Helen Joy Davidman Mrs. Lewis A Portrait by Lyle W. Lewis went public with his conversion and commitment to Jesus Christ, controversy hounded him until his death. Fashionable agnostics dubbed him "Heavy Lewis," liberal Christians reviled him for his lack of theological sophistication, and fundamentalists attacked his interpretation of scripture and his ecumenical charity towards most Christian traditions.
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And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. THERE is a tale told of a missionary in a dark comer of Africa where the men had a habit of filing their teeth to sharp points. He was hard at work trying to convert a native chief. Now the chief was very old, and the missionary was very Old Testament-his version of Christianity leaned heavily on thou-shalt-nots. The savage listened patiently.
To be old and to be a Christian, they are the same thing! How many think of religion as the enemy of life and the flesh and the pleasures of the flesh; a foe to all love and all delight? That is, how many of us both inside the Church and out have reduced the good news out of Nazareth to a list of thou-shaltnots?
Quite a few, doubtless, or we should not always be worrying and teasing at the Decalogue and making reinterpretations like this one. True enough, we are having a religious revival at the moment.
We are crying out to be rescued from the deadly terrors of the world we have made. Peace of mind, peace of soul, peace of heart-our spiritual leaders promise them all, and we, for whom there is no peace, snatch at them in our bewilderment and despair. God, for many of us, is a life preserver flung to a drowning man.
And so he is, if you happen to be drowning. Sooner or later you have to start merely living again; you reach shore, splutter the water out of your lungs-and then what? Throw away the life preserver? If your interest in God is based upon fear rather than love, very likely. In such a case, you will be willing to pay very high for that life preserver as you go down for the third time; you will offer for it all your worldly treasures, your lusts and greeds and vanities and hates.
But once safely on shore, you may be minded to throw it away and snatch your treasures back. We are in danger of forgetting that God is not only a comfort but a joy. He is the source of all pleasures; he is fun and laughter, and we are meant to enjoy him.
We shall try to be negatively good, and make a virtue of misery; plume ourselves on the rejection of delights for which we are too weak, measure our piety by the number of pleasures we prohibit. And others will react against us by rejecting religion altogether, probably announcing with pride that they are choosing "life" instead.
Saint Augustine phrased the Christian law as: "Have charity and do what you like. Whereas the Pharisee, alas, tends to invert Augustine into : "Neither do what you like nor have charity. This is not the law of Moses but a meaningless law of fear. For we live in an age of fear, and we have infected our very faith with our paralysis, as certain previous ages infected it with their cruelty.
No wonder the Decalogue makes us uncomfortable. We have turned it from a thrilling affirmation into a dull denial. Yet there was the sound of trumpets in it once. When Sinai flamed and thundered, the Children of Israel were indeed briefly afraid. Apparently nothing short of a volcano, however could intimidate them long enough to make them re-examine the code by which they lived. They were lusty and lustful men; they heartily enjoyed their hewings and smitings and woman stealings; and if they got killed on their forays-well, if you sat in the tent and worried about that you were as good as dead already.
A safe life was unthinkable to them-nobody had ever told them that they were entitled to social security. Even the love. Shock; and also exultation, for the Decalogue raised them above the trivial level of enjoyment, gave life a shape, a purpose, a plan. Though previous Eastern cultures had struggled upward temporarily to some knowledge that justice pleased the gods, it is on the thunderstone of the Tablets that Western civilization has built its house.
If the house is tottering today, we can scarcely steady it by pulling the foundation out from under. When civilization caught up with the fierce Israelites, it happened that they got the worst of it; for their settled life, crushed between greater nations, was less fortunate than their savage life had been.
A conquering and rejoicing people declined into a conquered and wailing one. The sins of the animal -blind enjoyment of the present moment-were replaced by the sins of the devil: bitterness and pride, with a rejection of the present and a desperate attempt to play God by getting control of the future, in short, the sin of fear.
All this while the scribes and Pharisees were busy multiplying interpretations of the law. To keep the Sabbath holy, ultimately, meant obeying 1, different laws-for example, you had to remove your false teeth.
To keep the name of God holy, you had to give up using it altogether; eventually its very syllables were forgotten. Like us, they could obey it blindly or reject it blindly; but they could not possibly make sense of it.
Something new had to be added for that. And, again like us, they did not want negative commandments at all. They wanted a positive law, to put some heart back into them. They could not get it from the scribes and Pharisees; nor, for that matter, from their neighbours the sceptical Greek philosophers and scientists; nor from the Roman theorists of law and government. Nor can we. Negative, feeble, old-according to our critics, our Western culture is all this and worse.
And indeed in a materialist society people are born old. Flesh-and-blood grandfathers and grandmothers are not our problem. True, we have more of them than we used to, so many that they are becoming a special medical study and a new political power.
Yet, if all were well, that should be our gain. But what if there is no deep youthful passion? What if Granddaughter, married a year or so, finds beating up cake batter too great a task for her slack muscles and fretful mind? What if the highest ambition of youth is to be safe? Ecclesiastes has summed it up for us: ". Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way. To the spiritually old, however young and strong their bodies, death seems lurking around every comer, and fear sits by their bedside and grins at them.
