The Joy that Makes Every Other Joy Complete

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject: ORIGINAL POST

By Jonathan Darville

In his cherished Christmas hymn, Isaac Watts penned these now famous words: “Joy to the World; the Lord is come!” This time of year we are often reminded that we serve a jovial God. In the following post, I would like to briefly reflect on the great reality of joy.

Joy to the World

As I said in a recent post, “God is not a cosmic kill-joy. In fact, He is the Cosmic-Merrymaker!” He is the one who invented taste buds and laughter. Music and dancing were His ideas. In truth, everything good that we enjoy – from sex to sports to sunsets- ultimately finds its origin in the mind of God. As The Velveteen Rabbit said, “Everything that is real was first imagined”.

So, far from being opposed to our joy, God is the source of our joy. But, He is not only the source of the joy we derive from sex and sunsets. He, Himself, is humanity’s supreme joy. As St. Augustine wrote in a prayer to God: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts our restless, until they find rest in you.” In other words, God is the one joy that makes every other joy complete. Apart from a living and loving relationship with God, we cannot truly or fully enjoy His world.

Why? For the same reason we find sleep less restful or food less satisfying when we have relationship troubles with our significant other or a close friend: relational estrangement diminishes creational enjoyment. This principle holds true, but even more so, when it comes to our relationship with God. You see, God is, in fact, our one true love (in a cosmic sense) that we cannot live without. He is the one for whom our souls were ultimately made. Hence, to Augustine’s point, it is only when we are in right relationship with Him (God) that we find proper satisfaction in our relationships with each-other and the world.

Loving and being loved by God makes everything better: food tastes better, music sounds better, work is more fulfilling, sex with our spouse more satisfying, etc. Everything is better because we are no longer looking for food, or sex, or success or our spouse to do for us what only God can do for us in Christ: make us whole and complete, give us an objective identity and purpose, forgive us our sins and fill us with life.

Everything in life takes its proper place and purpose when we realize that God is the center around which everything else in our lives is intended to orbit. Indeed, if we place anything other than God at the center of our lives, we will sabotage our own joy. As the Psalmist says, “the sorrows of those who run after other gods will multiply” (Psalm 16:4). Outside the Bible, probably no one has explained this relationship between God and joy better than C.S. Lewis. He writes:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. 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 the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[1]

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”[2]

God is beckoning us all to dethrone whatever good things in our lives are functioning as “gods” (i.e. our objects of highest authority and deepest love) and to serve Him (the one true God) first, instead. In other words, He is inviting us to make Him our highest authority and deepest love. And as the Psalmist and Lewis indicate, doing so allows us to discover our highest good and superlative joy—life with God.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8, emphasis added)


[1] From The Weight of Glory

[2] From Mere Christianity

Loneliness and the Love of God

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject: ORIGINAL POST

By Jonathan Darville

We are a lonely generation. It has been well documented in recent years that loneliness is on the rise and poses a significant threat to our spiritual and physical well-being. Two of the more publicized comments have come from Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General, and Douglas Nemecek, Cigna’s Chief Medical Officer of behavioral health.

Murthy, in a now well-known cover story for the Harvard Business Review, characterized loneliness as a “growing health epidemic,” and said that despite living in “the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization…rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980’s.” Nemecek, commenting on the results from a Cigna loneliness survey, said, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.” Regardless of whether rates of loneliness have or have not doubled since the 1980’s, statistically, loneliness is a widespread issue in our country.

Certainly, a contributing factor is that we are now spending more time alone than at any previous point in our nation’s history. We are bowlingscrollingtraveling and even worshipping alone. Loneliness, however, is not synonymous with being alone. The spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence do not necessarily evoke feelings of loneliness, and we can be surrounded by people and still feel desperately lonely. Rather, loneliness is the sorrow that results from undesired isolation and/or rejection. Loneliness is to be without proper companion(s).

Several things can cause loneliness (illness, loss, divorce, etc.) but whatever the cause, the ensuing sadness is an unmistakable sign that we were made for relationships of love, joy and acceptance. Indeed, it is not good for people to remain alone (Genesis 2:18).

In this post, I would like to explore how God’s omnipresence provides Christians with a unique[1] spiritual resource to combat loneliness.

Omnipresence in Review

God simultaneously fills and transcends every place. Heaven and earth can no more contain God than a submerged bucket can contain the ocean.[2] He is distinct from His creation. He is a higher and infinite order of being. He “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). And yet, He is omnipresent within His creation. That is, God is fully present everywhere within time and space—at the farthest edges of the universe and in the very room in which you sit. As Saint Augustine said, “[God is] present entirely everywhere at once.” In other words, there is no place where God is not. Mark Jones illustrates this well: “God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.” Again, omnipresence means that God is “everywhere at once.”

