It’s just like me to skip the preface. I know some people who read every printed word of a book, from the preface to the acknowledgments, from the contents to the appendix, from the teaser to the “Also by”…
Not me. Though I have my compulsions and perfectionist tendencies, those do not extend to my reading habits. Hence, in my now fourth reading of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, I am only now discovering the logic behind the title. I have recommended this book to dozens of people, but never followed my curiosity about the title to its logical end…read the preface.
“Blake wrote the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I have written of their Divorce,”.
Of course, that meant I had to find out what the, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, was all about. The combination of Heaven and Hell was Blake’s ambition. Lewis’ intent was to prove their complete incompatibility. We must chose.
…in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage is perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable ‘either-or’; that, granted skill and patience and (above all) time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain.
There were a couple things contained in the brief two page preface that solidified my need to read this book again and to share it, piece by piece, with you.
First, the title revelation:
Just as in his book, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis expresses an uncanny foreknowledge, peeking right into our bedroom windows, as it were, listening to our modern discussions of morality, politics and religion. Either that, or, the same issues that plague us today were of concern to his generation as well. Issues such as absolute truth.
Absolute truth…I think that little nugget can be found at the root of nearly every philosophical debate, and certainly at the root of every religious argument. For, each side of the discussion is bent on convincing their opponent of their exclusivity of their own truth. And if there is absolute truth then one opinion is necessarily excluded.
Even those who argue, “Anything goes. What is true for you may not be true for me,” are espousing a specific, exclusive worldview – namely that subjective truth is the standard, disallowing objectivity.
We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.
As we mine the contents of this fascinating story, I challenge you to make your choice. It is either Heaven, to which there is only one objective path, or Hell. But blessed be our Savior, who being not willing that any should perish, has indeed been patient, giving each one long enough to make that critical choice.
2 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
We’ll touch on my second observation in the preface next time (: