Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Great Divorce



I just finished reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis; during the book, I realized that I had actually read it before and simply forgotten. But it was worth reading again. I just wanted to write a couple things that stood out to me.

To start out: If you haven't read it, it's a book like unto the Screwtape Letters - a satirical Christian apologetic. The Great Divorce is written in first person, and the man talking (the Lewis-man himself) is waiting for a bus with many others, who are referred to as Ghosts, in a gray, lifeless city. We learn that this city is purgatory/hell, depending on how long one stays there. The bus takes them up and away, and they arrive at a bright, colorful land with mountains in the distance, where they can walk around and explore. The land, however, is harsh to them, made of a more solid substance than they, but they are told if they stay they will get used to it. Meanwhile, people (Spirits) come from the mountains to persuade the Ghosts to come with them to live - where light is bright and other Spirits live. If they go, they must give up vices that are holding them back. The book is mostly the main character listening to arguments between Ghosts and Spirits about why they should or shouldn't go.

This conversation is between two who were former intellectuals.
Spirit: Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?
Ghost: There are indeed, Dick. There is hide-bound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed - they are not sins.
S: I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.
G: Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.
S: What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came - popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?
G: Dick, this is unworthy of you. What are you suggesting?
S: Friend, I am not suggesting it at all. You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves, in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment's real resistance to the loss of our faith?

I love C.S. Lewis. I love how he uses logic to prove a spiritual point, that he recognizes that there are many things we can sin over, and that he teaches about sins we may not think about, or may not even think are sins - yet, clearly, they can be. How often are we so caught up in a mortal idea that we forget that there are greater things than what our minds can fathom? So often, that we forget that there are things more important than the cultural ideas of the day?

The Ghost and Spirit continue talking, and the Ghost asks, if he does go into the mountains, will he at least be allowed free thinking? The Spirit responds that he is going to a land of answers, and that he will no longer be thirsty for knowledge because his thirst will be quenched.

Spirit: Listen! Once, you were a child. Once, you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again, even now.
Ghost: Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.
Spirit: You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.

I love that he's not afraid to just tell it like it is.

While a thirst for knowledge is good, we mustn't go willy-nilly with it. There are bounds to everything the Lord has set; knowledge is no different. When we have found truth, settle. Be content.

There's a lot that stuck out to me in this book; I'll have a couple more posts coming :)

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