“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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

C. S. Lewis on Death and Rebirth: “The Very Formula of Reality”

...We have traced the theme of death and rebirth through Lewis’ nonfiction and fiction, including The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Till We Have Faces, and especially Perelandra. This “pattern” functions as a signpost like “joy,” pointing towards the death and rebirth, which is an explosive and irreversible turning point in redemptive history. Redemption is only accomplished, though, because of “Vicariousness,” which Lewis calls “the very idiom of reality” (Miracles 418). This principle is closely connected to death and rebirth, which Lewis describes as no less than “the very formula of reality” (Miracles 413). Christ’s death and resurrection in particular is “the central event in the history of the Earth - the very thing that the whole story has been about” (Lewis, Miracles 398). It is this “grand miracle” that illuminates and ties together all the rest of human history, indeed all of reality. Lewis saw that as the Son rose, everything else was seen more clearly for what it truly was (cf. God in the Dock 86, The Weight of Glory 140). We see most clearly in Christ’s death and resurrection a divine principle which is present in all God does – a theme of stark contrast and rich paradoxical beauty. The last shall be first, only the greatest of all can descend to Hell (Lewis, The Great Divorce 538), God dwells in the smallest flower and yet within him is Deep Heaven (Lewis, Perelandra 215), renewed life is purchased through suffering and death-conquering death, and evil is turned backwards into a greater and higher joy. In Lewis’ words, “The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth” (Miracles 411).

Works Cited

Clark, David. C. S. Lewis: A Guide to His Theology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
Downing, David. “Perelandra: A Tale of Paradise Retained.” In C. S. Lewis : Life, Works, and Legacy. Vol. II. Ed. Bruce L. Edwards. New York: Praeger, 2007.
Goffar, Janine. The C. S. Lewis Index: A Comprehensive Guide to Lewis’ Writings and Ideas. New York: Crossway Books, 1998.
Hooper, Walter. C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide. HarperOne, 1998.
Lewis, C. S. God in the Dock : Essays on Theology and Ethics. Ed. Walter Hooper. Boston: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1996.
---. The Great Divorce. In The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2007. 463-542.
---. “Is Theology Poetry?” In The Weight of Glory. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2001. 116-140.
---. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
---. Mere Christianity. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1960.
---. Miracles. In The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2007. 297-462.
---. Perelandra. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1996.
---. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1958.
---. The Screwtape Letters. In The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: Harper San Francisco, 2007. 179-296.
---. Till We Have Faces. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1956.
Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-stories.” In The Tolkien Reader. New York: Ballantine Books, 1966.

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