Last week I wrote about how C.S. Lewis said that magic and modern (or applied) science are “twins.” He was not against science, but he was trying to show that applied science (often seen as technology) and magic have the same goal: to try to change reality to fit the wishes of humans. This is also about power: how people are not changing themselves to be virtuous but using science to gain power over other humans. You can read last week’s writing here http://covenantgrove.org/blog/are-magic-and-science-twins/
I will repeat some of the end of my writing from last week, then continue on with some new thoughts.
Lewis describes how this is different than how earlier humanity functioned:
“For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious–such as digging up and mutilating the dead.” (Abolition of Man, p.88)
The quest for power is a quest to escape the real problem of humanity: humans need to change. We are trying to change reality to match what we want, and we are so driven to change it that we will do anything to make it happen. Vintage thinking (Jeremiah 6:16) means we go back to the ancient wisdom: WE need to change; we need to allow God to get inside and change us.
Timothy Keller, commenting on Lewis and this change in humans, says,
“In ancient times it was understood that there was a transcendent moral order outside the self, built in to the fabric of the universe. If you violated that metaphysical order there were consequences just as severe as if you violated physical reality by placing your hand in a fire. The path of wisdom was to learn to live in conformity with this unyielding reality. That wisdom rested largely in developing qualities of character, such as humility, compassion, courage, discretion, and loyalty.
“Modernity reversed this. Ultimate realty was seen not so much as a supernatural order but as the natural world, and that was malleable. Instead of trying to shape our desires to fit reality, we now seek to control and shape reality to fit our desires. The ancients looked at an anxious person and prescribed spiritual character change. Modernity talks instead about stress-management techniques.” (The Reason for God, p.73)
Keller is saying that modern people truly expect the world to change for them. This is true, unfortunately. I see it every day on social media when someone complains about a problem, never considering that they may be the one who needs to change. The chorus of sympathy they receive from their social media friends only confirms the false belief. I see it every week as a pastor; when I have the boldness to tell someone, who is lamenting about their life, that they have a hurtful habit that needs to change. They are genuinely shocked; what they wanted was a way to change the situation or people in their lives, or at least get a coping technique. The thought that THEY might be the problem was nowhere in mind.
So how can a person avoid this?
- First, just be aware that you live in a world that is ignoring reality. See the deception and realize that it doesn’t work.
- Second, make sure there are a few people in your life who truly live according to God’s moral code (the reality), and give them as much influence in your life as possible. Allow – and even empower – people to speak truth into your life. This is so rare today that you will actually have to challenge people to challenge you!
- Third, hold your life up to the mirror as often as possible. Self-reflect. Evaluate your life every day: this is what Jesus taught us to do in the Lord’s Prayer (forgive us our sins…). Read the Bible every day – not just for knowledge but to examine your life: how does your life line up with the reality God is revealing in His word?
- Finally, when life is hard, honestly ask if there is anything in you that needs to change. Of course, a lot of bad things happen because people are just mean. But God also can use pain to open your eyes to a blind spot in your soul. Maybe you are alone because of how you treat others or the friends you choose. Maybe you have no money because you buy more than you make or don’t save wisely. Or maybe you are insecure because you haven’t done hard things, which is the cure for a lack of confidence.
We can be changed by God. This is good news! I close with two quotes from Augustine’s Confessions, which I am currently reading:
“Lest I die (in hell), let me die (to sin).” (I.v.5)
“The house of my soul is too small for you to come to it. May it be enlarged by you.” (I.v.6)