ENTRY 1219 | January
Lewis originally titled his novel, The Great Divorce, which
I discussed in some detail last time, "Who Goes Home."
As mentioned before, it's the story of a busload of residents of "the
grey city" who get a daytrip to heaven and an invitation to stay,
only one of whom chooses heaven over the afterlife they've created
for themselves in a dismal place. His original title, though lacking
the literary panache of the one the publisher gave it (an allusion
to poet William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), has
a winsome ambivalence. Heaven is the home God has created for us all,
so that must have been the home Lewis had in mind, but then hell is
the home many prefer, in Lewis's perspective, so undoubtedly he also
had in mind the grey city as the home for the majority who chose to
return to it.
goes home is a question most of us probably consider now and again
as we journey through life and wonder if we're among the heaven bound
or more likely to get our just desserts. Religionistspreachers,
theologians, radio and TV revivalistsvary widely in their opinions
on the matter. Many of the most strongly fundamentalist speakers on
the subject seem almost as stingy as the Jehovah's Witnesses (who,
I gather, limit the population of heaven to 144,000) in their estimation
of how many mansions the Lord is prepared to parcel out in His kingdom
which to us is yet to come.
before but not yet discussed is, are we to think that all or almost
everyone who wants to go "home" nowor latergets
to go, or is it the teaching of the Bible and church that only those
who've been saved in the right way in their mortal lifetimes get in?
Is going home limited to those who spend most of their lives imitating
Christ (don't forget "the thief on the cross" [Luke 23:30-43]
and the parable of the vineyard workers hired late in the day [Matthew
20]). Does it matter whether your Jesus is the one some intricate
theology defines instead of the one you heard about and "accepted"
when you where kneehigh to your mom and dad? I suspect that many believe
that "I used to believe that and have never really denied it,
so I'm getting in." Woe to those who don't keep up their fire
Lewis addressed this in Mere Christianity and says "because
Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children,
many Christians have the idea that, provided you are 'good,' it does
not matter [if you are] a fool. But that is a misunderstanding....
as St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain
children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be
not only 'as harmless as doves,' but also 'as wise as serpents.' He
want's a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple,
single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are;
but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert ...
and in first class fighting trim. ...If you are thinking of becoming
a Christian, I warn you you are embarking on something which is going
to take the whole of you, brains and all." He also adds that
those who want to be Christians find that God is sharpening their
minds, which helps.
evangelicals are probably impatient with me if they have read this
far, because I haven't said "being born again" is all that
matters. But being born againadding the birth of your spirit
to the birth of your physical personis so rudimentary that it's
often misrepresented as all that's required when in fact it's only
the first step of a race which, if you fail to complete, you do not
win. The theologians have been forever debating what constitutes a
"true" second or spiritual birth; some insist that if it
is "true" it can never be lost while others believe otherwise,
but everyone would agree that no one less than divine has any way
of knowing whether anyone else has "truly" been born again,
and if they are still sinning now and anon, they can't "truly"
know themselves whether they're in or not, either. The race goes to
those who finish it, and many never do.
the Calvinist (in whose company I spent most of my adult life) who
says, "once saved always saved" keeps hammering on the theme
that you have to constantly examine your performance to be sure you
are truly in the race. And if the Calvinist finds a dearth of spiritual
fruits, his theological out is, "well, of course in that case
this one was never 'truly' saved." Which leaves him no farther
along than the "Arminian" who says, "it's presumptuous
to say, 'oh yes, I know I'm saved.'" And to them both, we Orthodox
reply, "I have been saved, I am being saved, and, Lord willing,
when I leave this mortal life, I will be saved."
Calvinists, and many other evangelicals, encourage their flocks to
be constantly making their salvation sure by re-examining their souls
and seeing if there's any deception in them. The apostolic churches
also teach that, but add that once you examine them, you should confess
each and every deception, every mis-step, in the hearing of a representative
of the church tasked with hearing confessions, bearing those burdens
to the throne of Grace, and praying for their stumbling sheep still
in the race. After that, avail yourself of the Eucharist, the body
and blood that also "saves" in a way comparable to how St.
Paul said (in 1 Corinthians 9:22 as
recounted here) he saves some. My Orthodox Church, which has always
defined theologians as people who pray and people who pray as theologians,
enjoins us to pray each morning and evening: "...You [Lord] did
become man and deigned to endure crucifixion and death for the salvation
of all who rightly believe in you" (emphasis mine).
you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe
in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be
saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation," Romans 10:9-10.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy