Edward Gibbon on Roman cultural decay

“The five marks of the Roman decaying culture:

Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth;

Obsession with sex and perversions of sex;

Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original;

Widening disparity between very rich and very poor;

Increased demand to live off the state.” 

Early Church in Late Rome


Rome was a flea market of borrowed gods and conquered peoples,
a bargain basement on two floors,
earth and heaven, a mass of filth convoluted in a triple knot
as an intestinal obstruction- eyes sunk in fat,
sodomy, double chins, illiterate emperors,
fish fed on the flesh of learned slaved-All wretched.
And then, into this tasteless heap of gold and marbleƖ He came.
Light- and clothed in an aura. Emphatically human,
deliberately provincial, Galilean.. At that moment gods and nations ceased to be,
and Man came into being. -Boris Pasternak

Heaven and Hell

In Heaven we will all be protected by British police, we will enjoy French cuisine, drive German cars, share the romance of Italy… and it will be organized and run by the Swiss.

In Hell: the police will be Germans, we will eat British food, drive French cars, experience the romance of the Swiss, and it will all be organized and run… by the Italians.

Charles Swindoll and Krayncik’s Bike Shop


"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our Attitudes."


John Piper on TV


John Piper, “Preaching as Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,” Trinity Journal 16 (1995): 44:
Turn off the television.
It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher’s soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you.

Mathetes on Christian Generosity to Diognetus


“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.”
~ Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 5 (130-200 AD)

Charles Spurgeon on The Mainline Denominations and their Decline

Now I have some sort of respect for a downright honest infidel, like Voltaire[3] or Tom Paine.[4] But I have none for the man who goes to college to be trained for the Christian ministry, and then claims to be free to doubt the Deity of Christ, the need of conversion, the punishment of the wicked, and other truths that seem to me to be essential to a full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Such a man must have strange views of honesty. And so has the minister who goes into a pulpit and addresses people when he knows that he does not believe any of the doctrines that are dearer to them than their own lives. Yet, the moment he is called to account for his unbelief, he cries out, “Persecution! Persecution! Bigotry! Bigotry!” A burglar, if I found him outside my bedroom door and held him till the policeman came, might consider me to be very bigoted because I did not care to have my property stolen by him and because I interfered with his liberty. So, in like manner, I am called bigoted because I will not allow a man to come and steal from my own pulpit the truths which are dearer to me than my life. I am quite willing to give that man liberty to go and publish his views somewhere else and at his own expense. But it shall not be done at my expense, nor in the midst of a congregation gathered by me for the worship of God, and the proclamation of the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Keep yourselves from this idol of the times; for it is the precursor of death to any church that gives it admittance.

Tolkein- On What Lasts

Niggle pushed open the gate, jumped on the bicycle, and went bowling downhill in the spring sunshine. Before long he found that the path on which he had started had disappeared, and the bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf. It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly. He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other. The curves of the land were familiar somehow. Yes: the ground was becoming level, as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again. A great green shadow came between him and the sun. Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle. Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished. If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide. "It's a gift!" he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally. He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves he had ever laboured at were there, as he had imagined them rather than as he had made them; and there were others that had only budded in his mind, and many that might have budded, if only. he had had time. Nothing was written on them, they were just exquisite leaves, yet they were dated as clear as a calendar. Some of the most beautiful— and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the Niggle style—were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish: there was no other way of putting it. The birds were building in the Tree. Astonishing birds: how they sang! They were mating, hatching, growing wings, and flying away singing into the Forest, even while he looked at them. For now he saw that the Forest was there too, opening out on either side, and marching away into the distance. The Mountains were glimmering far away. From Leaf by Niggle

John Stott on No Other Gospel


Anybody who rejects the apostolic gospel, no matter who he may be, is himself to be rejected. He may appear as ‘an angel from heaven.’ In this case we are to prefer apostles to angels. We are not to be dazzled, as many people are, by the person, gifts or office of teachers in the church. They may come to us with great dignity, authority and scholarship. They may be bishops or archbishops, university professors or even the pope himself. But if they bring a gospel other than the gospel preached by the apostles and recorded in the New Testament, they are to be rejected. We judge them by the gospel; we do not judge the gospel by them... Is their opinion consistent with the free grace of God and with the plain teaching of the New Testament? If not, we must reject it, however august the teacher may be. But if it passes these tests, then let us embrace it and hold it fast. We must not compromise it like the Judaizers, nor desert it like the Galatians, but live by it ourselves and seek to make it known to others.            John Stott, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 27-28

