This week we are discussing chapters 9-11 of C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. It is in these chapters that we gain a full insight into Lewis’ conception of heaven, hell, and redemption. In Chapter 9, we see Lewis’s thoughts on these matters develop in two ways. First, Lewis relies heavily on the thought of Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) when he writes that “Heaven is reality itself” (p.70) whereas Hell “is so nearly Nothing” (p.77). In On the Incarnation (for which Lewis wrote the introduction for the English translation), Athanasius writes:
For the transgression of the commandment (not to eat the fruit) was making them (Adam and Eve) turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good.
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.” As Paul says, it is in God that we “live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28. And as Paul writes about Christ, “in Him all things were created . . . and in Him all things hold together.” Col 1:16-17. Once we lose Him, so we lose our very existence. I would encourage you to read chapters 1-3 of On the Incarnation this weekend if you have the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into Lewis’ thoughts.
As you read through Chapter 9, ask yourself:
· MacDonald says that the location of the conversation is not “Deep Heaven” but only the “Valley of the Shadow of Life.” p.68. Is this Valley a type of “Purgatory?” (Here maybe is the Answer)
· MacDonald speaks of men who are so interested in proving the existence of God, they care nothing of God Himself. p.74. Where do you find this within yourself or within the Church today?
· MacDonald says that “Every one of us (Spirits) lives only to journey further and further into the mountains.” p.74. What does he mean? Do you think of “Heaven” as a destination or a journey?
· Do you think MacDonald is too severe in his judgment of grumbling?
· What does MacDonald mean that “Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing at all about it and think they have it already”? p.82. Can you think of a parable that may demonstrate this point?
· What was the Painter’s first love? How has he lost that love? Where is the painter’s experience reflected in your own life?
As you read about Robert’s Wife in Chapter 10, ask yourself:
· What, does Lewis suggest, was the real motive behind Robert’s “treatment?”
· Count the number of times the Ghost uses the word “I.”
· What happens to the Ghost? Why? Do you think this is a fair and just end?
As you read through Chapter 11, ask yourself:
· Why is Pam still a ghost? Why is she “wrong?”
· What does MacDonald mean when he says “no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves.” Do you agree?
· What do you think Pam’s case was designed to illustrate?
· What is good? p.106.
· What does the little red lizard represent?
· What does the lizard’s death and transformation into a stallion represent?
· Why must the Ghost consent to the death of the lizard?
Dinner is at 6. The menu is enchiladas. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
As for man, his days are like grass;Psalm 103:15-17
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
upon those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children.