The Last Battle

It’s not just me, is it?

The Last Battle is meant to be unsettling, but even as a small child the bits the author delights in creeped me out at least as much as the bits he intended to be disturbing.

The book’s a game of two halves. The first shows Narnia winding down, past its best. The second half moves rapidly from a trippy Blakean apocalypse, in which the whole of Narnia is obliterated, to a section set in, essentially, Heaven. All the children from the previous books show up (with one exception). We learn Heaven is a sunny upland where everyone is young again and reunited with old friends and it’s like real life only more real.

It’s that last bit I find particularly troubling.

The Last Battle is rather a sour book, full of a sense of a world gone wrong. CS Lewis is always accused of smuggling his Christian messages into the books, but I don’t think he does. When he has characters looking at a stable in Narnia and saying once upon a time there was a stable in our world that contained something bigger than our whole world, Lewis is not exactly ‘smuggling’. I don’t think he’s pushing a Christian message, I think he takes religion so much as read that he’d have to actively take it out, rather than actively put it in. This is a man who, during a brief period as an atheist, according to Surprised by Joy, ‘… was also very angry at God for not existing. I was equally angry at Him for creating a world’. Even as an atheist, he believed in God.

Lewis has a very fixed idea of how the world ought to be, and firm opinions on why it isn’t that way. He is, to use a piece of literary jargon, a really grumpy reactionary old sod. As Laura Miller recounts in her survey of the Narnia books, The Magician’s Book, when Lewis and Tolkien taught at Oxford, they lobbied to remove every text written in the last hundred years from the syllabus. And he’s never more of a Meldrew than this book, where various types of Narnians moan and whinge about just about everything, fall for fads, completely deny what is plainly in front of their very eyes and are duped by a sharp conman. In a series of books that have been about childhood adventures, this is a book where seaside holidays were in the past, nice houses you remember have been knocked down and they can’t even run the bloody trains properly any more. Suddenly, after six books where epic battles are oddly bloodless and the baddies are typically bumped on the head or sent fleeing, we get a book where virtually every incident involves a serious risk of death, and even before the end, characters have died left, right and centre.

I like that, though. It’s so easy for a running series to fall into a comfort zone of giving people what they want, and not challenging them. We’re at a point now where long-running series have become consumer driven – the people who make TV nervously watch Twitter reaction, as though it’s somehow representative of anything. You’re not allowed to upset the fans, or do anything to the characters the fans won’t like, you can barely get away with introducing new characters into the mix. There’s no better example than the contrast between the end of The Lord of the Rings (book) and The Lord of the Rings (movie). The end of the movie is an interminable parade of people retiring to where they will be happiest. The book is a troubling ‘you can’t go home again’, with the characters all deeply changed and the Shire in ruins. The movie is more pleasing … and far less interesting.

Lewis doesn’t go for the easy ending, or allow Narnia to go out after a comfortable retirement. He goes out of his way to remind us that Narnia used to be much better than it’s ended up. The first half is as dark a reimagining as any eighties revamp of a beloved children’s character. The sense of things falling apart is palpable, and at the end of the book our heroes don’t save Narnia. There is a Last Battle, but the good guys don’t win it, and we see allies hacked down, Jill’s dragged off by her hair by a group of soldiers (the last time we see her alive), and it’s fierce hand-to-hand combat.

And then we go to Heaven.

Like The Invisibles, or many of Philip K Dick’s books, like many of the books I’ll be discussing, The Last Battle presents a vision of a world beyond ours and more real than ours. Lewis namechecks Plato, and this is the idea the books all work with. We’re shadows on a cave wall. A lot of these books take a step into the cave itself. Like Morrison and Dick it seems clear that The Last Battle is the author’s idiosyncratic account of How It All Works, and it seems equally clear that, bizarrely, while Grant Morrison talks in terms of intersecting hyperspaces and PKD does it using alien drugs, CS Lewis steps out of our world into the larger, richer Cave Itself using traditional Christianity. If the Narnia books were a vehicle to inform children of the Christian viewpoint, that vehicle reaches its final destination here.

It’ll all be better in Heaven, Lewis says. It’ll be Narnia+, with all the good bits and none of the bad ones. He takes it for granted here (although certainly not in his other writing) that there’s simply no problem dividing everything and everyone between purely good or purely bad – children, of course, would tend to agree with this Manichean view of the universe.

Elsewhere, authors like Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman have criticised this last section because Susan is excluded from Heaven. (Neil Gaiman wrote a short story about an older Susan, The Problem of Susan, which appears in Fragile Things). Susan prefers ‘nylons and lipstick and invitations’ over Narnia these days. She’s in her twenties by this point, her only crime seems to be acting like a young woman, not a schoolchild. She’s 21, at a time when the average Englishwoman married at 22. Lewis even concedes that she’s acting her age, which would seem to have the corollary that Peter and his pals aren’t. But that said, while we might not like it, the theology is sound – Susan’s turned her back on Aslan, sees him as a silly story. She can’t share the reward.

It turns out she can’t share the reward for a practical reason. The reason all the other children from the other books are in Heaven is that they’ve all died in England, in a single railway accident. Susan is estranged from the group, so wasn’t on the train – she wasn’t lucky enough to die young.

I don’t have a problem with Lewis bumping off basically the entire major cast of the series more summarily than Douglas Adams did at the end of Mostly Harmless. I actually quite like such a decisive ending. It’s spiky, not the line of least resistance. Ending these sagas is always a little tricky. I always liked the original ending of Return of the Jedi which resembled George Lucas’s earlier American Graffiti: the Empire defeated, the main characters no longer have anything in common, and that’s the last time they’re ever together. It was like a planetary conjunction, but the planets continue on their separate courses. No convenient marriages, emigrations or inheritances. It’s a jolting ending for Lewis to have the kids killed like that, in such an ordinary way, and off the page.

