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THE CORNERSTONE SEMINARY

C. S. LEWIS: THEOLOGIAN OF ETERNAL HOPE

A PAPER PRESENTED TO DR. MIKE CANHAM IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR CH603

BY ERIC SUNDT

VALLEJO, CALIFORNIA MAY 14, 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE .

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ii

DEFINING A LEGACY

 

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1

A LIFE OVERCOME BY JOY

 

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2

DEFINING

ETERNAL HOPE .

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6

LIFE-ALTERING

HOPE .

 

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10

Hope's

Impact on Joy

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10

Hope's Impact on Love

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Hope's

Impact on Suffering

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13

Hope's

Impact on

 

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15

Hope's Impact on Choices

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16

THE BENEFITS OF A VIBRANT THEOLOGY OF HOPE

 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY .

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20

 

i

Preface

I had suspected for some years that a paper of this sort should be written. Particularly

when I completed reading the various works of C.S. Lewis that I possessed back in the winter of

2011, I was regularly struck with the thought of how much beneficial insight he had regarding

eternity, and how hopeful his theology was. So this paper is, for me, the opportunity to complete

a project that I've looked forward to for a while. Even so, I did not anticipate just how easy it

would be to review what he wrote and put together this paper.

I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this paper. It has been a delight to read

the many insightful things that Lewis had to say about eternity and about the hope of Christians

for the future. His writing is very consistent with his theory; it is very easy to see how his ideas

impacted the way he wrote. In the course of this reflection, I found myself drawn at multiple

times to worship God, who has given this hope to His people.

Considering the subject matter and all that could be said about it, this paper probably

deserves to be ten times longer than it is. There is no way that I can exhaust in 20 pages the

wealth of what C.S. Lewis wrote with specific focus on what he said about eternity and hope.

Additionally, I was surprised with how little material I could find that had been written on this

topic. As such, the reader will find that this paper is completely first-hand interaction with the

writings of Lewis. In the scope of my admittedly-limited research, I simply could not find

anyone else to provide extra comment to interact with along these lines. Thus, I submit this paper

to any who might read it as an introductory work. Perhaps I, or others, can find time in the future

to develop the strains of thought further.

ii

DEFINING A LEGACY

Whenever examining a figure in church history, it is always helpful to seek to summarize

key points that can be learned from his or her life. When this analysis turns to Clive Staples

Lewis, the common assessment is that his primary contribution is in the realm of apologetics.

Indeed, his defense of Christianity was strong, and much can be learned from insights that he had

concerning the Christian faith and how it correlates to the world we observe. His acumen for

taking abstract concepts and making them easier to understand and for seeing truth clearly in

tough issues has been duly noted. However, there is another aspect of his theology that has often

been overlooked and is so pervasive for Lewis that it appears even in his apologetics; namely,

Lewis's theology of eternal hope. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate from Lewis's writings

that a robust theology of eternal hope is in fact Lewis's most substantial and lasting contribution

to Christian theology, and is one of the key threads that tied all of his thought together.

Some might contend instead for Joy (a technical term for Lewis) as this central thought,

and it certainly is a key factor. The place of Joy will be seen in the first section of this paper,

which provides a brief biography of Lewis from the content of his autobiography Surprised by

Joy, as well as his fictional novel Pilgrim's Regress (based generally on his own life). The second

section will set forth Lewis's theology of eternal hope from several of his writings to gain an

overall understanding of what he meant. The third section will again look at many of his writings

to show how this theology impacted many realms of life in his thought. Finally, the conclusion

will seek to summarize these gleanings for the purpose of learning from Lewis and tracing out

ways in which his theology of eternal hope can impact the lives of Christians today.