Anne Lamott on Her Conversion to Christianity


I got pregnant in April, right around my thirtieth birthday, but was so loaded every night that the next morning’s first urine was too diluted for a pregnancy test to prove positive. I was often sick in the morning. On weekdays, I put coffee on, went for a run, took a shower, had coffee, maybe some speed, a thousand cigarettes, and then tried to write. On weekends, I went to the flea market.
If I happened to be there between eleven and one on Sundays, I could hear gospel music coming from a church right across the street. The church looked homely and impoverished, a ramshackle building with a cross on top, sitting on a small parcel of land with a few skinny pine trees. But the music wafting out was so pretty that I would stop and listen. I knew a lot of the hymns from the times I’d gone to church with my grandparents and from the albums we’d had of spirituals. Finally, I began stopping in at the church from time to time, standing in the doorway to listen to the songs. I couldn’t believe how run down it was, with terrible linoleum that was brown and overshined, and plastic stained-glass windows. But it had a choir of five black women and one rather Amish looking white man making all that glorious noise, and a congregation of thirty people or so, radiating kindness and warmth. During the time when people hugged and greeted each other, various people would come back to where I stood to shake my hand or try to hug me. I was as frozen and stiff as Richard Nixon. After this, Scripture was read, and then the minister would preach about social injustice and Jesus, which would be enough to send me running back to the sanctuary of the flea market.
I went back to the church about once a month. No one tried to con me into sitting down or staying. I always left before the sermon. I loved singing, even about Jesus, but I didn’t want to be preached at about him. To me, Jesus made about as much sense as Scientology or dowsing. But the church smelled wonderful, like the air had nourishment in it, or like it was composed of these people’s exhalations, of warmth and faith and peace. There were always children running around or being embraced, and a gorgeous stick-thin deaf black girl signing to her mother’s flashing fingers.
I could sing better here than I ever had before. As part of these people, even though I stayed in the doorway, I did not recognize my voice or know where it was coming from, but sometimes I felt I could sing forever.
A few months after I started coming, I took a seat in one of the folding chairs, off by myself. Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.
Something inside me that was stiff and rotting would feel soft and tender. Somehow the singing wore down all the boundaries and distinctions that kept me so isolated. Sitting there, standing with them to sing, sometimes so shaky and sick that I felt like I might tip over, I felt bigger than myself, like I was being taken care of, tricked into coming back to life. But I had to leave before the sermon.
Meanwhile, my life was continuing. I had published three books by then, but none of them had sold particularly well, and I did not have the money or wherewithal to have a baby. The father was someone I had just met, who was married, and no one I wanted a real life or baby with. So one morning my friend took me in for the abortion, and I was sadder than I’d been since my father died, and when she brought me home that night, I went upstairs to my loft with a pint of Bushmills and some of the codeine a nurse had given me for pain. I drank until nearly dawn. Then the next night I did it again, and the next night, although by then the pills were gone.
I didn’t go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope, and got drunk, and tried to write a little. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I thought I should call a doctor, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten so drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn’t wake someone up and ask for help. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad. After awhile, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after awhile, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.
And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends. I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, “I would rather die.”
I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with. Finally, I fell asleep and in the morning, he was gone.
The experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my house door whenever I entered or left.
And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling – and it washed over me.
I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along me heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my house, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, “[Okay,]. I quit.” I took a long deep breath and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.” So this is my beautiful moment of conversion.  From her historical non-fiction, Traveling Mercies.