And, of course, He is not present as a mere bystander or disinterested observer; He is present everywhere as the Sovereign Lord over time and space and matter. God upholds the universe in being, gives life to every creature, and directs even the tiniest details of history. In this way, God is generally present to everyone: “In Him we [all] live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

But, He is uniquely present with believers by the indwelling of His Spirit and through the means of grace. That is, He is not “present everywhere in exactly the same manner.” Our experience of, and access to, God’s presence differs in certain respects depending on where we are (heaven, earth, hell); who we are (believer, unbeliever); when we live (under the old covenant, under the new covenant); what we are doing (playing, praying, sinning); and what God is doing (blessing, cursing, healing).

As believers, in addition to being beneficiaries of God’s general presence and common grace, we are beneficiaries of God’s special presence and saving grace. That is, because of our Spirit-wrought union with Christ, God is present to us in a new way. As Paul writes, “we who were once alienated have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). We have not been spatially, but relationally brought near to God[3]—so much so that Jesus can say in John 14:23, “Anyone who loves Me…My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them.” Which they do by sending the “Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead to live in us” (Romans 8:11). In other words, in Him we live and move and have our new being.

Personal Implications

This means that even if the whole world rejects us or we are unavoidably isolated from everyone we love, in Christ we are fully accepted and never alone. As King David said,

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7)

For those battling loneliness, this can make all the difference. For instance, as a younger man, my wife’s grandfather went through a self-proclaimed existential crisis. He writes, “I was tired of the struggle that I was going through…I said to the Lord ‘I am through with this life’…I’m ready to end it all….’ Then I raised my hand and looked at it intending to count the good friends I had in this world. I thought, ‘Lord, I don’t have one good friend in this world.’ Then it happened. I was in the presence of an intense light and changed atmosphere…I heard a voice that said, ‘Walt, Walt, here is your friend.’ And at the same time I saw a vision of Christ on the cross and without thinking…I threw myself on the floor face down…It was so personal, it made me sense how much He loves each one of us.”

Because of the cross, Walt and all of us who put our faith in Christ are given the right to be called children and friends of God (John 1:12; John 15:15): “Our friendship with God [is] restored by the death of His son” (Romans 5:10, NLT). Amazingly, in Christ, God counts us amongst His friends. Now, we are never without a proper companion. God, who as Tim Keller says, “sees us to the bottom, but loves us to the skies,” promises to always be with us and never forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). In other words, the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) who is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18) is “our ever-present help” (Psalm 46:1) in times of loneliness.

Personal Application

God promises that if we draw near to Him that He will draw near to us (James 4:8). How does one draw near to God? In our loneliness, we can draw near and commune with God through:

  1. The Word:
    One of my favorite interactions in The Chronicles of Narnia is when Lucy says, “Oh, Aslan…it was kind of you to come.” To which Aslan responds, “I have been here all the time…you have just made me visible.” Do you know what Lucy was doing that made Aslan visible? Reading a book.  Analogously, reading or listening to the Bible is a means by which the presence of God becomes “visible” to our hearts. It is through the Word that God addresses us in conversation and we become aware of His presence.
  1. Prayer
    Joe Rigney writes, “If the living God is here and now confronting us with His presence, then prayer is precisely the point where we acknowledge that presence.” Prayer, in part, is how we address God in conversation. It is another means by which we experience “awe and intimacy” with God: “Here is what I want you to do: find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace” (Matthew 6:6, The Message).
  1. Song
    Martin Luther said that, “My heart which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” Worship music also has the ability usher our lonely hearts into the sweetness of God’s presence.

Through dwelling in the word, abiding in prayer, and living in song we cultivate a sense of the nearness of God and are given strength to endure the inevitable seasons of loneliness that come from living in a fallen world. Of course, if we can, we must avail ourselves of the other remedies God has provided for loneliness, including the church, family, counseling, and medical attention.

However, we sometimes endure seasons when we cannot avail ourselves of these other remedies. For instance, I have been chronically ill for 13 years and have had numerous seasons of unavoidable isolation due to my condition. My own greatest consolation in these seasons of difficulty has been the constant companionship of that one truest friend—Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly, the single greatest antidote to loneliness is the love of God.

So, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28).


