Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Next Lewis

PREVIEW: This column will include: Jesus, Mohammad, C.S. Lewis, and An Artist to be Named Later.

I am in Turkey. This is a first for me. I've never ventured to the Asian side of Eurasia before, I've never been to a predominantly Muslim nation before, and I've never stood inside the walls of a mosque. All things come to pass...

Of paramount importance to me in this experience are the conversations that can be had here that impart the sharing of both ideas & souls to one another. There are many intriguing people in this nation; so much more than I can comprehend.

And then there's Mohammad.

The question that turns and turns and turns here is this: will anything from Islam last? That is to say: what from this fourteen hundred year tradition is pleasing to the Savior of our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ?

Such questions must come to a center; a pivot point. That point is, undoubtedly, the authenticity of Mohammad himself. A man here of whom I have entitled much trust to is currently investigating a hypothesis: could it be that Mohammad was at one point meant as a prophet for the Arab world to reflect upon the majesty of Christ Jesus. That is assuredly an excruciatingly difficult premise to follow, and will involve much tiptoeing. BUT -- it appears perhaps as both a compassionate and honest approach to at first seek a place of hope for such a deep tradition, rather then to upon initial inspection degrade it and declare holy war upon its very fabric.

Sub-thoughts in the Realm:
What has longed confused me is the Islamic presumption that it was Ishmael who was nearly sacrificed by Abraham, not Isaac as the book of Genesis propounds. The prominence of Ishmael is important, for in him the Arab world claims their heritage. It is then evident to me that overtime the desire for their race to be seen as superior (particularly to the Jews), the people of Islam began to assume Ishmael as the son worthy of near sacrifice. 
Despite the Biblical discrepancy, Ishmael is given a promise in Scripture. While an everlasting covenant is promised to Isaac, Ishmael is told that he will be made into, "...a great nation." (Gen. 17:20) Furthermore, this blessing is repeated in chapter 21, and then it is said that, "God was with the lad," (Gen. 21:20) so... you know... that sounds pretty good.  What should the expectation of this blessing be? What does a great nation look like?

The hope: Mohammad was sent as a figurehead as an Arab to the Arabs, to turn the people of Ishmael to their Redeemer, Christ our Lord. Somewhere along the way that message got distorted. Mohammad's later 'revelations' extol a road to salvation that appears to be opposed to that of the God of the Bible, but maybe he just went sour. Perhaps he became an exaggerated version of Jonah -- a man who knew God, but valued his own reasoning more than God's plan for him.  Maybe.

If we allow ourselves to consider anything remotely present in a post-resurrected Jesus world akin to a prophet, suddenly, a history of questions arises. What does a modern day prophet look like? What evidences would this person illustrate to convince the flock of his position? What authority would God give to such a person? Why would we need a prophet? What is their function?

One thing is certain: a prophet's purpose will never extend beyond calling the chosen to Jesus.

If we consider the door open for a new age of prophets -- then surely there would be evidences of other prophets in the last two millennia. And if a prophet is now not elucidating new intel -- that is to say, the canon of revelation is closed, then it is a simply logical step for me to hypothesize that any prophet would perchance by nature be an artist.

An artist expresses the ephemeral, presents the unutterable, crystallizes that which has no language -- in essence, I see the function of the artist as being one of personalizing the world into tangible bits of empathy.

The Artist as Prophet:
Take The Chronicles of Narnia: C.S. Lewis distills Bible into an allegory strong enough to entertain and recalibrate the mind in how it comprehends our relationship with God. God as a friendly, yet fierce lion was an indelible insight for 20th century Christians, but it by no means is a mode of revelation. Take The Screwtape Letters: Lewis gratuitously and precisely depicts the assault on a man's soul by a conniving adversary -- with that thrust Lewis makes both the spiritual and the moral conflict of living amidst a greater world war then we know personal and tangible. The Great Divorce: Lewis paints a Heaven and Hell that has significance and much more weight than a portrait of mere pearly gates. The lists extends and extends -- the course of the man's life.

If you know C.S. Lewis then surely you know his wit and wisdom. He is indispensable.  Let's just go ahead and call him a prophet. If he is that, if we can make claim to his position as such, who is his replacement? Who among the myriad bears righteous Psalms to the Lord in his or her bosom in such a way that through their work I may portend to draw nearer to the Almighty? Who? Who will speak to our age? Who has the nerve to inch that close to the searing light of the Father?

Sub-thoughts in the Realm:
A step in Joseph Campbell's distillation of classical narrative structure includes 'Refusal of the Call'. This is the point at which the protagonist is called to action and knows what obstacles stand in front of him, but for personal reasons shows great reluctance to take up his cross. Moses certainly expressed this step in spades when being in the presence of an un-consuming flaming bush, he still tried to waddle out of his duty. Even in the presence of the Angel of the Lord, Moses was 'bold' enough to show reluctance to his calling. Jonah takes the whole refusal business to an even greater extent by absolutely sprinting away from his duty. It seems appropriate to me to think that any called prophet should not be too quick to jump into the cockpit. The call comes with a price. Spiderman told us correctly when he stated solemnly, "With great power comes great duty."


I have a hope. I have an idea. I have a wish.
I suggest this name to you: Sufjan Stevens.
What if?
What next?

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