How Reading C. S. Lewis Changed My Mind About Hell

In this blog post by Boze, the author talks about the influence of C.S. Lewis in drawing him out of traditional, conservative Christianity; I had the same experience. He says much of great value.

Sketches By Boze

FrankcoronationI’ve been thinking about the dangerous group I was once a part of and trying to understand how so many innocent Christian people could be tricked into following a predator.

And the truth is, we were pre-disposed to trust him because of the spiritual culture we were raised in.

Growing up, I was taught to make a clear distinction between people of the world and other believers. A Christian was someone who believed in Jesus, prayed, read his Bible, didn’t drink or smoke or sleep around. It was easy to tell when you met a true believer. You could *trust* those people.

But you couldn’t trust unbelievers. They were all depraved and damned and on their way to hell.

And of course, I thought this was all scriptural. Because once I got an idea in my head, I could find it throughout the Bible.

*          *          *

But everything…

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7 Responses to How Reading C. S. Lewis Changed My Mind About Hell

  1. fiddlrts says:

    Very interesting. I only read The Last Battle once as a kid, although I read and re-read the other books multiple times. Probably, I had difficultly with a book that was full of aching sadness and loss, and very little adventure. I’m a generally optimistic person, and I didn’t learn to appreciate bittersweetness in literature until later. (Music is a totally different story. I have loved the unspoken ache of poignancy: minor keys, the augmented second in the harmonic minor scale, even the beauty of despair found in places like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, since I was a child.)

    I was reminded of the incident with the follower of Tash recently through another article I was reading, and then remembered it.

    For me, I would say that my conception of hell was shaken in my teens, when I read The Great Divorce. Up to that point, I didn’t realize just how much of a Universalist Lewis was. As I have grown and questioned many of the “angry God” teachings so endemic to Evangelicalism, I kept returning to that book. What if “hell’ was in fact locked only from the inside? Looking back, my father believed that we would be judged in proportion to the light we were given, so to speak, so I suppose I was already primed for a departure from fundamentalist orthodoxy.

    Lewis really is the gift that keeps on giving. I am still mulling the implications of Til We Have Faces, which I discovered was the favorite book of my late grandmother who died before I was born. Ultimately, perhaps I can only say with Job, “I know my redeemer lives, and in the end he will stand on the earth. Though my flesh be destroyed, yet with my eyes will I see God. How my heart yearns within me.”

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Fiddlrts, Lewis disturbed many of my religious views I inherited from my fundamentalist church tradition, and the story of the disciple of Tash had a major impact on me. The Great Divorce was another one; I think The Great Divorce influences multiple thousands of conservative believers.

      Another area was where he clearly made me re-think teetotalism, and of course there are more. I really must re-read Til We Have Faces; I don’t think I was ready to fully appreciate it when I first read it.

      Thank God for Lewis, even though some of his apologetics now seem inadequate.

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  2. Chas says:

    Tim, the sentence concerning Christians following a predator reminds me of how some people, who claim to be prophets but are not, are able to convince others that the things they say are true. They are then able to mislead others into doing things like building new churches unnecessarily, or even convincing them of their own interpretation of the Bible. These are the ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing, who have ‘climbed in over the wall, instead of entering through the gate.’ They claim authority, but have none. They are able to do this, because believers have allowed their ears to become stopped against what is true, so they are unable to discern the truth when they hear it. We all need to be led by God alone: ‘my sheep know my voice.’

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, it seems that there have always been predators who have taken advantage of people of good faith for their own purposes of greed or power. I think we should be hesitant to get too much involved in those who promote themselves as God’s spokesmen or who benefit personally from their message.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, I’m sorry to say that you are right. I have heard people who are not in the Presence of God claiming to speak on behalf of God, and I have heard people who are in the Presence of God add their own words to the words of God that have been spoken through them, and I have heard people who are in the Presence of God speak in false tongues, although they were also able to speak in true tongues, and I have also heard people not in the Presence of God speak in false tongues. Why did they do so? It must have been because they were trying to build up their self-esteem, or because they were so keen to promote the message of God, but were too impatient, so they said things that they thought God should say. What then ought we to believe? The answer must be to ask God for discernment, so we are able to discern His true words and discard the false.

        Your last phrase raises another question. Should anyone receive payment for doing things for God? If we look at the words attributed to Jesus, the answer appears to be no, but if we look at the words attributed to Paul, the answer seems to be yes, or no.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I am not sure what I think about paid ministers. I don’t think it is a bad idea to help support ministers, but too often it gets out of hand. Some ministers create considerable wealth from their ‘ministry’.

          I can’t see the apostles Paul or John building a following in order to benefit financially. All I know is that I am no longer willing to give a significant portion of my money to build more buildings and increase the church staff. I would rather give that money to organizations who help the poor and needy.

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