Content Summary The book, The Great Divorce, was written in 1945 by C. S. Lewis. Lewis wrote the book as a response to William Blake’s book, Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In many ways, it is a refutation of Blake’s book; there is no marriage of heaven and hell. The book begins in a sad, dark, desolate place. The reader is led to believe that this place is hell. The narrator takes the reader throughout the streets of this peculiar place. Eventually, he stumbles upon a bus station, along with many other passengers. There is a long line of people waiting, so he falls in line with the rest of them.
It becomes apparent very quickly that these people are not the friendliest of people. They are annoyed with each other at the slightest disturbance, and some of them even leave the bus station. Without further ado, the bus finally arrives. Lewis describes that the driver is a man who “seemed full of light” (Lewis, 3). The remaining passengers piled on board, waiting for the journey to begin. To their great surprise, the bus did not drive away; it flew away! As they gained altitude, the vastness of the tumultuous land becomes vividly clear.
The land is so enormous that the boundaries cannot even be seen. After a long journey, the bus finally land on top of a cliff and all of the passengers get out. The reader is once again led to believe that this place is heaven. Lewis describes heaven as a wilderness paradise and very Eden-like. Heaven is like nothing else the people have felt before; it felt more real than anything ever before. Everything felt so real, that they themselves felt like ghosts. From this point on in the book, Lewis refers to them as such. Soon some people from heaven start to arrive.
Lewis calls these people spirits. Each spirit pairs up with one of the ghosts and shows them around. The goal of the spirit is to convince the ghost to stay in heaven with them and not return to hell. From this point on, Lewis focuses on the conversations between the spirits and the ghosts. The first conversation that appears in the book is between a spirit who committed murder, repented and gave his life to Jesus, and a ghost who is confused why he is not saved. The ghost says that he had lived a good life and was overall a good person, yet he is not saved while the murderer is.
Right here. Lewis is addressing the ideology that salvation requires no effort. He is stating that salvation only comes through Jesus. The next discussion that is found in the book is between a spirit and a ghost who is an atheist. The ghost does not believe in heaven or hell. The ghost also believes that Jesus was just a philosopher whose teachings never reached its crowning point because He was killed. The ghost is so closed off to listening to anything the spirit has to say, and he only asks questions for the sake of doing so. He does not want to find the truth he claims to seek.
Another conversation, found in chapter seven is between a spirit and a ghost who thinks the leaders of the afterlife are involved in a conspiracy. Although this conversation does not have much significance in the long run of the book, the ghost asks a very intriguing question. Lewis asks, “Why don’t the inhabitants of Heaven attack and destroy Hell once and for all and rescue those who dwell there” (Look up p. #). One of the most significant conversations in the book can be found in chapter nine. In this chapter, Lewis introduces a very inspirational influence in his life, George MacDonald.
MacDonald explains to the narrator that the ghosts have the choice to leave the grey town and stay in Heaven. Lewis explains, “the gray town is Hell only for those who elect to stay there, and for those who leave it, it was never Hell, but Purgatory” (Lewis, 63). This chapter is essentially the one that holds the book together. The main point of this chapter explains why the ghosts are in Hell. Lewis states, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done. All that are in Hell, choose it” (Lewis, 69).
Essentially, he is saying that the reason the ghosts are in Hell is because they are selfish. Another important question that Lewis asks in chapter eleven is, why don’t the people of heaven stage a rescue to free all of the people from hell? Lewis answers that question by saying, “that the only diseases which shall be cured are those which submit to the cure” (Lewis, 125). The final few chapters are filled with many similar conversations between the ghosts and spirits.
Evaluation C. S. Lewis was a British writer who lived during the early 20th century. Lewis was originally an atheist who set out disprove Christianity. He quickly learned that Christianity and the story of Jesus were true, so he became a Christian author in order to spread the gospel of Jesus. Lewis was an extremely influential man; his articles had a massive impact worldwide. As previously stated, The Great Divorce is a tremendous rebuttal of the book, Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Throughout the book, Lewis makes it crystal clear that Heaven and Hell are not one and the same.
Since the book is written in the form of a story, it is ideal for the less educated reader to understand and appreciate. Even though on a fundamental level it is a story, as the book is unwrapped and examined, many theological concepts are found. These abstruse concepts attract and sustain the attention of the well-educated reader. Lewis does a fantastic job at capturing the attention of a wide range of audiences. Another brilliant aspect of the book is Lewis’ word choice and use of imagery. Through entirety of the book, Lewis guides the reader on a journey of the landscape with the use of his words and imagery.
Whether it be in the grey town, the entrance of heaven, or the ever-distant mountains, the reader can almost physically grasp the landscape detailed in the book, thanks to Lewis. One of the negative aspects of the book was the lack of theological originality. Lewis did not present any new theological concepts or even any new opinions on any theological concepts in the book. He only gathered information and put it into story form. Had he added some new ideas, it would have greatly increased the quality of the book. Integration On some levels, certain parts of this book can be used in a local church setting.
One fundamental part is that Heaven and Hell are real places. In today’s society, there is a popular ideology circulating within the church; it is the belief that there is a real, tangible Heaven, but there is no Hell. This idea is completely wrecking the church. If there is no Hell, then what is stopping people from doing whatever they want? There will be no eternal repercussions for their actions on the Earth. However, when people within the church realize that there is a literal Hell, they recognize that there will be eternal consequences for their sinful actions.
Another important theology that can be integrated into the church is why people end up in Hell. Many people throughout history have asked the question, “How could a loving God send someone to Hell? ” Lewis clearly states the answer to this question; he says that the reason people are in Hell is because on a fundamental level they are selfish. God gives free will to all people. He gives people the choice whether to serve Him and follow His will, or to live their lives according to the world and serve themselves.
If someone chooses himself or herself, they are choosing selfishness and they forfeit their eternal glory with God. This concept of being selfish also encompasses the question of why there is pain and suffering in the world. The problems of pain, suffering and eternal death are all due to selfish behavior. The biggest possible integration from this book is the ability to choose to enter Heaven even after death. This would be an absolute game changer to the entire theology of the church if it were true. Theological Analysis
Lewis showed flashes of brilliance in his theology, but he also showed some fatal flaws as well. Lewis is on the right track with his theology when it comes to pain, suffering and why people go to Hell. One of the main reasons why these things happen is selfishness, which is derived from free will. Yet, the real root of these things is pride. Pride is the original sin, and all other sins stem from it. In the world, people think they can do everything on their own, and do not need God. Lewis was correct to say selfishness was one of the causes, but the root cause is pride.
The theology of choosing one’s final resting place after death is very idealistic. However, is it biblical? The answer to that question is an emphatic no! The Bible actually speaks about the other side of the argument, starting with Jesus. If anyone who goes to Hell can later choose to go to Heaven after they have died, why did Jesus have to die for our sins in the first place? His death would be meaningless. This is a dangerous slope for Lewis is crossing. Even though Lewis wrote this book as a story, there are still people who take everything at face value and this could cost them their eternity with Jesus.