Anyway, continued reading of Lewis. I just finished the "Hell" chapter. Let me start off by saying that I hate, detest, despise, loathe, etc. the doctrine of hell. I'm sure it's not a big hit among most people.
"As things are, however, this doctrine is one of the chief grounds on which Christianity is attacked as barbarous and the goodness of God impugned. We are told that it is a detestable doctrine - and indeed, I too detest it from the bottom of my heart [...]." (p. 119)He goes on to describe the worst person imaginable, someone who hurts and manipulates other people to satisfy his own greed, and asks the reader if we would really be comfortable with the idea of this person never having to answer for his actions, ending his life in contentment, laughing at God and the rest of us. Of course not. You could insert any abominable figure in this slot, and it would play out the same way. We have an innate sense of justice and morality that is not imposed by society. We feel that accountability should and does exist.
He goes on to explain that God offers forgiveness to all, but it is not enough for Him to simply offer it. A person must accept it. Self-surrender is involved in reaching our potential, but you can't force someone to surrender the self to God. They must make a conscious choice to do so.
"I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside." (p.127)
"In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: 'What are you asking God to do?' To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does." (p. 128)
No matter how much I believe something about a particular doctrine, I find it so hard to argue with Lewis. There have only been a few instances in which I took issue with something he wrote. I think he makes a good argument for hell here. (Still hate it though!) God gave us free will, and He can't force us to choose Him. I wish that there could be an alternative for hell, but what justice would there be for all those people who have been seriously harmed by unrepentant others?
Some meaningful quotes from the "Human Pain" chapter:
"For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John." (p.111)
"We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." (p.115)
I guess they're self-explanatory. The first one is pretty powerful, because it basically says to me that God will effect His purpose in the world regardless of the choices we make, but our choices matter to us for obvious reasons. The second one is an interesting theory on why we never reach sustained happiness on earth.
And finally, the reason for the Simon and Garfunkel entry title:
"Thus all day long, and all the days of our life, we are sliding, slipping, falling away - as if God were, to our present consciousness, a smooth inclined plane on which there is no resting." (p.76)
I'm going to have to read something really liberal after this :)