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Surprised by Jack (C.S. Lewis critics bump into the back of the wardrobe)
WORLD ^ | February 14, 2009 | Janie B. Cheaney

Posted on 03/22/2009 4:27:02 AM PDT by rhema

Nearly every Christian with a liking toward fantasy has their favorite Narnia book, Narnia scene, or Narnia character. But so do many non-Christians. C.S. Lewis' classic children's books are a milestone of literary consciousness for young readers of every background and persuasion: for some, a passport through the wardrobe into the real, living Kingdom of Christ. For others, a painful journey from delight to dismay.

That was the experience of Laura Miller, columnist for Salon.com and regular contributor to The New York Times. In her early teens, Miller was stunned to realize that the stories that enchanted her childhood were really thinly veiled allegories for Christianity—i.e., dreary, guilt-mongering stuff pandered by the Catholic church she was forced to attend. Appalled, she thrust Narnia aside and moved on with her growth and eventual emancipation.

Only much later was she able to reread the series and discern the many influences that had appealed first to the author, then to his disillusioned reader: "treasures collected from Dante, from Spencer, from Malory, from Austen, from old romances and ballads and fairy tales and pagan epics." Her relief was so great she wrote The Magician's Book, recently published by Little, Brown, about her journey from Narnia and back again.

If the subject isn't relevant to general readers, it struck a chord with reviewers. One such is Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked (which casts the green-hued villainess of Oz as the good guy). In his review, Maguire shares his own voyage from Narnia: not a sudden shock but a growing awareness of the "bullying in Lewis' tales," the "classism, racism, sexism, and its depiction of a godhead whose mercy extends only to those pure enough to deserve it (known in some circles as the Problem of Susan, after the Pevensie sister who is expelled from Narnia for her interest in 'nylons and lipstick and invitations' . . .)."

Gregory Maguire also moved on, even while looking back with affection. Another reviewer, Elizabeth Ward in The Washington Post, rejoices that "Miller largely succeeds in rescuing the Narnia series from the narrow Christian box into which it has been crammed." The unconsciously ironic title of Ward's review, "Saving C.S. Lewis," betrays a certain cluelessness.

For Lewis traveled his own spiritual odyssey, with striking similarities to Laura Miller's. Like her, he found the church of his childhood to be stultifying and stale, while his imagination was fired by fantasy and myth. In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, he charts his progress through skepticism, atheism, and materialism in search of the fleeting moments of transcendence he'd experienced as a boy. Literature urged him on, and he gradually came to perceive that the writers who most influenced him had some belief in God. "Perhaps (Oh joy!) there was, after all, 'something else', and (Oh reassurance!) it had nothing to do with Christian Theology." A vain hope: When two Christians—G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald—turned out to be his favorite authors, he could not fool himself much longer. Returning to the church and the word, he found them glowing with the light that had first appeared to lead him away.

"[I]n your light do we first see light" (Psalm 36:9). Once we understand Christ all things point to Him. But if we don't understand, we pluck those "other treasures" (such as literature, nature, relationships) from their source and allow them to wither. God's mercy is not for those "pure enough to deserve it" (mercy is never that!) but humble enough to desire it—and Him. Susan Pevensie's real "problem" was not lipstick and invitations but separating those things from the One who gave them.

Lewis himself wouldn't mind readers such as Laura Miller delighting in his stories, even while rejecting the "Christian" in them; he didn't set out to write theology. But his imagination had been thoroughly baptized, and Christ was the only hero who could emerge. If light dawns on the reader, she is doubly blessed.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: bookreview; cslewis; narnia
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1 posted on 03/22/2009 4:27:02 AM PDT by rhema
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To: Caleb1411; wagglebee; LiteKeeper

2 posted on 03/22/2009 4:28:04 AM PDT by rhema ("Break the conventions; keep the commandments." -- G. K. Chesterton)
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To: rhema

Bless you, Janie Cheaney.


3 posted on 03/22/2009 4:38:28 AM PDT by miele man
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To: rhema

Those who come to some *awareness* of the “bullying in Lewis’ tales” are being deceived by an evil far more insidious and real than they could ever read about.


4 posted on 03/22/2009 4:41:46 AM PDT by SumProVita (Cogito, ergo...Sum Pro Vita. (Modified DeCartes))
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To: rhema
My favorite book growing up was “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Now that I am “all growed up” one of my favorites is “Mere Christianity.” I believe that C.S. Lewis “got it.” He understood who God is and who we are in Him.
5 posted on 03/22/2009 4:42:28 AM PDT by dixiedarlindownsouth (I love my country, but I fear my government)
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To: rhema
Poncho and Narnia...


