“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

C. S. Lewis on Death and Rebirth: A Central Turning Point

...Having examined the theme of myths, nature, and stories as a backdrop or reflection of the central instance of death and rebirth, let us now turn to Lewis’ views concerning this event. One of the main ideas in Lewis’ works is that Christ’s death and resurrection is a central turning point in redemptive history. When Christ becomes a man, writes Lewis, “It is like dropping into a glass of water one drop of something which gives a new taste or a color to the whole lot” (Mere Christianity 156). As a result of sin, all of creation is on a downwards spiral of decay. The reversal of this cosmic process begins with the resurrection (cf. Lewis, God in the Dock 33). Although it is only a single event in history, Lewis writes that the resurrection is part of a much larger process of death and rebirth. It is a “huge pattern of descent, down, down, and then up again. What we ordinarily call the Resurrection being just, so to speak, the point at which it turns” (Lewis, God in the Dock 82).5 The same idea is present in Perelandra. Tinidril, the “first woman” on Venus, is aware that when Maleldil (Christ) became a man on Earth, the universe was changed forever: “Among times there is a time that turns a corner and everything this side of it is new… Times do not go backward…your world [was] chosen for time’s corner” (Lewis, Perelandra 62,67)...

5 Tolkien’s idea of “eucatastrophe” (a “sudden joyous turn” from very bad to very good; cf. The Tolkien Reader 68-73) as the essential component of any complete fairy story is somewhat analogous to the death and rebirth theme throughout Lewis’ writings. For both authors, the Incarnation is the central occurrence of the more general pattern.

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