Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ransom, Till We Have Faces and sharing in redemption

What follows below is an essay that I have been working on. It is alittle on the long side and is far from finished. But, just the same I would like some feed back about it.

One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the ability to share in the redemptive act for the sake of another. In the fiction of C.S. Lewis there are great examples of this idea in Perelandra and Till We Have Faces. In both of these books one character must suffer, so another may find a path to God. Ransom and Orual both suffer for another in the world around them to regain, in the case of Psyche, or never lose, the King and Queen of Perelandra intimacy with God.
In the case of Ransom the entire future of a planet rests on his intersession for the first parents of the planet. Not just in prayers and arguments, but even more so in actions. Ransom becomes the price paid for the future of Venus. The future of the world rests on the decision of the great Mother of her race to obey the command of Maleldil.[1] The command was not to reside on the fixed lands, but to live on the floating islands. The Un-Man, the fallen angel who entered into Perelandra through Dr Weston, tries to convince the Lady of Perelandra of the good of living on the fixed lands over the islands. The Un-Man attempted to show this through the example of Earth, because all men on Earth live on the fixed lands therefore it cannot be evil. The Un-Man is correct; living on the fixed lands in itself is not an evil. The evil is in disobeying a command of Maleldil. Throughout the arguments between the Lady and the Un-Man, Ransom knows that he is there for a reason but he cannot tell why he has been brought to the planet.
In the dark night, the night itself and the future were both black, before any action is taken Ransom is told something that he did not expect. The voice in his mind told him, “It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom.”[2] Ransom himself did not realize that there could be more than chance to his name being Ransom. He did not think that his surname would have anything to do with the act of ransoming any more than a mere pun. If he was not to be the ransom for this world, then it would have to be redeemed. Maleldil, Himself, would be the ransom for this world just as He was for the Earth. No matter the choice of Dr Ransom the world of Perelandra would be redeemed, it is just a question of when. Either at its beginning or later by Maleldil, whose name is Ransom also, for He is ultimately the only one who ransoms any from the bent one.[3] It is through Dr Ransom that Maleldil wishes to ransom Perelandra at the beginning. In Creation Maleldil uses others as instruments of his acts for the benefit of His servants. Either intelligent beings freely choose to co-operate with Maleldil, that is God, or they rebel against His will. This is the revelation that spurs Dr Ransom into action for the sake of others going beyond his fears and doubts.
The salvation of Perelandra comes when Maleldil casts the Lady into a deep sleep leaving Dr Ransom with the Un-Man. This gives Ransom the chance to deal with the Un-Man without corrupting the innocence of the Lady. The process of dealing with the Un-Man is completely unknown to Ransom. The only thing Ransom knows for certain is that he must act quickly. The first step Ransom takes is to attack the Un-Man with physical force. To the attack the Un-Man responds, “But this is very foolish. Do you not know who I am?”[4] Ransom has a simple response that he knows what he is, which one does not matter at all. The Un-Man proceeds to mock Ransom trying to get him to despair from the task at hand by way of the Crucifixion of Christ and the cry of Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.[5] But Ransom is not deterred by the mocking of this bent creature, not because it was untrue, but the voice of the Un-Man was that of perfect remembrance of events long ago. The words of perfect Aramaic pronunciation of one who was there when those words were uttered and remembered with relish of a victory over Maleldil. The suffering of that day did one thing. Ransom is co-operating in the same act. The act of the redemption of a world. The first world had already fallen into the rebellion of the Bent-One and suffered every day since. The world of Perelandra where Ransom now walks had not yet fallen for the lies of the Bent-One. It is on the razors edge as Ransom walks on it.
It is through the suffering that Ransom is now enduring Perelandra will be redeemed or else it will become like our world. The world of Perelandra will be either kept in the in grace or it will be brought back into grace. If Perelandra is brought back into grace at a later time than it will have to suffer each day sharing in the redemptive act that brought it back to grace. Humans use suffering as a proof that God does not exist. We do not realize that it is something very different. The silence heard in a suffering soul is not because God does not exist or care. Our Great Mother and Father chose to fall from the grace of unity with God, but there is a way back to the unity with God. To go back there must be a cost. Unfortunately, we can never totally return to the time prior to the fall, the affects will always be with us. The fall cannot be undone. God has the power to remove the results of the first sin, but there would be no point unless God was willing to remove the results of the second, third, forth to infinite by the same miracles. If the miracles stopped than we could end up in the same situation that we are in, otherwise the world is being controlled through the direct and constant interference of God.[6] In that case we would not have free will and not be able to love God, choosing Him above all else, choosing love. With the ability to love and choose also comes the chance for suffering.
In our world, that is Earth, suffering came into existence as a result of a choice. In the beginning Adam was told to eat from any of the trees in the garden but not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The day man eats from that he will be doomed to die.[7] When the woman was created the man told her of the command in regards to the fruit of the garden, so it was the case that God did not tell it to her. So the serpent did not lie in part, but in the end did. The lie was that the warning was given to the entire human race, not just man as in the male and that they will “become like gods, knowing good from evil.”[8] Man and woman already knew the difference between good and evil in virtue of having the gift of reason. As a result of listening to the lie of the serpent pain and toil was introduced into the world.[9] Suffering resulted from sin; sin would be healed through suffering. It could not be the suffering of just anyone though it would have to be a sacrifice without blemish or taint from sin. It must be one who is like to man but free of sin to be sacrificed for sin.[10] In Perelandra things will be different.
In Perelandra it will not be God who takes the suffering onto Himself but will be a sinner who was chosen to protect the first parents of this planet. Ransom must do what every Christian is called to do, bring Christ to the world. Lewis wrote, “…Ransom (to some extent) plays the role of Christ not because he allegorically represents him (as Cupid represents falling in love) but because in reality every real Christian is really called upon in some measure enact Christ.”[11] Ransom is not the personification of Christ, but is a second Christ as are all Christians. Not to say that Christians are Incarnations, but Christians are mirrors of Christ to the world. It is the task of all Christians to go out into the world and bring Christ to the world. Christ commanded it saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."[12] Ransom’s task is not much more difficult than ours. Ransom must teach about sin and death to someone who has no idea what they are, someone who is ‘young’[13], without leading her into sin and death. It is no different in the modern world that denies the existence of sin. Every Christian is called to bring Christ’s redemptive act to the world, so the world may be renewed.

[1] Maleldil is the name of the Son of God in Lewis’ Space Trilogy
[2] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, (Scribner, New York, NY), 147.
[3] C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, (Scribner, New York, NY), 148. The exact quote is “My name also is Ransom,” said the Voice.
[4] Ibid, 153.
[5] Mathew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani means “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” This is the first line of Psalm 22, which starts in pain and suffering, but ends declaring the glory of God.
[6] CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996), 63.
[7] Genesis 2:16-17 (NJB).
[8] Cf. Genesis 3:1b-3, 5 (NJB).
[9] Cf. Genesis 3:16-19.
[10] Cf. Romans 8:3.
[11] Walter Hooper (ed.), The Collected Letters of CS Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. 1005.
[12] Matthew 28:19-20.
[13] In Perelandra someone who lacks understanding is referred to by the Lady as being young and is in need of teaching about the ways of Maleldil. She knows herself to be very young and is willing to learn.

1 comment:

Sean R. Christopher said...

Great essay, Thomas. You really did your homework/research. I liked Perelandra too. Thought it was the best of the Space Trilogy. Keep writing. Good luck on your new job.