Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
– Proverbs 8:1-11
The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
– Daniel 5:10-12
“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple, but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of – all about the atoms and how the right waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain – and, of course, you find that what we call ‘seeing a table’ lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child’s prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not – and the modern world is usually not – If you want to go on and ask what is really happening – then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.
“Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made ‘religion’ simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your time. Notice, too, their idea of God ‘making religion simple’: as if ‘religion’ were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In the first Scripture above, Solomon exhorts the simple-minded to gain prudence and the foolish to set their hearts on prudence, for wisdom is what we need. The king of Babylon lacked wisdom in the second Scripture, but the queen remembered that the difficult problems could be solved by Daniel (Belteshazzar). If you are not wise, but not totally stupid… Have a wise advisor nearby.
All of that is good, but what C. S. Lewis is talking about is at a personal level. Few of us will run major corporations or countries, but we need to be wise nevertheless. We need a wise advisor to help us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes the words in our Bibles come alive, but we need to read the Bible for that to happen. So, on a personal level, we can follow what Solomon stated in Proverbs 8.
We can read God’s word, the Bible, and with an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have our Belteshazzar to solve the difficult problems. With all the audio Bibles these days, one does not even have to read to gain wisdom.
As for the chemical composition of Lewis’ table… Okay, that train of thought was intriguing to me. A wooden table is mostly comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, in varying quantities. Each of those atoms have their constituent subatomic parts. Then Lewis jumps to how the image of the table top is perceived by the eye, then transmitted to the brain, and so forth. I loved every bit of it.
As for the children’s prayers not being simple, I am reminded of a comedy routine by Tim Hawkins, or maybe my brain is being influenced by the upcoming holiday. Hawkins recites the well-known bedtime prayer of my youth, but in a sinister, creepy voice. As for the voice, as he recites the prayer very slowly, think of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff rolled into one voice. As for his facial expressions – complete with index finger horns and flicking tongue, think of Lon Chaney, known as the man of a thousand faces. Before he starts the recitation, he quips, “No wonder our kids didn’t want to go to sleep.” To set the stage, parents often recite this prayer with their children… in the dark.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I ‘wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
– The New England Primer
Then Hawkins adds in a sweet voice, “Sweet dreams. See you in the morning, I think. I don’t know. Is it a fifty-fifty chance?”
But the wisdom in Hawkins comedy is that we are imprinting a very complex concept into very small children. We could take Lewis’ train of thought down the track of this simple prayer and we find that it is far from simple. If we die, it is only the first death. We get new bodies and discard the old. If the prayer doesn’t cause nightmares, explaining it might.
Then, are children ‘simple’ these days. My wife was visiting one of our sons. They went in two cars to go shopping. My wife was feeling a little ill and tired, so she announced that she was going home early. Our grandson volunteered to go home with her. When she told him that she was simply going back to the house to take a nap and be alone, he said, “No one should be alone when they don’t feel well.” He was about 6 or 7 at the time. On the way home, the two of them talked about God and the great mysteries of life.
To become a Christian, we simply do a very hard thing, we let go of the control of our life and turn that over to an unseen God. We believe Him. We trust Him. We believe in His promises. Then it gets complicated. Maybe it stays simple if we live in a glass bubble, but no, even then we are part of a broken world until we pass to the next. Each step we take is into the next minefield.
Maybe, the simplest thing to ask of God is:
“Lord, if I don’t wake up tomorrow, please take my soul to Heaven. Amen.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.