyrics appear beautiful, especially with the lilting instrumentations; however, the lyrics run counter to Lewis’s ideas about love and knowledge as well as John Calvin’s theories of love and knowledge as defined in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. This paper will articulate the numerous ways in which Calvin’s definitions of love and knowledge and the Imago Dei found in Calvin are reflected in Lewis’s fiction by focusing on Perelandra, That Hideous Strength, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
In many places, the Scriptures tell us that all the world is created and upheld according to a wise Creator’s plan. In Psalm 119, for instance, David tells us that all things are God’s servants, existing by his appointment (v. 91). Psalm 104 teaches that God made and ordered all things in wisdom and for a reason. (See also Job 38, 39; Ps. 139:13-14; Eccles. 3:11; Is. 45:18; Jer. 33:20; Col. 1:17; etc.) And the writer to the Hebrews declares that the Son of God continues to “uphold the universe by his word of power” (Heb. 1:3).
Although they lived two centuries apart, C. S. Lewis and John Wesley had much in common. Both were Anglicans associated with Oxford University, but more importantly, both were Evangelicals who took the Christian faith seriously and used similar metaphors to describe faith. For both of them, the things of God, although not visible to the natural eye, could nevertheless be seen with the eyes of faith.
Since 1990, through five distinct phases, my research team has surveyed and assessed the values and worldviews of undergraduates around the world (but primarily in the United States). Each phase has keyed on a specific theme, including the self or personhood. The overall objective has been to determine the extent, character and implications of a “postmodern turn”–i.e., a worldview-shift away from both traditional and modern assumptions/values-among tertiary-levle students. Secondary questions explored included, a) whether undergraduates at public universities are “more postmodern” than those who attend private, church-affiliated colleges; and, b) to the degree that a postmodern turn is found, whether undergraduates are in general more inclined to a worldview of extreme self-referentiality (here characterized as “radical postmodern”) on the one hand, or a tested or “anchored” self-referentiality, here termed “transmodern,” on the other. The background, rational and methodology of the work are summarized, as are key concepts such as worldviews and the nature of postmodernity.
The Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, the major think tank of the intelligent design movement, aims to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies,” and to “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God” (CSC 1999). Intelligent design advocates have sought to accomplish these goals by attempting to prove that modern evolutionary theory is wrong because it does not explicitly account for the creative action of a “Designer.” The intelligent design movement has achieved widespread support among fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe God’s special creation of Adam and Eve was physical as well as spiritual. The vast majority of scientists and a United States federal court of law, however, have rejected intelligent design and declared it to be religiously motivated pseudoscience (Forrest and Gross 2005).
There are some quotations so arresting, so perfect in simplicity, that they never leave the memory. They are honeyed phrases for the mind: “Beauty will save the world,” says a prince in Dostoevsky’s unfortunately-titled The Idiot. The prince speaks as one having authority: beauty will save the world. Or there is Keats in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: ” ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’-that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. Or St. Augustine saying to God in his Confessions, “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new”. It is yet more surprising to find Genesis in league with each of the above, for in Genesis’s opening chapter the refrain so quietly insistent, “And God saw that it was good,” contains a Hebrew word which may be translated either as good or as beautiful. The feel of the whole chapter changes if one hears God proclaim that the light, the sun, the greenery, the animals are all beautiful, and mankind very beautiful.
C. S. Lewis begins his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” with these justly-famous words:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not thik this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.