The Most Dangerous Invitation

At bedtime I’m reading the Chronicles of Narnia to the boys.  I love these books and I love that they love them too.  We’ve reached the Last Battle chapter 1, and I was struck by this exchange:

“All the same, Shift,” said Puzzle, “even if the skin only belonged to a dumb, wild lion, oughtn’t we to give it a decent burial? I mean, aren’t all lions rather—well, rather solemn. Because of you know Who. Don’t you see?”

“Don’t you start getting ideas into your head, Puzzle,” said Shift. “Because, you know, thinking isn’t your strong point. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”

“Oh, I don’t think I’d like that,” said the Donkey. “It would look—I mean, the other Beasts might think—that is to say, I shouldn’t feel——”

“What are you talking about?” said Shift, scratching himself the wrong way up as Apes do.

“I don’t think it would be respectful to the Great Lion, to Aslan himself, if an ass like me went about dressed up in a lionskin,” said Puzzle.

“Now don’t stand arguing, please,” said Shift. “What does an ass like you know about things of that sort? You know you’re no good at thinking, Puzzle, so why don’t you let me do your thinking for you?

It contains perhaps the most dangerous invitation imaginable:

“Why don’t you let me do your thinking for you?”

It is an appealing invitation in a time of uncertainty and chaos politically.  Why not turn our country over to a strong leader who can answer our questions simply?  So said Europe in the 1930s – and the danger in times of turmoil is that we will do so again.

It is an appealing invitation in a church where pressure from society grows ever stronger.  Why not just let the world do our thinking for us and tell us what right and wrong are?  Why not just let scholars and important leaders decide what should happen?

It is appealing when we don’t know what we should do next.  Why not just let someone else do our thinking for us and fit in with the expected?

“Why don’t you let me do your thinking for you?”

It is a dangerous invitation because it conceals a half truth – of course we need each other. Of course we can’t do our thinking alone.  But we can never leave our thinking completely to others.  We need to use our brains.

This is a fundamental part of my faith – and I don’t say that just because I have spent 3 years working on a PhD. No, it is fundamental for every Christian. We cannot let our thinking be done for us.

Put at its simplest I believe God has spoken.

We have his words in the Bible.  Words of life.  Words that are, at times hard.  Words that are, at times difficult.  But words that do give life.  Words that bring us to Jesus. Words that show us how and why to live the life he wants.

We get the benefit of life with God when we read those words.  When we let them seep into our skin and bones.  When we let them enter our hearts and penetrate deep within.  When we sit and wrestle with a passage that we find hard.  When we don’t give up on our quest to understand.  When we think.  When we love God with our minds and don’t give up.

If we shortcut the process by skipping on reading God’s Word and engaging with it for ourselves then we make ourselves vulnerable to false teachers and prophets inside the church, and to beastly political leaders outside the church who promise us various versions of heaven now.

Reading God’s Word and wrestling with it for ourselves means we  will be ready for a world now where pain and heartache are real.  We will be ready for a world where some things just don’t make sense at all.

We will know that in the midst of the pain and the heartache, of the confusion and the tears that there is a God of faithful love who holds us and is remaking us, and this broken world, into something as unimaginably glorious to us right now as a 400 year old oak tree is to an acorn.

I’m going to finish this blog post with possibly the most important sentence Rob Bell has ever written.  It was on the back cover of the copy of Velvet Elvis I had at some point.  It makes the point very well.

We have to test everything.I thank God for anybody anywhere who is pointing people to the mysteries of God. But those people would all tell you to think long and hard about what they are saying and doing and creating.Test it. Probe it.Do that to this book.Don’t swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it.Just because I’m a Christian and I’m trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn’t mean I’ve got it nailed. I’m contributing to the discussion. God has spoken, and the rest is commentary, right?

 

 

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