Should Hell Veto Heaven?

In the United States, Thanksgiving is November 23. As many people gather to be thankful for the earthly blessings of family, peace, and sustenance, let’s hope many more remember to always be thankful that Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you and I’ll come back again so you can go there too.”

The present readings in A Year with C. S. Lewis focus on Heaven. What does it mean to believe in Heaven? Lewis thinks that our belief in Heaven is a pointer to the abundant life on earth. “Aim at Heaven,” he says for Nov. 24, “and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” He equates it to wanting good health. If that’s your aim, you won’t be healthy. You’ll be worried and unable to enjoy fresh air, food, games, etc. Our aim must be Heaven, and if it is, we will allow it (and all it means to follow a crucified and risen Jesus) to shape us into creatures ready for such a place.

Who knows what Heaven will look like? Lewis has a little fun on Nov. 25 with a variety of images used in Scripture for Heaven – harps, gold, crowns – and suggests that perhaps since Jesus says will be like doves, that means we’ll lay eggs in Heaven. His point is to remind us that words are limited but Heaven is limitless. The Bible tries to capture the awe and hope, not make Heaven’s description an artifact.

The truth: “The world does not consist of 100 per cent Christians and 100 per cent non-Christians,” says Lewis on our Nov. 26 reading. Instead, Lewis believes that people are being drawn from all different walks and belief systems and, “led by God’s secret influence.” But the fall is real. We –humanity–desired to have our own space, “to plan for pleasure and for security, to have a meum from which, no doubt, they would pay some reasonable tribute to God in the way of time, attention, and love, but which, nevertheless, was theirs not His,” says Lewis in our Nov. 27th reading. But God doesn’t want a pound of flesh here and there, he wants our entire body, mind, and soul as tribute (“which is our reasonable service,” says the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1).

The conversation that is our reading on Nov. 29 from The Great Divorce asks if, “Hell should be able to veto Heaven”? Should the loveless be allowed to blackmail the universe by not accepting Jesus and therefore nullifying (or at least pacifying) some joy of the believer in Heaven knowing others suffer in Hell? Lewis does play with the question of linear time in the reading on Nov. 28, but he makes the point clearer here. There’s a choice, and that choice makes Hell a necessity. The teacher from The Great Divorce says, “I know it has a grand sound to say ye’ll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye’ll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.”

And then, finally, as eternity eats out the heart of time, the teacher says in our Nov 30th reading that pity’s passion will die in eternity. The pity used as a weapon that breaks a person’s honesty will cease, and all will stand exposed and without excuse.  Though the passion of pity will die,  pity’s action will be a weapon on the other side. It’s the pity used to change darkness to light, bring disease (that submits) a cure. However, Lewis says it will not impose good on evil. Yellow will not be blue just to please those who think it’s blue. Hell won’t be replaced with Heaven. It can’t because Hell houses those who are thankless and only submit to their own tribute, both devil and human alike.

Colossians 2: 6-7 says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” And too, Colossians 3: 1-4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Happy C. S. Lewis reading; happy Thanksgiving.

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