1

2

A LIFE OVERCOME BY JOY 1

C.S. Lewis was born in 1898, the youngest of two children (both boys) born to parents

who were both “bookish,” but shared contrasting temperaments (his father more emotional and

his mother more “tranquil”) that led him to distrust emotion from an early age (SJ 3-4). His

imagination manifested itself while he was young, as he and his brother would often draw

pictures and create worlds (SJ 6). His early aesthetic experiences (including these imagined

worlds) were of a “romantic” nature, rather than being based on formal beauty, and they were

rare. One key example was a time when his brother made a miniature “forest” out of moss, twigs,

and flowers on top of the lid to a biscuit tin, which was Lewis's first awareness of “beauty,” such

that it permanently impacted his imagination of Paradise (SJ 7). Regarding religion, there was

some influence in his early life, but it did not really affect him directly (SJ 7). Though these

years of “childhood” contained more of a settled happiness than later years of “boyhood,” Lewis

did not recall them with as much nostalgia as the later years, saying, “It is not settled happiness

but momentary joy that glorifies the past” (SJ 8).

In his seventh year, his family moved to a new house, which came to be a defining

characteristic of his childhood, for this house had distinct characteristics that shaped him, one of

which was “endless books” that he was free to read to his heart's delight (SJ 10). His brother was

sent off to boarding school and his life became increasingly one of solitude to read and write,

solitude that was readily available in the large house and its grounds. He used one of the attics as

his “study” and wrote his first stories (mostly of “Animal-Land”) there, including historical

back-stories and illustrations, even including maps (SJ 11-13). During this time as he was living

“almost entirely” in imagination (SJ 15), three events proved particularly significant.

3

The first of these events was a specific time when he remembered the event of his brother

bringing the toy garden into the room, and it filled him with pangs of Joy, a glimpse of pure

desire. The second “event” that brought this Joy was the reading of Beatrix Potter's Squirrel

Nutkin, which captured his attention and brought out similar pangs of desire. The third

occurrence was when he was reading poetry and came across a particularly touching line that

carried his imagination away to desires beyond the reading (SJ 16-17). Lewis saw the main story

of his life as being about the shared experience of these three occurrences. He described the

common quality of the three as being, “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than

any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply

distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure” (SJ 17-18).

After this time, things changed dramatically for Lewis. His mother died, which took away

his sense of general stability and peace (SJ 21), and then he started going to boarding school in

1908, which he said was intellectually a waste, but it did prepare him for the Christian life by

teaching him to live with hope, in this case hope of the end of the school year (SJ 22, 34-36). A

few years later, he moved on to an older school (Wyvern), where he “ceased to be a Christian” in

his living as he followed pessimism and misguided religious practice to the indulgence of sexual

appetite and overall paganism (SJ 58-70).

During this time of his boyhood, the Joy he previously experienced had “vanished” from

his life, but it returned all of a sudden when he came into contact with art based on the music of

Wagner, and the memory and renewed experience of Joy filled him with insistent desire that he

would have this Joy yet again (SJ 72-73). This connection to Wagner quickly to listening to

Wagner's music, and then pursuing Norse mythology as a whole, which regularly provided the

pangs of Joy he so desired. This pursuit as a whole produced a direct love of nature that he

4

previously did not have. He became more and more knowledgeable of Norse myth, and he

suggested perhaps this “worship” was meant to prepare him for his later return to Christianity

and real faith. At this point, Lewis's life became divided between his internal life of pursuing Joy

and his external life of dealing with the world. The two often were disconnected, but this tension

came to define him (SJ 76-78). Once again, Joy is the theme of his story.

As the years passed, he became an intellectual “prig” (SJ 100) who came to be angry at

God for not existing (SJ 115). And though he came to experience “as much happiness as is ever

to be reached on earth” (SJ 147), he also discovered that this happiness, this Joy, was changing

and wasn't the same anymore (SJ 165). As a result, he was determined to recover the old

feelings, and he did this in a way that he could later see as encompassing two key errors. First of

all, he was seeking the thrill itself, rather than the object of pursuit that created the thrill. Second,

he was trying to produce this state of mind (the thrill) on his own, as if he could just create it on-

demand (SJ 166-168). Through this time, he came to recognize clearly that the desire that created

this Joy was not fulfilled by usual pleasures like sex or magic or other things (SJ 168-170, 177).

