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I’m at the end of a very Oxford-y stay in Oxford for an insolvency conference—gray skies and drizzle, everyone whooshing by on Mary Poppins bicycles.

Thursday night I had a pint of ale with a friend in the Eagle and Child, the pub where C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings used to set up shop a few decades ago. I brought C.S. Lewis’s “The Weight of Glory and Other Essays” with me, and finally ordered Christopher Hitchen’s “God is Not Great on my (I’m mean, Sharon’s) Kindle last night. It doesn’t seem at all surprising that Lewis, Hitchens and Richard Dawkins all have deep Oxford connections.
More on Hitchens soon. I’ve read the first chapter and so far still find Hitchens more morally serious than his fellow atheists, though locked in a worldview that I find hard to fully understand. One line in the first chapter that struck me: “I have probably sat up later, and longer, with religious friends than any other kind.” I believe him, and can easily imagine one or more of those conversations taking place at the Eagle and Child—a long narrow pub with the bar in the first section, then several more sections with tables and loud conversation.
I mentioned to Bill that I was re-reading “The Weight of Glory,” and he emailed back that it’s his favorite Lewis essay. This didn’t surprise me, as I remember Bill quoting in one of his essays a famous Lewis passage about our preoccupation with drink and sex and ambition, and neglect of the awesome promises of the Gospels, being like “an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”
It’s my very favorite Lewis writing too. I first heard about the essay in a sermon by James Montgomery Boice, a former pastor of our church. The first time I read it, it didn’t make a great impression. The second time I read it, I was absolutely bowled over.
I had long wondered what Paul meant by the “weight of glory.” It seemed counterintuitive that glory would have weight. But of course it does, as Lewis’s essay brilliantly brings out. I think of it as a little like first learning to ride a bike. At the lower gears, it’s easy to pedal but you don’t go fast. The high gears are impossible at first. But if you work up to them (the theologians would call this sanctification) you gradually can use higher or higher gears, which propel you faster and more powerfully than you ever imagined.


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Comments ( 2 )

I am pleased to hear, David, that you purchased the Hitchens' book and are reading it. I look forward to hearing your comments before I read it. In an earlier posting you raised the questions whether we should as evangelical Christians be purchasing these types of books. To say that we not seek to understand the mind of the people around us (by reading their works) is like saying that the Capitalist would not entertain reading The Communist Manifesto. The Apostle Paul, too, knew the mind of his listener. GMcFarland

Professor Skeel, I am surprised to hear you passed through Oxford. I am a doctoral student in law here and if I had known you were visiting, I would have made an effort to meet you. I first heard of you when I listened to a sermon online that you were giving at Tenth Presbyterian Church on Christianity and Law. (I attended Penn for my undergraduate and attended Tenth). Then a few months ago I read about you in the WSJ on state bankruptcy. I never knew this blog existed and just stumbled on it now. I'm happy you are still active in public discourse.

Regarding atheists, I wish I could recommend to you 1 or 2 books that changed my life. "Atheism" is not an accurate description of what they believe. "Positivism" is better. Positivism understood as the belief that natural scientific methods are the only way of obtaining knowledge. The problem with positivism is that the positivists have forgotten, or willfully suppress, the fact that natural scientific methods depends on unprovable assumptions - ie, faith. It is a historical fact that those assumptions come from Christian theology. I don't want an epic-length post, but I hope to return and maybe post later about this issue. The bottom line is that positivist atheists ignore their "faith" and the Christian origins of modern science and they are demonstrably wrong. There is nothing to fear from Hitchens, Dawkins, etc. There is probably nothing to learn from them either since they are repeating 200 year old arguments. I wouldn't waste money on their books.