Book: Martindale, Wayne. Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell. Crossway, 2005.
Point: C. S. Lewis explains heaven and hell in a unique and enlightening way throughout his fictional and non-fiction works.
Path: The author divides his book into five parts. He begins by presenting and refuting common misconceptions about heaven through Lewis’ non-fiction, then part two refutes the same misconceptions with his fiction. Part three and four are the same style of treatment on hell. His final part deals briefly with Purgatory.
This is not a mere annotated bibliography of Lewis’ works, but rather a synopsis and explanation of Lewis’ views on the topic from all his works.
Sources: Martindale is obviously very well versed in the works of Lewis through both a reading of the primary sources and also secondary sources. He references articles, biographies, and interviews on C. S. Lewis.
Agreement: I appreciate the book because it took a very large theme in the writings of Lewis and brought it down to one place. As I have read through many of his works I was at times confused about his true thoughts on heaven and hell. This work cleared the room of misconceptions for me.
I really appreciated reading all the quotes of Lewis. Normally I find it frustrating to read large chunks of quoted material, but the author pieced his chapters together using both quotations, inferences, and his own logic to make it quite readable and edifying.
Disagreement: At times I felt as though Martindale was treating Lewis as incapable of error. Lewis contradicted himself, held errant views, and sometimes changed midstream. All human authors do. It seemed as though Martindale’s treatment of Lewis and Universalism/Second Chances was like that.
When I finally got to the section on Purgatory I was relieved to find that the author let him stand – as wrong as he was.
Personal App: Can I explain heaven and hell has well as Lewis? Obviously not! For that reason I will continue to read him and learn from his metaphors, illustrations, fiction, and logic.
Favorite Quote: A summary:
“Finally, it might be useful to summarize here at the outset the essence of Lewis’s thought on Heaven and Hell: Heaven is being in the presence of God and enjoying all good things that flow from his character and creativity. Heaven is utter reality; Hell is nearly nothing. Although Heaven is a definite place, it is more relationship than place (not unlike the experience we have in our homes). All our desires are, at bottom, for Heaven. Heaven is the fulfillment of human potential; Hell is the drying up of human potential. We choose Heaven or Hell, daily becoming someone more suited for Heaven or someone who wouldn’t like the place even if it were offered. Hell is receiving our just desert; Heaven is all undeserved gift.”
Some thoughts after meditating on this book:
If you were to take a blind, shriveled soul from the domain of darkness and expose him to the kingdom of light without changing his very nature, it would be a literal hell.
One of God’s gracious gifts to us in this life is to withhold his full presence. His greatest in eternity will be to reveal it.
Stars: 4 out of 5
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.
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