6 posted on 03/22/2009 4:54:16 AM PDT by csvset
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To: rhema

“Nearly every Christian with a liking toward fantasy has their favorite Narnia book, Narnia scene, or Narnia character. “

Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis.


7 posted on 03/22/2009 5:11:14 AM PDT by RoadTest (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jer.17:9)
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To: RoadTest

Have you read C.S. Lewis?


8 posted on 03/22/2009 5:20:38 AM PDT by Woebama (Paying for my neighbor's mortgage and Wall Street's bonuses sure is hard.)
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To: RoadTest

Care to explain?


9 posted on 03/22/2009 5:22:54 AM PDT by dawn53
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To: RoadTest
Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis.

Amazing.

And tell us, (Lo!) O Enlightened One, what do they read besides The Holy Bible (with a black cover mind you) in the original King James (English like Jesus spoke it).

*Sob* if only I could be a Real Christian like RoadKill...

10 posted on 03/22/2009 5:27:29 AM PDT by meowmeow (In Loving Memory of Our Dear Viking Kitty (1987-2006))
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To: rhema
(known in some circles as the Problem of Susan, after the Pevensie sister who is expelled from Narnia for her interest in 'nylons and lipstick and invitations' . . .)."

Actually she wasn't "expelled". She just couldn't return because she "was no longer a friend of Narnia." Her interest in "nylons and lipstick and invitations" was a manifestation of that state. On the other hand, in the later books, both Peter and Edmund were told that they would not return because they had gotten too old to do so not because they were no longer friends of Narnia. In spite of this they met yearly with Digory and Polly to remember Narnia. Susan didn't even want to remember.
11 posted on 03/22/2009 5:30:52 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: meowmeow; Woebama; dawn53; RoadTest
I guess roadtest has been reading sites like this.

Cheers!

12 posted on 03/22/2009 5:32:24 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: RoadTest
Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis.

That would be funny as sarcasm, but pathetic otherwise.
13 posted on 03/22/2009 5:33:36 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: rhema
mercy extends only to those pure enough to deserve it

"Deserving" has nothing to do with it.

14 posted on 03/22/2009 5:34:07 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (American Revolution II -- overdue)
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To: meowmeow
(English like Jesus spoke it).

And like Paul wrote it. The KJV, if it was good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me.
15 posted on 03/22/2009 5:34:40 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: RoadTest
Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis.

Because fantasy is evil?

16 posted on 03/22/2009 5:38:02 AM PDT by SampleMan (Socialism and Liberty are mutually exclusive.)
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To: RoadTest
"real Christians don't read C.S.Lewis"

I thought I had heard everything (including "real Christians only read the King James Bible") until this. I guess now I can say I have heard everything...

17 posted on 03/22/2009 5:42:55 AM PDT by Russ (Repeal the 17th amendment)
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To: SampleMan
Because fantasy is evil?

Although there are evil fantasies, it doesn't follow that all fantasies are evil.
18 posted on 03/22/2009 5:43:35 AM PDT by aruanan
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To: grey_whiskers

I think Lewis knew a great deal about the occult and opposed it. Read his trilogy ending in “That Hideous Strength” which book is all about the occult. People seem to be mistaking a Christian writer for an occult writer because he has the courage to take on the occult head-on. On this one I’ll say that there is some real ignorance and “holier than thou” kind of folks trying to attack Lewis.


19 posted on 03/22/2009 5:45:25 AM PDT by Woebama (Paying for my neighbor's mortgage and Wall Street's bonuses sure is hard.)
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To: rhema
I suppose this person also didn't like The Lord of the Rings because it celebrates the victory of the enlightened West over Sauron's Axis of Evil.
20 posted on 03/22/2009 5:49:44 AM PDT by Jonah Hex ("Never underestimate the hungover side of the Force.")
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To: SampleMan

It’s because he drank beer and stole Owen Barfield’s football and ran with it.


21 posted on 03/22/2009 5:54:25 AM PDT by Puddleglum (Obama Lied/My 401K Died)
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To: Woebama
According to Lewis, he had a strong temptation towards the occult, and if he hadn't converted to Christianity, he would have been a Satanist or a madman.

