Chris's Reviews > The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
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's review
Nov 03, 10

Read from September 27 to October 25, 2010

Okay, so I’m an incurable Lewis junky. What can I say? I like the guy’s style. That being said, I truly hope that I haven’t just squeezed into the book-signing line with evangelical Christians that are ‘supposed’ to like Lewis because he protects them from The Others. Matter of fact, that’s what I don’t like about him—he’s become a safety-net for all Christians that want to prove to the world that they’re not dumb. Well, aside from the fact some Christians ARE dumb (I mean dumb in the bigoted sense), I’m not so sure Lewis was completely comfortable with playing intellectual savior. Okay, maybe he was…just a tad. But may I move on? Geez…

Lewis is a fine specimen of a writer. Granted, he may not appeal to everyone’s taste, but his urbane wit, direct challenges, and the towering majesty of his imagination make reading his works very entertaining and inspiring. He very cleverly anticipates the pace and distractions of his readers, keeping things moving along very nicely. Most characteristic of Lewis is his surgeon’s precision: he brooks no overrated sense of scholastic detachment or social gentility to rob him of an opportunity to surprise the bejesus out of us by revealing a hidden intent or seed of ‘badness’ within us that has gone unnoticed, or un-harassed, and has slowly set it’s venomous barbs into our hearts and minds, to be removed only with much pain. But he’s fun too. I know, right???!!!

The Great Divorce was an imaginative spin on the quality of ideas like Heaven and Hell as destinations in the afterlife. I was definitely surprised to learn that Lewis was open to the idea of purgatory, but I liked that audacity. It also didn’t hurt any that he had George MacDonald appear as his guide (a la Beatrice in Dante’s Paradiso), and MacDonald’s universalistic theology is clearly grappled with near the end of the book. Mr. Lewis, I tip my hat to you for choosing such a worthy usher through paradise. Good form sir. Well played.

The question Lewis seems to be asking is, “How can I conceive of a heaven or a hell that doesn’t incriminate God?” I actually applaud Lewis for being concerned about the fact that God often appears like a cruel, unreflecting tyrant in some schemes of final retribution and reward. Lewis lifts his sights for a more ‘fair’ conception of the kind of God that has planned a better system of justice than hanging terrified humans in a celestial balance governed by the erratic emotional impulses of fiery vengeance (traditional Hell) and petty favoritism (traditional Heaven). I think in the end Lewis was ingenious in his idea of choice that may be extended to the afterlife, even if those late choices really are only faint shadows of the myriad choices that abounded to a person while on this earth. In the end, future states of Heaven and Hell are merely extensions of the present, “This moment contains all moments.” Lewis seems to conclude that we ought to be finding God, Good, and Gladness here on earth before we start hoping to find it in Heaven. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth AS WE HOPE IT TO BE in Heaven.
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message 1: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen Shank i figured his nod to GM would have at least gained him 4 stars :).

I like the comment about "dumb" Christians. And your explanation even more.

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