[1] In Atheism, “God” is everywhere absent – as He does not exist. Therefore, He cannot actually help us when we are lonely. In Pantheism, “god” is everywhere but as an impersonal spirit. Consequently, “god” is of no practical benefit when we are in need of a friend. In Polytheism, the gods were not only bound by space and time but, if they were in the vicinity when you were feeling sad and lonely, it is likely that they were the cause of your misery. In Deism, God transcends space and time but is personally uninvolved and uninterested in what goes on within space and time. Therefore, He is unavailable to us in our times of need.

[2] As the many in the early church said, God “contains all things and He alone is uncontained.”

[3] Herman Bavinck writes, “Scripture…refers to God’s going, coming, walking, and coming down. It employs human language, the kind of language to which we too are bound…It is therefore a good thing in connection with each attribute to remind ourselves that we are speaking of God in human terms.”

Nourishment, Delight, and Fellowship: The purpose of Food in the Chronicles of Narnia

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject: ORIGINAL POST

Food and drink are essential to life: both for its sustainment and its enjoyment. Over the last two years I have found out how true that is. In October of 2017, I was diagnosed with acute starvation. Collateral damage from Chronic Lyme treatment had destroyed my body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Dropping just below 110lbs, I was losing the ability to walk and told that I came dangerously close to losing my life.

Thankfully, I was able to avoid a feeding tube with an elemental diet (a pre-digested drink with all the calories and nutrients you need) that saved and sustained me. Recently, my GI system has recovered to the point that I am able to eat blended soups – consisting of potatoes and some combination of carrots, beets, parsnips and squashes – along with a small amount of chicken (and a little ghee).

During this time of healing I have learned:

  1. There is still a mysterious delight in watching other people, like my wife, enjoy the foods and drinks they love.
  2. By God’s grace, I am still able to find delight in the foods from my limited menu. God is teaching me that He really does intend for us to “laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man,” even when “there’s hunger in the land,” as King Lune tells Cor in The Horse and His Boy.
  3. Regardless of what’s on the menu, I am still able to participate in that most meaningful aspect of a meal: fellowship. Love is a joy that even starvation can’t steal.

One thing I have been doing during this extended time in my sick-bed is reading C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. It has struck me in a whole new way how prominent a role food and drink play in the series. The necessity of food and drink is, undoubtedly, a dominant theme.

In the following two-part post, I would like to look at what we can learn about God’s purposes for a meal from The Chronicles of Narnia. In this first post, we will look at how a meal has been designed by God to nourish and delight, as well as to facilitate fellowship. In the second post we will explore a meal’s ability to heal and to serve as a sign of our ultimate future.

Food Is for Nourishment & Delight

We are biologically embodied beings. As such, we cannot function without food, at least not for very long (as I can attest), and not very well for the time we can go without it. Humans do no better without food and drink than a car does without gas and oil. Which is of course why the Pevensie children are so “worried” that not having any food supplies will make the mission to rescue Mr. Tumnus from the White Witch quite impossible, and why Mrs. Beaver is more concerned about packing enough provisions than she is about getting as big a head start on the White Witch as possible: “You didn’t think we’d set out on a journey with nothing to eat, did you?” (Book 2); why Shasta’s saddle bags are stocked with “meat pasty…dried figs and…cheese,” (Book 3); and why the crew on the Dawn Treader must strictly ration food and drink when a storm diminishes their supplies (Book 5).

Even when Archenland is in urgent need of military reinforcements, Narnia’s troops, led by King Edmund, stop on the way “for a halt and a morsel!” (B3). Why do the Narnians always “want some breakfast,” as Trumpkin says, “before everything else” (B4)?[1] Because Lewis (no stranger to real battle), and by extension Lewis’ characters, know that without breakfast, so to speak, one cannot do anything else. We are meal-dependent creatures.[2]

In addition to being a biological necessity, food and drink are an aesthetic delight. Food is for pleasure as well as for fuel. Hence the aesthetic diversity of food’s colors, tastes and smells. In The Chronicles we see this rich diversity in the various kinds of cuisines consumed by the various nations and creatures. For example: Calormene cuisine (e.g. “lobsters, and salad, and snipe stuffed with almonds and truffles”); Narnian (e.g. “roasted meat…wheaten cakes…honey and many-colored sugars and cream as thick as porridge and as smooth as still water, peaches, nectarines, pomegranates, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries – pyramids and cataracts of fruit”); Centaur (e.g. “cakes of oaten meal, and apples”); and Tree People (e.g. “earth [of]…rich brown loam…[and] chalky soil”).

