C.S. Lewis on Worlds Within Worlds


Normally I would think of church as a world within a world: a small, social and spiritual niche within the greater, real world. But Lucy Pevensie’s observation in the following excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle suggests something different, and far more powerful.

tumnusAbout half an hour later—or it might have been half a hundred years later, for time there is not like time here—Lucy stood with her dear friend, her oldest Narnian friend, the Faun Tumnus, looking down over the wall of that garden, and seeing all Narnia spread out below. But when you looked down you found that this hill was much higher than you had thought: it sank down with shining cliffs, thousands of feet below them and trees in that lower world looked no bigger than grains of green salt. Then she turned inward again and stood with her back to the wall and looked at the garden.

I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”

Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.”

Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange: she knew them all.

I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see … world within world, Narnia within Narnia …”

Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”

God’s church is like the garden that Lucy and Tumnus viewed; to the outsider, it looks like a small building, regardless how large the physical campus, occupied by a small community of people, regardless how numerous, of people with common faith and interests. The specialized world seems to reside within finite walls, contained within the real world outside.

As with all spiritual truths, however, quite the opposite is true. To the extent that the folks inside those walls have been born into Christ’s eternal life, the world inside those walls is eternal and infinite. Such a thought is absurd to those captive to the natural world, as they can only see the warm bodies occupying the pews, and the petty squabbles that keep their Christian unity in a tenuous state. So outsiders point their bony fingers of condemnation at church life, when life in their world exhibits all the same conflicts.

One humongous difference exists between church conflicts and those in the world outside: Christians can claim 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we do that, with repentance, we may freely go “Further Up, and Further In,” with the eternal life Jesus died to give us.

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