There eventually came a day when he picked up a book by George MacDonald, the

reading of which brought him to a fresh experience of Joy unlike those in the past: “Up till now

each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert

But now I saw the

bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all

common things and yet itself unchanged” (SJ 179, 181). This was the start of his interaction with

Christians, which was later followed by reading G.K. Chesterton, and by a relationship with a

fellow solider, Johnson, who was a strong Christian and showed Lewis the value of virtues (SJ

190-192). At the same time, other friends of his began to challenge points of his thinking and he

came to accept the Absolute as a self-aware reality, though not yet as God (SJ 199-210).

5

Lewis soon came to another realization that he refers to as “the ludicrous contradiction

between my theory of life and my experience as a reader” (SJ 213): all of the writers that he

found sensible possessed the same regrettable quality – their Christianity. He attempted to

explain away this fact at the time, 2 but this effort would not be able to last long (SJ 212-216).

While reading the Hippolytus of Euripedes, Lewis was overcome, his heart “at once broken and

exalted as it had never been since the old days at Bookham” (SJ 217).

The longing of Joy was back and he would never leave it again. A new philosophy of

enjoyment was presented to him and it re-oriented his thinking such that he realized the

foolishness of his previous pursuit of Joy for its own end (SJ 217-220). “Joy itself, considered

simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of

which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body

at all” (SJ 220). He had come to recognize that what he really wanted was the object that his

desire of Joy had been seeking all along. As this conclusion came to impact his philosophical

thought and worldview, he came to a conversion “to Theism, pure and simple.” He did not yet

recognize any connection between God and Joy, or hold a belief in the future life (SJ 220-230).

This status did not last. After a few developments, Lewis came to recognize that Jesus

Christ is the Son of God. He recognized the fulfillment of Joy in God Himself (SJ 230-238). The

subject of Joy “lost nearly all interest” after he became a Christian, because he recognized that

the importance was not found in Joy, but in Joy's object (SJ 238). When Lewis wrote Pilgrim's

Regress, he included there this pursuit of Joy and eventual recognition of Joy's proper place. The

main character, John, has an early experience of “a sweetness and a pang so piercing that he

instantly forgot” other things (PR 8). The rest of the story follows John's rational pursuit of this

6

experience, this pang, through many different philosophies and methods, until John is eventually

converted to Christianity. Lewis reflects on this in the afterword to the book, and describes again

the process in his past of testing all possible sources of this Joy and finding them wanting, then

discovering that there is One who is the object of Joy who is not yet fully given, but will be (PR

202-205). So this is the centrality of Joy in Lewis's life as a motivator, but not the goal. Keeping

this in mind, Lewis's theology of eternal hope easily finds its place.

DEFINING ETERNAL HOPE

There are many reasons why the modern Christian and even the modern theologian may hesitate to give to the doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming that emphasis which was usually laid on it by our ancestors. Yet it seems to me impossible to retain in any recognisable 3 form our belief in the Divinity of Christ and the truth of the Christian revelation while abandoning, or even persistently neglecting, the promised, and threatened, Return. - C.S. Lewis 4

Especially when considering quotes like the above, it seems impossible to overstate the

importance of eternity in Lewis's thinking. His core theology of hope receives its most direct

treatment in the chapter called “Hope” in Mere Christianity. As a brief summary (to be treated

again later) of the importance and effect of hope, he said, “Hope is one of the Theological

virtues

the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most

of the next.” 5 Lewis went on to discuss the fact that many seem not to want 'Heaven' at all;

however, he believed that all people possessed an inner longing that could not be fulfilled in this

world: “The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign

country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel,

no learning, can really satisfy.” 6 He then stated three ways to react to this unfulfilled longing.