Regardless of the kind of meal or creature, according to Lewis, you know you’ve had a good meal when it results in “a long sigh of contentment.” To the point, God gave us taste buds for a reason.

Food Is for Fellowship

The rhythm of eating and drinking has been built into the world, from the beginning, to remind us where life comes from, to whom we owe thanks, and to perpetually draw us back into loving communion with God and one another (Matthew 6:25-26). In other words, food is not just for nourishment and personal delight; it is for fellowship and mutual delight.

My favorite example of what we might call the “fellowship function” of food and drink is in Book 4 after Prince Caspian has spent a few days with the “Old Narnians.” Lewis writes:

“To sleep under the stars, to drink nothing but well water and to live chiefly on nuts and fruits, was a strange experience for Caspian after his bed with silken sheets…at the castle, with meals laid out in gold and silver dishes…and attendants ready at his call. But he had never enjoyed himself more. Never had sleep been more refreshing nor food tasted more savoury…

Why was everything so much better? Because, as Caspian explained when he first met the Old Narnians: “I’ve been looking for people like you all my life.” As we know from experience, the satisfaction we find in a meal is greatly enhanced (or hindered) by the company we keep at a meal and by its occasion. This was Caspian’s first time feasting with those who saw food and drink as gifts, which facilitated bodily nourishment and relational delight; instead of as a mere practical necessity or hedonistic indulgence (the Telmarines perspective).

In Narnia meals are designed to bring people together. They are an occasion for:

  1. Sharing the “fruits” of one’s labors. For example, the Bulgy Bears offer Prince Caspian “some honey” and the Squirrel offers him “a nut” (B4);
  2. Swapping stories. As Peter says while “eating hot fish with no forks, and one pocket knife between five people,” to the Dwarf, “You tell us your story first” … “And then we’ll tell you ours” (B4), and;
  3. Possibly dancing and playing games. For instance, “that night there was a great feast in Cair Paravel, and revelry and dancing…” in Book 2, or the “grand feast” at the end of Book 3 when “tales were told and jokes were cracked” and the “King’s poet” sang such a tale that “when it was over [Aravis and Cor] wished it was going to begin again.”

In other words, Lewis depicts meals as an inherently festive activity. Not to say that there are not sad or lonely meals (e.g. Edmund eating “dry bread” by himself in B2, or the “very poor appetites” everyone had when Eustice went missing and the dragon showed up in B5), but that Aslan’s original intent was for a meal to be a festive occasion.

Before closing, note that in Narnia the measure of a good neighbor is the invitation to a meal. And like in the Bible (Luke 10:25-37), any and everyone, including those who are not like us, qualifies as a neighbor. As a quick example, consider the diversity of creatures the White Witch sees in Book 2 when the snow finally begins to thaw: “A little way off at the foot of a tree sat a merry party, a squirrel and his wife with their children and two satyrs and a dwarf and an old dog-fox, all on stools around a table.” Meals are supposed to cultivate neighborliness.

The Sacredness of Meals

I believe what C.S. Lewis has taught us, with regard to these first two purposes, is that meals are sacred events—rituals where we acknowledge our dependence on God and one another (at least tacitly); and learn the art of thankfulness, sharing, conversation and festivity (or at least we should).

As Christians, I pray these truths will inspire us to be more intentional with the way we cultivate, cook and consume our meals. The question we should all be asking ourselves is: Do my current eating and drinking habits demonstrate that Jesus is Lord of my kitchen (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

Editor’s Note: Come back next week to read part 2 of this article.


Darville

Jonathan Darville has had a varied and wide-ranging career. He worked in the fashion industry in New York, modeling for clients such as Louis Vuitton, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. He helped lead the New York branch of an international non-profit ministry. He has also served as a Master Trainer for The Center for Leadership Studies, training men and women in Fortune 500 companies in Leadership and Management theory and practice across America.

 


[1] This includes before making plans: “Let us refresh ourselves…After that, to our plans” (B6). Of course, attending to injuries, such as “Puddleglum’s burnt foot,” and immediate danger are exceptions.

[2] The necessity of food for creaturely flourishing is why Aslan asks the Cabby, who is to be the first King of Narnia, if he can “use a spade and a plow and raise food out of the earth?” and is unconcerned with how much formal “eddycation,” he’s had (B1). And why “hunting parties,” “fishing,” and “planting the orchard outside the north gate of Cair Paravel” are depicted as so important (B4/B5).

