Presentation on theme: "THURSDAY MORNING STUDY GROUP FAITH AND LIFE Section I: Selected Writings of C. S. Lewis Facilitators: John Scruggs and Art Sauer October 2, 2014."— Presentation transcript:
THURSDAY MORNING STUDY GROUP FAITH AND LIFE Section I: Selected Writings of C. S. Lewis Facilitators: John Scruggs and Art Sauer October 2, 2014
OCTOBER 2, 2014 TODAY’S AGENDA Opening Prayer The Great Divorce - Introduction - Sources that Influenced Lewis - The “Geography” of The Great Divorce - Some Ghosts in The Great Divorce - The Theology of The Great Divorce - Conclusion and Questions
INTRODUCTION THE GREAT DIVORCE A fantasy that follows passengers travelling from Hell to visit Heaven Compares and contrasts Heaven and Hell Describes the interactions of the passenger “Ghosts” with the occupants of Heaven Lewis serves as the narrator throughout, with Scottish pastor and author George MacDonald as his guide Premise is that the entire story is a dream Lewis had while sleeping at his desk
INTRODUCTION THE GREAT DIVORCE Lewis not attempting to paint realistic portraits of Heaven and Hell “They are not even a guess or speculation of what may actually await us.” As MacDonald explains, the purpose of the book is to see more clearly the choices we make on earth and the ramifications thereof The natural follow-on to The Screwtape Letters – after the Patient dies he opens his eyes in Heaven for the next chapter of his life
INTRODUCTION THE GREAT DIVORCE In The Great Divorce, Lewis: - Explains why Heaven and Hell are “divorced” - Attempts to merge Universalism with Biblical Christianity - Asserts a stark “either / or” choice through a fantasy Hell and Ghosts - Imagines Heaven and its inhabitants - Examines twelve Ghosts through their visit to Heaven - Uncovers why people choose Hell instead of being sent to it
INTRODUCTION THE GREAT DIVORCE Four Major Theological Issues Addressed: The Problem of Salvation (Universalism) The Problem of Sanctification (Made perfect, free from sin) The Problem of Judgment (Standing before Christ at the end) The Problem of the Body (Transformation of the physical body)
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE REFRIGERIUM Written by Prudentius, a 4 th Century Christian poet Subject matter is times of refreshment in Hell (Latin refrigerium) “Holidays” in Hell when, according to Prudentius, the fires cool down somewhat, the torments lessen, and the damned are able to relax for a time
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL Written by William Blake, Romantic poet and mystic Published between as a work of prose and two poems Rejected the atonement of Christ, believing people made their own Heaven or Hell Rejected the Anglican Church as spoiled by repressive clergy and incomprehensible doctrines
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL Blake represented for Lewis all those who tried to blur the distinction between Heaven and Hell “Marriage” or even close proximity is impossible argues Lewis “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.” “Divorce” in the title refers to the chasm that exists between those who surrender to God and those who refuse to do so. A direct rebuttal to Blake
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL Lewis maintains that the universe was created in an all-or-nothing reality – that God’s gift of free will means that people either choose to obey the Lord or they choose to obey themselves Lewis’ insistence on an absolute “either – or” is one of the core principles of The Great Divorce Each character in The Great Divorce has a different sin that must be removed, but they, like all humanity choose between the same two destinations
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL According to Lewis, no one has been or ever will be exempt from that all- important decision: Some have already made so many moral choices during their lifetimes that have so shaped them that no further choice is possible Only God knows when all hope is gone Others are still choosing Heaven is a very difficult choice to make because life on earth, a fallen planet, tends to shape souls making one reluctant to own up to faults that are embedded Lewis believed Heaven would lend assistance to those still undecided
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS AENEID Written by Virgil, the great Roman poet Intended to be the glorious history of Rome Describes a visit to the realm of the dead The traveler Aeneas visits the Paradise of Elysium with his father Anshises as a guide
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE DIVINE COMEDY Written by Dante, the great Italian poet (1265 – 1321), described the regions of the dead with Virgil as his guide through Purgatory and Inferno (Hell) Just as Dante was influenced by Virgil, Lewis follows in the footsteps of Dante Both Dante and Lewis make their journey after the descent of Christ (see the Apostle’s Creed) Both agree that only Christ was able to conquer Hades and death Lewis selects George MacDonald as his guide
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE DIVINE COMEDY Dante devoted an entire volume to Purgatory, while Lewis visited only two places The Great Divorce is not about whether Purgatory is sound doctrine Lewis’ emphasis is on humanity’s two final destinations and the decisions related thereto
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE DIVINE COMEDY Distinctions / Comparisons between the two works: To Lewis Hell is an urban slum, Dante’s fire and brimstone nowhere to be found Lewis visits Heaven by bus, souls leave Dante’s Purgatory only after years of suffering Dante a participant in spiritual matters, Lewis merely an observer Dante assigned popes, politicians and other contemporaries to punishments he believed they earned, Lewis more circumspect with only two contemporaries found (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Singer Sargent)
