“All shall work together for good: everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds.”
“One thing is needful; an humble, dependent spirit, to renounce our own wills, and give up ourselves to His disposal without reserve. This is the path of peace.
And it is the path of safety, for He has said, ‘The meek he will teach his way, and those who yield up themselves to him he will guide with his eye.’ (Psalm 25:9)
I hope you will fight and pray against every rising of a murmuring spirit, and be thankful for the great things which he has already done for you.
It is good to be humbled for sin, but not to be discouraged.
For though we are poor creatures, Jesus is a complete Saviour, and we bring more honour to God by believing in His name, and trusting His word of promise, than we could do by a thousand outward works.
I pray the Lord to shine upon your soul, and to fill you with all joy and peace in believing.
Remember to pray for us, that we may be brought home to you in peace.”
“I hope, in the midst of all your engagements, you find a little time to read His good Word, and to wait at His mercy-seat. It is good for us to draw nigh to Him.
It is an honour that He permits us to pray; and we shall surely find He is a God hearing prayer. Endeavour to be diligent in the means; yet watch and strive against a legal spirit, which is always aiming to represent him as a hard master, watching, as it were, to take advantage of us.
But it is far otherwise. His name is Love: He looks upon us with compassion; He knows our frame, and remembers that we are but dust.
And when our infirmities prevail, He does not bid us despond, but reminds us that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost.
Think of the names and relations he bears. Does He not call Himself a Saviour, a Shepherd, a Friend, and a Husband?
Has he not made known unto us His love, His blood, His righteousness, His promises, His power, and His grace, and all for our encouragement?
Away then with all doubting, unbelieving thoughts; they will not only distress your heart, but weaken your hands.
Take it for granted upon the warrant of His word, that you are His, and He is yours; that He has loved you with an everlasting love, and therefore in loving-kindness has drawn you to Himself; that He will surely accomplish that which He has begun, and that nothing which can be named or thought of shall ever be able to separate you from Him.
This persuasion will give you strength for the battle; this is the shield which will quench the fiery darts of Satan; this is the helmet which the enemy cannot pierce.
Whereas if we go forth doubting and fearing, and are afraid to trust any farther than we can feel, we are weak as water, and easily overcome.
Be strong, therefore, not in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Pray for me.”
“To Sheldon Vanauken
January 5, 1951
Dear Mr. Van Auken,
We must ask three questions about the probable effect of changing your research subject to something more theological.
(1.) Would it be better for your immediate enjoyment? Answer, probably but not certainly, Yes.
(2.) Would it be better for your academic career? Answer, probably No. You would have to make up in haste a lot of knowledge which could not be very easily digested in the time.
(3.) Would it be better for your soul? I don’t know.
I think there is a great deal to be said for having one’s deepest spiritual interest distinct from one’s ordinary duty as a student or professional man.
St Paul’s job was tent-making. When the two coincide I should have thought there was a danger lest the natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation: and I think clergymen sometimes fall into this trap.
Contrariwise, there is the danger that what is boring or repellent in the job may alienate one from the spiritual life. And finally someone has said ‘None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things’: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job.
You now want truth for her own sake: how will it be when the same truth is also needed for an effective footnote in your thesis?
In fact, the change might do good or harm. I’ve always been glad myself that Theology is not the thing I earn my living by.
On the whole, I’d advise you to get on with your tent-making. The performance of a duty will probably teach you quite as much about God as academic Theology would do.
Mind, I’m not certain: but that is the view I incline to.
C. S. Lewis”
–C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 3: 82-83. Vanauken had asked Lewis his opinion as to whether he should continue with his postgraduate work in history or study theology.
- Francis Bacon, Essays (1625), ‘Of Atheism’: ‘The great atheists, indeed are hypocrites; which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling; so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.’
“The effects of theological knowledge should be humility and a deepened desire to serve and honor God in all of our commerce with created reality.
The truly profound thinkers in life are often brought to humility, too, but perhaps for different reasons.
They are humbled out of a sense of their own smallness; theology should humble us through a sense of the greatness and wonder of God.
It is what we know, not what we do not know, that subdues our pride and causes us to render to God the worship that is His due.”
–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 174.
“There are few lines quite so poignantly applicable to the theologian’s craft as those of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of ‘The life so short, the craft so long to learn. The attempt so hard, the victory so keen.’
It is, in fact, surprising that the thought should ever cross our minds that the theological undertaking could be otherwise, for understanding– understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world– comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that ‘life’s’ summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked.
Or so it seems. And that, perhaps, is why we are so fiercely tempted to turn theology into a technique that we can use to produce a more efficiently gained and bountiful knowledge of God!
God, however, is not like the periodic table.
He is not a quantity that can be ‘mastered’ even though He can be known; and though He has revealed Himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of Him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own His ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.
Theology is the sustained effort to know the character, will, and acts of the triune God as He has disclosed and interpreted these for His people in Scripture, to formulate these in a systematic way in order that we might know Him, learn to think our thoughts after Him, live our lives in His world on His terms, and by thought and action projection His truth into our own time and culture.
It is therefore a synthetic activity whose center is the understanding of God, whose horizon is as wide as life itself, and whose mission echoes the mission of God Himself, which is to gather together in Christ a progeny as numerous as the stars above (Gen. 15:1-6; Gal. 3:6-16).”
–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171, 172.