A Horse, His Boy, and Providence: A Reflection on a Forgotten Doctrine from The Chronicles of Narnia

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject: ORIGINAL POST

Providence

Providence is that unseen work of God by which He upholds, governs and orchestrates all things.[1] Recently, this foundational doctrine has fallen on hard times. Deism’s and Atheism’s influence on our culture’s imagination has caused providence to all but fade from popular consciousness (even in the Church).

This loss of providence is a disadvantage to living at our point in history; as in former generations,[2] it was readily acknowledged that a healthy understanding of, and trust in, providence was essential to confidently face the trials we have been called to endure in this world.

It’s hard to make sense of suffering if you believe ​everything is a product of chance or personal choice. In our day, we assume everything is either the result of natural causes or that we are “the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls,” to slightly reword the oft-quoted poem Invictus by William Henley. But ultimately, we dance not to the tune of chance or choice, but of providence. And it is much easier to make sense of suffering for unknown greater purposes if you know that “from life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands [our] destiny.”

That is to say, we can “count it all joy” as opposed to sorrow (James 1:2) and “mourn with hope” instead of without it (1 Thessalonians 4:13), if the truth of providence is in our heads and hearts. Having been chronically ill for 12 years, almost losing my life 22 months ago to acute starvation, and writing this article from a temporarily bed-ridden state, I can testify there is no more comforting doctrine than providence.

Providence in The Chronicles of Narnia

Outside of the Bible, I think one of the places we might learn about providence best is in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia—especially in The Horse and His Boy. We see Aslan sing Narnia into existence in The Magician’s Nephew and deliver Narnia from “the Witch and the Winter” in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But we probably “see” providence most clearly in The Horse and His Boy.

The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the series. In it, a talking horse named Bree and a boy named Shasta team up to escape from captivity and find their way to Narnia. Along the way, they “happen” to meet up with another talking horse named Hwin and a girl named Aravis, who are also fleeing various forms of captivity: “Their journey is charged with fear and danger, intrigue and adventure” as they “soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle…a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.”

Two passages in particular illustrate the doctrine of providence well. Hopefully, these passages can renew our theological imaginations and animate our wills to lean into the reality of providence in our daily lives.

First, some context. After Shasta and his comrades narrowly escape the attack of a lion (not their first), Shasta is tasked to go on alone to warn the King of Archenland of an impending attack. Afterwards, Shasta gets separated from the King and his men and “happens” to find his way to Narnia—where, of course, he is providentially able to notify the Narnians of Archenland’s need for military aid. The first quote is from Shasta’s journey to Narnia, where along the way he is suddenly accompanied by a large creature. The second quote is from Shasta’s journey with the Narnian troops back to Archenland:

” ‘I do not call you unfortunate,’ said the Large Voice. ‘Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?’ said Shasta. ‘There was only one lion,’ said the Voice… ‘I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.’

” They were going…along the edge of a precipice and Shasta shuddered to think that he had done the same last night without knowing it, ‘But of course,’ he thought, ‘I was quite safe. That is why the Lion kept on my left. He was between me and the edge all the time.’

Aslan is behind everything that happened in Shasta’s life: from ensuring his safety as a baby lost at sea, to protecting him from dangers he was entirely unaware of (jackals), to bringing him and Aravis together on their journey, to reuniting him with King Lune—who (spoiler alert) turns out to be his father! “He seems to be at the back of all the stories,” as Shasta says.

And we should note that Aslan’s providence is not portrayed as being limited to the good things that happen in the story. Even the characters wounds are portrayed as directly caused or sovereignly permitted by the “Lord of the whole wood” (cf. Romans 8:28, Gen 32:25, and Job). In other words, Aslan works ​all things together (good and bad—even His own death) to accomplish His benevolent purposes for the world that He so lovingly brought into being.[3]

Providence in Our Daily Lives

Likewise, in our non-fictional but still enchanted lives, Christ is providentially directing the events of history to accomplish His sovereign purposes. He is ultimately behind everything that happens in our lives—working things out for His greater glory and our greater good.

Do you know what this (providence) means? First, it means we don’t ever need to try to manipulate, unethically manufacture or autonomously engineer anything in our lives (health, political outcomes, romance, job opportunities, grades, etc.). Christ is sovereign over all our circumstances—including unpleasant circumstances (such as illness, infertility or unemployment). Consequently, we can simply trust and obey, knowing Christ truly does have “the whole world in His hands.”

Of course, we should ethically pursue noble ends such as health and justice and marriage and good grades. My point is simply that we do not ordain outcomes and that in a fallen world, we “will have trouble” (John 16:33) as well as treasure (James 1:7).