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS GEORGE MACDONALD George MacDonald, Scottish Minister and author of Phantasies “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” MacDonald was a universalist. Believed God’s love meant that Hell not intended as unending punishment but serves the redemptive purpose of bringing the sinner to the realization of his need for God Through him Lewis attempts to explain his beliefs about time, eternity and the ultimate condition of humanity
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS GEORGE MACDONALD In this world, existence is defined and limited by space and time, so according to Lewis, we must be content to “see in a mirror dimly” (see I Corinthians 13:12) Lewis is quite clear about the choices every person makes, with MacDonald saying: “Son, son it must be one way or the other…there are two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ or to whom God says ‘thy will be done.’”
SOURCES THAT INFLUENCED LEWIS THE BIBLE Scripture is the actual “tour guide” that gives Lewis the answers to his questions in The Great Divorce The words of Jesus established the chasm, “great divorce,” between Heaven and Hell, even while they promise Heaven to every human who chooses to go there (see Luke 16:26, parable of Lazarus and the rich man) The doctrines and language of the Bible underlie virtually every conversation and landscape Lewis describes (see examples in handout)
THE “GEOGRAPHY” OF THE GREAT DIVORCE Two foundational beliefs of Lewis: Heaven and Hell are real places: Heaven is reality itself. No less real and tangible than the earth we inhabit today. Heaven and Hell are polar opposites: The truth of “either – or” means that everything Hellish is completely foreign to Heaven and no quality of Heaven will ever be found in Hell.
THE “GEOGRAPHY” OF THE GREAT DIVORCE Lewis opts to make Hell a place of mental anguish, not physical torture: A drab “grey town,” always rainy and on the cusp between daylight and nightfall Perfect for loners, people live alone because they can’t stand each other and can’t get along Based on survival of the fittest, everyone does what’s best for them regardless of the cost to or impact on others
THE “GEOGRAPHY” OF THE GREAT DIVORCE Hell to Lewis: A state of mind, but not imaginary or make believe. A self-imposed mental prison that a person chooses – “And every state of mind left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell.” Ultimately irrelevant says MacDonald: “The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that it is so nearly Nothing. All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world; but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.”
THE “GEOGRAPHY” OF THE GREAT DIVORCE Heaven is depicted in The Great Divorce as the exact opposite of Hell: Paradise of natural beauty, green pastoral countryside Day just before dawn, unlike the grey town just before dusk Painfully sharp and solid, blades of grass don’t bend and dew is undisturbed by the Ghosts Unimaginably vast Perfect weather with fresh, clean air
THE “GEOGRAPHY” OF THE GREAT DIVORCE Lewis is trying to convey: Weight, hardness and density all serve to communicate the reality of Heaven Nearly everything is hard, dangerous and painfully sharp to the Ghosts because of their separation from God Ghosts are little more than transparent bubbles on the landscape, while the spirits they meet are solid, sometimes giant Trip on the bus represents a spiritual journey, still incomplete for the Ghosts
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE What kind of person lives in Hell: Shadows of former selves, everyone looks in some way “distorted and faded…full not of possibilities, but of impossibilities.” Ghosts, when seen in the light of Heaven, are transparent “man shaped stains on the brightness of the air…one could attend to them or ignore them at will as you do with the dirt on the window pane.” Preoccupied with themselves, selfish, bickering and blaming others
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE What kind of person lives in Hell: Intent on doing things their own way, even if living in Hell is the result, a sense of satisfaction that “they’ve been true to themselves…Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton, Paradise Lost) Irrelevant, non-entities and “unsubstantial” MacDonald explains: “For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself.” Selfish pride: Hell’s most common trait
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Hell described as “nearly nothing” while Heaven is “reality itself” Hell dark, dreary and grey, Heaven is bright, vibrant and invigorating What kind of person lives in Heaven: Spiritual and solid, spirits but not vapor-like, can touch and feel with bodies Majestic and ageless, not fading like the bus passengers
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE What kind of person lives in Heaven: Problem free and carrying no baggage - Experience forgiveness without shame - Can’t be hurt by others - Have given up selfish consideration of “their rights” - Know they did nothing to earn God’s grace - Suffering on earth turned to glory in Heaven
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE What kind of person lives in Heaven: No selfish tendencies, freed from any prisons of “self” Loving as God does, not reciprocal but agape – all giving love No VIP’s “They are all known, remembered, and recognized by the only Mind that can give perfect judgment.” Free of disguises, naked people no “less adorned” than the clothed and all only reveal their “glorious spirit”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Episcopal Ghost and Dick A bishop in the Episcopalian Church Hell and judgment outdated superstitions in the bishop’s opinion Jesus would have been more “tolerant” if He had lived longer, crucifixion was not for atonement but a “disaster” Believes the grey town can be reformed through service
