In Part I of my series on C.S. Lewis, I looked at his views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general and focused specifically on his religious tolerance. In this post, I will analyze Lewis's views of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer.
In Chapter 2 of C. S. Lewis on Scripture, Michael Christensen writes about Mr. Lewis's beliefs on heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer found in Lewis's book Mere Christianity:
"He [C.S. Lewis] viewed human beings as being on the road of life progressing toward a state of heaven or hell. Each moral choice we make furthers us along the road and slowly changes us into a more heavenly or a hellish creature...It is significant that for Lewis, hell is not a place God sends people who disbelieve the gospel, but a state of mind one chooses to possess and become...Lewis's conviction that Christianity is a process, that people are potential gods or devils who will one day rule in heaven or hell, necessitated for him a belief in purgatory...For Lewis, purgatory is a place of purification of the saints where, at the very gates of heaven, the saved soul "begs to be taken away and cleansed"...Belief in purgatory led Lewis to offer up prayers for the dead...He believed in praying to the saints," (pp. 27-30).
It is important to remember that the Bible tells us that God cannot lie (Num. 23:19). Jesus references heaven (John 14:2-3) and hell (Luke 16:23-24) as actual places; therefore, heaven and hell exist in a physical sense and are not just a state of mind as Lewis supposes. If Jesus lied about heaven and hell, then He is not God; if He is not God, then the sins of the elect are not forgiven and our faith is in vain.
The idea of purgatory is a Roman Catholic construction and has no basis in the Bible. Sanctification is the will of God, (1 Thess. 4:3), and it is part of the salvation process here on earth. Christians are sanctified (made holy, set apart) through the Holy Spirit, (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2). After death, Christians are either with Christ or in hell; there is no in-between place, and there is no second chance.
Using the scriptural references of 1 Tim. 2:1-2 and 2 Sam. 12:21-23, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states that "Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead," (Chap. 22, para. 4). Therefore, Christians should not pray to the dead or to saints, but their prayers to God alone should be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Holy Spirit, and according to God's will.
In analyzing Lewis's views of heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer, I also noticed an endorsement of Arminianism which recognizes man's free will in salvation. Mr. Christensen writes:
"In The Great Divorce Lewis imaginatively portrays his belief in what other Christians might regard as a second chance: "You have been in Hell," a bright Spirit says to a ghost from hell, "though if you don't go back you may call it Purgatory." Those who choose to go back (as most do in the allegory) or to remain within the locked doors of hell (as is more likely the case) God cannot redeem. God wills that none should perish but that all should gain eternal life, yet all will not be saved. In creating beings with freedom, God submits to the possibility of defeat," (p. 28).
Again, you can see this Arminian view (along with Lewis's denial of hell as an actual place) in Book Seven: The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia series (copyright 1979, ISBN 0-06-023493-8). The Dwarfs are in the Kingdom of Aslan, but they refuse to recognize it and still think that they are in the stable. C.S. Lewis writes about Aslan's inability to save the Dwarfs:
"Aslan," said Lucy through her tears, "could you--will you--do something for these poor Dwarfs?""Dearest," said Aslan, "I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do."Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared at the Dwarfs' knees...They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn't taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sorts of things you might find in a stable...But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had...till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot."You see," said Alsan. "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out," (pp. 167-169).
In his Manual of Theology, John Dagg states that "God is able to do whatever he pleases," and "has everything in the universe under his immediate and perfect control. He needs no instruments, no mechanical aid, no series of contrivances; but, at his will the thing is done." God is sovereign and omnipotent; "For with God nothing shall be impossible," (Luke 1:37). Therefore, C.S. Lewis's view of a limited God that will not send anyone to a literal hell is not biblical. His beliefs on heaven, hell, purgatory, and prayer are not part of orthodox Christianity. Therefore, Bible-believing Christians should not read or revere the books of C.S. Lewis. I will continue my review of Lewis's views of the Bible itself and Christianity in general in Part III of this series.
"For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar," (Rom. 3:2-3a).