No … what disturbs me most is that they’re all so damn happy to have died. We don’t learn exactly what’s happened at first, but the children discuss why they’ve ended up where they have. They were on a train, there was a lurch, then a noise, then they woke up in brightness in fine Narnian clothes. Here’s Edmund’s description:

‘And I felt not no much scared as – well, excited. Oh – and this is one queer thing. I’d had a rather sore knee from a hack at rugger. I noticed it had suddenly gone’

Being in a train accident is exciting and doesn’t hurt, it actually fixes your gammy knee. At the very end of the book, the children are still not quite sure what happened, so Aslan helps them out. By that point, I think the reader has guessed. For me, the horrifying thing is the children’s reaction. It’s not that they don’t want to go home (the imperative in the books is the save Narnia, not to find a way home – that’s perhaps the major change made for the movies):

“Lucy said, ‘We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.

‘No fear of that,’ said Aslan. ‘Have you not guessed?’
Their hearts leaped and a wild horse rose within them.
‘There was a real railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. ‘Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead.’”

There is something really unpleasant about a story for children where children learn that they’ve died, their parents have died and it’s brilliant.

Heaven is better than Earth. That’s kind of the whole point, I understand that. It’s a perfectly conventional Christian sentiment that if you have God’s favour (and only if you have God’s favour) when you die you will gain an eternal life of ease that’s too wonderful to put into words. So far, so good. But it’s only half the message. Unless you stress the importance of living a good, full life this is life-negating, a view of how the universe works that can only alienate you from the people around you, one that concentrates entirely on the heavenly reward and dismisses any earthly consideration. This is suicide bomber logic.

So, the story’s set in Heaven. Edmund’s got his 72 virgins. Talking of which, the children aren’t the same age they were when they died, but they are all still children. One of the odder things about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that the Pevensies stay in Narnia for fourteen years, grow to adulthood, then return to England and revert to children. They remember everything, that’s established in the latter books. Susan might be forgiven for acting a little old for her age, given that she’s lived 27 years by her thirteenth birthday.

A modern version of the story might concentrate on the psychological impact of growing up, then physically regressing while retaining adult memories, but life in Narnia is clearly easy to compartmentalise. We learn in the last book that the various ‘Friends of Narnia’ – the kids from all the books, minus Susan – regularly meet up. It’s hard not to imagine it being a little like a support group. At the risk of bringing in an author’s biography, Lewis had fought in the trenches in the Great War (as had Tolkien, as had most young men of their generation), and I can only imagine that Lewis’ experience in peacetime was something akin to this. A journey to another world, which ran to a different logic, where boys had to act like men, where only people who were there would ever understand afterwards what you went through. It’s striking that during the last battle itself, the narrator makes confident assertions about what it’s like when you’re in a battle, how it feels, but the battle is a hand-to-hand swordfight, one where individual heroes band together, where bravery is usually rewarded. This can’t have been the wartime experience of the author.

At the end of The Last Battle, the children are resurrected in the afterlife. Most Christian commentators who’ve considered the matter assume that in Heaven we’d take the form of some idealised age. Elsewhere, commenting on Paradise Lost, Lewis has Adam and Eve as being created to look like they are in their early thirties – Christ died at 33, and so perhaps that’s the ‘ideal age’. Diggory was born in 1888, so he’s 12 in The Magician’s Nephew, and (a particularly doddery) 52 in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here he’s a young man with a golden beard, with some of his older mannerisms. Tirian can’t decide if Jill looks older than before (she should be sixteen). They’re all clearly – and presumably, now, perpetually – older children, not quite adults. To me this doesn’t sound ideal, rather it’s an appalling denial of growth and potential. When Peter Pan doesn’t grow up, we understand that he’s missing something, that however wonderful childhood is, it has to end. This won’t happen to our heroes. As Philip Pullman noted, Peter is denied the chance to become a parent himself.

It gets worse.

Escaping the dying Narnia, the population of men and talking animals and other creatures files past Aslan. Everyone looks the Lion in the eye and either feels great joy or great terror. Those who ‘looked in the face of Aslan and loved him’ go to Heaven. The talking animals who feel terror lose their sentience, and then walk into Aslan’s shadow. The narrator says no one ever saw them again and he doesn’t know what happened to them. Oblivion, I think, there’s no suggestion they are heading to Hell, but surely having your reason stripped from you is an horrific punishment. In any event, none of the people who pass the test seem in any way troubled by what happened to those who didn’t – Lucy even comments later that it’s impossible to feel worried any more, even if you try.

As we see the selection process, there are some oddities among those who make the grade:

“Eustace even recognised one of those very Dwarfs who had helped to shoot the Horses. But he had no time to wonder about that sort of thing (and anyway it was no business of his) for a great joy put everything else out of his head”

An honourable Calorman, Emeth, who has dedicated his life to the monstrous Bird God Tash, is resigned to his fate but Aslan spares him. He points out that he knew about but didn’t worship Aslan, he specifically rejected the doctrine that Tash and Aslan were one and the same. Aslan says that he did good, and all good is done in Aslan’s name, so Emeth gets to go to Heaven.

Again, the theologic is impeccable: Aslan is the perfect judge. Who are we to challenge him? But it feels deeply arbitrary, to the point of circular logic. You are good if Aslan finds you to be good, regardless of your actions, your beliefs or even your desires. What about all the great things Susan did? Does wearing lipstick really cancel out her actions as protector and High Queen? Clearly Aslan demands faith – it can be faith in Tash, but there has to be faith. Faith above action.

So I object to children celebrating their deaths like they’ve just passed their Eleven Plus, but the root of my problem, the reason it’s always disturbed me, is the way we’re told not to question anything, not to worry. The talking animals who fail Aslan’s test are stripped of their reason … but if the people who pass the test find they don’t have the time or inclination to ask reasonable questions, then what’s the point of having reason in the first place?

Part of it, surely, is that Lewis is straining to depict something more wonderful than it is possible to imagine. He wants to get across that things are indescribably lovely, but for me it comes across as a simple failure to describe.

‘What was the fruit like? Unfortunately, no one can describe a taste … If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it.’

And this is particularly disappointing, because I think in every Narnia book there’s a scene where a thirsty or starving character has managed to find a drip of water or scrap of food and it’s seemed ‘like the most wonderful meal they’ve ever tasted’. There was an example just a chapter before, when the main characters, besieged by a vast army, find a trickle of water running down a rock and take turns to drink from it. In Aslan’s Country deliciousness is intrinsic, unearned, the default value. Every meal from now on will be the most delicious one they’ve ever had. How … sad.

