Saturday, September 29, 2007

"We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ"

From chapter 5 of The Great Divorce (1946) by C.S. Lewis, part of the conversation between one of the Bright People, named Dick on earth, and the "fat ghost with the cultured voice":

      “. . . Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”
      “How do you mean?”
      “Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were becoming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”
      “But wasn’t I right?”
      “Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . .”
      “Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”
      “Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live in 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.”
      “I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”
      “Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”
      “We call it Hell.”
      “There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”
      “Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”
      “Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”
      “But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”
      “Are you serious, Dick?”
      “Perfectly.”
      “This is worse that I expected. Do you really think people are penalized for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”
      “Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”
      “There are indeed, Dick. There is hide-bound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinion fearlessly followed—they are not sins.”
      “I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”
      “Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”
      “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?”

1 comment:

Judith L said...

WOW!! Nothing is new under the sun. I think every Christian should read Screwtape at least once a year. Perhaps every Anglican should also read the Great Divorce once a year.