Any minute now, the atom bomb will drop or the bacterial warfare begin, and we shall go to our long home; and since most of us are at least half materialists, we suspect that it will be a very long and dark home indeed. The frightened man cannot use his strength or his youth; he is in the position of the old African chief. He would give everything he possesses for the power to enjoy this world genuinely, lightheartedly, fearlessly, for five minutes. Fear is so much our disease that we have forgotten it is a disease; we take it for granted as the normal basis of all human actions.
The American UN delegate, with no sense of anything shameful in the confession, declares that fear is the root of Western foreign policy. The Army assumes that vast numbers of its casualties will be fear cases: there will be too many atheists in foxholes. Our advertising men base half their art of moneymaking upon fear. Whether or not such interpretations are true, they reveal the mental state of the age that accepts them-an age when, for many, fears are in the way and desire has failed.
Not the whole picture, of course! Perhaps the great majority of men go on as they always have-stumbling, cursing, but on the whole enjoying themselves. There are still healthy sinners among us, people who get so much out of this life that they are in danger of forgetting the next. There are still lovers who enjoy sexuality, soldiers who enjoy the adventure of fighting, and even, perhaps, rich men who enjoy money. Many are still protected by a fortunate illiteracy from the bombardment of fear propaganda which our books and magazines and newspapers are hurling at us.
And there are always the saints, the men and women so close to God that no temporal disaster can shake their eternal joy. But the articulate, the leaders of opinion, the policy makers, all those who set the tone of our society, seem for the most part to be frightened men. And how do frightened men deal with life? The simplest among us flee openly, rushing from woman to woman, from drink to drink, from one empty amusement to another, wondering why we get so little contentment out of the eighty-miles-an-hour joy ride from unloved Here to unrewarding There.
Some of us are prouder: we conceal our fear under hate, and bully subordinates or persecute political heretics or nag our children. Some of us are subtler-we deny fear altogether, pretend that terror is an illusion and safety through "science" is just around the comer. This last escape is often the way of the intellectuals, the world thinkers, the worriers among us. The real trouble with the Ten Commandments today seems to be that we frequently manage to obey most of them without much difficulty, not from virtue but from lack of the animal energy to break them.
To the African who was too old, to the workman who is too worried, the Ten Commandments seem at first glance irrelevant. We have had it for two thousand years. The positive form of the Decalogue is in the Sermon on the Mount. And at the very core of it are the words: "Take. What worked for other frightened men will work for us. But our society refuses to listen; this injunction about tomorrow is precisely the one thing we will not accept.
Our whole economic system, our civilization, our way of life, is built on worrying about the future! Our life is based on fear; if we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us? Even in church, we worry about world problems we cannot understand or master, and we waste our time and substance on committees whose announced purpose is to save the world and whose real purpose turns out to be getting some politician elected.
Even in church, we are so shaky in our faith in the next world that we often talk as if the teachings and promises of our Lord were a mere convenience for putting this world to rights. And some of our preachers, with the best intentions, keep announcing plans for "bringing Jesus up to date. No, they must not. Our ideas are killing us spiritually. You give him an emetic. Therefore the answer is still the old answer: "Perfect love casteth out far.
Nor can we have such a world, for all our strivings; no matter how pleasant and safe we make the journey, the end of it is death.
Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments
And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. THERE is a tale told of a missionary in a dark comer of Africa where the men had a habit of filing their teeth to sharp points. He was hard at work trying to convert a native chief. Now the chief was very old, and the missionary was very Old Testament-his version of Christianity leaned heavily on thou-shalt-nots. The savage listened patiently. To be old and to be a Christian, they are the same thing!
The C. S. Lewis Study Program Presents..
Her parents, Joseph Davidman and Jeanette Spivack married , arrived in America in the late 19th century. Davidman grew up in the Bronx with her younger brother, Howard, and with both parents employed, even during the Great Depression. She was provided with a good education, piano lessons and family vacation trips. I was an atheist and the daughter of an atheist". She read H. She wrote about the influence of these stories: "They developed in me a lifelong taste for fantasy, which led me years later to C. Lewis, who in turn led me to religion.
Jul 26, Hansen Wendlandt rated it it was amazing Romans and the Psalms are pretty important. After that, what is the next book a Christian should read? Quite simply, Joy Davidman has written such a clear description of Biblical guidance for discipleship and a defense of the very relevance of the Bible for modern living, that Romans and the Psalms are pretty important. Quite simply, Joy Davidman has written such a clear description of Biblical guidance for discipleship and a defense of the very relevance of the Bible for modern living, that anyone interested in faith—-any religion, any commitment, any complaints—-must read this classic. Few passages of Scripture are more famous, or infamous, than the Ten Commandments. Their content and purpose, however, are so often distorted, misunderstood or ignored, that they can seem little more than a relic of Christendom, some awkward artifact that may have mattered in some society, somewhere, but not today.