But this isn’t just some technical problem coming up with concrete descriptions of transcendent concepts and beauty. These are the new rules. In a lot of fairy tales, you have to be careful. In The Magician’s Nephew, Diggory is smart enough not to eat the fruit when Jadis offers it to him. He sees the trap. Here, when the children are offered fruit:

‘It’s all right,’ said Peter, ‘I know what we’re all thinking. But I’m sure, quite sure, we needn’t. I’ve a feeling.’

The concerns we have melt away in the afterlife. The issue I have with the children being stuck at one age? Well, ‘age’ doesn’t mean the same there. Everyone died? Only in our terms. OK … so what does that mean? Answer: we can’t conceive the meaning, not unless we’re lucky enough to go there. Again, it’s theologically sound, but extraordinarily dissatisfying because it’s not an answer, it’s the infinite deferral of all answers. We’re told how calm and certain and perfect and meaningful everything is, but not what that meaning is:

‘The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you get there, you will know what I mean.’

The children, who’ve been smart and resourceful and independent and curious for seven books now fall into blind acceptance. We die, and from that point everything’s all sorted for us, don’t worry about it. Earlier in the book, when a Lamb speaks up against someone claiming to represent Aslan, the Lamb is dragged away and punished, and it’s one of the parts of the book where you see true evil at work. Now Aslan’s making his proclamations, and the entire (chosen) population of Narnia runs after him, joyfully and unquestioningly. This feels like a betrayal of what the Narnia books have been about until now – the spirit of keep calm and carry on, make do and mend, of being practical and thoughtful, of not taking the easy route, or the selfish route, but working out individually and in groups what the best course of action is, what the right thing to do is. It does make me yearn for a story where Lyra from His Dark Materials meets Aslan. Not necessarily with the subtle knife concealed up her sleeve (although if that was to happen, I wouldn’t bet on the lion), but just because it would be nice to have someone go ‘hang on a minute …’.

Many of the books on my list are utopian. They offer the prospect of a more wonderful world, and make us think about how we could make our world more like it. These worlds are often transcendent – they require not just an advanced-to-the-point-of-magic technology, but much more importantly a shift in human attitude and sense of perspective.

Narnia itself isn’t a utopia. It’s pretty, and it’s the sort of place that would be wonderful to visit, but it’s always depicted as a fairly small, slightly silly country. In metafictional terms, it’s not transcendent, it’s more like a toybox with all sorts of odd things rattling around together – Greek myth, vaguely Turkish soldiers, medieval romance, ogres, dragons, sea monsters, Wind in the Willows, even Father Christmas. It’s clearly a shadow of our world, not vice versa.

What brings it alive is that the talking animals are deeply pragmatic, practical people. They have to fetch firewood, cook meals, avoid trouble with the law. And they’re curious, thoughtful people. Lewis is playful and almost postmodern about all this. We’re told one of the reasons so many of the animals have abandoned Aslan in The Last Battle is that he never shows up when there’s trouble – half a dozen times in thousands of years, some kids from a strange land have materialised to sort things out, but Aslan’s appearances are far rarer. It’s a moment when we realise that we only see Narnia at times of crisis, and we see it as the English children see it. Aslan often appears to them, but barely appears at all to the Narnians. It’s a nice moment, and although Lewis is clearly scolding these Narnian Dawkinses, he is presenting their side of the argument, and you can’t help but see their point.

There was a similar sentiment in Prince Caspian. It’s probably my favourite of the books, because it subverts so much, both in terms of story and structure, it’s practically a spoof of a Narnia novel. Narnia has been occupied by human invaders, who’ve been there generations by the time the book starts, and who have banned all mentions of talking animals, mythological creatures and Aslan. So the dwarfs have to pretend they’re just small people. And the actual talking animals huddle in their burrows, like members of the French Resistance in a war film, plotting small acts of sabotage. There’s a nice, telling bit where one dwarf suggests they give up on Aslan and try summoning the White Witch, because she was definitely real ‘and was good to the dwarfs’. Again, the guy’s clearly wicked and wrong, we’re meant to reject his idea … but we’re also encouraged to understand why we’re rejecting it.

Narnia’s always been a place where most people have that virtue that Lewis admires most of all: they are sensible. That all goes out the window in the afterlife – everyone just bounds around and oohs and ahhs, and the narrator and Aslan defer every explanation and offer no justifications. There don’t seem to be any practical limitations.

So this is utopia? Is this perfection? I’m pretty confident that Lewis thinks so. He’s describing his interpretation of the Christian Heaven, give or take. But it’s not a utopia we can aspire to. We’ll get there if we look Aslan in the eye and, in that moment, feel love instead of terror. There is inevitably something totalitarian about utopias – something I’ll discuss when I talk about the Culture novels – and fictional utopias are, as the etymology of the word suggests – impossible places. We can’t meaningfully aspire to make Earth like the Culture anymore than we can aspire to be Superman. But the Culture represents a best case scenario for human progress: thousands of years of good decisions, in the universe as we understand it, governed by the laws of science and politics and people. People like us built it. Aslan’s Country is just there. We get our golden ticket if we mean it when we tell the gatekeeper we love him, and we’re not to ask any questions once we’re inside.

Brrrr.

I’d rather step into the shadow than go to that Heaven. If I felt terror, I wouldn’t get a choice. However, if I looked Aslan in the eye and loved him but knew that I wouldn’t be able to ask about what’s happened to those who don’t, that I would never have another troubling thought, I’d like to think I’d have the courage to walk into Aslan’s shadow myself. I would genuinely prefer oblivion to Lewis’s utopia. I wouldn’t trade my capability to ask a question for the ability to jump up waterfalls, or want to spend eternity with a group of people who all would.