C.S. Lewis on His Conversion to Christianity


Then I read Chesterton’s Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to make sense. Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken. You will remember that I already thought Chesterton to be the most sensible man alive “apart from his Christianity.” I had not long finished The Everlasting Man when something far more alarming happened to me. Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “All that stuff about the Dying God. It almost looks as if it really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man. If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not – as I would still have put it – “safe,” where could I turn? Was there no escape?
Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. For the first time I examined myself with seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. Of course I could do nothing.
Remember I had always wanted, above all things, not to be “interfered with.” I had wanted (a mad wish) “to call my soul my own.” I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight. I had pretty well known that my ideal of virtue would never be allowed to lead me into anything intolerably painful; I would be “reasonable.” But now what had been an ideal became a command; and what might not be expected of one? Doubtless, by definition, God was Reason itself. But would He also be “reasonable” in that other, more comfortable sense? Not the slightest assurance on that score was offered me. Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark, was demanded. The reality with which no treaty can be made was upon me. The demand was not even “All or nothing.” The demand was simply, “All.”
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In 1929, I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The words, compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
It must be understood that this conversion was only from Atheism to Theism, pure and simple, not to Christianity. The last stage in my story, the transition from mere Theism to Christianity, is the one on which I am now the least informed. Even though I didn’t believe in Christianity and was deeply antiecclesiastical, I began to go to church because it seemed the right thing to do. There could be no question of going back to primitive, untheologized and unmoralized Paganism. The God whom I had at last acknowledged was one, and was righteous. Paganism had been only the childhood of religion, or only a prophetic dream. Where was the thing full grown? Or where was the awakening? There were really only two answers possible: either in Hinduism or in Christianity. After Hinduism disqualified itself [he describes why], I came to see that in Christianity alone the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not “a religion” nor “a philosophy.” It is the summing up of and actuality of them all.
As I drew near the conclusion, I felt a resistance almost as strong as my previous resistance to Theism. As strong, but shorter lived, for I understood it better. Every step I had taken, from the Absolute to “Spirit” and from “Spirit” to “God,” had been a step toward the more concrete, the more imminent, the more compulsive. At each step one had less chance “to call one’s soul one’s own.” To accept the Incarnation was a further step in the same direction. It brings God nearer, or near in a new way. And this, I found, was something I had not wanted. But to recognized the ground for my evasion was of course to recognize both its shame and its futility. I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade[the zoo] one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the more important events. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.
From the last two chapters of Surprised By Joy, Lewis’ account of his conversion and how God directed everything to that end. 

Luther on Christ as Our Righteousness


Christ was delivered to death, not for our righteousness or holiness, but for our sins, to be of great importance. Therefore, think them not to be small, and such as may be done away by your own works; neither yet despair for the greatness of them, if you feel oppressed therewith, but learn here of Paul to believe that Christ was given, not for counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two, but for all; not for vanquished sins, but for invincible sins. And except you be found in the number of those who way ‘our sins’ there is no salvation for you.... Christ the Son of God was given, not for the righteous and holy, but for the unrighteous and sinners. If I were righteous and had no sin, I should have no need for Christ to be my reconciler... I have often proved by experience, and I still daily find, what a hard matter it is to believe (especially in the conflict of conscience) that Christ was given, not for the holy, righteous, worthy and such as were His friends, but for the ungodly, for sinners, for the unworthy, and for His enemies, who have deserved God’s wrath and everlasting death. From Luther's Commentary on Galatians

Jonathan Edwards on the Glory of God


“God... is infinitely the greatest and best of beings. All things else, with regard to worthiness, importance, and excellence, are perfectly as nothing in comparison to him... The ultimate [goal] of God’s works is... the glory of God.”
– Jonathan Edwards

Christian Smith on America’s Post-Modern Deism: Why We Cannot Blame God


Perhaps the worst the God of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism can do is to simply fail to provide his promised therapeutic blessings, in which case those who believe in him are entitled to be grumpy. Thus, one sixteen-year-old white mainline Protestant boy from Texas complained with some sarcasm in his interview that, “Well, God is almighty, I guess [yawns]. But I think he’s on vacation right now because of all the crap that’s happening in the world, cause it wasn’t like this back when he was famous.” Likewise, this fourteen-year-old white conservative Protestant boy from Ohio told us that, “God is an overall ruler who controls everything, so like, if I’m depressed or something and things aren’t going my way, I blame it on him. I don’t know why.” But few teens we talked to end up blaming God for failing them, since Moralistic Therapeutic Deism usually seems to be effective in delivering its promised benefits to its many teenage believers in the United States.

Christian Smith on America’s Post-Modern Deism: God as Divine Butler


Like the Deistic God of the eighteenth-century philosophers, the God of con- temporary teenage Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is primarily a divine Creator and Law-Giver. He designed the universe and establishes moral law and order.
But this God is not Trinitarian, he did not speak through the Torah or the prophets of Israel, was never resurrected from the dead, and does not fill and transform people through his Spirit. This God is not demanding. He actually can’t be, since his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist—he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, profes- sionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process. As one fourteen-year-old white Catholic boy from Pennsylvania responded to our inquiry about why religion matters, “Cause God made us and if you ask him for something I believe he gives it to you. Yeah, he hasn’t let me down yet. [So what is God like?] God is a spirit that grants you anything you want, but not anything bad.” Similarly, this seventeen-year-old conservative Protestant girl from Florida told us, “God’s all around you, all the time. He believes in forgiving people and what- not, and he’s there to guide us, for somebody to talk to and help us through our problems. Of course, he doesn’t talk back.” This last statement is perhaps doubly telling: God, being distant, does not directly verbally answer prayers, according to this girl, but he also does not offer any challenging comebacks to or arguments about our requests.