As you mentioned, there is that passge in That Hideous Strength:

Would have attracted him once......Suddenly, like a thing that leaped to him across infinite distances with the speed of light, desire (salt, black, ravenous, unanswerable desire) took him by the throat. The merest hint will convey to those who have felt it the quality of the emotion which now shook him, like a dog shaking a rat; for others, no description perhaps will avail. Many writers speak of it in terms of lust: a description admirably illuminating from within, totally misleading from without. It has nothing to do with the body. But it is in two respects like lust as lust shows itself to be in the deepest and darkest vault of its labryinthine house. For like lust, it disenchants the whole universe. Everything else that Mark had ever felt -- love, ambition, hunger, lust itself -- appeared to have been mere milk and water, toys for children, not worth one throb of the nerves. The infinite attraction of this dark thing sucked all other passions into itself: the rest of the world appeared blenched, etiolated, insipid, a world of white marriages and white masses, dishes without salt, gambling for counters. He could not now think of Jane except in terms of appetite: and appetite here made no appeal. That serpent, faced with the true dragon, became a fangless worm. But it was like lust in another respect also. It is idle to point out to the perverted man the horror of his perversion: while the fierce fit is on, that horror is the very spice of his craving. It is ugliness itself that becomes, in the end, the goal of his lechery: beauty has long since grown too weak a stimulant. And so it was here. These creatures of which Frost had spoken -- and he did not doubt now that they were locally present with him in the cell -- breathed death on the human race and on all joy. Not despite this but because of this, the terrible gravitation sucked and tugged and fascinated him towards them. Never before had he known the fruitful strength of the movement opposite to Nature which now had him in its grip; the impulse to reverse all reluctances and to draw every circle anti-clockwise. The meaning of certain pictures, of Frost's talk about "objectivity," of the things done by witches in old times, became clear to him. The image of Wither's face rose to his memory; and this time he did not merely loathe it. He noted, with shuddering satisfaction, the signs it bore of a shared experience between them. Wither also knew; Wither understood...

Somewhere Lewis wrote that "I will not engage in futile phillipics against enemies I have not met in battle. ('...this means then, that all the other vices you have written about...') Well, yes it does, and more's the pity; but it's not to our point at the moment."

His description of the temptation to the occult sounds very much like it was written out of experience: he was remembering, not describing.

Cheers!

22 posted on 03/22/2009 6:17:37 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: grey_whiskers

So you suspect Lewis was a devil worshipper because he wrote about the occult, rejecting it, but he wrote well? Seriously. If he wrote poorly or without understanding we wouldn’t be discussing him at all . . . so it seems to me that you may be rejecting him because he was an interesting novelist.


23 posted on 03/22/2009 6:26:29 AM PDT by Woebama (Paying for my neighbor's mortgage and Wall Street's bonuses sure is hard.)
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To: meowmeow

You forgot to add the 1611 version too. </sarcasm>


24 posted on 03/22/2009 6:30:20 AM PDT by ReformedBeckite
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To: Woebama
My post of the anti-Lewis site was to show that there are people naming themselves as Christians who earnestly believe that Lewis was a pawn of Satan, or worse, to illustrate where I think roadtest got his/her ideas...

My quote from That Hideous Strength was a confirmation of your post, not blaming Lewis.

Lewis is one of my top two or three favorite authors. (Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, Tolkien, Dave Barry.)

If you think I'm anti-Lewis, you are mistaken.

Cheers!

25 posted on 03/22/2009 6:35:16 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: RoadTest
Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis.

Real Christians try to eschew the hauteur described in Isaiah 65:5.

26 posted on 03/22/2009 6:38:11 AM PDT by rhema ("Break the conventions; keep the commandments." -- G. K. Chesterton)
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To: grey_whiskers

And don’t forget.. it was Tolkien who helped bring him in from atheism to the Light..


27 posted on 03/22/2009 6:41:07 AM PDT by Mmogamer (<This space for lease>)
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To: rhema
We were reading The Last Battle last night. Narnia has disappeared before their very eyes, the door shut and locked, and then they start to wonder where they are. It dawns on Uncle Digory they had never really been in Narnia all that time. And under his breath he says, "It's all in Plato, all in Plato."
28 posted on 03/22/2009 6:43:03 AM PDT by cornelis
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To: RoadTest
"Real Christians don’t read C.S. Lewis."

And the "Stupidest Post of the Year (so far) Award" goes to....RoadTest!

29 posted on 03/22/2009 6:48:19 AM PDT by Pablo64 (Political Correctness is a DISEASE. <==> TRUTH is the CURE.)
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To: grey_whiskers

Gotcha. Chesterton wrote that he was attracted to the occult as well. I’ve always been frightened of the occult and thought it was wierd and ridiculous, so I don’t understand the attraction. My view is that artists will always step into very serious areas with symbolism, allegory and metaphor etc. if they touch Christ and Christianity. If you look at the works of Michaelangelo or many of the Christian painters and sculptors you will see serious treatments of very controversial theological matters in symbolic terms. Lewis had the courage to take those on in a way that wasn’t wooden or dried out, without a great deal of wishy-washy explanation, but just letting a symbol be a symbol. He was intelligent but not a church leader or a theologian. He was a fiction writer and evangelist of a sort. Good at it imo.


