C.S. Lewis on Heaven


C.S. Lewis Daily presented an excerpt from his, The Weight of Glory, which I found a bit of a heavy lift. Nevertheless, I extracted enough of his dazzling meaning to suitably dazzle me.

When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

That greater glory lies solely in the glorified, divine life of God’s personal Word in us, and our lives in him. I can’t, however, see nature as, “only the first sketch” of that greater glory. Rather, I see it as the corrupted sketch of what our perfect Creator called, “very good.” Lewis’ final sentence of that paragraph punctuates it rather well:

Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.

“Fitfully,” above, could very easily be a pun, though I doubt Lewis intended it so. I suspect it means fittingly, though nature indeed behaves fitfully. Now, for the heavy lifting of which I spoke:

And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind and, still more, the body, receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management.

I can only guess what Lewis meant by, “eat of the tree of life,” but as an allusion to the tree in Narnia’s inner garden. I think he’s saying, if we are in Christ, our human spirit gains its life directly from God, while our mortal minds and bodies simply reflect heredity and environment.

Lewis’ statement about the physical pleasures makes a lot of sense; in our present, fallen state, we couldn’t begin to handle the full range of sensual input God created us to enjoy. The unattenuated stimulation would overwhelm our ability to process it.

What would it be to taste at the fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body.

What a beautiful prospect, and as usual for Lewis, beautifully expressed. Our emotions and sensory pleasures have, like nature, become so corrupted that they hardly resemble what God lovingly created for our enjoyment, or what he has in store for those who follow Christ’s way.

The world’s idea of heaven, floating around on cloud-tufts, strumming little harps, certainly explains their lack of interest in being there forever, and ever, and ever …. What a monumental bore! By contrast, Lewis pictured heaven as the fully dimensioned reality of which our temporal world is no more than a monochrome shadow.

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