However, there are things higher on Christ’s priority list than you and I “living our best life,” as defined by the world. Our real “best life now” is one in which we have been called to “share in Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13); to “put on the full armor of God, so that [we] can take [our] stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11); and to “count others more significant than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

In other words, like Shasta, our present story is one of adventure and danger. We have been providentially conscripted into Christ’s army to do battle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We too are at the center of a battle—a battle that will decide the fate of the men and women of this world.

Providence and The Great Commission

For the Church, then, providence also means that like Lucy and Susan in Book 2, we are called to leave behind the familiar and the comfortable and accompany our great Aslan as He breathes new life into people and overcomes the enemies of the true and greater Narnia—the Kingdom of God. That is to say, God calls us to take up our Kingdom-issued crosses and follow Christ. And as those who lived in Narnia during the days of false rulers and long winters discovered, to do this well, we must renew our own trust “in the seemingly impossible providence of unseen powers,” to borrow phrasing from Greg Forster.

Indeed, it is only because we know that: 1. “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39), and 2: that there isn’t “any such thing as Luck” (good or bad) because outcomes are determined by the Lord Christ, that we can charge into this spiritual battle unafraid with the gospel in one hand and mercy in the other.

Trust in God’s providence enables us to say along with Paul that, “it is [our] eager expectation and hope that [we] will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in [our bodies], whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

And if it happens to be by death for any of us, remember this: that Great Lion who sung us into existence and redeemed us on the rock, is providentially present in our pain (Hebrews 13:5) and has promised us an eternal inheritance that “can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). So, may we all heed Aslan’s call to be “the first in the charge and the last in retreat,” because He really will put everything “to rights” in the end (Revelation 21).


DarvilleJonathan Darville has had a varied and wide-ranging career. He worked in the fashion industry in New York, modeling for clients such as Louis Vuitton, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. He helped lead the New York branch of an international non-profit ministry. He has also served as a Master Trainer for The Center for Leadership Studies, training men and women in Fortune 500 companies in Leadership and Management theory and practice across America.


[1] “God is completely in charge of his world. His hand may be hidden, but his rule is absolute” –J.I. Packer 

[2] One thinks of The Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor; or Abraham Lincoln’s First State of the Union Address: “With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.

[3] Note, it is providence that gives the larger story its narrative coherence and its characters the spiritual resources they need to persevere.

Is a Fetus Really a Person?

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject. ORIGINAL POST

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Darville recently published an article titled, “Set the Little Ones Free.” He argues the unborn should be extended what Martin Luther King Jr. called one’s “God-given and constitutional rights.” In a series of follow-up articles, Darville answers three frequently asked questions about abortion. (Read the first FAQ and second FAQ) Here is the third in that series:

Q: When does a human become a person? Couldn’t it be that a fetus is not a person until they can perform certain functions? And that until that point, it is ok to terminate their life? 

A: We should note that this logic sounds eerily similar to the logic of the Three Fifths Compromise, which deemed African Americans as 3/5ths human because of their skin color (i.e. they weren’t considered civilized “people” who could be fully counted as members of a State’s population).[1]


I recently heard that a fetus is not a person with moral value until they can feel pain. Did you know that there are a number of people in the general population who have a rare condition called CIP, who cannot and never will feel pain? Would we say that 25- or 65-year-olds with CIP are humans but not people? Is it ok to terminate them? What about humans in a coma or who have a pacemaker—are they not people because their self-consciousness lies dormant or because their cardiovascular system is not functioning independently? Could we terminate them without consequence?

Hopefully, we can see that these criteria for personhood are entirely arbitrary and lead to logical as well as sociological absurdities. In other words, if our criteria for personhood cannot be applied to everyone, then our view is faulty.

To adapt a line by Scott Klusendorf: humans are valuable by nature, not by incidental features (e.g. skin color, height) or function (e.g. cognitive capacity). Arbitrarily and artificially separating personhood from humanness puts us in a situation where any of us can draw the line of moral value wherever we want (e.g. at race, gender, age, nationality, political party, IQ, EQ, religion, physical strength, beauty, economic status, favorite sports team, etc.).

And in an age of identity politics, this type of reasoning can and does lead to violence (verbal as well as physical). As a society, we should all be worried if we accept this type of subjective criteria for determining personhood and the right to life. Imagine. We would have to hire 24-hour bodyguards in the event that our neighbors decided we forfeited our right to life by who we voted for, the color of our house, the condition of our yard or because we fell ill and lost the ability to move without the aid of a cane or a wheelchair.

