Q & R: C. S. Lewis, Last Battle
Here's the Q:
I just started reading your 10 Questions That are Transforming the Faith, and I was wondering: Have you ever read The Last Battle? Because its illustration of what life after death will be like seems similar to your idea of a society that gets closer to perfection. Do you believe in life after death? Is this Narnian view close to the truth or a whimsical distraction? Thanks for your time.
Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. Actually, I wrote a book on the subject of hell - The Last Word and the Word After That - where I refer to Lewis' The Last Battle quite extensively.
Yes, I do believe in life after death. I think a primary purpose for that belief is to give us courage to invest our lives in God's dream and God's justice ... even if that means loss, suffering, and even death in the short run. Here's a free downloadable article I wrote on the subject:
I should add that I don't believe the phrase "eternal life" - so central to the gospel of John and to Paul's writings - means "life after death." I think it means "life of the ages," in contrast to "life in the present age." That life of the ages has, among its many characteristics, a freedom from the fear of death because of a deep confidence in God. To be known by God and loved by God means to live with and in God, forever. At least that's how I understand it at this point in my journey.
I also think that many (if not most) passages in the Bible that we have interpreted to mean "the end of the world" were actually about "the end of the world as they knew it" back in the first century. For example, I think the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 brought the end of temple, priesthood, animal sacrifice, etc., and necessitated new approaches and new beginnings. Forty years earlier, Jesus warned about violence and called for nonviolent peacemaking and reconciliation. "Those who live by the sword will die by it," he said. In AD 67, his nation chose the path of violent resistance and the results were catastrophic.
It makes me wonder what "end of the world as we know it" scenarios we have been warned about in our generation ... environmental catastrophe, economic collapse, catastrophic conflict ... and how we are responding today. I playfully explore some of this fictionally in my new E-books, the first of which is available now, and the second of which comes out next week.