3 In order to avoid greatly distracting from Lewis's language, various features and spellings of British English will be preserved in their original form with the note [sic].

4 C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night: And Other Essays, Kindle Edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), Kindle Locations 925-928.

5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 134.

7

The first way is “the fool's way,” which is to blame the objects in which the fulfillment is

sought. Endless options are tried to see which one will be just right to complete the longing,

which results in the person being always disappointed. 7 The second way is that of the

“disillusioned sensible man” who quickly concludes that the whole pursuit is a pointless

delusion, and abandons it altogether. He learns to expect less of life and settles in well to the life

he has. 8 The third way is the way of the Christian, which is Lewis's own perspective: “Creatures

are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists

if

I find in myself a desire

which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made

for another world.” 9 This, in its simplest form, is a statement of Lewis's theology of hope. The

hope that he rejoiced in is the hope that all human experience will find its completion in eternity,

including all that is implied there regarding knowing and experiencing God, being in 'Heaven,'

judgment and reward, the resurrected body, and the nature of life itself.

In speaking of eternity, Lewis was not talking merely about “the future” in this life. He

delineated this in chapter 15 of The Screwtape Letters, a fictional book of letters written from an

older demon (Screwtape) to provide instruction to a younger demon (Wormwood). The demon,

referring to God as the 'enemy,' says the following about eternity, the present, and the future:

Our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend

chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to that point of time which they call the present … either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure. Our

business is to get them away from the eternal and from the Present

is, of all things, the least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time – for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays … Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the Future. Gratitude looks to

the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead

does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We

the Future

He

7 Ibid., 135-136.

8 Ibid., 136.

8

do … We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the Future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. 10

Later in the book, Lewis says that God has guarded humans “from the danger of feeling at home

anywhere else” than His eternal world, and speaks of the “inveterate” appetite that humans have

for Heaven. 11 Thus, for Lewis, eternity is meant ultimately to fulfill longing, but also impact the

present and kill false hopes of the merely temporal future.

Lewis also was not talking about the value or 'hope' of mere immortality. He praised the

nature of God's progressive revelation, training men to love Him for Himself before later

revealing the realities of immortality and eternity. Lewis believed that a religion that started with

the focus on immortality was doomed, because immortality would serve as a bribe to men to

fulfill their selfishness. He said that the essence of religion is “the thirst for an end higher than

natural ends; the finite self's desire for, and and acquiescence in, and self-rejection in favor of, an

object wholly good and wholly good for it.” 12 The point is God Himself – knowing Him and

finding all joy fulfilled by Him. Eternal life is given, as it were, as a reinforcement of this point.

It is the unending gift of a good God who gives us Himself forever.

In Lewis's theology, eternity contains the realm of what is truly real; this life has only the

shadows that point forward. One way this is seen is in his perspective of the miracles and life of

Jesus, which were “the firstfruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on.” A man

should speak of Christ's resurrection not merely as a fact, but as a direct and emotive symbol of

hope, because he knows what is coming. The Son of Man is calling men out of the 'cosmic

winter' through the spring and into the 'high midsummer pomps.' 13

10 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1980), 67-70.

11 Ibid., 132-133.

12 C.S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970), 88.

9

This realness is also seen (and most prominently seen) in the novels Lewis wrote. Not

only miracles, but all of creation is a precursor, a foreshadowing of the reality to come. In The

Silver Chair, in the Narnia Series, Lewis pictured Caspian (who had died in Narnia) as having a

new body that was no longer fit for Narnia because it was now remade for the reality of Aslan's

country. 14 The Great Divorce (a separate work about Heaven) picks up on similar concepts

during its extended and imaginative look at Heaven. Here Lewis pictures a Heaven that is so

much more real that a flower is hard like diamond and a leaf is as heavy as a sack of coal.

Earthly visitors look like ghosts, because the substance of Heaven is “so much solider than things

in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.” 15 Everything in Heaven is ageless and full

of life, 16 and “Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken

will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” 17

The heights of imaginative exploration are reached in the Narnia series's The Last Battle,

when Aslan comes to bring an end to Narnia and take his followers into eternity in Aslan's

country. Before this occurrence, the character Jill suggests that it would be wonderful if Narnia

continued forever. The response is that “all worlds draw to an end, except Aslan's own country.” 18

In Aslan's country, his followers are treated to food beyond compare: “If you had once eaten that

fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it.” 19 The end of Narnia

does come shortly after this, and the reader is caught up in the strains of “further up and further

in” as Aslan's followers continually follow him further and deeper into his land, a land which

bears remarkable similarity to the Narnia that they left behind, but which is “deeper” and more

14 C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperTrophy, 1981), 253-254.

15 C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: HarperOne, 1973), 21.

16 Ibid., 24.

17 Ibid., 70-71.

18 C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: HarperTrophy, 1984), 110-111.

10

meaningful. 20 In fact, what they see is the real Narnia, for the Narnia they left behind was just a

shadow, as all of the temporary lands are merely shadows of real places that exist in Aslan's

country. Aslan's real world preserves all that was important in the shadowlands and the

experience is like waking up from a dream. It is “home” at last! 21 The process of going further up

and further in continues, faster and faster, and at last they come to the gates through which all

their friends, and Aslan himself, are waiting to welcome them. Aslan summarizes the situation

when he says, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the

morning.” 22 They have moved from this life, which is only the cover page, on into “the Great

Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better

than the one before.” 23

This, then, is the hope that C.S. Lewis envisions in his theology of eternity. The promise

of eternal bliss with God is a joy worthy grasping at all moments that impacts all of life. Having

summarized his theology all-too-briefly, it now remains to observe just how this joy-fulfilling

hope impacts life as a whole for Lewis.

LIFE-ALTERING HOPE

Hope's Impact on Joy

Perhaps the most easily-seen impact of eternal hope is upon the presence and pursuit of

Joy. Lewis's conclusion, that Joy is ultimately fulfilled only by eternity and God Himself, has

already been noted. The impact of this theology for daily life follows clearly from the claim. In

an essay called “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis said the following about man's desires for joy:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion

20 Ibid., 194-213.

21 Ibid., 211-213.

22 Ibid., 228.

11

has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. 24

For Lewis, there was no question whether joy should be pursued: it should. The question is not

“if” but “how and where” it should be pursued. Lewis recognized that there were many false

sources of joy, so the practical outflow of this connection between hope and joy was to pursue

the joy in the right object, namely God Himself and His Heaven. “If a transtemporal, transfinite

good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree

fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.” 25

Lest this perspective seem a killjoy against any other pleasures, Lewis stated clearly that

other joys were good; however, they had definite limits:

The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. 26

The recognition that eternal hope is the fulfillment of joy impacts present life by altering one's

gaze to only those things that can truly satisfy. And a man will not lose his pleasures by

abandoning earth for Heaven: “The kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most

depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in 'the High Countries.' 27

24 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 26.

25 Ibid., 29.

26 Ibid., 30-31.

12

Lewis protrayed this concept in The Great Divorce with a man who had a dragon of lust that,

once it was killed in Heaven, became instead a glorious stallion. 28

Hope's Impact on Love

Eternal hope also impacts Lewis's theology of love. In The Four Loves, Lewis provided

his most extended treatment of the topic, dealing with 'affection,' 'friendship,' 'eros,' and 'charity.'