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Episcopal Ghost and Dick Dick begins the soul-searching with: “You know that you and I were playing with loaded dice. We didn’t want the other to be true. We were afraid of crude salvation, afraid of a breach with the spirit of the age, afraid of ridicule, afraid (above all) of real spiritual fears and hopes… Having allowed oneself to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the Faith.”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Episcopal Ghost and Dick The Episcopal Ghost maintains that he still believes so Dick invites him to walk toward the mountain to attain full faith He agrees with the caveat that he be able to use his talents in “an atmosphere of free inquiry” No replies Dick, “you are not needed there,” and besides Heaven is a place of answers, not inquiry
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Episcopal Ghost and Dick The Episcopal Ghost cannot accept this version of Heaven believing “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive” He no longer views God as a Real Person but as an abstract concept, a “Supreme Value” He decides to return to his theological society in the grey town and his vision of God as “purely spiritual… The spirit of sweetness and light and tolerance – and, er, service.”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Episcopal Ghost and Dick Lewis believed that service to humanity has been (and should be) one of the strengths of Christianity and Jesus Himself demonstrated this when he washed the disciples feet. Service to others is the way many people first begin to grasp the love God has for them, but service is not salvation. All the deeds of love and kindness cannot bring forgiveness of sins and new life. Forgiveness comes from God, and that new life must also come from above. Theology, Lewis insists, rightly understood, is not the destination, but the roadmap to Christ who is the destination.
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Ghost with the Red Lizard Lewis makes the sin of this Ghost (lust) visible in the form of the red lizard Lizard whispers constantly in the ear of his host and doesn’t stop even when told to do so Ghost begins to move back toward the bus but is then confronted by an Angel asking why he is leaving so soon
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Ghost with the Red Lizard The Angel offers to silence the lizard, which is readily accepted until the Ghost learns the Angel plans to kill the lizard to quiet it Angel insists death is the only way, it must be now and it will be painful but it won’t kill the Ghost, finally he agrees (choosing sanctification) The Angel seizes the lizard and ends his life, but it begins to grow and a magnificent horse appears
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Ghost with the Red Lizard The Ghost is also transformed into a man, immense, not much smaller than the Angel The man mounts the horse and rides away toward the mountains with the speed of a shooting star Finally, a passenger from the grey town chooses Heaven
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Ghost with the Red Lizard MacDonald asks whether Lewis understands what he has witnessed: The man had to choose, the Angel could not do it against his will Even the body, although changed, goes to Heaven: “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (Quoting I Corinthians 15:44) “Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death…Lust (the lizard) is a poor, weak, whimpering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE The Ghost with the Red Lizard As the transformed man rides away on his horse, instead of the lizard riding him, Lewis, using a common device of his paraphrases Psalm 110: 1-4 to demonstrate the celebration of Heaven for the man’s choice: “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes. Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning, like dew your youth will come to you. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind. ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian Lewis’ dream turns to the arrival of a woman of inexpressible beauty She arrives in a pageant with dancing Spirits coming first, then boys and girls, musicians and the lady herself Following is a procession of men and women, then more animals than Lewis can count Lewis works very hard to describe her glory and beauty
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian MacDonald informs him that “Already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.” The longest of all encounters in The Great Divorce Frank, her former husband on earth, is a dwarf who is leading on a chain a tall Ghost with a black hat “Like a seedy actor of the old school”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian Sarah ignores the Tragedian, Frank’s façade, which represents his self-pity, she speaks only to the dwarf Frank is having a difficult time coming to grips with Sarah’s condition She isn’t unhappy as he would prefer, she hasn’t missed him as he would have hoped, which he believes means she doesn’t care
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian Sarah asks Frank’s forgiveness for all she ever did wrong and invites him into eternal joy Frank responds by recalling her use of the last stamp to write her mother, without noticing his unselfishness Final blow comes when she tells him he is not needed “What needs could I have now that I have it all? I am full now, not empty. You shall be the same. We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly.”
