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

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The Christian images inherent in the story are unmistakable.  To Psyche’s half-sister Orual, none of Psyche’s perceptions of living in a palace united to the divine in heavenly bliss were real, just as it is the case that, according to Scripture, the things of the Spirit are nonsense to the natural man. The invisible realm of the Spirit is not even discernable to those who are not spiritual. There are therefore distinct differences in world view between one who is a Christian believer and one who is not.  These differences tend to cause a lack of trust, resulting in division between those who believe and those who do not.  For this reason, Jesus said that He came not to give peace, but a sword. In like manner, there was such a serious breach between Psyche and Orual that Orual was thinking of putting an end to Psyche’s life.

As is evident in the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, all people, whether Christian or not, experience hints regarding the existence of the Spiritual realm.  So it was that Orual did have hints of the palace which she could not at first see. However, for a long time, she suppressed them. She was well aware that a change in world view would mean that everything in her life would have to be begun over again.  She said to Psyche, “If this is true, I’ve been wrong all my life.  Everything has to be begun over again.  Psyche, is it true?  You’re not playing a game with me?  Show me.” These are precisely the thoughts of those who are confronted with the truth of the Christian Gospel.  If God exists, and if the Christian world view is true, then we are not in control.  This is a very scary thing.  This is why we resist and it is why our minds do not allow us to see the things of the Spirit until we surrender ourselves to God.  If the claims of Christ are true, then major readjustments are necessary.  These readjustments will often involve a complete overhaul, not only an intellectually, but morally as well.

Most people are not willing to undergo such sweeping moral and intellectual transformations without a struggle.  People do not lightly give up the habits and lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.  This was certainly the case for Orual.  Her initial thought was that Psyche was insane.  She wholeheartedly rejected what she considered to be Psyche’s delusion.  She said, “I suppose my first thought must have been, ‘She’s mad.’  Anyway, my whole heart leaped to shut the door against something monstrously amiss-not to be endured.  And to keep it shut.  Perhaps I was fighting not to be mad myself.” When people resist the Christian gospel, it is often a wholehearted resistance.  Much is at stake.  People realize that a complete renovation is necessary if the Christian claims are true.

Fortunately, God intervenes on our behalf to bring about transformations of this kind.  We are not capable of doing such things on our own, and a serious struggle is usually involved.  In fact, C. S. Lewis once wrote that he himself was brought “kicking and struggling” into the kingdom of God. In Till We Have Faces, Psyche recognizes that it is only God who can accomplish this transformation.  She says, “And perhaps, Maia, you too will learn how to see.  I will beg and implore him to make you able.” At first, Orual wants no part of it.  When Psyche says to her, “he will make you able to see,” Orual responds, “I don’t want it.  I hate it.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  Do you understand?” The world hates Christ, because it means a complete change of life to accept Him.  Yet God shows His faithfulness and mercy to Orual despite her resistance.  Her complete honesty before him is the very tool that He uses to bring Orual to the realization that she has been wrong in her complaint against “the gods.”  When she demands an answer, she is met with complete silence, and this is all that is necessary to bring her to the point of realization that her charges were, in fact, nothing more than “poison.”

For John Wesley, also, abandonment of the self is a prerequisite for the ability to see into the invisible realm.  We have seen that a central theme of Till We have Faces is that it is only through such an abandonment that one can find true meaning and, in effect, see the kingdom of God.  When Orual is eventually brought to the end of herself in the last days of her life, she finally finds meaning within the larger context of her relationship to the divine and is able to see that which eluded her throughout most of her life’s journey.