Applied to the real world, I think the last section presents a terrible message for children and an infantilising one for adults. If the end is solely to be judged as fiction, though, if we don’t try to apply it to the real children reading, it’s great stuff. For seven books, Lewis has had his cake and eaten it as to whether Narnia is ‘real’ – there’s a bit in Voyage of the Dawn Treader where something preposterous happens and the narrator says he heard it from Lucy herself, so far be it for him to say it’s not true. He frequently says something like ‘if you’re lucky enough to go to Narnia one day’. But at heart, up until now, Lewis has been at pains to say this is all made up. Aslan isn’t Jesus, he’s a fictional representation of the same divine will in a Narnian setting. The Narnia books have always been stories – the narrator, an intrusive one, even by the standards of children’s fiction, has often said as much. The Magician’s Nephew starts with the line ‘this is a story’. Lewis has been very clear: this is fiction. Next time, I’m going to try to codify some of the characteristics of the books I’m talking about. One very important one is that they don’t equate ‘fact’ with ‘true’ and ‘fiction’ with ‘false’. But when, say, Grant Morrison says that fictions are ‘real’, he doesn’t mean that fact and fiction are the same. I think Lewis makes that category error – he wants us to consider Aslan’s Country as being as true for us as it is for Peter. And that’s a real shame, because while I think it’s an appalling message for real people, there is no better or more fitting Heaven for fictional characters than the one alluded to by the poetic last line of The Last Battle: ‘for them, it was only the beginning of the true story, which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before’.

Further Reading!

Instinctively, it’s hard for me to believe that the Narnia books come after the early Disney cartoons and the Wizard of Oz movie. Lewis was influenced by them, not vice versa. The Last Battle was published in 1956, it’s a product of the rock and roll years. It was published after James Dean and Jackson Pollock died, after Lolita was published, after Heartbreak Hotel got to number one. It’s the same year The Wizard of Oz was first shown on television in the US. I mention this because another thing that creeped me out as a child for reasons the creators didn’t intend, as well as for the ones they did, was the 1939 MGM cartoon Peace on Earth. While he certainly doesn’t lift anything explicitly from Peace on Earth, and I can’t be sure if he even saw it, I do wonder if Lewis took some inspiration from it. It was remade in 1955 (although I think the original is more powerful), and so the remake was released while Lewis was writing his book.

At the other end of the spectrum, try Michael Ward’s magnificent Planet Narnia, a convincing theory that Lewis based each Narnia book on one of the planets of classical cosmology.

Laura Miller’s book The Magician’s Book is a personal response of an adult who loved the books as a child and who returns them more sceptically. I just used the word ‘book’ three times in one sentence. I’m going to hell. Or, at least, Aslan’s shadow.

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34 responses to “The Last Battle

  1. One very important one is that they don’t equate ‘fact’ with ‘true’ and ‘fiction’ with ‘false’. But when, say, Grant Morrison says that fictions are ‘real’, he doesn’t mean that fact and fiction are the same.

    The cure for fundamentalism.

  2. Thank for this, Lance — a very sympathetic treatment of a book that a lot of people have found difficult.

    BTW., if you’ve not read Andrew Rilstone’s brilliant analysis of the problem of Susan, then you owe it to yourself to check out Lipstick on my Scholar and the 120 mostly very thoughtful comments. To aggressively, over-summarise, Susan’s sin is not liking lipstick and invitations, but caring for nothing but lipstick and invitations; and the path to Aslan’s Country is not closed to her, she has the rest of her life in which to make her decision.

    Anyway, I thought it might be useful to have a Christian’s perspective on this book, so I’m offering mine for what it’s worth. I think that from Lewis’s perspective — and this is pretty explicit in the book — Aslan’s Country is Real-with-a-capital-R, and everything that the children have ever loved about Narnia (or indeed our own world) is only a shadow of the Real thing in Aslan’s Country. As Lewis wrote elsewhere (The Problem of Pain):

    There have been times when I think that we do not desire heaven; but more often I have found myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear.”

    Of course, trying to describe that Reality in literature is a task doomed to defeat before it starts — which is why Lewis has to resort to images like sunshine, delicious fruit, and swimming up waterfalls. He probably does as good a job here as any English-language author has done in the last century, but by the very nature of what he’s attempting, the attempt can never succeed — only fail less.

    I think that understanding Lewis’s perspective, that only Heaven is real and everything else is an imperfect echo, is the key to reading the whole of The Last Battle as he intended — it’s why Philip Pullman’s description of the book as “life-hating” is not just wrong but tone-deaf. (Of course, Pullman like any reader is at liberty to disagree with Lewis’s theology; the problem is that Pullman writes as though he hasn’t even understood it.)

    Once you grasp this in your gut as well as your mind, the difference in the characters’ behaviour in Aslan’s Country compared with Narnia makes perfect sense: all the time they’ve spent in Narnia (and in our world) has been ultimately nothing more than a prelude before the Real Thing. Of course that doesn’t mean that the prelude is unimportant — it’s where we decide what we’re going to be, and where we make the day-to-day decisions that make us fit or otherwise for Aslan’s Country. That’s why, as you note, such a premium is placed on virtues including common-sense in Narnia, and why they become irrelevant once the characters enter Aslan’s Country. It’s also why choosing to go into Aslan’s shadow would be pretty much a literal impossibility for any of the characters who know Aslan.

    The upshot of all this is that for many (not all) Christians, the brief journey through Aslan’s Country at the end of The Last Battle is just about the best glimpse of Heaven anywhere in literature. I can see why some committed materialists find it distasteful; but I’d hope that even among those who hold to that philosophy, some at least would be found who can see what Lewis is trying to do and appreciate the deftness, economy and vision with which he accomplishes it.

    Anyway, thanks again for your analysis.

  3. Mike Taylor:
    I think that understanding Lewis’s perspective, that only Heaven is real and everything else is an imperfect echo, is the key to reading the whole of The Last Battle as he intended — it’s why Philip Pullman’s description of the book as “life-hating” is not just wrong but tone-deaf. (Of course, Pullman like any reader is at liberty to disagree with Lewis’s theology; the problem is that Pullman writes as though he hasn’t even understood it.)

    Hmmm. Maybe. But I think it more likely that Pullman’s accusation of “life hatred” is actually an attack on the theology as much as the book. I’m not sure you can say he hasn’t understood it – I think he’s understood, but rejected it.

  4. Jonn, you may be right; but if you are, then I would have expected as good a writer as Pullman to express himself more clearly. Everything I’ve read by him on Lewis has suggested to me that he Just Doesn’t Get It. (Not that this stopped him from using Girl Hides In A Wardrobe And Thereby Discovers Whole Other Worlds as the engine of his bestselling series of children’s fantasy novels.)

