The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
A few months ago, we attended the Fellowship for Performing Arts production of The Great Divorce, which was adapted for stage by Max McLean. McLean tells us that this 1945 novel by C.S. Lewis was his response to the popular view expressed in William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell where the poet tried to imagine a point at which the differences between good and evil will somehow be resolved. This prompted Lewis to write of their final divorce.
Lewis tells his readers that the book is a fantasy, so don’t get too concerned about some of the theology in the book. In this book, Lewis introduces us to several characters on a bus trip from the outskirts of Hell to the outskirts of Heaven. Lewis poses a challenging question. Given the freedom to choose Heaven or Hell, what would we really do. Are the gates of Hell locked from the inside?
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The book is a dream. We meet our narrator (the Lewis character) standing in a bus queue in a dismal Grey Town. The town is huge but empty, as the people are so disagreeable, they live as far from each other as possible. He witnesses several confrontations among those waiting in the queue. Each has their own selfish reasons for going on this trip.
After a celestial journey on the bus, the narrator had the sense of being in a larger space (outskirts of Heaven). His sees that his fellow passengers were ghosts and he himself was also a phantom. One by one, each ghost is greeted by a Spirit, often someone they knew on Earth. Each ghost is invited to continue the journey into this New World by going “further up and further in” and to grow more “solid” along the way.
We follow along as our narrator witnesses conversations with a number of characters including Big Man, Driver, Ghost, Spirit, the Solid People, the Bright People, George MacDonald, Teacher, the Lizard, the Lady, the Dwarf and Tragedian.
I found the book a bit confusing, but much less so than if I had not seen the play.
Though he died in 1963, Lewis continues to have a wide influence, consistently selling more books each year than the previous year.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- Mere Christians: Tim Keller. On this episode of the Mere Christians podcast, Jordan Raynor visits with Tim Keller, author of Forgive, to talk about the 4 actions that constitute true biblical forgiveness, how the gospel enables us to stop using work as a metaphorical fig leaf, and why mere Christians are going to be the ones most effective at making disciples in the next few generations.
- 20 Quotes from Dane Ortlund on Hell. Matt Smethurst shares 20 quotes from Dane Ortlund’s new booklet Is Hell Real?
- The Rise of Right Wing Wokeism. Kevin DeYoung, in reviewing The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe, writes “I understand and sympathize with the desire for something like Christian Nationalism, but if this book represents the best of that ism, then Christian Nationalism isn’t the answer the church or our nation needs. For all the fine retrieval work Wolfe does in parts of the book, the overall project must be rejected.”
- 20 Quotes from Michael Reeves on Evangelical Integrity. Matt Smethurst writes “Michael Reeves’s new book Gospel People: A Call for Evangelical Integrity explores how the gospel should shape those who claim to embrace it. Here are 20 quotes that stood out to me as I read.”
- The Gospel Coalition 2022 Book Awards. The Gospel Coalition names their best Christian books across 12 categories.
- My Top Books of 2022. Tim Challies shares his top books of 2022.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 38 Forgiveness, Justification, and Obedience. Here are a few helpful quotes from the chapter:
- One of the greatest difficulties of the Christian life is to embrace with vigilance and joyful confidence both the seriousness of God’s commands and the certainty of God’s commitment to bring us home. Despair and presumption are two great enemies to keep us from living in the miracle of this paradox.
- Being forgiven and counted righteous through faith alone is something that happens to us the moment we believe but that the purchase of it, the securing of it, the provision of it, was accomplished—indeed finished—in the life and death of Jesus, long before we existed.
- The only sin that can be successfully killed in the Christian life is forgiven sin.
- The only lived-out holiness that pleases God is the holiness we pursue because we are already holy.
- If we are trying to gain God’s acceptance through pursuing holiness, we are not trusting Christ as the once-for-all provider of a perfect righteousness that God counts as ours by faith alone. We are in fact denying Christ, even as we strive to obey him by pursuing holiness.
- Kill sin because your sins are forgiven and pursue holiness because you are holy.