17 August 2011

the great divorce 3

"You went there because you are an apostate."

This comes from an exchange that the narrator witnesses between another of the ghostly people (such as himself) and a solid person. The prancing around of two solidly lions before him in the grass was a bit disconcerting, so he moved on and stumbled across this dialogue. Again, the two in conversation knew each other well on earth and now continue some of their debating in the afterlife.

There is a rather large amount of denial on the part of the ghost about the current state of existence, demonstrated by his condescending statements regarding a literal Heaven or Hell. When pushed on this initially, he explains that his life is quest to find the Kingdom . . . though it appears to be carried out in a rather backwards view of things. He does not see grey town as a place within twilight, but rather with the continual hope of morning - Heaven, for those with eyes to see it. That is the description he gives to it from within. How is it seen from the solid place?

"We call it Hell."

At this the ghost is taken back by the "profane" nature of such a description. Here, Lewis' narrative - through the ensuing discussion - begins to highlight the failure of relativistic-postmodernism to adequately handle truth. Suggestions of moral right and wrong so often are charged as being profane, insensitive and rude. This, as is demonstrated in the current dialogue, is little more than a means of deflection so that the individual can work from their own ethical standards.

The ghost states, "Buy my dear boy, I believe already. We may not be perfectly agreed, but you have completely misjudged me if you do not realise that my religion is a very real and very precious thing to me." Interestingly, this seems to be acceptable enough for the solid person, who then invites the ghost to make the journey further in so that his confession might have action. The ghost agrees, so long as he can find 1) a wider sphere of influence, 2) a scope for his talents, and 3) an atmosphere of inquiry.

Here is where the religion breaks apart, for it is one that originates from within the individual and seeks nothing more than to edify the individual from within. He is told that none of these things exist for him, because 1) you are not needed there at all, 2) there is only forgiveness for having perverted your God-given talents, and 3) this is the land of answers, not questions. It is a summons to a life defined outside of ourselves rather than the self-centered religiousity of the postmodern mind.

In an attempt to persuade the ghost to accept this reality and embrace the journey to its fulfillment, the solid person offers, "We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ."

This reminds the ghost that he is scheduled to give a paper to a "theological society" back in grey town, and that he should not leave for the solid land. He is interested in many inquiries, and has come to the place where he believes he is doing good by assisting the other grey town inhabitants in their quests. All said and done, he has appreciated the discussion that has taken place, and walks away stimulated and thinking to his own intellectual inquiry, "What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature!"

This is a great example of the misunderstandings of our current philosophies - either serious or popular-level - have done to the message of faith. The proper response to theological study and inquiry is belief, though this road is often much more complex than that simple rendering. Lewis was right to make the point that much of our theological debating is concerned with only the debate and not discovering the truth of what we seek . . . or, at least not accepting the truth when we find it.

Novel theologies abound when we think that everything should be questioned and deconstructed. But novel theologies are often shallow and cheap on the one hand, disruptive and damaging on the other. For when we trade opportunities to explore and edify truth so that we might sound clever enough to write many books and give many speeches, we pervert the work of the kingdom that has been entrusted to its followers.

Yes, this same conclusion is included in the discussion of Chapter 5, when the solid person challenges the ghost on his earthly life of constant inquiry, "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?"

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