What I like best about The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis is how he makes my mind imagine that the afterlife will actually be something tangible. While the concepts of heaven and hell are very real to most of us on a theological level, we are typically hard pressed to live with the eternal perspective that we will spend eternity in one of these places. That life on this earth is temporary. That we will not live forever. And thus the things we typically think are most important on this earth are not actually the most important things.
The Great Divorce put landscape and faces to a place we all will spend our eternal days in. Not an imaginary dream. Or a creation of our minds. But an actual tangible, physical country. This tangible reality is something we can use a wake up call to as we fly from one day to the next like there is no end in sight to making money, paying bills, and trying to be momentarily happy.
A caveat as I describe The Great Divorce… Do not read it like it is a book of doctrine or like Lewis is trying to teach us what heaven, hell, and purgatory (a prominent place in his story) are like. He is very clear in the introduction to his book that he is writing a fictional story. We need to read it as such. I think it’s ironic that in the Further Reading section of Rob Bell’s Love Wins book, he writes (for further reading) “On hell, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.” As if we can learn actual biblical and doctrinal truth about hell from this book. That was never Lewis’s intention and thankfully he is very clear about it upfront. It’s irresponsible for Bell to directs us to read it as such. More on my thoughts on what the Bible says about hell will come in a later post. It is a topic I have struggled with and studied deep into the Scriptures on.
The second thing I like about The Great Divorce is how all of the conversations within it really had to do with how we live today. A newly dead person would be in conversation with a person who’d been in heaven for a long time. These conversations were much like the type Christians have with non-Christians in trying to persuade them to put their faith in Jesus and accept his forgiveness into their lives. Except in The Great Divorce, these people are already dead and they are only sniffs away from actually getting to see God face to face! You would think this set of circumstances would make for obvious conversions, but it does not (much like the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31). They make me laugh because most of us know people just like the characters. The stubbornness and selfishness of these characters serve as a sobering reminder to us of how blind we all can be to God’s love and invitation to be in relationship with Him.
Worth Reading: Yes.