30 posted on 03/22/2009 6:50:52 AM PDT by Woebama (Paying for my neighbor's mortgage and Wall Street's bonuses sure is hard.)
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To: Mmogamer
"On my first coming into the world, I was warned (implicity) never to trust a Papist, and on my first coming into the English faculty I was warned (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both."

Cheers!

31 posted on 03/22/2009 6:57:44 AM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: RoadTest

Care to back that up?


32 posted on 03/22/2009 7:01:05 AM PDT by LiberConservative ("Get your gun and bring in the cat")
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To: RoadTest

Excuse me?
I am most certainly a real Christian and CS Lewis is one of my favorite authors. While I don’t agree with everything he said,I agree with most. His insight and wit along with his literary talent make him a rare talent. His writings have enriched me and I can’t wait to share him with others.
Mere Christianity is the book I recommend most to unbelievers.


33 posted on 03/22/2009 7:08:09 AM PDT by Mom MD (Jesus is the Light of the world!)
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To: dixiedarlindownsouth

I’m going through Mere Christianity for about the third or fourth time. I say “going through” because I listening to the audio version. I highly recommend it. Unabridged of course.


34 posted on 03/22/2009 7:23:31 AM PDT by Mercat ("No. We will have a king over us." 1 Samuel 8:19)
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To: aruanan

“The KJV, if it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me.”

You’re kidding, right?


35 posted on 03/22/2009 7:29:12 AM PDT by Mercat ("No. We will have a king over us." 1 Samuel 8:19)
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To: rhema
Hi, Ream,

Referring to the internecine warfare within your thread-—not you or your post.

Who is identified as the Accuser of the Brethren? I don't think he needs our help.

C’mon guys. Lighten up on them hammers.

Save the rancor for the Enemy and his ways.

36 posted on 03/22/2009 7:41:29 AM PDT by TFMcGuire (Life is tough. It is even tougher if you are stupid--John Wayne)
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To: rhema

read later


37 posted on 03/22/2009 11:32:10 AM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware of socialism in America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: cornelis

“Bless me! What DO they teach them at these schools?”


38 posted on 03/22/2009 12:19:21 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse - TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: aruanan
"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the schoolchildren of Texas!"

- Ma Ferguson ("Me for Ma, and I ain't got a derned thing against Pa.")

39 posted on 03/22/2009 12:21:14 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse - TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: Mercat
You’re kidding, right?

Well, yeah. You really don't think there are folks who believe the KJV was around ab initio, do you?
40 posted on 03/22/2009 9:03:20 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: aruanan

:-)


41 posted on 03/23/2009 5:42:04 AM PDT by Mercat ("No. We will have a king over us." 1 Samuel 8:19)
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To: AnAmericanMother

; )


42 posted on 03/23/2009 4:57:38 PM PDT by cornelis
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To: rhema
...its depiction of a godhead whose mercy extends only to those pure enough to deserve it...

Somebody wasn't reading very closely. There was this young fellow named Eustace Scrubb, and the concept of redemption...

The "problem" of Susan has nothing to do with her being ejected from anywhere - she wasn't - but with the fact that she was able to dismiss a number of years out of her life as a childhood game. I think that Lewis was alluding to adults who dismiss religion in a similar manner and for equally trivial reasons. Some of whom are mentioned in this article...

43 posted on 03/23/2009 5:11:09 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill

Not to mention Edmund — as he said to Eustace, “You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”


44 posted on 03/23/2009 5:17:54 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (Ministrix of ye Chasse, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment))
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To: rhema

See my tagline.


45 posted on 03/23/2009 5:22:34 PM PDT by alarm rider ("We laugh at honor, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst" C.S. Lewis)
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To: alarm rider
Too bad FreeRepublic tagline limits don't permit your appending the full quote to your screen name:

"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." --C.S. Lewis

46 posted on 03/23/2009 5:42:36 PM PDT by rhema ("Break the conventions; keep the commandments." -- G. K. Chesterton)
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To: rhema

C.S was a man of honor. I will take him at his word.


47 posted on 03/23/2009 6:17:08 PM PDT by alarm rider ("We laugh at honor, and are shocked to find traitors in our midst" C.S. Lewis)
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To: RoadTest

Do you know any real Christians? ... Surely someone has tried to awaken your dead spirit.


48 posted on 03/23/2009 6:27:01 PM PDT by MHGinTN (Believing they cannot be deceived, they cannot be convinced when they are deceived.)
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To: MHGinTN

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. “ - I Timothy 4:7


49 posted on 03/24/2009 4:40:09 AM PDT by RoadTest (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jer.17:9)
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To: alarm rider

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. “ (II Timothy 4:4)


50 posted on 03/24/2009 4:42:34 AM PDT by RoadTest (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jer.17:9)
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