First off, I cannot take complete credit for this post. A few weeks ago there was a discussion about Clives Staples Lewis on the anniversary of his publishing Mere Christianity on Facebook. A commentor on a Facebook friend’s thread suggested that C.S. Lewis‘s Fourth Book in Mere Christianity is an engagement with Eastern Orthodoxy, without any Greek Fathers or Saints being named. I asked if there was any research done on the topic, and to his knowledge, there hadn’t. After reading Book Four again, I have to say I agree with this particular commentor, and not only that I would like to contend that the trend of Evangelicals who “convert” to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism may be indirectly related to Evangelical Christians’ admiration for Lewis’ writings. I have discussed this topic somewhat before, see “Why Eastern Orthodoxy Can’t Talk To Evangelicals (linked). I think the question of C.S. Lewis is especially pertinent in light of Jason Stellman’s departure from the Presbyterian Churches of America, who interacted withLewis’s work a few times on his blog.
Now, to flesh out instances that C.S. Lewis argues in favor of EO teachings with out naming them EO as such. From Book 4, “Making And Begetting,”: “Now the point in Christianity which gives us the greatest shock is the statement that by attaching ourselves to Christ, we can ‘become Sons of God.” Lewis goes on to explain, in one sense, all of members of humanity are sons and daughters of God because we have our being in God the Creator, but this life in God is Bios, that living creatures have, the kind that decays. The Spiritual life that God gives through the Son, Christ Jesus, is ZOE, eternal spiritual life, where the human person is invited to partake in the Greatness of the Triune God.
Lewis goes on to expand on this idea of participation in “The Three-Personal God”: “It is only the Christians who have any idea how human souls can be taken into the life of God, and yet remain themselves–in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before.” In the Bios or natural, we are bundles of self-centered fears, greeds, hopes, self-conceit, and jealousies (“Let’s Pretend”) but in Christ, (according to “Counting The Cost”) God “said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him,–for we can prevent Him, if we choose–He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom, and love as we cannot imagine [.]”
A couple of things. The Eastern Fathers would consistently make comments such as the latter quote; Athanasius and Clement of Alexandria would say in their work, “God became man so that man could become god” (see On The Incarnation for AoA, and Sermon to the Greeks for CoA). Another part of the Eastern Orthodox teaching of theosis is the divinization of creation, that is the process of the Nature becoming right since salvation has a cosmic element. One can potentially see this imagery in Lewis’ the Chronicles of Narnia (specifically, The Lion, The Witch And Wardrobe as well as Prince Caspian come to mind). Lastly, unlike Protestants who view marriage as just a contract, marriage is viewed as a sacrament in EO. After having finished the second book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Perelandra, something theologically did not sit right with me, since I was expecting to find more Anglican/Protestant theology. Perhaps that’s because Perelandra as a story could be taken as an EO interpretation of Genesis 1 interspersed with Arthurian legend (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).
“For as the light reached its perfection and settled itself, as it were, like a lord upon his throne or like wine in a bowl, and filled the whole flowery cup of the mountain top, every cranny, with its purity, the holy thing, Paradise itself in its two Persons, Paradise walking hand in hand, its two bodies shining in the light like emeralds yet not themselves too bright to look at, came in sight in the cleft between two peaks, and stood a moment with its male right hand lifted in regal and pontifical benediction, and then walked down and stood on the far side of the water. And the gods kneeled and bowed their huge bodies before the small forms of that young King and Queen”
–C.S. Lewis, Perelandra
Are there any other examples of Eastern Orthodoxy in Lewis’ work?