In my participation with Southern Methodist University’s Center For Faith and Learning, as a second year Faith and Learning Scholar, I read, discussed, reflected, and ruminated upon C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”. What follows beyond this brief introduction are 5 thoughts with accompanying commentary that capture my reflections on The Great Divorce.
Thought 1: To the unrepentant heart the Bondage of Heaven is an enemy of Freedom found in Hell; to the repentant heart the Freedom found in Hell is reason enough to flee in terror toward the Bondage of Heaven.
The Bondage of Heaven is representative of the Holy Living that seems to grow out from the heart of one who has understood a minimum of the truth of God’s grace on the Cross. The Freedom found in Hell, is simply that, it is the natural fulfillment of desires and wishes which is not tempered by any long-suffering acknowledgment of the truth of God’s grace. To see this theme reflected in Scripture read 2 Peter 1:1-9. The repentant heart knows what it has been saved from and so flees toward discipleship and the development of Holy Living, not in some manner of self saving works but as a response to the very salvation he knows he has been gifted. The unrepentant heart knows not forgiveness nor salvation, having experienced neither, it feels no need to change and thus Holy Living is seen as an enemy of its dearly held pleasures and joys. What reason does such a heart have to deny the fulfillment of its desires?
Thought 2: Focusing on Heaven and the Christ life will inevitably result in seeing the redemption of History; Focusing on Earth and this Life will inevitably blind us to seeing redemption.
Reading through the preface letter in the “Great Divorce” reminded me of how important it is to keep my eyes on Christ. I found that when I reflected on my life it is the times that I struggled to keep my focus on Christ that I equally struggled to see any positive change or improvement in the world around me. When I stopped focusing on Christ, there was nothing left to hold my skeptical pessimism at bay. Conversely it has been my experience that when Christ is at the forefront of my mind and life that I see his redemptive presence in the world around me. When I hold Christ dearly and cast my eyes on Him, I cannot help but speak of the hope that I have for the future. See 1 Peter 3:15.
Thought 3: Intellectualism is not the enemy of Christ, it is a tool gifted by God to Man for the purpose of intimacy with Him.
To know anything, is an action and occupation of the mind. To know God is then chiefly an action of the mind, to pursue God relationally is then chiefly an action of the mind, why then do we insist on setting the faculty of our mind as an enemy of God, when it is our mind which literally houses thought and contemplation. The Intellect of the Christian is created for the pursuit of the knowledge of God through which intimacy with the Father is found. While we may come to know things from experience and other elements of the life on earth it is within our intellect that such knowledge finds a home. If God has spoken that all knowledge begins with our fear and reverence of Him then it follows that all knowledge reflects upon him. All knowledge, All intellect, is a reflection of our creator even the mind of his stead-fastest enemy. See proverbs 1.
Thought 4: Certainty without Intimacy creates the Pharisaic heart.
I’ll admit this reflection is the chief struggle of the Christian Apologist. In fact, I’d readily admit that some of the most uncharitable Christians I’ve met are those like myself who seek certainty and struggle with relational intimacy. It is our intimacy with God and fellow man which helps to hold our knowledge accountable to the Goodness of the God we seek to proclaim and praise. When we become convinced of the absoluteness of our positions it is rather easy to slip into an attitude that says “Because facts don’t care about your feelings, neither should I.” I think empathy is a command of God and in order to empathize we have to care about the feelings of others. where the progressive Christian or Progressive intellect often errs is that he or she will elevate the command of empathy above the command of truth and that is the danger. When emotions become the foundation for life and holy living, truth seems to cease its existence. On the other hand it is when we neglect the command of empathy all together that we become the sort of people who carelessly or unknowingly hurt others with our words to simply win an argument.
Thought 5: The further we are from God the more hollow our lives are, the closer we are to God the more complete we become.
Galatians 2:20 says the following: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” For the Christian, there are legitimate and dangerous risks that come with a parting from Christ in daily life, it is in effect, a parting from living. There is a sense in which we are dying when we move away from Christ. Lewis rightly recognizes that as we journey to a closeness with God our lives become fuller, there is a sense in which we become completed in Christ.