In short, no, it is not ok to terminate an innocent life because of incidental, functional or preferential considerations. On the universe as masterpiece view of the world, humans are conceived as individual body/soul unities that bear the image of God (Gen. 1:27), not souls trapped in bodies or malleable bodies without souls (cf. Ps. 139:13-16). That is to say, humanness and personhood have a synchronized beginning, at conception. Humans are persons by nature. And in a moral universe, it is never justified to intentionally and unnecessarily take the life of an innocent unborn moral being. [2]

[1] Note, there are clearly differences between abortion and slavery with regard to the kind and duration of temporal suffering endured. The point here is just that the logic that leads to these horrendous evils is the same.

[2] The one qualification is that there are rare occasions, when before a fetus is viable (i.e. able to live outside the womb), it may be medically necessary to perform a therapeutic abortion to save the bodily life of the mother (e.g. ectopic pregnancies). Outside of those rare instances, induced abortions are never justified.

In “Ethics for A Brave New World,” the Feinbergs helpfully distinguish therapeutic abortions (performed to save the life of the mother) from eugenic abortions (performed on a fetus “who has or is at risk for some physical and/or mental handicap such as Down syndrome”) or elective abortions (performed for convenience). The latter two types of induced abortions are never justified.

The Feinbergs also helpfully explain ectopic pregnancy: “[An ectopic pregnancy is when] the fertilized egg does not implant in the uterus but in the fallopian tube. Only two options are open to the doctor. Either he [or she] intervenes to take the baby’s life in order to save the mother’s life, or both baby and mother will die.”


DarvilleJonathan Darville has had a varied and wide-ranging career. He worked in the fashion industry in New York, modeling for clients such as Louis Vuitton, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. He helped lead the New York branch of an international non-profit ministry. He has also served as a Master Trainer for The Center for Leadership Studies, training men and women in Fortune 500 companies in Leadership and Management theory and practice across America.

Does God Forgive Those Who’ve Had Abortions?

Screen Shot 2019-04-15 at 12.02.13 PMThis article was originally published by IntersectProject. ORIGINAL POST

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Darville recently published an article titled, “Set the Little Ones Free.” He argues the unborn should be extended what Martin Luther King Jr. called one’s “God-given and constitutional rights.” In a series of follow-up articles, Darville answers three frequently asked questions about abortion. (Read the first FAQ.) Here is the second in that series:

Q: Is forgiveness available for those who have had abortions?

A: It depends on which view of the world is accurate. If humans are cosmic accidents living in an a-moral world, then there is nothing any of us need forgiveness for and no one to whom we owe an apology (Atheism). In fact, if atheism is true, then all human action is determined (i.e. there is no free-will). Therefore, we wouldn’t be responsible for any of our actions. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously said, “to remove all liberty from his (humanity’s) will is to remove all morality from his acts.” On this view of the world, human death is as normal, natural, and morally insignificant as a lion eating an antelope. Death isn’t a punishment for which we need clemency, as there is no afterlife.

But, if humans are karmic illusions only existing within the karmic game, then no, there is no forgiveness (Pantheism). On this view, the way we escape the karmic cycle is to pay off our own karmic debt or attain our own enlightenment. In other words, we have to save ourselves from death and rebirth by playing and winning according to the rules of the karmic game (e.g. Buddhism’s eightfold path). In the event that we earn our escape, we would be re-absorbed into the All-Soul or Nirvana.

We must also never lose sight of Dr. King’s warning that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In other words, if we tolerate injustice in this once instance, we should not be surprised to see the impulse to injustice in our society multiply and the deterrents to injustice diminish. To use C.S. Lewis’ wording, “We [cannot] laugh at honor and [be] shocked to find traitors in our midst.” So, the point is at least twofold: 1. To protect innocent life, and; 2. Not to condition society to a mindset and pattern of behavior that leads to a broader range of unjust actions and less resistance to such actions.

I think in our society we often fail to recognize that there is a world of difference between principle and preference. Subjective truths (e.g. your favorite color, movie or band) have to do with preference. Objective truths (e.g. 2+2=4, murder is wrong, the law of gravity or the laws of logic) have to do with principle. While preferences can be “true for you and not for me,” principles are true for everybody. For instance, nobody can say that “gravity is true for you but not for me,” or that “2+2=4 is right for you but not for me” (at least not honestly).

