Wednesday, January 30, 2013

C.S. Lewis On the Need For the Christian Intellect

Recently I picked up Lewis' book The Weight of Glory, a collection of lectures that he delivered in the 40's to students. I find it surprising that little has seemed to changed since the words entered print. In an essay entitled "Learning In War-Time" he addresses the mentality of certain people to think learning a frivolity during times of crisis, such as those of World War II; however, there seems to be a similar way of thinking in certain sectors of Christianity today, whether we are in a time of crisis or not. I felt that it would be apropos to quote him at length, as it pertains to my reasons for writing this blog:

If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now--not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground--would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion.

Lewis indicates two fields of learning for the Christian intellect: philosophy and history (if I am reading him correctly). Where would you say the greatest need is today? What elements of the Christian intellect deserve more attention within the Church and without? Please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Old Topic, New Twist: A Review of 20,000 Days and Counting

How many days have you been on this earth? How many days might you have left? How are you going to spend each one of those? Robert D. Smith raises many good questions and offers some real food for thought in his debut book, 20,000 Days and Counting. The title comes from the event that started Smith on this journey: he was curious how many days he had been alive and typed in his birthday to a counter. He decided that he would celebrate the next big milestone, and that was 20,000 days. His way of celebrating was to check himself into one of the world’s best hotels (he doesn't say which one) and plan out his next 20,000 days (I guess he plans on living well into his hundreds). The rest of the book comes from that plan with chapter titles such as: Motivation Is a Myth, You Only Have Two Choices, Focusing Your Morning Vision, Doing What You Know, How to Conquer Rejection Forever. 

First of all, I’ll say that this book was an easy and enjoyable read—short easy-to-read sentences, lots of interesting quotes, and good stories. The academic in me always feels a bit cheated if a book hasn't punished me a little, and while I was reading this short book I didn't feel like I was working out the ‘ol intellect too much. Many of his points were familiar to me; much of the advice seemed somewhat obvious. So this wasn't one of those works I see destined for literary greatness. However, it won’t get out of my head, so Smith has done something special here. He has written a book that will stick with you and make you rethink your life and how you live it. How many days have I wasted? How will I use my remaining days on earth? What does this mean for my day? These are questions I have been thinking about ever since I finished the book.

Thankfully, Mr. Smith doesn't just give us a longer version of "Live Like You Are Dying" or "Live each day as if it where your last." He actually addresses this approach and says that it's impractical. So, while he is delivering thoughts on an old topic, he is giving it a somewhat new twist.

 He also talks about his good friend Andy Andrews a lot (he is a promoter for Andrews), so at first it seem like he was still on the clock or either name-dropping to give his work credibility. After listening to an interview with Robert D. I have come to understand that he has dedicated years of hard work in the service of others, especially Andy Andrews, while writing and promoting his own material has never been on his radar. So I suppose it only makes sense for him to talk about what and who he knows.

It is a very quick read, and well worth the time. All in all 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. I would also add that Mr. Smith has a counter on the home page of his website [here] where you can see how many days you have been alive. At the time of this edit (8/18/14) I have been alive 13,060 days.    

If you have read 20,000 Days and Counting, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you have not, at least do yourself the favor of "number[ing] your days" and asking yourself how many of those days did you spend doing something important--something that would effect lives.

Thomas Nelson Publishers and gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.