C.S. Lewis was an English man of letters who made theology a form of entertainment in The Screwtape Letters, then with his space trilogy theology went astral…
The overwhelming distances of astronomy, which leaves the human helpless in the presence of immensity, Lewis wraps in the term “deep heaven.” His universe is not lifeless, hostile, empty or impersonal. It is the whole created realm of God, harmonious in the Great Dance, which is the motion of galaxies and stars and of all things, great and small, atom and organism. Earth is one of the “low worlds.” The great planets, Jupiter and Saturn, are the province of mighty, intelligent beings who are not organisms.
It was Lewis’s belief that the individual needs the recovery and preservation of wonder, awe, radical amazement and sense of the Holy. The breaking down of our “nature’s incurable incredulity.” The thinking was it was the vulgar error of his day to believe in too little rather than too much:
“The distinction between natural and supernatural, in fact, broke down; and when it had done so, one realised how great a comfort it had been-how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness which this universe imposes on us by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind never to think of both in the same context.”
The “realist” invokes the “laws of nature” against the “miraculous” but, : “The laws of the universe are never broken. Your mistake is to think that the little regularities we have observed on one planet for a few hundred years are the real unbreakable laws; whereas they are only the remote results which the true laws bring about more often than not; as a kind of accident.”
In the harmonious Creation, our planet stands uniquely, as enemy-occupied territory. In Lewis’s scheme a great angel of a certain category, Oyarsa, has in his charge each of the planets with all its beings. But the Oyarsa of Earth, Satan, alienated himself from God by the corruption of his own will, together with a host of angelic adherents; he and they stand exiled from deep heaven, confined within the orbit of our moon. He who was the shepherd of the planet has seduced his charges into rebellion and evil after his own kind, and his influence has led to their fall.
Here then, in Lewis, was a twentieth-century variant of Milton’s Paradise Lost, a new telling of the Christian myth of the fall of man. To call it a myth does not mean it is not true, it means that it states the truth in a symbolic story. It dramatizes and clarifies for our age the Christian teaching about man’s peculiar dilemma in the order of Creation. The tragic fact of the human condition is that the individual is other than what was intended to be; the deep springs of the will have been subverted- the individual cannot do consistently the good they would do, but does instead the evil that they would not do.
The Incarnation is seen as an action from without, a beachhead for the reconquest of the planet and human redemption. This action, in God’s methods, is not an intervention by force but an invitation to free wills. Anyone may believe and accept the proffered redemption, but no-one is compelled to accept it or to believe.