    To quote Lewis again (this time from his essay The Weight of Glory:

    “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

    I’d expect anyone who’s read more than a smattering of Lewis to understand that he considered the here and now to be only a pale approximation of life; the reality is to come; and so by Lewis’s own lights, The Last Battle is in fact the most “life-loving” of all the Narnia books. Pullman’s criticisms, then, seem to boil down to “I wish he’d been a different person”; which is not a literary criticism.

    (But Northern Lights is still fabulous!)

  5. As I say, I think Lewis’s *intention* is clear. For me, he doesn’t pull it off. I think it comes back to his fixed view of how things are. Given that Aslan is wonderful and benevolent, Aslan’s Country is a wonderful, benevolent place. My problem is that becomes circular logic – whatever Aslan does is, by definition, benevolent and wonderful, everything that happens there is benevolent and wonderful. Even when it’s things like ‘telling children they and their parents died’, ‘not asking questions’ and so on. In the case of Emeth, this extends to ‘devil worship’.

    ‘Understood’ is an interesting word. Douglas Adams always used to say he ‘understood there was no God’, to avoid the canard about ‘belief in no God is still belief’. Pullman has clearly thought about it, he’s bringing his own faculties to bear on it. He doesn’t agree. Next time, I’m going to touch on what he did instead which (spoilers!) I think is more positive, yet ultimately still not terribly satisfying.

  6. “Telling children they and their parents died” is only not benevolent and wonderful if you start from the assumption that “died” is a bad thing — one that Lewis has made it pretty clear he doesn’t share. He sees it as something more like graduation than termination. So given that backdrop, I’m still not really understanding how you think he fails to bring it off? Are you sure you’re not pulling a Pullman, and parlaying your dislike of the theology into seeing weakness in the craftsmanship?

    Oh, dear, I have so much more to say … but I’ll shut up for now, I don’t want to monopolise your blog. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say about His Dark Materials. (Oh, and what does that title mean? Who is the “he”, whose materials they are? Asriel?)

  7. It’s, as I’m sure you know, a Milton quote, and ‘His’ in the original is God.

    Although they are by an atheist, His Dark Materials isn’t about an atheistic universe. God’s in there, he, um, certainly had *a* role in Creation. I’ve always assumed Pullman’s ‘His’ is God, too.

    (Oh, and the last thing I want anyone to do is shut up – please, if you’ve got the time and inclination, keep posting).

  8. I’m going to talk about utopias next time, and spell out my thoughts a little more.

    My personal distaste for the Heaven Lewis portrays is, I’m sure, a large part of it. It would be absurd to reject *any* Heaven as undesirable, I just don’t like *that* Heaven. (a) because I wouldn’t want to live there; As I think the chances of that are pretty remote, it’s mainly (b) – as I said – because Narnia+ seems to have thrown out all the bits of Narnia that I liked most.

  9. “Telling children they and their parents died” is only not benevolent and wonderful if you start from the assumption that “died” is a bad thing — one that Lewis has made it pretty clear he doesn’t share. He sees it as something more like graduation than termination.

    That’s kind of what I meant about Pullman rejecting the theology, not just misunderstanding it.

    To anyone who doesn’t believe in some kind of divine afterlife, the idea that death is “graduation” is pretty horrifying. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into understanding where the author’s coming from – something that says “death is good” is, by definition, “life-hating”.

    Basically… I don’t think you can get away from the theology. If you don’t share some semblance of Lewis’ beliefs, The Last Battle is pretty horrible.

  10. “Basically… I don’t think you can get away from the theology. If you don’t share some semblance of Lewis’ beliefs, The Last Battle is pretty horrible.”

    I’m really not sure I agree. The problem here is that word ‘death’. ‘Death’ to Lewis clearly doesn’t mean the same as ‘death’ to an atheist – or, for that matter, to most secularised Christians (who clearly don’t actually *act* as if their loved ones have really ‘gone to a better place’).

    But whether you accept his worldview or not, Narnia is a fantasy world. *WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THAT FANTASY* Lewis sets the rules, and ‘death’ *in that context* is clearly a progression to something better.

    Saying “no, but death actually *is* a bad thing” is an error of context a little like saying “no, but if you jump out of a window in a skyscraper, you fall to the floor and go splat, not fly!” when reading a Superman comic. The children in The Last Battle haven’t been given the bad news that they’ve died, but the rather good news that they’ll never die in the sense that we normally use that term, but rather will live forever in paradise. That is, in fact, rather the point.

    Accusing Lewis of being life-hating because he thinks Heaven will be better, is a bit like accusing those like Gaiman who see Susan as problematic as being childhood-hating, because they think growing up is a good thing.

    Now, you can argue that *when applied to real life* Lewis is, in fact, wrong. But what you can’t do, I think, is argue that within a fictional world where there is actual tangible existence of an actual real Heaven, death still means the same thing that most people mean by that term…

  11. Pingback: Linkblogging For 02/12/10 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

  12. OK, I’ve thought of a better way to think of this.

    Suppose you’re a writer, writing say a hundred years ago, when if someone emigrated they would never go back to Britain again, and you write a story about someone going to Java and enjoying it there.

    Now you meet someone – perhaps a member of a weird religious sect – who believes the earth is flat, that there’s no such place as Java, and that all ships that go there fall off the edge of the world. She argues, insistently, that anyone who goes to Java is in fact dying.

    Now, neither of you have been to Java, but *in your story* Java clearly exists. Would she be right to argue that your story was ‘life-hating’?

  13. To anyone who doesn’t believe in some kind of divine afterlife, the idea that death is “graduation” is pretty horrifying.

    Right, this is where I think we’re getting tripped up. To Lewis, the idea of death as graduation from a sort of grubby simulacrum to a better and more real life is both (A) a theological belief about the real world–the shadowlands!–and (B) part of the structure of his fictional universe. It seems to me–but I am happy to be shown wrong–than people who claim that The Last Battle is ‘life-hating’ are rejecting B because they don’t accept A. Whereas Mike and Andrew and (I think) Lance are saying that even if you don’t accept A, surely you can set that aside and at least try to think about B on it’s own terms, within the confines of the story.

