Lewis on the Bible: The Fall

The Fall is the beginning of God’s story with humanity. It’s the moment in which we thought we might unravel God into our own likeness. Instead, it robbed us of our original majesty, as Lewis says in A Preface to Paradise Lost. And if we turn to Ransom’s journey of discovery in Perelandra we also see Lewis’s vision of a what if– what if we didn’t take the bait from the tricksy serpent, what if we didn’t run, what if God never had to die for us? We would be creatures unfallen, pure reflections of God’s image. And much like that mythical moment when Ransom meets the king, Lewis says that Adam, “would still have been alive in Paradise, and to that ‘capital seat’ all generations ‘from all the ends of the Earth’ would have come periodically to do their homage” (A Preface to Paradise Lost). 

We likely have a kinship to Ransom’s inner struggle. “In vain did his mind hark back, time after time, to the Book of Genesis, asking ‘What would have happened?’ But to this the Darkness gave him no answer,” says our narrator. “Patiently and inexorably it brought him back to the here and the now, and to the growing certainty of what was here and now demanded. Almost he felt that the words ‘would have happened’ were meaningless—mere invitations to wander in what the Lady would have called an ‘alongside world’ which had no reality. Only the actual was real: and every actual situation was new.”

As you know the story, Ransom is the hope for Perelandra, the counter to Weston’s possessed body that wanted nothing more than to kill and destroy.  “When Eve fell, God was not Man,” Ransom ponders.  “He had not yet made men members of His body: since then He had, and through them henceforward He would save and suffer. One of the purposes for which He had done all this was to save Perelandra not through Himself but through Himself in Ransom. If Ransom refused, the plan, so far, miscarried. For that point in the story, a story far more complicated than he had conceived, it was he who had been selected.”

What I like about Perelandra as it relates to this series on the Bible, is that it raises these question of doubt, inadequacy, grace, and purpose. We know, if we believe the Bible and the revelation it provides, that God’s story doesn’t end in retribution. The casting out of Adam and Eve is the beginning of God’s renewed hunt to bring them out of their hiding, and into His glorious light, into right relationship with Him.

Lewis connects some of this in The Problem of Pain. In a discussion of Abraham’s test in sacrificing Isaac, Lewis points out that our obedience, “reverses the act by which we fell [and] treads Adam’s dance backward,” however insignificant at the moment (or unaware we are of the purpose).  I love this passage from the same section: 

We therefore agree with Aristotle that what is intrinsically right may well be agreeable, and that the better a man is the more he will like it; but we agree with Kant so far as to say that there is one right act— that of self-surrender—which cannot be willed to the height by fallen creatures unless it is unpleasant. And we must add that this one right act includes all other righteousness, and that the supreme cancelling of Adam’s fall, the movement ‘full speed astern’ by which we retrace our long journey from Paradise, the untying of the old, hard knot, must be when the creature, with no desire to aid it, stripped naked to the bare willing of obedience, embraces what is contrary to its nature, and does that for which only one motive is possible. Such an act may be described as a ‘test’ of the creature’s return to God: hence our fathers said that troubles were ‘sent to try us’.

Lewis’s commentary on Paradise Lost which I only mention above, does afford many creative observations of the Genesis creation story. It is a little tedious and academic for a blog like this so I leave it to you to explore. Next, we’ll turn our attention to what Lewis says about the patriarchs of the faith, people like Noah and Abraham.

 

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