Christian Smith on America’s Post-Modern Deism: God Keeps His Distance


Therapeutic Deism is about belief in a particular kind of God, one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in our affairs—especially affairs in which we would prefer not to have God involved. Most of the time, the God of this faith keeps a safe distance. He is often described by teens as “watching over everything from above” and “the creator of everything and is just up there now controlling everything.” As one fifteen-year-old Arabic Muslim boy from California put it:
God is like an entity that decides when, if, he wants to intervene with a lot of things. To me God is pretty much like intervention, like extreme luck. Say you’re $50 away from something and you find $50 on the floor, then that’s probably God’s intervention or something like that. But other than that it just seems like he’s monitoring. He just kind of stays back and watches, like he’s watching a play, like he’s a producer. He makes the play all possible and then he watches it, and if there’s something he doesn’t like, he changes it.
For many teens—as with adults—God sometimes does get involved in people’s lives, but usually only when they call upon him, which is usually when they have some trouble or problem or bad feeling that they want resolved. In this sense, the Deism here is revised from its classical eighteenth- century version by the Therapeutic qualifier, making the distant God selec- tively available for taking care of needs. As this fourteen-year-old white mainline Protestant boy from Colorado said, “I believe there’s a God, so some- times when I’m in trouble or in danger, then I’ll start thinking about that.”

Christian Smith on American Religion as Therapeutic


Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is also about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents.3 This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, etc. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people. One fifteen-year-old Hispanic conservative Protestant girl from Florida expressed the therapeutic benefits of her faith in these terms: “God is like someone who is always there for you; I don’t know, it’s like God is God. He’s just like some- body that’ll always help you go through whatever you’re going through. When I became a Christian I was just praying, and it always made me feel better.”… And this fourteen-year-old East Indian Hindu girl from California said of her religious practices, “I don’t know, they just really help me feel good.” It is thus no wonder that so many religious and nonreligious teenagers are so positive about religion. For the faith many of them have in mind effec- tively helps to achieve a primary life goal: to feel good and happy about one- self and one’s life. It is also no wonder that most teens are so religiously inarticulate. As long as one is happy, why bother with being able to talk about the belief content of one’s faith?

Christian Smith on Moralism in America


Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It believes that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, and responsible; working on self-improvement; taking care of one’s health; and doing one’s best to be successful. One seventeen-year-old white Mormon boy from Utah said this very clearly: “I believe in, well, my whole religion is where you try to be good and, ah, if you’re not good then you should just try to get better, that’s all.” Being moral in this faith means being the kind of person who other people will like, fulfilling one’s personal potential, and not being socially disruptive or interpersonally obnoxious. As more than one teenager summarized morality for us: “Just don’t be an asshole, that’s all.” Such a moral vision is inclusive of most religions, which are presumed ultimately to stand for equivalent moral views. Thus, a nonreligious white girl from Maryland said,
Morals play a large part in religion; morals are good if they’re healthy for society. Like Christianity, which is all I know, the values you get from like the Ten Commandments. I think every religion is important in its own respect. You know, if you’re Muslim, then Islam is the way for you. If you’re Jewish, well, that’s great too. If you’re Christian, well, good for you. It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you.
Feeling good about oneself is thus also an essential aspect of living a moral life, according to this dominant de facto teenage religious faith.

Christian Smith on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

The de facto dominant religion among con- temporary teenagers in the United States is what we might call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this:
1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one- self.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

CS Lewis on Treasure in Heaven

First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers - soundlessly falling, lightly drifting flowers, though by the standards of the ghost-world each petal would have weighed a hundred-weight and their fall would have been like the crashing of boulders. Then, on the left and right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she was naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her innermost spirit shone through her clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye.

But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

‘Is it?... is it?’ I whispered to my guide.

‘Not at all,’ he said. ‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on Earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’

‘She seems to be... well, a person of particular importance?’

‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.’

‘And who are these gigantic people… look! They’re like emeralds.. who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?’

‘Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand liveried angels lackey her.

‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’

‘They are her sons and daughters.’

‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.’

‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.’

‘Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?’

‘No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.’

~The Great Divorce, Chapter XII