Book Review: The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The timeless novel about a bus ride from hell to heaven… In The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis again employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory. The writer finds himself in Hell boarding a bus bound for Heaven. The amazing opportunity is that anyone who wants to stay in Heaven, can. This is the starting point for an extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment. Lewis’s revolutionary idea is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. In Lewis’s own words, “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”- GoodReads

Oh my goodness, I’m in shock! I feel like I have been hit with a ton of spiritual bricks; not an uncommon feeling after reading any of Lewis’ books. How wonderful! The best part is that no matter what the subject or plot, Lewis always turns the focus back to Christ. This book reminds me a bit of his book, “Pilgrim’s Regress”, and John Bunyan’s book too. It follows that sort of pattern- wandering in a strange land, meeting allegorical people, having philosophical conversations with angels and men that illustrate great truths in an easily digestible way. This is a fantasy story of a man who is confronted with the choice between Heaven and Hell, as we all are, and as he watches others make the choice, he realizes that people who go to Hell WANT to be there. They chose it. “Hell is locked from the inside.” He also quotes one of my favorite passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost; that some think it is “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” People choose to endure misery rather than submit to Joy. People choose to be proud and suffering rather than admit they were wrong and accept forgiveness. The reason for the title is that the book proves there is no middle ground. You must choose one or the other. There is a complete and total division between Heaven and Hell. Sound theology, beautifully expressed! When George MacDonald showed up as a character, I gave a little holler of happiness! And his dialogue is so delightfully Scotch. Just lovely writing! There are some enchanting descriptions of Heaven, and imaginings of what it could be like there, that brought me some joyful thoughts and a holy longing to be in my True Home. It really lifts the focus onto the things of God! As all of Lewis’ writing does, this book gives me the uncomfortable feeling that I’m dealing with concepts way too deep and unknowable for me to even begin to think about; but as I read, I find that I understand his points very well. I can’t always hold them in my mind later, but at the moment that I am reading, I can follow his logic perfectly. That is his genius! He speaks to the common man in common language, and unfolds eternity as something we can know because it lives inside us. Maybe the thing I like best about Lewis’ writings is that he doesn’t let anybody hide behind their intellectualism or false humility or assumed religiosity. He demands complete honesty from the soul, because that is what God demands. There is some shady theology with some stuff about purgatory that I’m not sure I understood, but hey, it’s a dream fantasy. I’m not taking it too literally here! haha! I really loved what he wrote near the end about seeing everything through a lens of Time. We can’t truly understand the mysteries of God or of our own eternal souls, until we are taken outside of Time. Right now Time is distorting our understanding, although it is certainly useful to protect us for now. Eventually, we won’t need it, because we will “see Him as He is.” Wonderful thoughts!

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