Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind
'

Toward a Christian worldview

. . . be ready always to give an answer, with meekness and fear, to every man who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.

1 Peter 3:15

Reading through these Jonal entries of the past three years may give the impression I'm looking for a worldview or a catalog of principles to live by from the writings of C.S. Lewis, he is quoted so frequently in them. But though I'm not ready to say such a project is not feasible or that it's impossible, I do not profess to have grasped such a worldview in Lewis's writings or to be conveying it here. Having found hundreds of examples of insights into Christian living and consistent thinking in his work falls short of having discovered a “system” or “matrix” in Lewis for life in general.

Lewis was a logical thinker whose insights were both at once fresh and inspiring while still reflecting and confirming the teachings and wisdom of Christ and His church from the first generation of disciples to his own time (1898 - 1963). And being on the cutting edge of thinkers at institutions that were themselves on the cutting edge in most realms of inquiry and discovery—the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge—Lewis's thinking was even ahead of thinking of generations after himself. For example, he seems to have been addressing “post-modern” ideas decades before that term became common in European and American college courses. But I've found no evidence in what I've read in him that Lewis was attempting to pull together and mold his world of thought into a unified entity he would call his worldview or his “apologetic” as we might find such a matrix in Francis Schaeffer or John Warwick Montgomery. Lewis would, I suspect, have left that kind of task to lesser intellects like mine.

My writing here is usually about the self-evident fact that though a great many profess to be Christians, very few seem to act or understand how to approach acting Christianly; it tries to bridge the gap in the polls that find on one hand that a great majority of Americans profess Christianity but only a small minority can give a basic summary of Christian beliefs and the foundations behind them and a great many actually assent to doctrines that contradict biblical and church teachings. Many may act Christianly in some areas but are blind to others that are equally important in the Lord's teaching. It's my purpose to give young Christians (regardless of their chronological age) a leg up on the ladder to holiness. And, all said and done, is not climbing on that ladder what all Christians should be doing, what they commit themselves to when professing faith in Jesus?

I do not pretend to have climbed very high on the ladder myself, but trudge along with trepidation as one man looking for his daily bread and willing to share the places I've found some with others in camp. My life's vocation has been helping university students get a Christian handle on their lives and their studies, and a Christian worldview seems to be the natural starting point and common ground for going about that. My publications in the campus ministry years were all about Christian insights into literary and artistic works, academic studies and lifestyle, so I've had lots of practice, even if I have scarcely begun to repent, as Saint Sisoes confessed on his deathbed. And my journeying from an evangelical reformed background and that party's way of thinking to early-church and Orthodox ways has required rethinking everything and making corrections where needed.

That is where C.S. Lewis first entered the picture and where he still makes the greatest contribution of any recent Christian thinker/writer, to my thinking. He enabled me to see the inconsistency in my life of having a church life, such as it was, that had cut itself off from the roots of Christian history and practice. It seemed obvious, at some point in my journey, that there was a disconnect between a Judaism rooted in two or more millennia of teaching by prophets and patriarchs and a Christianity that was intentionally ignoring the insights and gifts of early-church fathers and martyrs while professing ourselves “one body” organized around a principle we called “the communion of saints.” Lewis, I found in my first “plunge” into his work in the early '90s, had something along those lines that I had been missing and I needed.

From among thousands of profound insights in Lewis, two especially enlighten and guide my development of a worldview consistent with Christianity. First was his conclusion, despite the background he grew up (in what is now Northern Ireland) where Protestant-Catholic differences were maximized, that the common ground among bodies professing Christianity are exponentially more important than their differences. The second is that the best thing Christian individuals can do for the goal of unity among us is to build personal relationships that foster one-to-one understanding, tolerance, and agape love. These are the two pillars of what Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” Lewis has often been quoted as saying that in the heart of their beliefs the various Christian communions share more than that which divides them, an insight that has been beautifully restated by Orthodox author Frederica Mathewes-Green in this word picture:

I picture a wagon wheel. As we look around the bend of the outer circle, the next spoke is so far away. We are divided from each other. But by going up the spoke to the hub, by bringing your mind into the presence of God, you stand at the center where all comes together. At that place, prayer really does change things.


And later she adds:

By no means is Orthodoxy the only place to be saved, and by no means is every baptized Orthodox Christian saved. I believe that Eastern Christianity offers a form of simple, effective spirituality that ought to be better known; I believe that it has unlocked for me a way to grow in Christ beyond what I’d ever known before. I want to keep telling others about it, because no one told me. But I never want to imply that it is the only way.


Amen to all that. And then she quotes her own late spiritual father (her confessor and guide), the former Romanian priest Fr. George Calciu, who suffered in Communist prisons for years:

When I returned to America from France, I took a cab from the airport to my house, and the driver started to talk to me about God, about the Bible. In shops, people often start talking to me about God, about the Bible. As long as simple people speak about God, as long as simple people read the Bible, America is saved. For despite all the mistakes America has made…America is blessed by God. Not because [a] President says, ‘God bless America,’ but because of these simple people who speak of God, worship God, read the Bible, and preserve America against every evil and every attack of the devil.


In this spirit I believe it's appropriate to work toward a Christian worldview rooted in biblical and church teaching and influenced by the thinking of C.S. Lewis who has often been described as the one contemporary person whose writings and insights modern Christians of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox conviction can most heartily agree upon. Invoking him often here may make readers of all of these streams feel more comfortable with my own ideas, but more importantly it may be a portal through which they can enter into a common Christian mind.


 

 
 
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Today's chuckle

The noblest of all dogs is the hot-dog; it feeds the hand that bites it.

— Laurence Peter


Thought for today

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.

 


 

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