    If Lewis was writing the book today, he might make Narnia (and the real world) a Matrix-style virtual reality, and in The Last Battle the children would wake up from the sim into a better and more real world. If he had done so, we might not be having this same argument every time Narnia comes up, because people would be able to separate the philosophical (A) and fictional (B) commitments more easily. I think the key is to realize that Lewis really did think that Narnia and especially the real world ARE Matrix-style virtual realities, run by God rather than by computers, from which we will someday awaken.

  14. Lance wrote: “It’s, as I’m sure you know, a Milton quote, and ‘His’ in the original is God.”

    Argh, now I feel ignorant. No, I didn’t know that. And I also feel stupid, because of course I could have discovered it on Wikipedia. Mea culpa. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_Dark_Materials#Series_titles

    “Although they are by an atheist, His Dark Materials isn’t about an atheistic universe. God’s in there, he, um, certainly had *a* role in Creation. I’ve always assumed Pullman’s ‘His’ is God, too.”

    (Of course, the “God” character in HDM doesn’t resemble anything that a religious person (Christian, Jew, Moslem, or Miscellaneous) would recognise as God.)

    Finally: “(Oh, and the last thing I want anyone to do is shut up – please, if you’ve got the time and inclination, keep posting).”

    Thanks! But shortly after you wrote that, Andrew and (especially) Matt turned up and wrote pretty much what I’d intended to, only more clearly and concisely than I would have done it. So my work here is done. (By other people!)

  15. Right, this is where I think we’re getting tripped up. To Lewis, the idea of death as graduation from a sort of grubby simulacrum to a better and more real life is both (A) a theological belief about the real world–the shadowlands!–and (B) part of the structure of his fictional universe. It seems to me–but I am happy to be shown wrong–than people who claim that The Last Battle is ‘life-hating’ are rejecting B because they don’t accept A. Whereas Mike and Andrew and (I think) Lance are saying that even if you don’t accept A, surely you can set that aside and at least try to think about B on it’s own terms, within the confines of the story.

    I understand that. But I think this stuff is so fundamental, so primal, that it’s very difficult to set it aside and just accept it as the rules of a fictional universe. It’s breaks the suspension of disbelief.

    Okay, fictitious counter example. Imagine a novel set in a 19th century tobacco plantation, which made a case that slaves really were happier in captivity, and that the women actually quite liked physical attention from their owners.

    Now that could be the most artfully written novel there has ever been, with achingly beautiful prose and an emotional arc to make you weep. It would still, though, be morally abhorrent to (I hope) the vast majority of readers. Because we believe in the depth of our being that the world isn’t like that, and pretending it is is deeply harmful.

    That, I think, is the atheist’s problem with the “death is graduation” idea. It doesn’t matter how wonderful The Last Battle is as a piece of writing. It’s core message is abhorrent.

    I, like Yossarian’s girlfriend, have an idea about what god means, even though I don’t believe in him. And the god I don’t believe in would encourage questioning and independent thought. One that doesn’t is far more frightening to me than the idea that the only afterlife is as worm food.

  16. Is there not a contradiction between…this…

    “He takes it for granted here (although certainly not in his other writing) that there’s simply no problem dividing everything and everyone between purely good or purely bad ”

    and where you also complain that Aslan appears to make arbetary distinctions that are non-self evident? Clearly there is a problem for humans in defining anyone as wholly good or bad, but (a) this isn’t explicitly what Aslan does – ‘saved/unsaved’ isn’t about ‘wholly good/wholly bad’ but
    other category breaks like ‘open to reason-repentance’.’not open to reason-repentance’. Now, I’m not now a Christian myself, but I have been and both before and after christianity, I loved these books so I must declare an interest, but I agree with some of your commentators that objecting to the book because people who die, are retrospectively pleased [in a universe where there is a heaven] is odd. If Lance or I find (contary to our present belief that there is a heaven) i suspect – irrespective of whether by merit or mercy we got to go there, we would be pleased ‘oh look there is more!!’ is a rational response to any ‘unstinging’ of ‘death’. I wonder if the characters in Philip Purser-Hallard’s ‘Re: The City Of The Saved’ are pleased [in general] on ressurrection day – I suspect they were depicted as being so. .

  17. Jonn, your slavery analogy is good. I see your point.

    “The god I don’t believe in would encourage questioning and independent thought.” — I am not sure what you’re saying here, exactly. Is is any different from just saying “I like questioning and independent thought”? Are you just imagining a god in your own image?

    I agree with you that questioning and independent thought are good. But the reason they’re good (and here is where you may disagree) is because they are tools that lead us to the truth. I don’t have any great love for the process of questioning from the sake of questioning. So for example I don’t feel any need to question Maxwell’s equations. That’s done. So for the characters in TLB, the time for questioning is done: they have the answers now, and that is why their attitude after entering Aslan’s Country is different from before.

    But in fact, and I find this interesting, they don’t stop asking questions: it’s the nature of the questions they ask that changes. They are still trying to find out more about the Country and about Aslan, but their enquiry is now proceeding from a position of certainty that they didn’t have, and couldn’t have, before.

    So let me take another stab at my Maxwell’s equations analogy above. You could say that the characters when in Narnia are like Medieval physicists trying to understand why and how things fall. They’re doing their best with flawed (but not totally unhelpful) ideas about substances trying to get closer to other similar substances, or other such thoughts. Their ideas about life, death, Aslan and his Country are maybe on that kind of level: interesting, not without insight, but deeply flawed. And, rightly, at that point they are asking a lot of questions, trying to fix their imperfect theory. By the end of the book, they know much more: they’re in a position analogous to someone who has learned Newton’s theory of gravitation, and understands that all objects attract each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. It’s a sea-change in their perception.

    But of course the theory of gravity doesn’t end with Newton: I think the characters at the end of TLB are like enlightened Newtonian physicists starting to think about, and eventually come to grips with, general relativity. They want to understand more about Aslan and the Country, but their questions are from the basis of a firm (if still imperfect) understanding.

    Well, all of that made some kind of sense in my mind when I thought of it, but the more I typed the more I felt that it was getting increasingly tenuous. So take it or leave it.

  18. In re-comments, if you begin from a position that ‘a belief in God/heaven is akin to a belief in the potential merits of slavery’ : it may be that you’re you’re no more capable of judging the Narnia books on their merits, than [say] someone who thinks ‘anyone under 16 having sex irrespective of contex is paedophilia’ is of judging Romeo and Juliet.

