Ok, I need someone who has read lots of C.S. Lewis (thinking of Jason, Aaron or my dad but I’m certain others have too). I also realise we talked about Lewis generally a few months back in Why wasn’t C.S. Lewis a Universalist? How close did he get?.
I think the main difference is that Lewis was sure, and kept saying he was sure, that there would be irrevocable and permanent punishment for some people in the end, that some people certainly would never be reconciled to God.
Bell, very much like Balthasar (but so far without the mature and careful reflection of the Catholic systematic theologian), refuses to shut that door, and keeps hinting otherwise.
Even though Lewis ended up an annihiliationist, even his annihilationism could be (rather brilliantly in itself!) considered ECT from the perspective of God and the sinner, if not from the perspective of the saved. This allows him to seriously go both ways in a non-contradictory fashion, which of course makes him accessible for both ECT and Anni proponents.
All of which is quite ironic because elsewhere in his writing Lewis features one of the strongest statements I’ve ever read, of the total persistence of God’s love for all people in salvation from sin. (I’ve been meaning to write a post on this the past few days, but have been continually distracted. )
Incidentally, Lewis almost certainly borrowed that notion of a mental hell (in the letter to Greeves) from George Macdonald.
Except of course for MacD, the notion was intended to illustrate how God in putting the soul in such a position, expects to lead the soul home.
(I would bet a Coke that political/military super-novelist Tom Clancy has at least read this same scene from George MacDonald, whether or not he agrees with the application, because he uses the same imagery and–in this case perverted–result, almost word-for-word, in The Cardinal of the Kremlin, when he describes how the Soviets had found the door to “hell” through sensory deprivation techniques and used it to convert a low-level spy to their cause.)
Although I feel the precise, ultimate end of the damned was left up in the air e.g. those in The Last Battle not going through the door, headed into the darkness and unknown?
Thanks Jason. I understand Bell’s style irritates people who just want it to be clear cut.
I assume Luke doesn’t think Lewis was an annihiliationist. What proof would you use to back that up?
Oh Jason, that is tantalizing, please tell your distractions to go away
Although undoubtedly awful, I don’t think that just a mental hell is correct/enough (can’t find the word I’m looking for here ), as we are such physical beings and the New Creation will be physical (probably extra-physical) so I would expect everything in the age-to-come, to be like that.
Among other things, in regard to your refs from The Last Battle, Old Narnia was wiped out of existence (being the shadow of the Real Narnia), which means anyone left behind the gate would have been wiped out, too.
While the dwarves are left in (what amounts to) Limbo, as much of heaven as they can accept but without fellowship with Aslan (broken sceptics whom Aslan seems rather dubious about being able to ever eventually heal!!), the Ape is eaten by Tash, while the Cat is regressed to losing his rationality (effectively destroying him as a person.)
In The Great Divorce, while the people in hell think they’re going to exist forever there, they have a hidden fear that eventually things are going to get lots, lots worse. (Though they imagine this will be abuse by demons. Which could also be true) Souls who come up for the refrigerium are wiped out of existence (or wipe themselves out) if they refuse to repent (the Tragedian being the most obvious example), and MacD is represented (borrowing a little from some things MacD wrote but flipping them around so that MacD believed this was the final result!) as explaining their final destruction as persons with nothing left over. The dream ends with the implication that at the rising of the Son (representing the coming of the Day of the Lord) anyone still a ghost (as Lewis currently is in the dream) will be destroyed by the burning reality. (A pretty typical annihiliationist treatment of 1 Thess “being destroyed from the Presence”.)
Lewis kind of went both ways for The Problem of Pain in his chapter on “Hell”. His whole case for hopelessness is based on the notion that souls, in rejecting the hope of God, can destroy themselves down to personal non-existence so that there is nothing left for even God to try to save. But elsewhere in the same chapter he treats hell as God planting the flag of pain as the last mercy for continually existent entities, the idea being that they should not be left in total delusion about the truth of their existence: the pain will continually testify that something is wrong with their lives. He tries to stitch these two ideas together by speculating that while impenitent sinners continue to exist in regard to God, they cease to exist in regard to the saved. (Imagine a vector line splatting out at right angles compared to its original travel; from the perspective of any lines that continue the splatted line doesn’t exist anymore, but the splat still exists in relation to ultimate reality which of course is God.) It’s a brilliant move, and attempts to synthesize apparent Biblical testimony to both ECT and Anni. Though I would argue that it stumbles at finally reconciling the two concepts: if the person still exists in regard to God, even if not in regard to saved creatures (or other unsaved creatures?), then Lewis’ case for hopelessness is in ruins–the person does in fact still exist in regard to God, so has not destroyed herself down to the point where there is nothing left for God to save!
He can’t really have it both ways. If a person still exists as a person in regard to God, then there has to be some other reason for God’s hopelessness in salvation than the one Lewis latched onto. (I still admire the effort. )
The Screwtape Letters (and Screwtape Proposes A Toast, assuming it’s genuine), on the other hand, appears to go with the notion of eternal conscious torment of a pretty standard shared-imprisonment type. (Souls get locked up with devils with the stronger being abused by the weaker forever, but everyone has to deal with the Burning, too. Although Lewis does seem to represent that as the Burning Presence of God. The “ocean of fire” that the Rogue Agents in my novels have to constantly bear, owes at least a nod to the Screwtape work. I hint of course that the purpose and character of the fire is rather different from what the demons insist on imagining; how they insist on seeing it is like typical ECT, although they hope to escape from it someday by their own efforts–another parallel with the Screwtape demons.)
While I agree, I think Lewis and MacD had “hades” in mind, not whatever happens after the resurrection.