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Title: The Great Divorce
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
The narrator gets on a bus with a large group of people, many of whom end up never even making it onto the bus. The bus flies to another country which seems to be some sort of hinterlands of Heaven. The narrator overhears many conversations between the occupants of the bus and people come from the main land of Heaven to help them. Most of what he overhears are reasons why the bus occupants don’t want to really go to heaven and why it just makes more sense for them to get back on the bus and go back to the grey town, even though rumors of a final night time fast approaching keep cropping up.
The narrator awakes as C.S. Lewis and he makes it clear no one should use this story as a guide to the afterlife.
This is technically a re-read, as I read this in Bibleschool in the late 90’s. While I wasn’t writing reviews or even keeping track of what books I read back then (that didn’t start until April of 2000), this book stuck in my head, mainly because of the disagreement I had with Lewis about the subject matter. That was important because it was the first time I really had a disagreement with Lewis, before this I’d pretty much vacuumed up everything he said. So I knew going into this re-read that I was still going to have that disagreement. While that was the case, I was also able to better appreciate the many other points he made during this short little novel, hence the 4 stars.
So the disagreement mainly centers around 2 things. First, the immortality of the soul and soul sleep. While this wasn’t an issue back in the 90’s, my views have changed over the years and I’ve come into the 7th Day Adventist viewpoint, so that’s something Lewis (and Protestantism in general) and I disagree on. I don’t believe in the immortality of the soul and I believe that when you die you sleep, in some form or other, until the Final Judgement. Lewis believes differently, hence the very idea of the book. Secondly, Lewis seems to be proposing some sort of pseudo-purgatory with the Grey Town and the ability of the occupants of the bus to leave it and go to Heaven. He does directly address this issue and claims that isn’t what he’s doing, but it is really hard to accept any other interpretation. While God is outside of Time, humanity ONLY has its lifetime to make a choice of whether to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and go to heaven or to reject Jesus Christ and go to hell.
To put it plainly, once you die, that is it. You have run out of time to make a choice. While it sounds nice to talk about God being outside of time, blah, blah, blah, the Bible seems pretty clear on the issue of having to make your choice of whether to follow God or not in this life and having that choice in this life alone. Obviously, there are other interpretations and I’m not worried that someone who is a committed Christian is going to suddenly go off the rails and think they can somehow get right with God after they die. What I worry about with the purgatory style doctrine is that puts off the necessity of making a decision NOW. If they’re wrong, then it is too late and they’re going to hell. I’m playing super fast and loose here, but I don’t think this is the place to have a Scripture session about why I think so and backing everything up with specific chapter and verse from the Bible. That type of talk is for someone who is already interested in the issue and has questions, not for a bleeding book review, hahahahaa.
With those issues out of the way, which while I talked about them a bit, were much smaller in my mind this time around, I was really able to focus on the rest of the book. Lewis does a fantastic job of showing a wide variety of reasons why people CHOOSE to not go to Heaven. He makes a real push to show that people are not kept out of Heaven who are clamoring to get it, but that people voluntarily choose not to go in because of Reason A, B or C. God and sin cannot co-exist and hence Heaven must be a place where there is no sin. If people won’t give up their sin, they have in fact chosen their sin over heaven. While that sounds simplistic, it is that easy to spell out.
I didn’t take notes on the various conversations recorded, so I’m not going to go through and talk about each one, but Lewis does an admirable job of showing in layman’s terms, why people hold on to certain things even to their own detriment. He is also able to show the underlying narrative and self-deceptions that people twist themselves into to justify their rejection of God, Jesus and the inability of sin and God co-existing. It wasn’t new or “eye opening”, but it was a timely reminder to me.
I think I will end this by saying that God is Good, God is Great and in the end, every knee will bow to His Sovereignty and acknowledge His Very Rightness. That is really awkwardly phrased but it seems to properly convey the end of the matter.