    Simon BJ

  19. “The god I don’t believe in would encourage questioning and independent thought.” — I am not sure what you’re saying here, exactly. Is is any different from just saying “I like questioning and independent thought”? Are you just imagining a god in your own image?

    To an extent, yes.

    I can understand how this might seem strange and vain to someone of faith – “If I don’t like the god I’m presented with than I’ll reject him”.

    But genuinely, I struggle with this idea of god as, by definition, perfect. The god of the old testament is a vengeful, stroppy, cruel and vain. He’s like a totalitarian dictator: you sing his praises because if you don’t you end up a lump of salt.

    That, to me, is terrible. I can’t accept that as good, let alone as perfect.

    I wonder if this is one of the biggest faultlines between the secular and the religious, actually. I can probably cope with the idea of an all powerful being who created the universe. I can even deal with the sitting in judgement. It’s the whopping great plank in his own eye I can’t get past. I reject the attempt to impose a moral code while apparently lacking one of his own.

  20. As I say, I’m going to speak about utopias next week, and I’ll be sure to cover the ‘isn’t this subjective?’ question there.

    I think this is the thing about religion: sort of the point is that you don’t just get to do what you’re doing anyway. It’s very telling, I think, that a lot of the modern American iterations of Christianity move away from submission and obedience and rules and rituals (even if you honour them in the breach) to a more consumer-driven approach. It’s a bit like picking a newspaper: people tend to go for one that reinforces what they already believe.

    There’s a nice series by blogger Brad Hicks on this, starting: http://bradhicks.livejournal.com/118585.html

    I read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life, and it’s basically ‘God has a place for you, be happy where you are’, and my first instinct was that this was ‘women – stay in the kitchen!’ or ‘don’t make a fuss, African-Americans’. It’s actually, to my taste, far more insidious than that, it’s telling middle class white people not to be guilty, not to stop driving SUVs and so on – God gave them you, who are you to argue=? His vision of Heaven is literally as a gated suburban community, with Jesus guarding the door and God as the landlord.

    And he paraphrases the Bible, so 1 Peter 2:11, ‘Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul’ becomes ‘Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourself cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego.’

    Warren sold six million copies of that book, he was at the Obama inauguration, so this is pretty mainstream stuff.

  21. “you sing his praises because if you don’t you end up a lump of salt.”

    Or as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore put it (Peter Cook’s playing the Devil):

  22. Let me just say, the from the other side of the discussion, that the huge popularity of Rick Warren’s materials (and he is not even close to the worst) makes me cringe for what Christianity is becoming. (It’s nice to agree on something. 🙂 )

    • Mike,

      Oh, I know that a big part of the problem with discussing ‘Christianity’ is that it’s like discussing birds or something – the moment you go ‘well, we can all agree that a common characteristic of birds is that they have wings’, someone always says ‘yeah, except the Kiwi’.

      I think that’s what’s so attractive about Lewis. He’s a fixed target, but one who doesn’t just go ‘if it’s in the Bible, it’s true, end of story’ (before asserting that the Bible supports second amendment rights). Lewis could very easily have had them walk through the door into Aslan’s country and stopped the book there. And he’s careful to include the dwarf getting in, to show Aslan talking to Emeth – he could have glossed over that. And he wrote books and books setting out his version of Christianity, specifically writing for a general audience (I understand that Rowan Williams is extremely well regarded in theological circles … this, er, doesn’t come across when he addresses a general audience). And clearly Lewis is an extremely clever, extremely well-read, extremely articulate person. So it’s a sophisticated position, but most of all, it *is* a position. I think the reason people like Pullman go for him is that he’s *worth* going for.

      I think what Lewis intends, and I may be wrong, is to overwhelm us with wonderfulness. We’re meant, I think, children first, but also adults, to see Aslan’s country as utterly irresistible. Elsewhere in the books, he makes Aslan irresistible, I think. I love Aslan. I’d worship him. One of the great things about him is that we see all the cuddling and warm fur and so on, but we know he’s ‘not a tame lion’, we see his sheer authority and power, and just the hint of a glimpse of him is very exciting, we come to understand that serving Aslan is about finding your *own* resilience and resourcefulness. I think Lewis does *that* brilliantly. Part of that is that various people reject, disbelieve and so on … but *come* to accept.

      It’s a more conventional, less bold ending, but if the book ended with a very old Lucy dying, going to Aslan’s country and being young waterfall jumping Lucy, but with all the wisdom, that would tie it back to the first book, be heartwarming and so on. It’s a combination of choices being taken away, children dying, people being encouraged not to think too hard. Just a few pages of ‘the children were very sad, and talked about why … and then they step into the sunshine’ would have done the trick, I think. It’s the instant, unquestioning joy, the instant shedding of Earthly (and Narnian) values, I think, that’s my problem. Lewis stops showing his working, and it’s the working that’s the best bit.

  23. Jonn, I can see your point about a novel regarding slavery, but I think the two are different, partly because the novel in your case is set in a supposed ‘real world’ where people behave totally differently to the way they would in real life, and it’s the only change that has been made. The Last Battle, on the other hand, is set in a world where lions can talk, where fauns exist, where Father Christmas is real… that death doesn’t mean death in that context doesn’t bother me, because it’s just one more case of things being different in Narnia to how they are (or to religious people who believe in a literal afterlife, how they appear to be) in reality.
    A closer example, for me, would be a story about robots in which they were exactly like humans but acted as willing slaves – of which there are many, and few people seem to find them morally repugnant.

    I don’t actually agree with Lewis, or share his theology, but I can see that ‘die’ in the Narnia books means something rather different to ‘die’ as we use it normally.

    Put it another way – do you think The Caves Of Androzani is anti-life because after the Doctor dies he gets better again by regenerating, and says it’s ‘not a moment too soon’?