Before getting into each of these, he dealt with what he called “Need-loves,” which are

essentially the result in our desires of a genuine need that we have, whether it be a need for food

or companionship, or anything else. The love is brought about because of the need. And not all

Need-love is a bad thing, for God specifically addresses our Need-love and invites us to come to

Him for what we need. 29 Indeed, compared to other Need-loves, “our Need-love for God is in a

different position because our need of Him can never end either in this world or in any other.” 30

Friendship also will be fulfilled, not eliminated, in eternity. Friendship increases our love for

each other and for God and will do so even in Heaven, “for every soul, seeing Him in her own

way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.” 31

After discussing the 'natural loves' (affection, friendship, and eros), Lewis concluded that,

“The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as 'decency

and common sense,' but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one

particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.” 32

The natural loves cannot maintain themselves, and certainly cannot take the place of God. 33 They

must be converted to charity, to Christ-like love, because “natural loves can hope for eternity

28 Ibid., 106-114.

29 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988), 4.

30 Ibid., 15.

31 Ibid., 62.

32 Ibid., 116.

33 Ibid., 118.

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only in so far as they have allowed themselves to be taken into the eternity of Charity

the only

eternal element is the transforming presence of Love Himself.” 34 Thus, the completion of all

human love is the work of Christ to work out His own love in and through His people.

The object of our love is also changed in light of eternity. All of our love in this life is

meant to point us beyond to the love of God Himself, who is the truest object for such affection.

It is only be being like God that our human beloveds can excite our love, for they are the portrait

of which He is the Original; they are the rivulets for which He is the fountain; they are lovable

creatures, but he is Love Himself. 35 Thus the hope of eternity changes the focus once more; love

is focused ultimately on God instead of on people, to find it's everlasting completion in Him.

Hope's Impact on Suffering

Lewis believed that eternal hope has a very direct impact in the midst of suffering:

“Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of

earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian

one.” 36 There is a “secret thread,” a “secret attraction” in the things that each person enjoys, and

“all the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalising

glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear.” 37 It

is in Heaven where this will be fulfilled, with each place in Heaven made specifically for each

unique person. 38

Lewis believed that God uses suffering in this world to keep us close to Him. “The

security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our

return to God

Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not

34 Ibid., 136-137.

35 Ibid., 139.

36 C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 1996), 148.

37 Ibid., 150-151.

38 Ibid., 151-152.

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encourage us to mistake them for home.” 39 The Christian's final home is Heaven, where security

will be forever found in the presence of God. Until that future day comes, suffering serves to

remind men that all is not yet well and a greater hope is coming.

How does this function of suffering work and how must it be dealt with? Lewis provided

an example scenario. Suppose all seems well and he is enjoying life with his friends in a godless

condition, forgetting the greater reality. Suddenly a pain or a trial comes in and destroys this

illusion that all is well. The experience can be overwhelming as all that seemed right can

suddenly appear broken, but then “bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I

should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my

heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ.” 40 Years later,

Lewis experienced perhaps the most difficult such trial he had ever faced when his wife died. In

a book called A Grief Observed, Lewis's journals during that time are recorded. They start off

despondent, hopeless, and even angry at God, but eventually the emotional swells calm as Lewis

continued to cling to God. Lewis reminded himself that his own conceptions of God need

correcting at times; that God was to be desired for His own sake, rather than for the sake of

seeing his beloved again. He reminded himself that the real glory of Heaven is God. 41

Suffering and hope are necessarily interwoven until eternity comes, for there will always

be a need on this earth for reminders of what truly matters. And in the face of any suffering, the

final hope is not that the suffering itself will cease, but that Heaven is coming where all desires

will be finally met. On that Great Day, Jesus will fulfill all dreams and remove all sorrows. Thus,

eternal hope is both the goal and solution to suffering, as well as the key method for dealing with

suffering while it lasts.

39 Ibid., 116.

40 Ibid., 107.

41 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperOne, 1994), 66-68.

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Hope's Impact on Anthropology

One of the most substantial impacts of Lewis's theology of eternal hope concerns how

believers see other people. His thoughts on this topic must be quoted at length:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden or my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and godesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. 42

It would seem that not much more needs to be said to summarize this. Eternity impacts the nature

of anthropology – man is an eternal being of either horror or beauty. Eternity impacts evangelism

– it is not mere mortals who are being talked to, and the consequences are eternal. Eternity

impacts daily life on this earth to transform all activities into intentional interactions.

