At Aletheia Books

At Aletheia Books

Wednesday, 31 May 2017



I think there is probably a fundamental misunderstanding about freedom in Christianity. The secular world at large obsesses about the protection of an individual’s freedom. This usually means the freedom to express myself by whatever behaviour, and in whatever manner, I please, limited only by whatever boundaries are imposed by the current law of the land in which I live. There is not much that is new in this notion of individual freedom. In fact, there is, perhaps, some resemblance to the book of Judges in the Bible, at least 1000 BC, which can be summed up in these words:

‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
Judges 21:25, THE BIBLE

Now, someone might say, ‘And what is so wrong with that? Surely freedom to please myself is essential to, even the very nature of, happiness. And isn’t the very essence of freedom to do precisely what I please, so long as it isn’t harming anyone else?’ And yet, there is a strange paradox here. On the one hand this appears to be the embodiment of freedom, but living without moral boundaries, enjoying satisfying whatever desires appeal to me, leads me inexorably into the slavery of sin – because I have ignored God’s law and the boundaries He has set. The Lord Jesus Himself said,

‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin
is a slave of sin.’
John 8:34, THE BIBLE

This, then, is the quandary: 
that by coveting freedom, by throwing overboard boundaries and living according to my own ‘code of conduct’, I have broken the law of God, and have actually become a slave of sin.

This attempt to invent our own freedom and happiness goes back further than the book of Judges – right to the very dawn of creation, to the Garden of Eden. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis expresses it like this, 

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

In our adventure story, Timmy Trial has learned the cost of going his own way against God. Instead of enjoying the ultimate freedom to benefit from the land of Err and shape his own destiny, he is taken captive by the Snares that represent sin. But, despite the fact that his friends struggled to find him, he is miraculously set free!

‘“Think about the truth of Redemption. You know that when the Lord Jesus died, He paid the ransom for the sins of the whole world. But not everyone will be saved. Just as Timmy did recently, people have to choose to accept the payment that the Lord Jesus made on their behalf, and then they are set free from paying the penalty for their sins themselves… Redemption is being purchased by God instead of being owned by sin; being set free from sin to belong to God instead… When Timmy cried out to God to save him and set him free from the Snares of sin that had a hold of him, then they no longer had any authority over him.”
“Did the Snares just let go?”...
Mr Weighty nodded. “They had to,” he said. “Because the Lord Jesus paid the price to set Timmy free; and when Timmy turned to Him and asked to be set free, the price the Lord Jesus paid is put to Timmy’s account… We are all snared by sin. We might not have been taken captive quite like Timmy, but we all needed to be set free. And that’s what happens when we simply trust in the Lord Jesus.”

Where, then, is the greatest personal freedom to be found?


Tuesday, 16 May 2017



“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.” 
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I wonder how many of us stick to a path simply because we were already going that way? Not through any sense of purpose, or feeling that there is a definite reason for the direction of travel, but just because it’s the way we were heading and it’s sure to lead somewhere…  

In our story, four children are now on a quest to find Timmy Trial who has been taken captive by the dreaded Snares. Their reckless good intentions have taken on a life of their own, but they feel they have gone so far away from adult regulation, so far along this chosen road, that they must try and justify their actions by completing the rescue of Timmy from the Snares.

‘We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.’
C. S. Lewis

They continue in the direction of travel, despite some pretty dicey moments along the way. Thankfully, they are travelling in a well-equipped Rescue Craft, and they discover the helpful Mission Detector which is onboard. Henrietta proves adept at extracting details. 

‘Henrietta looked up 'Hollow Spring' on the Mission Detector. “There’s not likely to be any safe food exactly,” she said slowly, reading what the screen had to say. 
The closer you get to False Teaching, the less you can trust the food and drink… including the area around Hollow Spring. Food here will generally be hollow or contain only tepid water and nothing of substance. For example, carrots may appear big and healthy, but they will only be a shell that quickly breaks apart and contains nothing…You must beware of anything that appears substantial: nothing is quite what it seems.”…’

I have a large folder which contains my notes about all the places in the land of Err – plenty of which have not yet been explored and included in adventures. Only a fraction of my ramblings make it into the books, so I looked up the folder to see what I had thought about the area around Hollow Spring – which is located close to, and feeds water to, towns that are deceptive, cunning, twisted, and in every way alternative to the truth. The weather in Hollow Spring didn’t feature in the book, but some of the detail I have in my notes…
‘Clouds are quite often empty and hollow; raindrops don’t contain much water; snowflakes are merely pretty outlines with no centre; consequently there isn’t much moisture in this area – but Hollow Spring comes from underground; it only shrinks under the influence of prayer…’

