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May 13, 2005

Beyond the Shadowlands Part 3: Remythologizing Heaven and Hell

I need to interject a definition here, because without it many people will miss the point, or assume something that is not the case. It concerns the use of the word "myth" and how it's used and misunderstood.

Obviously, a myth is usually regarded as an ancient story that was, at one time, an explanation of things that people saw but couldn't understand or explain, but that we now know are totally untrue. We speak of Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology in this sense. Many people have extended this use of the word to include any religious writings at all.

The term can also be used of any story that helps us to understand a concept that we can otherwise not understand. We accept the truth of what the story is trying to tell us without accepting the idea that the story is a retelling of factual occurrances. Both meanings of the word are used in this book, and it can get confusing unless we are careful to define terms beforehand.

Having discussed various misunderstandings (or myths in the first sense of the word), Martindale turns his focus to the second, and specifically writings by Lewis that try to convey to us what Heaven and Hell are like. Lewis really never claims that his descriptions are totally accurate or true -- he recognizes that we don't know what Heaven and Hell are like until we get there. Martindale emphsthe value of myth in helping us understand things that we really cannot understand, while emphasizing thaat the stories are just that -- stories.

Lewis' works contain a lot of truth concerning Heaven. Martindale goes through the space trilogy, The Great Divorce, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Till We Have Faces, and shows how Lewis describes Heaven in each book. Each book deals with a different aspect of Heaven -- the very concept of Heaven itself, it's inhabitants, the standing of the inhabitants of Earth, the idea of reality now compared to reality in Heaven, our sense of awe and wonder at Heaven, which includes all five senses, and the desire of all Christians to be in Heaven. Lewis also manages to illustrate exactly what the fall cost us in terms of our enjoyment of life on Earth.

Posted by Warren Kelly at May 13, 2005 08:18 AM | TrackBack
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