Loren Rosson is on a tear. He's now blogging Perelandra, my favorite of the C.S. Lewis space trilogy. Rosson writes:
Perelandra serves an evangelical purpose like anything else Lewis wrote, but it works for the secular reader as much the Christian, reading like mythology or science-fiction. It's a fascinating and intense examination of how a person from an unfallen world processes thought, and what she is capable of doing as she struggles to think for herself. Try and imagine it: a world where everything is good -- there aren't even words for "bad" or "evil" -- its (two) people so in touch with their deity that stepping outside his will is impossible to conceive, at least on their own.
Check it out. And read the book, too -- it is relatively short and shouldn't take to long to get through.
Perhaps I'll bust out my copy and give it a read to keep up with Loren as he goes.
Update (2006-01-24): Loren makes his first post. I'm already behind! But his post touches on why I so enjoy reading Perelandra: It makes me think about the depth which sin affects us. In our day-to-day comings and goings, things and perspectives we can't even fathom have been touched by the depraved nature we carry. The very idea that, as Loren puts it, "not all events are pleasing or welcome" is foreign to me. We live in a world where disappointment, deception and death are the norm. Yet in Perelandra, the Green Lady has little to none of this; or at least she doesn't see situations as disappointing. We'd say she's naive because she seems so innocent and unknowing; in reality it is an indictment on us and our sin that prevents us from experiencing the purity of the experience as the Green Lady does. If you have read Lewis' Screwtape Letters and enjoyed the dialogue of letters between Screwtape and Wormwood regarding their attempts to infiltrate the lives of humans for nefarious purposes, I'd say you'll enjoy Perelandra exponentially more because it deals, via dialogue (almost Socratic), with explaining concepts taken for granted in a sinful world to one who is innocent and pure. In so doing, it causes the reader to re-evaluate these concepts and even understand their influence in our lives to a greater degree.
Update II (2006-01-26): Loren's second installment is up. Go read it. He's walking through the progression of Weston's (who is devil-possessed) argument to the Green Lady; attempting to walk her mentally from obedience and reliance to disobedience. The argument is subtle yet powerful (one gets the sense that Wormwood or one of his cohorts could be at Weston's helm) with, as Loren describes, the idea that to disobey when obedience has no ground or common sense may actually be intended by the Maker. That is, when obedience to a given command makes no sense, Weston's/the devil's argument is that perhaps that command is meant to be broken, that the act of disobedience in that one nonsensical area is actually liberating — like tasting new fruit. Loren captures this fairly well when he writes:
There must, according to the devil, be a specific reason why God gave a commandment so different from his other commandments. In all other matters, obedience to God amounts to doing what seems good in one's own eyes (such as loving and not killing). But one cannot see the goodness in a prohibition against dwelling on the Fixed Land. The reason, he suggests, is that it is a commandment given for no other reason than to be broken — to empower God's creatures to think and act for themselves.
Stated bluntly to a Christian who understands that one is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness, this seems a bit absurd. We obey because we are His, not because we happen to agree with His commands at a particular point. But Lewis' progression of the argument in Perelandra is an incredible thing to behold; at times one finds himself reacting similar to the Green Lady: It sounds all wrong but strangely makes sense. How to counter? That's up next for Loren to examine.
Update III (2006-01-27): Loren's third installment is up. He even cites and links me in his discussion (cheers for that, Loren). Ransom's response to the sorties of Weston/the devil is similar to mine above (and I haven't re-read the book yet — that's comforting). Loren quotes Ransom on this:
It's true that the commandment against living on the Fixed Land is different from other commandments, but this isn't because God secretly wants it to be broken. It's because there must be one commandment obeyed for the sake of obedience alone, in order to taste the joy of obeying. Obedience must amount to more than doing what seems good anyway. (101)
The counter to this argument offered by Weston/the devil is one of pragmatism; to say that the goodness and blessings of Christ — cherished, loved and valued by Christians — would never have happened had man not disobeyed. This, of course, is true; but it presupposes that salvation in Christ (which I cherish deeply; praise and glory to God for His goodness!) is better than if man had not sinned.
Stepping away from the context of Perelandra for a moment, this is the crux of the issue for me: Who is God? Is God? Or am I? If I am sovereign and in control, then obedience to a rule about fixed land (or which tree not to eat from) is silly. I make the choice. If, however, God is God, then obedience to his commands, whether they seem silly on the surface or not, is to be done. Christians largely realize that obedience requires effort and that our obedience cannot be perfect. Our goal is no less, we run the race with no less vigor, but our ability cannot reach the goal. Thus the need for Christ, our Mediator and Savior.
Stepping back into the context of Perelandra, we can see some of what Lewis is doing: He's causing us to think about the issue of obedience from the perspective of the Green Lady; the one who knows nothing other than obedience to His will. We see that she is innocent and rational, capable of learning and assimilating new ideas and concepts. She is offered a choice between Ransom and Weston. Weston says that freedom for the Green Lady and her children lies in, as Loren puts it, "truly awakening" by transgressing the command of God? Ransom says that's rubbish; that "... there must be one commandment obeyed for the sake of obedience alone, in order to taste the joy of obeying". (101)
Loren, thanks for blogging about this; it is good for me to remember the book (which I still need to re-read) and to consider these issues. I'm looking forward to your next post.
Update IV (2006-01-30): Loren's fourth installment (apparently in a series of five posts plus introductory post) is up. Go check it out. I won't be able to comment further on his post as time is tight right now. Perhaps later.
Update V (2006-01-31): Loren's fifth and concluding installment in the series is up. Again, not much time to interact with Loren's stuff. And, since I have not seen and am not familiar the the movie Pleasantville which he references, I don't know how much I should comment. From Loren's description, it sounds like Pleasantville isn't all that pleasant or perfect — but I wouldn't expect a proper and true conception of edenic paradise to come from the mind of anyone, C.S. Lewis included. None of our conceptions of a perfect, sinless world/land/state will be adequate — though Lewis' portrayal of Eden-on-Venus in Perelandra is likely as close as we'll get.