  24. Jonn, I can see your point about a novel regarding slavery, but I think the two are different, partly because the novel in your case is set in a supposed ‘real world’ where people behave totally differently to the way they would in real life, and it’s the only change that has been made. The Last Battle, on the other hand, is set in a world where lions can talk, where fauns exist, where Father Christmas is real… that death doesn’t mean death in that context doesn’t bother me, because it’s just one more case of things being different in Narnia to how they are (or to religious people who believe in a literal afterlife, how they appear to be) in reality.
    A closer example, for me, would be a story about robots in which they were exactly like humans but acted as willing slaves – of which there are many, and few people seem to find them morally repugnant.

    Fair point. All I can say is that there is a line between things that are acceptable because it’s fantasy fiction and things that won’t be acceptable anywhere, and different people will locate that line differently. Mine is essentially a personal reaction (although, clearly, not unique to me).

    Put it another way – do you think The Caves Of Androzani is anti-life because after the Doctor dies he gets better again by regenerating, and says it’s ‘not a moment too soon’?

    Given who he turns into, I think you can make a strong case that Androzani is anti-regeneration, certainly.

  25. Death’ to Lewis clearly doesn’t mean the same as ‘death’ to an atheist – or, for that matter, to most secularised Christians (who clearly don’t actually *act* as if their loved ones have really ‘gone to a better place’).

    I’m not sure how far along the secularisation spectrum you’re thinking of here. Certainly some time before you get to the point where people only attend church for “hatches, matches and despatches”, you’ll find people who act as if death is unequivocally a bad thing, even though if put to it they will say they believe in some sort of Heaven. But I don’t think there’s anything inherently contradictory in believing that death is in some sense good, and yet showing signs of grief and pain when a loved one dies. I think the grief is for the survivors’ own loss (even if it’s viewed as temporary) of the presence of the loved one, and it’s possible to feel that even while thinking that the loved one is better off for having died. Earlier this year a partner of mine was considering moving permanently to California, which would have meant we would have gone from seeing each other at least once a week to seeing each other at most twice a year. I found that a really painful prospect even though I could acknowledge that it might be the right thing for him to do for the sake of his career and health, and even though I agreed to support him if he decided to do it, because I thought his career and health were more important than my emotional pain. I think that to a Christian, death can be very much like that, on a larger scale – whereas an atheist in that analogy would be more in the position of the person who doesn’t believe California exists (to borrow from the Java example, but substitute Atlantis if doubting the existence of California seems too loaded) and therefore thinks that trying to move there would be a disastrous choice for my partner as well as painful for me.

    • I think anyone, even a devout Christian, who was *absolutely* sure that there was a Heaven in the same way that there’s a California and *absolutely* sure that a friend of theirs was going to arrive there safely immediately after they died would be a very, very strange person. Even if you are of simple faith (to put it patronisingly) you understand that you don’t get everything you pray for, that bad things happen to good people and so on.

      That’s leaving aside the … theosemantics that the Bible doesn’t at any point have Heaven as being a place where the recently deceased queue up and anyone who has been more naughty than nice goes through gates and gets to play with angels and famous historical figures.

      For example, when I see this – http://www.heaventour.org/ – Poe’s Law (‘any sufficiently advanced form of religion is indistinguishable from a parody of that religion’) kicks in.

      One thing I’ve been thinking about – for Fixing Jesus, the novel I’ve written that’s currently doing the rounds at publishers – is exactly what the difference is between science and religion.

      One thing I came up with – and this will be a longer blog post at some point, I’m sure – is the differences between the existence of aliens and the existence of God. There are many similarities. Rational people are as suspicious of people who say they’ve met angels as those who say they’ve met aliens. We have the nagging sense that there just ought to be more *evidence* of them both, if they were real. But I think there’s a qualitative difference. I don’t think believing there might be aliens is ‘the same’ as believing there are gods.

      In other words, I don’t think that there *are* non-theist analogies for a lot of religious activities. Otherwise … well, they wouldn’t be non-theist. Praying isn’t ‘like’ anything post-Enlightenment that’s not praying.

    • True, and I’m sorry if I appeared to imply otherwise.

  26. ” I think the reason people like Pullman go for him is that he’s *worth* going for.”

    This reminds me of Alan Kay’s famous compliment to the original Macintosh when it came out: “it’s the first personal computer worth criticizing”. I’d love think your interpretation of Pullman’s attitude to Lewis is true, be he write about Lewis with such contempt and hatred that I’m having trouble buying it. I guess this may just be the anxiety of influence, but it leaves a bad taste, whatever its origin.

    Anyway, whether or not Pullman agrees with you about Lewis’s virtues, I certainly do: calling him a “fixed point” is both true and apposite. I didn’t become a Christian until I was sixteen, and I think Lewis’s lucid writings probably played a large part in that when it eventually happened. What’s certainly true is that since then I’ve found his books not only intriguing and persuasive, but also inspiring. He doesn’t merely discuss the transcendent, he (often) shows me glimpses of it. Most often (and, yes, I feel a bit feeble admitting this, but what the heck, it’s true) through Aslan. You wrote: “Elsewhere in the books, he makes Aslan irresistible, I think. I love Aslan. I’d worship him. One of the great things about him is that we see all the cuddling and warm fur and so on, but we know he’s ‘not a tame lion’.” Yes yes yes! That is it exactly! That far, we walk together; where our paths diverge is that I’ve seen enough to believe there really is someone like Aslan (er, apart from the Being A Lion part). One of my biggest complaints about The Purpose-Driven Life and similar books is that they make Jesus into a Tame Lion. If you’ve seen a glimpse of (even the fictional version of) the real thing, you can’t tolerate that.

    • Pullman seems to have very mixed views of Lewis. See http://www.surefish.co.uk/culture/features/pullman_interview.htm .

      “There’s a distinction between the things Lewis says as a critic, which are very acute and full of sense and full of intelligent and sometimes subtle judgements – much of which I agree with – and the things he said when was possessed by the imp of telling a story, especially in his children’s fiction. “

  27. Oh, and this is probably so obvious as not to be worth saying, but: yes, of course, even if you sincerely believe that a dying person is graduating rather than terminating, then you will still mourn the parting. You don’t have to think that death is fundamentally an evil to wish that particular deaths had not happened, or not happened then.

  28. For anyone interested in apologetics by Lewis I can recommend “C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion” by John Beversluis.

  29. Lance, the Last Battle has clearly left an impression on you. It is fiction. What are your thoughts of the Bible?

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