Monthly Archives: January 2012

There Is Much Better News

In the aftermath of this very sad day, many in the Facebook community have shown great compassion and comfort to the Pearson family, as little Paxten breathed her last.  Much of the input has included the notion that Paxten is God’s newest angel.  Surely, this is good news.  Surely, this is comforting and reassuring.  God has not abandoned Paxten.

But there is much better news.

Paxten is not an angel.  Heaven forbid.  God’s plan for humans was never to make them into angels.  As humans, we are not incomplete – not beings who need to undergo a metamorphosis to achieve our full potential.  Humans, not angels, were created in the image of God.  And when God took on flesh, it was human flesh.

Of course, all of this is from the Christian perspective.  You can believe what seems reasonable and attractive to you, though I would argue that the traditional Christian view is better news than any challenging view of the afterlife.

In the traditional Christian view, Paxten has died and is resting with Jesus now, in a spiritual place of restoration and renewal.  On its own, this would be good news, and would be a comfort to Libby and Blake, and all others who mourn for their lost loved ones.  But this is only part of the Christian good news.  In the Christian story, Jesus came not to make death a little less unpleasant by offering rest afterward, but to undo death.  Christ’s resurrection is significant because it is the first of many.

Resurrection is not a shadowy, spiritual afterlife – it is the return to life, the undoing of death.  It is like the seed that was planted in the earth and bloomed into something both like the seed and entirely superior to what came before.  Paxten is resting with Jesus, and is also awaiting the completion of what Jesus consummated in the resurrection – the resurrection of all life and all creation.  The day when those who have died (the Bible says they are like those asleep) and those who are still alive (awake, in the Bible’s words) will be raised together to new life.  On that day, Libby, Blake and Paxten will be reunited, not as angels or disembodied spirits, but as people with the image of God restored in them completely – people free from cancers and pains, free from tears.

And the angels will look on with envy.

C. S. Lewis, a traditional Christian writer, summed up the biblical view of angels like this:

The angels have no senses; their experience is purely intellectual and spiritual. That is why we know something of God which they don’t. There are particular aspects of His love and joy which can be communicated to a created being only by sensuous experience. Something of God which the [angels] can never quite understand flows into us from the blue of sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.

In life after the resurrection, these sensory experiences will remain, and Libby and Blake will be able to hold their little girl’s hand again, as Paxten leads them on her own two feet from one wondrous joy to another.  This is what the resurrection of Christ promises, and in the midst of much bad news, this is much better news.


Book Review: Surprised by Laughter

One cannot read too many books about C. S. Lewis.  Even if you do not particularly enjoy reading Lewis, reading about him can only do you good.

Thomas Nelson book publishers recently sent me a copy of Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis by Terry Lindvall for review.  I was not required or expected to give a positive review.  Now, Surprised by Laughter is not a new book.  It was published in 1996, but never received the publicity it deserved, and many a hardback copy moldered in Mardel bargain bins.  So I am delighted that Tommy Nelson has released this new trade paperback edition, which is both more attractive and more economic than the old hardcover.

As I have argued before, there are really three C. S. Lewises to read: first and foremost is C. S. Lewis the academic, a historian of the English language, a scholar and philologist.  In this area he stands among giants and his words carry authority.  Second is C. S. Lewis the apologist, a fascinated layman of the Church of England, trying his best as a reluctant spokesman for Christianity to translate the historic faith into commonsense terms for the everyday person.  Third is C. S. Lewis the fiction writer, a composer of poems and stories.

There is overlap in these fields, of course, but what really binds  them all together is C. S. Lewis’s constant, sometimes shocking use of humor.

Terry Lindvall rites what he calls an encyclopedia of Lewis’s use of humor, and in some ways that is what we have.  Nearly 500 pages analyzing the broad patterns of Lewis’s use of humor, the writers (particularly Chesterton) who influenced him, the techniques he employed, the deeper meaning behind injecting humor into a serious work.  But the total is much better than the sum of its parts, and what we are left with is not a simply encyclopedia, but a dynamic argument for joy, rather than despair, as the bedrock of our lives.  Just as Augustine argued that good is “ontologically prior” to sin, Lindvall demonstrates through Lewis’s catalog that laughter is more basic to our lives than weeping.

As such, this book is deep.  Far deeper and more serious than most of the pop Christianity you find within the walls of Christian bookstores.  For all these reasons, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Any Christian reader ought to have a space for this on the bookshelf, alongside Louis Markos’s Lewis Agonistes and C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea by Victor Reppert.  (You’ll notice these three volumes conveniently focus on each of the three Lewises.)

What do you think?  Have you read Surprised by Laughter?  Have you noticed the strain of humor (joy, wit, frivolity) that run through Lewis’s work?  What is your impression of its place in Christian thinking?