In addition, the resurrection of Jesus itself carries a vital impact on the perspective of the

human body, on life, and on hope for the future. Lewis contended that “the Resurrection was not

regarding simply or chiefly as evidence for the immortality of the soul

Immortality simply as

immortality is irrelevant to the Christian claim

A

wholly new mode of being has arisen in the

universe.” 43 Lewis held that Jesus is the founder of the New Nature, which results in great hope

for the future when men clothed in spiritual bodies will join Jesus, who has kept His body also. 44

42 Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 45-46.

43 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 236-241.

44 Ibid., 244-266.

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Hope's Impact on Choices

As a final foray, a few words may be said about the impact for Lewis of eternal hope on

the choices that are made by men in daily life, and specifically those geared towards doing

“good” to the fellow-man. He asserts that “it is quite impossible that those who know this truth

[Christianity] and those who don't should be equally well equipped for leading a good life.” He

then makes a comparison to attempts to help a starving man. Someone without knowledge of

medical sciences pertinent to the situation might give the starving man a large meal and thereby

kill him. Similarly, the Christian and non-Christian attempts to do good in the world around them

are not equal. The materialist holds an evolutionary view of man that sees civilization as

transcending the men that make it up, and thus might make choices that favor “society” without

regard for some individuals who are hurt. By contrast, the Christian believes that all men are

eternal and will outlast all earthly civilization. Therefore, the Christian will seek to do things that

promote each man's eternal good. 45 “The idea of reaching 'a good life' without Christ is based on

a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up 'a good life' as our final goal,

we have missed the very point of our existence.” 46

In this connection, the method can be seen by which Lewis thought that Christians live

better in this world than those who do not share this eternal hope:

Because our Lord is risen, we know that on one level it is an enemy already

disarmed; but because we know that the natural level also is God's creation we

cannot cease to fight against the death which mars it

else more than this world we love this world better than those who know no

other. 47

because we love something

Eternity impacts choices in the present life because it is the Savior's world that needs help, and

every moment contains the opportunity to impact eternity.

45 Lewis, The Grand Miracle, 81-82.

46 Ibid., 85.

47 Ibid., 106.

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THE BENEFITS OF A VIBRANT THEOLOGY OF HOPE

In reflecting on this theology, the only appropriate response would seem to be an echo of

Revelation 22:20, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” 48 Lewis's expression of hope in the promises God

has given for eternity is refreshing, delightful, enlivening, and, indeed, intoxicating at times.

Reading the narratives that Lewis wrote is itself a practice of the sort of joyful longing that he

wrote about. There is a real day coming when Jesus will return and set all things right; a day

when reality will be completely seen, when what is currently hidden will be made visible and the

shadows will flee. This message should be heralded and proclaimed!

Perhaps part of what is so attractive and arresting about this theology is the fact that it is

so unabashedly positive. The gospel can be stated both negatively (Jesus saved you from Hell)

and positively (Jesus saved you to be with Him forever), and Lewis found a beautiful way of

expressing the positive statement. Jesus is calling people to eternal joy. He is calling them to

pursue pleasure, but to pursue it where it can really be fulfilled: in Him. It is this same message

of hope and fulfilled joy that can be offered to the world today.

As a brief aside, it is worth noting that at this point of Lewis's theology, there seem to be

substantial connections forward in Christian history, specifically to John Piper. Piper's theology

of “Christian hedonism,” the focus on “desiring God,” is certainly aided by Lewis's eternal hope.

Some of the same quotes referenced in this paper from Mere Christianity or The Weight of Glory

can be found in Piper's writings as he urges his readers to seek their pleasure in God. Piper seems

to find Lewis's writing to be a perfect complement to the emphasis of his own ministry.

This theology of hope needs to be taught and reinforced regularly in Christian circles.

