Some Theological Themes Common to C.S. Lewis and John Wesley

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Although they lived two centuries apart, C. S. Lewis and John Wesley had much in common.  Both were Anglicans associated with Oxford University, but more importantly, both were Evangelicals who took the Christian faith seriously and used similar metaphors to describe faith.  For both of them, the things of God, although not visible to the natural eye, could nevertheless be seen with the eyes of faith.

In Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis vividly contrasts Psyche’s ability to discern the things of God with her half-sister Orual’s inability to admit, even to herself, the existence of the invisible realm.  In a similar manner, John Wesley, in his sermons 19 and 45 makes reference to spiritual senses which enable the Christian believer to perceive the realms of God which remain undetected by those who have not yet been born again of the Spirit of God.

While Till We Have Faces is the retelling of a Pagan Myth, it is nevertheless possible to identify a number of Christian images in this masterpiece by C. S. Lewis, who was, after all, a Christian apologist.  In fact, Lewis states that the “central alteration” in his own version of the myth “consists in making Psyche’s palace invisible to normal, mortal eyes.” It is this very palace, redolent of heavenly mysteries, which Orual is unable to see until the very end of her life.

Orual’s transformation from selfishness to selflessness was brought about through the sufferings that she experienced throughout her life, culminating in these words: “Each breath I drew let into me new terror, joy, overpowering sweetness.  I was pierced through and through with the arrows of it.  I was being unmade.  I was no one.” This transformation was both initiated and finalized through encounters with the divine, and in the end made possible her ability to discern spiritual realities, represented in the story by the palace inhabited by her half-sister, Psyche, who told her, at last, “did I not tell you, Maia, that a day was coming when you and I would meet in my house and no cloud between us?”

At the beginning of her spiritual journey, Orual, whom Psyche called Maia, was not equipped to be able to discern the palace inhabited by Psyche.  Because of this, Maia was convinced that Psyche was deluded, and this created a terrible barrier, or “cloud,” in their relationship.

According to scripture, “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” God has in store for us a realm of paradise far greater than anything that can be imagined.  This is one of the great truths of the Christian faith that C. S. Lewis illustrates for us in Till We Have Faces.  God does grant us glimpses of the glory to come, just as Psyche, a central character is this work, often imagined that she would one day be united to divinity and live in a resplendent gold and amber house on the Mountain outside of Glome. Yet, when she attained to the reality, it went far beyond anything that she could possibly have imagined.

The fact that she was married to and united with divinity in this context drives home to us the reality that, for the Christian, the bliss of the paradise to come is presented to us in Scripture as a marriage to and union with Christ. C. S. Lewis was not ignorant of this Biblical image, and made full use of it in his retelling of a well known Pagan myth, transforming it into a brilliant work of Christian literature.  “Psyche, the bride of god,” is, in fact, representative of the Christian as the bride of Christ.