While the children fear they will go hungry, Henrietta is not too dismayed that carrots might be hollow, since she’s not too keen on them anyway. But undoubtedly their uncertain direction of travel resulted in this hollow dilemma. The further they have travelled away from Aletheia, the city of Bible Truth, the more serious the departure from the truth. In Alternative Teaching they encountered odd alternatives…
‘There were small things, subtle differences, just a little here and there that was slightly different to the normal, solid homes that Jack knew and that were in Aletheia… there was a cottage with a triangular window in the wrong place, and a house with a round door, and a chimney poking out of a wall, and other odd little bits and pieces peering from the homes…’

In another Aletheia adventure, some children pass through Alternative Teaching and observe,
‘Knives and forks planted neatly in the garden by someone who was experimenting with an alternative method of adding to their cutlery collection…’

But now our adventurers are moving towards territory where nothing can be trusted. People have moved so far away from the truth of the Bible, that there are more than a few odd changes around them, and even more than hollow food: falsehood abounds. In my notes about the town of False Teaching…
‘The weather is completely unreliable and always false to you; forecasters never get it right…rain clouds might form, but the sun shines hotly all day. Plants are completely unreliable too: you can plant potatoes and carrots come up; you never know what flowers or weeds will appear when you sow seeds…’

Can you imagine a diet of hollow food which only looks good on the outside? Or eating food that appears to be one thing, and is actually something quite different? I question my own spiritual direction – and the diet I absorb from what it around me – and wonder how it compares…


Wednesday, 3 May 2017



“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
G.K. Chesterton
As we have previously seen, in the town of Wishy-Washy, in the fascinating land of Err, things are definitely wishy-washy. In a supreme effort to tolerate every point of view, the townsfolk don’t disagree about anything, or dare to hold that anything is definitely true – because then another thing must be necessarily false, which wouldn’t be a very tolerant thing to think at all now, would it? The people who live there have adjusted to faded colours and vaguely foggy ideas; they no longer notice them. But it’s really not a convenient place to be if you get lost. And, as Jack and Timmy and Hezekiah are exactly that, they must look for someone to help them with definite directions…

‘Jack approached a lady who was walking close by and seemed to know where she was going. “Excuse me, is this the way to Apathy Road?” he asked.
“Oh, I dare say it is if you want it to be,” the lady said.
“What does that mean?” asked Timmy. But the lady had passed by and was quickly lost to sight through the mist and rain.
“Excuse me,” Hezekiah tried to stop a man who was hurrying on his way, no doubt anxious to get home and out of the damp. “What is the way back to the main Apathy Road?”
“All roads will lead there if you follow them for long enough,” he said vaguely. And then he politely excused himself and hurried on.
“Doesn’t anyone around here give a straight answer?” demanded Timmy. “Hey you!” he called to a young man who was rushing by under an umbrella. “Can you tell us the way to Apathy Road?”
“Keep going straight ahead and you might reach Compromise,” the young man called back. “You never know, they might tell you the way!”
“Honestly!” said Timmy. “What’s wrong with the people around here?”
“I don’t think they can give a straight answer,” said Jack. “Most of the people at the Fair couldn’t either. I think that’s what happens when you’re…well, wishy-washy and don’t really know what to believe.”’

Without clear directions, the three boys continue to walk towards Compromise.

‘The mist grew even thicker, the rain continued to fall, and the dull daylight of late afternoon began to fade. There seemed nothing left to do but to keep walking somewhere even as the crowd around them thinned and vanished… Jack and Hezekiah and Timmy were left alone in a land of marshland and trees.
And ahead, for good or ill, lay Compromise…’ 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, road signs to Compromise are not very clear. Some might suggest one way, but it’s possible there’s a reasonable alternative route too; a third way might have some merit, and there’s a fourth which has never been explored but shouldn’t be completely discounted… Darkness falls as night approaches, and with no money, and no food, and no clear directions, the boys must make a dark forest their home for the night.

Jack turned slowly and searched the forbidding forest behind them. He had heard a snigger; a horrible, nasty laugh of something that was out there. He wished he had a light, any light at all. But did he really want to see what it would reveal? Were they really at the mercy of cruel and shadowy Snares that might take them captive?...

Compromise can be a good thing. In life, unless we are utterly intolerable people, we will very often give a little ground to others. It can be a good, kind, thoughtful, practical thing to do in order to assist those around us.

But there are matters on which it is impossible to compromise without entering dangerous territory: in particular, essential Bible Truth. I’m not talking about what Christians should wear or eat or look like; I mean the fundamental truths of the Bible – about the character of God, the way of salvation, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. About such, there is no ground to give, and any drifting towards tolerance of alternative ideas inevitably leads to greater and greater compromise and somewhere down the line to grave danger.

For the three boys, lost in the night, the consequences of travelling towards Compromise will be dire indeed.