There is often much emphasis placed on the cross and all that Jesus did to provide payment for

48 Bible references are to the English Standard Version, unless stated otherwise.

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sin so that guilty men could be set free, and this is appropriate. However, the message is entirely

incomplete if the glories of eternity are not proclaimed just as strongly. For what did Jesus

ultimately save men for if it is not for eternity and all that it contains – eternal life with God? The

present days are existing between two points in time: Jesus life and ministry on earth on the one

hand, and His coming return and the associated events on the other hand. The Christian faith

looks back and it looks forward. Thus, the amount of emphasis that Lewis places on eternity

seems right because it is biblical. Romans 8 is filled with this perspective. Paul promotes the fact

that men will be raised in like manner to Jesus resurrection in verse 11. He asserts in verses 18-

25 that present suffering is not to be compared with the glory to come, when even creation will

be set free from the curse. And in verses 29-30, he proclaims the whole process of salvation,

from foreknowledge to glorification.

It is also worth noting that when Romans 6:23 speaks of the contrast to “death” as the

wages of sin, it speaks of a free gift from God through Christ, and this gift is not “forgiveness of

sins,” but “eternal life.” In Romans 13:11, Paul seeks to motivate his readers by reminding them

that salvation is drawing ever-nearer. The focus of their action in the present is grounded in the

hope of eternity. Peter speaks in a similar vein in both 1 st and 2 nd Peter. 1 Peter 1:5 reminds the

readers that they are those who “by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation

ready to be revealed in the last time.” All of 2 Peter chapter 3 is connected, either directly or

indirectly, to the question and reality of Jesus future return. Peter reassures the church that Jesus

is indeed coming, even though He seems to delay.

The most extended biblical treatment of eternity is the book of Revelation. Throughout

the book, eternity is consistently set forth as the grounds for hope. The seven letters to the

churches look back to Jesus first coming, and look forward to His second. Similarly, the entire

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story conveyed in Revelation is one of the future, presenting hope for martyrs, warnings for the

complacent, and comfort and strength for the weary. Revelation provides reminders (similar to

Lewis) that every person is either for Jesus or against Him; there is no neutral ground. Then

chapters 21-22 of Revelation describe in grand terms the fact of eternity and all of the joys that

will be a part of the great City of God.

One final point that should be made in this conclusion concerns the nature of some of

Lewis's claims; namely, that some of the claims (specifically in the fiction novels) are of a very

speculative nature. Lewis himself did not want this to create undue cause for concern or division:

“The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.” 49 Here

again is the impact of the imagination. Lewis appears to have speculated and imagined in such a

way that was truly possible, with the emotions caught up in the joy of what has been promised.

However, such speculation was not (and he was not claiming it to be) direct biblical truth. So

even as Lewis's own eternal hope is dissected, care must be taken to differentiate between what

is actually true and what is merely speculative. It is no use holding dogmatically to speculative

understandings of things.

In closing, it is best to be reminded once more of what has been discussed. All who are

believers in Christ are not just saved from sin, but they are given eternal life. Jesus' followers

have the opportunity to enjoy Him forever instead of wasting their lives on nothing. When that

Great Day comes, all tears and pain will be wiped away, because God will have made His

permanent home among men. Yes, please do come quickly, Lord Jesus!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988.

–––. The Grand Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books, 1970.

–––. The Great Divorce. New York: HarperOne, 1973.

–––. A Grief Observed. New York: HarperOne, 1994.

–––. The Last Battle. New York: HarperTrophy, 1984.

–––. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

–––. Miracles. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

–––. The Pilgrim's Regress. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

–––. The Problem of Pain. New York: HarperOne, 1996.

–––. The Screwtape Letters. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1980.

–––. The Silver Chair. New York: HarperTrophy, 1981.

–––. Suprised by Joy. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1955.

–––. The Weight of Glory. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.

–––. The World's Last Night: And Other Essays. Kindle Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Harcourt, 2002.

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