C.S. Lewis on Christianity and Politics

After so much thought about how a Christian ought best to engage with politics, the most helpful comment I have found on the subject is this paragraph from the unanswerable Mr. Lewis:

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Law, Grace and Nouthetic Counselling of Depression

I have been studying pastoral care this semester, and I came across Jay E. Adams’ work on Christian counselling. For the most part, I have really appreciated Adams’ critique of Freudian psychoanalysis and the culturally-accepted “medical model” of mental illness. He argues that depression needs to be understood in biblical categories, in particular, that it is not something that simply seized upon a person from the outside, like catching a stomach bug. Rather, it is often the result of spiralling unbiblical reactions to a circumstance. That circumstance may not have been something under the person’s control, but allowing themselves to wallow in despair is. That is a behavioural response that needs to be addressed biblically.

However, a cautionary word I would add when attempting Adams’ method is that it’s easy to think we’ve understood when we haven’t. If the goal of nouthetic counselling is to lovingly confront the lies people believe with biblical truths, then it is necessary to understand precisely what those lies are that they believe. If we don’t do that, we run the very real risk of further overemphasising truths they are already comfortable with, and as a result de-emphasising truths that they are currently doubting. This has the effect of reinforcing the lie rather than the needed corrective truth! Not a good outcome at all.

Consider the following two conversations with a person who is spiralling into depression (we’ll call them “Dave”). Let’s say that the initial circumstance they are responding to is getting laid off from work.

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Declining to Answer: The Hallmark of Inconsistency

Thinkers can be divided into two groups. The first group positively insists upon “straight” answers to questions. The second group does not. What is a “straight” answer? It’s not always as simple as “yes” or “no”, because sometimes neither of those is most accurate. There are five basic responses to a propositional question:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. I don’t know
  4. I don’t accept one or more premises inherent in the question
  5. I decline to answer
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Hebrew Parsing: Use the Consonants, Luke!

Doing things the hard way…

After a semester of Hebrew, and being almost through the first-year textbook, I suspect that I’ve been doing some things an unnecessarily difficult way.  I’ve been trying to memorise paradigm tables, including the diverse and erratic permutations of all the vowels.  But anyone who has studied Hebrew in any depth knows that vowels hold an interesting position in the language.  The text of the OT was originally written using only the consonants.  The vowel markings were added much later by the Masoretes (allegedly somewhere between 500-1000AD).  This has led to some historic disputes among protestants about whether the vowel points should be considered a part of the “inspired” text.  I recently stumbled across a site called withoutvowels.org which contends that only the consonantal text is truly a part of the inspired Tanakh.

I’m certainly not going to try and settle that debate here, but instead I want to suggest a practical theory that flows out of such historical knowledge.  Native speakers of modern Hebrew (and Arabic) get by just fine without any vowels.  Apparently ancient Hebrew scribes didn’t feel they would be depriving future generations of anything critical by recording the OT using only consonants.  So the question is, were the ancient Hebrew scribes able to live without the vowels only because they knew the vowels by heart from their oral tradition?  Or is it possible that they felt the consonantal text itself contained enough grammatical detail that vowels were genuinely unnecessary?

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The Crisis Catechism

Sometimes everything seems to go wrong at once. Worse, sometimes it feels like it’s all my own fault! This can be pretty crushing emotionally. At those times, I ask myself this series of questions which I call “the crisis catechism”. It’s simple to answer, because every answer is “yes”. It’s goal is to turn your attention to Jesus, instead of to your own circumstances, shortcomings, failures or faults.

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