Likewise, in matters of morality, there is no such thing as “your truth” or “our morality” as if ethics were a matter of personal or collective taste. Ethical principles are not personal preferences we compete to arbitrarily impose on one another. The moral law, like the laws of nature or the laws of logic, is universal—it naturally applies to everyone. It is a fixed feature of the world in which we live and move and have our being.

So, while we may dispute the proper application of moral law in civil law, we can no more rationally dispute that unnecessarily terminating an innocent human life is wrong, than we can rationally dispute the reality of gravity or the sum of two plus two. If at the most basic level, government is charged with protecting the innocent and upholding justice in society, then it is an appalling violation of that charge to fail to protect the unborn.

.Therefore, let us all make every just effort to see abortion laws squared with the moral law in our time. To increase the chances abortion laws are changed, here are a few things we can do: volunteer at local pregnancy centers; share good resources; give to organizations like the Human Coalition; write to our political representatives; vote wisely; support adoption; pray strategically; etc. Remember, God likes to grant “unlikely” victories.

Editor’s Note: Come back next week for the second installment in this series.


DarvilleJonathan Darville has had a varied and wide-ranging career. He worked in the fashion industry in New York, modeling for clients such as Louis Vuitton, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. He helped lead the New York branch of an international non-profit ministry. He has also served as a Master Trainer for The Center for Leadership Studies, training men and women in Fortune 500 companies in Leadership and Management theory and practice across America.

Will Abortion Laws Ever Change?

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This article was originally published by IntersectProject. ORIGINAL POST

Editor’s Note: Last week, Jonathan Darville published an article titled, “Set the Little Ones Free.” He argues the unborn should be extended what Martin Luther King Jr. called one’s “God-given and constitutional rights.” In a series of follow-up articles, Darville will answers three frequently asked questions about abortion. Here is the first in that series:

Q: What are the chances the abortion laws are ever actually going to change? And even if they were changed, the law doesn’t change people’s hearts. So, what’s the point?

A: Especially in democratic societies, it is always possible to change laws to align with the moral law. People didn’t think that slavery or Jim Crow laws would be overturned either, but they were—as the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 testify. While laws might not change human hearts, they can change unjust human actions. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” Likewise, it may be true that the law cannot make people love unborn children, but it can keep people from aborting them, and that is pretty important.

We must also never lose sight of Dr. King’s warning that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In other words, if we tolerate injustice in this once instance, we should not be surprised to see the impulse to injustice in our society multiply and the deterrents to injustice diminish. To use C.S. Lewis’ wording, “We [cannot] laugh at honor and [be] shocked to find traitors in our midst.” So, the point is at least twofold: 1. To protect innocent life, and; 2. Not to condition society to a mindset and pattern of behavior that leads to a broader range of unjust actions and less resistance to such actions.

I think in our society we often fail to recognize that there is a world of difference between principle and preference. Subjective truths (e.g. your favorite color, movie or band) have to do with preference. Objective truths (e.g. 2+2=4, murder is wrong, the law of gravity or the laws of logic) have to do with principle. While preferences can be “true for you and not for me,” principles are true for everybody. For instance, nobody can say that “gravity is true for you but not for me,” or that “2+2=4 is right for you but not for me” (at least not honestly).

Likewise, in matters of morality, there is no such thing as “your truth” or “our morality” as if ethics were a matter of personal or collective taste. Ethical principles are not personal preferences we compete to arbitrarily impose on one another. The moral law, like the laws of nature or the laws of logic, is universal—it naturally applies to everyone. It is a fixed feature of the world in which we live and move and have our being.

So, while we may dispute the proper application of moral law in civil law, we can no more rationally dispute that unnecessarily terminating an innocent human life is wrong, than we can rationally dispute the reality of gravity or the sum of two plus two. If at the most basic level, government is charged with protecting the innocent and upholding justice in society, then it is an appalling violation of that charge to fail to protect the unborn.

Therefore, let us all make every just effort to see abortion laws squared with the moral law in our time. To increase the chances abortion laws are changed, here are a few things we can do: volunteer at local pregnancy centers; share good resources; give to organizations like the Human Coalition; write to our political representatives; vote wisely; support adoption; pray strategically; etc. Remember, God likes to grant “unlikely” victories.

Editor’s Note: Come back next week for the second installment in this series.


Darville

Jonathan Darville has had a varied and wide-ranging career. He worked in the fashion industry in New York, modeling for clients such as Louis Vuitton, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. He helped lead the New York branch of an international non-profit ministry. He has also served as a Master Trainer for The Center for Leadership Studies, training men and women in Fortune 500 companies in Leadership and Management theory and practice across America.