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian Sarah’s joy and love attempt to overcome Frank’s hardened heart “For a moment…he saw the absurdity of the Tragedian… But the light that reached him reached him against his will.” Frank will not stop trying to make others miserable by having them pity him, he will not forgive Frank ultimately shrinks until he is too small to be seen, the actor swallows up Frank, chain and all, Frank is just the façade
THE GHOSTS IN THE GREAT DIVORCE Sarah Smith and Frank with Tragedian Sarah finally addresses the Tragedian because that is all that remains “I never knew you. Perhaps you had better leave me” Sarah is welcomed back with a Lewis paraphrase of Psalm 91 “Those who love me I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.”
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Salvation Some say that Christianity’s biggest stumbling block is the doctrine that salvation only comes through Christ, even though millions have never had the opportunity to hear of his existence, much less accept or reject Him. If the descent of Christ into Hell is a timeless event that gives everyone (finally) the opportunity to accept Him, then such promises as “Seek and you shall find” and “I will draw everyone to me” are kept. No one is lost but those who choose self over God, and no one can say “I never had a chance.”
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Salvation “Therefore it says ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’ Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth. He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4: 8-10 “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the times of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.” I Peter 3: 18-20
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Salvation “For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like me, they might live in the spirit like God.” I Peter 4:6 Lewis has, therefore, attempted to defend the character of God, thereby removing the stumbling block that has turned so many away from Christianity which can seem to unfairly consign so many to Hell.
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Sanctification Lewis understood sanctification as follows: Sanctification is the removal of all sinfulness from the soul To be forgiven through faith in Christ’s atonement (justification) is wonderful but thereafter the process of sanctification begins Sanctification depends on us making the right choice (Ghost with the Red Lizard)
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Sanctification Not many Christians would claim to be free from all sins, but no sin can remain in Heaven. So when is the process of sanctification complete? For Lewis, the only possible answer was that the process of completion must occur after death. Merely dying does not remove sin. Heaven must accomplish that, and only with our permission. Sin must be acknowledged and the self yielded.
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of Judgment Will everyone stand before Christ to be judged, even those who have never heard the gospel? “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” John 12:32 “Everyone will be salted with fire.” Mark 9:49 Lewis believed that the response of each person; the soul shaped by actions, words and motivations during one’s life, will bring surrender to that cleansing fire, or flight from unbearable truth.
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem with Judgment According to Lewis, this meeting with Christ will be good news to some and confrontation to others, but simultaneously solves these three theological issues for Lewis. Everyone who hasn’t yet heard the good news now meets Jesus. In His presence, salvation is offered, sanctification as well, until the soul is purified and made whole, and those who refuse the fire/light/truth are judged. They have chosen their final state and their destination.
THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT DIVORCE The Problem of the Body What happens with our bodies and our natural tendencies and desires? When the man with the lizard of lust is transformed, Lewis takes the opportunity to point out that problems of the body are also addressed in God’s sanctification of the individual. Even the body itself will be transformed in the resurrection of the dead.
QUESTIONS 1)Lewis asserts that people who go to Hell do so voluntarily. Instead of being banished by God, they actually choose to go there even after considering the alternatives. What do you think? What does this mean for your faith? 2)Those souls travelling to Heaven on the bus are seemingly being given a second chance. Do you think a second chance exists and what does that mean for your faith? 3)Lewis describes Heaven as the ultimate reality. He says that “all Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World.” What do you think he means by these descriptions? What point is he trying to make? 4)Lewis believed that all would be given a universal and unavoidable choice, what he describes as the ultimate “either – or” choice. What do you think? 5)Lewis says that “almost certainly God is not in Time…His life does not consist of moments following one another.” What does Lewis mean by this? What are the ramifications?