In his book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis gives us a description of those individuals from Gray Town (Hell) who are being given the opportunity to enter Heaven should they simply relinquish their one true love in favor of God. Each character’s story allows us to contemplate those things in our lives which we also place before our love of God. This Lenten study is five weeks.
The Great Divorce gives us two primary understandings of Hell. First, Hell is a place of progressive non-existence. Second, the gates of Hell are always locked from the inside.
For Lewis, Heaven is a state of being (ontology) whereby we become fully human and are transformed into the full likeness and nature of God. Alternatively, Hell is that state of being whereby we un-become human and gradually decline into that state of non-being and non-existence.
I think that earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell; and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.
Within these chapters, we will meet three of the bus riders who came from Hell. As you read through the chapters, see what part of your life Lewis is speaking to. Also, as with any author we read, don’t be afraid to disagree with Lewis or question his perspective.
But He cannot defend this deity of His against the self-righteous people who are unwilling to accept grace and eternal life from Him freely but want to earn it by their own works. They simply want to rob Him of the glory of His deity. – Martin Luther
As we progress through the book, the ghosts and their respective problems should be getting more personal. This week, we’ll meet the ghosts of doubt – the Hard-Bitten Cynical and the Frightened Shame-filled ghost.
As Lewis shows us, non-existence overcomes the humanity in the ghosts and the grumbler becomes a grumble and the ghost of Robert’s Wife simply goes “poof.”
Nothing in and of itself is good or bad (how can the love of a child be wrong) but when that thing takes the place of God, it causes us to miss the mark (i.e. sin). Therefore, the challenge that Lewis gives us is to see those idols in our life that draw us away from God so that they can be put in their proper place.
Lewis’s teaching is that if we can begin to wrap our heads around the idea that the movement of time is simply an illusion, then the stark difference between creation/annihilation, universalism/election, and predestination/freedom disappears.
If you could insert a chapter about your own ghost, how would it read? What thing is the most important thing in your life? What idol are you prepared to protect and pursue at all costs?