Over at JesusCreed, we discover the last refuge of the scoundrel is not patriotism. It is actually C.S. Lewis. The intro to that post says this:
“I’m not enough of a C.S. Lewis expert to give a definitive answer, though I always have thought the end of The Last Battle went in a universalistic direction. Perhaps we can have some C.S. Lewis experts speak up today.”
Shoot, why do we need experts? We know how to read children’s literature.
“And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way [with [fear and hatred”] swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow . . . The children never saw them again. I don’t know what became of them” (p. 175).
Disappearing into an eternal night of fear and hatred? This sounds promising to some folks, and it is just like the damned bishop in The Great Divorce.
“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea” (The Great Divorce, pp. 31-32)
Maybe the problem is the way Bell comes across . . .
“After a couple of weeks of dialogue it is clear to me that the primary issue in the debate over Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived is not about what Bell is saying, but how he says it.”
Yes, that is right. Lewis gave his life to the war on subjectivism, and Bell is one of those who promotes such subjectivism.
“I suspect Bell intimidates some because he is part of a culture they do not understand and cannot control (that culture is urban, postmodern, and discovers the truth more naturally through questions, sarcasm, and intuition than through the systematic presentations of the top Christian publishing house).”
I am starting to like this. Discovering truth through questions, sarcasm, and intuition? Okay, deal me in. Why is Bell still an evangelical pastor? There’s some truth to be found in that question. Maybe it is because he graduated from Wheaton. There’s some truth in the sarcasm, for those who have eyes to see. And I just have a bad feeling in my gut about all this. I don’t need to prove that Bell is a heretic. I’m just telling you how I feel.
“And let’s not kid ourselves, I suspect the fire behind the debate is often about envy and resentment of a very talented man, about our own inability to get a hearing in the public square, and about the fear that new ways of talking about Jesus might trump what some have preached for decades.”
Right. Let’s not kid ourselves. These new pomogoo ways of talking about Jesus are relativistic to the bone, and Lewis hated that kind of relativistic subjectivism with a clear-eyed passion. And contrary to the false dichotomy about modernism and postmodernism pervasive throughout this post, Lewis was no modernist. Thomas Acquinas believed in the objectivity of truth, and this did not make him a Cartesian.
“Let’s look at one example . . . consider how Lewis, like Bell, advances the possibility that those in hell might one day journey toward the grace of God after death. Lewis writes, “I would pay any price to be able to say ‘All will be saved’ but my reason retorts, ‘Without their will, or with it?’” Notice in this and other quotes like it, the salvation of a soul is not dependent on God’s will, but the will of the damned. In the same vein, he wrote, “I believe that if a million chances were likely to do good, they would be given” (The Problem of Pain, 110). This is a confession that God wants to save all and would provide such roads if God thought they’d work.”
Right. But this is how pomothought works. Lewis does say that a million chances would be given if they were likely to do good. But he also says they would not do any good. Nothing like leaving a key element out of your presentation.
“A damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself. Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouths for food, or their eyes to see” (The Great Divorce, pp. 123-124, emphasis mine)
“That door out of Hell is firmly locked by the devils themselves, on the inside; whether it is also locked on the outside need not, therefore, be considered” (Preface to Paradise Lost, p. 105, emphasis mine).
The issue is not whether we agree with Lewis in all these particulars. The issue is whether Lewis and Bell are engaged in the same project, which they manifestly are not. I will probably have more to say about this as we go on, but need to conclude with this thought. Lewis and Bell not only disagree about Hell, they disagree in a profound way.
“It’s not a question of God ‘sending’ us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud” (God in the Dock, p. 155).
Pomo relativism is not wrong about Hell. Pomo relativism is Hell.