Lessons From The Great Divorce – The Intellect

In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, the narrator encounters many interesting characters in heaven. These aid Lewis’ point in writing the book – that there is an absolute way to heaven, and it is through the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the characters encountered have different expectations about why they should be accepted into heaven, or why they at least want to visit. Today I want to focus on the Episcopal bishop, referred to as the Fat Ghost in the story. The encounter between him and his Spirit friend is found in Chapter 5 of Lewis’ book.

The Fat Ghost, we discover, is theologically liberal and philosophically relativistic. He thinks that his opinions, if believed honestly and sincerely, should be accepted no matter what. He sees nothing sinful about a wrong opinion, as long as it is sincere. He doesn’t believe in a literal heaven or hell (which is ironic because in the story he has walked in both). He has fallen in with the academic crowd and was swayed by every new idea that fell on his ears (which lead to his becoming a liberal theologian). He also has a hint of existentialism. He doesn’t believe that he was really sent to hell. In the end he chooses to return “home” and not stay in heaven because he is reading a paper to a theological society, (“not of a very high quality, perhaps”), the following week about how Jesus’ teachings would’ve changed had he lived (more liberal theology, completely ignoring who Jesus Christ really is).

The Fat Ghost is the token intellectually and theologically liberal professing Christian. I say professing because he is not really a Christian at all and is instead called an apostate for rejecting all orthodox biblical theology. If he stays in heaven, he expects to test all things with his intellectual faculties, and in turn also wants to be used and appreciated for his intellectual might. He has completely missed the point of faith, and of inquiry. The Spirit says to him:

Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become a child again, even now… You have gone wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage.

I suspect that many people who believe they are saved will be surprised, like this Ghost, to find that they were not. Opinions may be sincere, but may be sincerely wrong. The Bible says we must worship God in Truth (John 4:23). This Ghost, in the end, had no real thirst for the truth, and was not really interested in finding it. In the end he turn away from heaven, and quite contently, to instead entertain his own ideas about how Christianity should be.

Take the warning. Do not be like this man. Do not miss the point of asking questions. We ask questions because we are seeking after the truth. When we find it, we must rejoice in it. Jesus says, “I am the Truth” (John 14:6). Rejoice in Christ and the salvation he gives.

Posts In This Series

A Review
The Intellect
The Arts
The One That Stayed
The Rest Who Went Back

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One Response to Lessons From The Great Divorce – The Intellect

  1. Lauren says:

    This is good research for someone who cant find much info about C.S. Lewis “The Great Divorce”! Thanks!

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