In “Counting the Cost,” Lewis says that God “will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or a goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly… His own boundless power and delight and goodness” (p. 176). What is required to become such a creature? Why do you think Lewis has chosen to describe this apotheosis with these images?
Musicians understand the idea of transposing a song from a major key to a minor one. Lewis uses this idea to explain life in heaven. He sees some qualities in human life as “minor key” versions of the major heavenly key. Lewis pictures this idea of “transposition” in Mere Christianity using geometry. A line shows us one dimension of space, a square shows us two dimensions (including the one the line shows), and a cube shows us three (including those in the square). Furthermore a square is made of four lines and a cube is made up of six squares. The higher, more complex object takes up the lower simpler ones into itself.
I apply Lewis this way: Say that the line equals the building blocks of the universe, energy and matter. Say then that the square equals living things like plants and animals which are made up of matter. Say finally that the cube equals human beings; we are made of matter, we are alive, and we have something more that animals don’t have: personality. We think, speak, love, admire beauty, make things, and choose to do right or wrong. We don’t know exactly what the life of God is like in heaven, but, just as man takes matter and life into himself, so God must also take these and personality up into Himself as part of His heavenly life.
But what would the next level up be? What’s next up from the cube? We don’t have four dimensions of space and so can’t think beyond objects like cubes or spheres. A solid object at the next level up would have to be called an “extra solid” or something. And what then is the next step up from human personality? The Bible hints at it in passages like John 1:1: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” From this and other passages Christians have developed the idea of the Trinity which Lewis calls the “Super Personal” in Mere Christianity. Animals are alive. People are alive and have personality. The next step up, according to Lewis, is a living personal God who is Super Personal: He is three persons, but only one person. One God, but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can’t quite imagine this next step up, but maybe we get hints of what it’s like here on earth.
Human beings have individual personalities, but we act and think as Americans, or Southerners, or Christians. Sometimes our groups become so tight-knit that they “take on” a personality. Sports teams become so tightly knit that they start to talk alike, think alike, and predict each others’ movements as if they can read each others’ minds. There’s a bond, a unity that sports people call the “team spirit.” Lewis often says that what is metaphorical here on earth may be more literal in heaven. So perhaps in heaven God, who is spirit, experiences in His three-in-one personality a genuine spiritual connection, a team spirit, or better a unifying Spirit that is so real, so literal, that it is one of the three, and it makes the three into a real one, and they are both at the same time.
And this matters to us because Christians in heaven will be unified with Christ after the same pattern. Lewis explains by noting the difference between “begetting” and “making.” A sculptor can make a statue, but he begets children. To beget is to make something like you. The Bible says Christians will become sons of God (Galatians 3:26). But aren’t we already? Isn’t God our Father now, and the Father of non-Christians as well? No. At first, Jesus is the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16). He is the only one who is like God. We are made by God but only become begotten of God when we enter into the life of Christ, when we become part of His living body. Apart from Christ we are like the dead statues, though lovingly made by the sculptor’s hand. The promise of sonship, though, is the promise that the statues will come to life! We become begotten of God by becoming like Him, by entering into His life, His body. We become little Christs.
Imagine what it must be like: to see your friends, your relatives, your spouse in heaven: to recognize them for who they are as individuals but to know them so personally, so intimately, that to talk to them is sharing thoughts rather than words. Think about that space you have felt between you and your father because his generation is just different from yours. Think about the space, the distance you have felt from your best friend in the world when you wanted to tell him or her about the secret sorrow you’ve had hiding in your heart, but you just didn’t know how to begin. Think about how happy your husband or wife has made you, how you have longed to speak it, to share every thought, picture and feeling whirling around in your head, too fast and too intense to be able to put it all into words, how words are not even enough to say everything you could to you partner of five or fifty years. You’re so close, you’re so close to each other—but you still feel the distance.
Imagine a heaven in which those distances disappear completely, where to speak a word is to know someone’s heart, where I know all whom I have ever loved (and more) as I know myself (and better than I know myself here on earth) because I am no longer just me: I am me, in them, in Christ, who is in me. All united together, never lonely again.
Charlie W. Starr is Program Chair Humanities at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky. His new book Light: C. S. Lewis’s First and Final Short Story releases in June.