Whenever I hear Oxford don Richard Dawkins scoffing at Christians and advising others to mock Christianity, I find myself asking - " Did you ever consider the mind of and contributions made by fellow Oxford scholar Clive Staples Lewis?" C.S. Lewis was not only a great writer, worthy of being honoured in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, but additionally a noted scholar, broadcaster, theologian, lecturer and Christian apologist.
"The Great Divorce"is a little gem of a book, and one I recently unearthed in a second-hand shop- a hard bound, first edition, no less. A mere 118 pages in length, this little novella and allegory contains more theological insight and wisdom than tomes many times its length. I know of no better writer of allegorical fiction than Lewis who can express a religious theme in a way which is thought provoking and insightful but never preachy.
Drawing on such predecessors as Dante's "Divine Comedy", Lewis introduces us to a particular traveller and a cast of characters either visiting or residing in what might be termed "the foothills of heaven". As our unnamed narrator takes his first tentative steps into this land he thinks back to where he has come from and considers where he might be going, as apparently there exists the option of either returning or continuing. We meet personalities who exhibit a range of human emotions and consider some of the circumstances which have affected their lives and dispositions.
Although a celebrated intellectual and academic, Lewis displays throughout this work his interest in the human condition. There is always a sense of compassion as he depicts fallen humanity, never superciliousness or smug judgement so often attributed to Christians. The concept that humans are tempted and changed subtly and slowly is one that develops more fully in Lewis' masterpiece, "The Screwtape Letters", whilst his deep love of others could not be depicted more obviously than his autobiographical "Surprised by Joy".
This little book can easily be read in one or two sittings and is easily readable and thought provoking. For a refreshing interlude in another land, I thoroughly recommend it.
"The Great Divorce" C.S.Lewis, Geoffrey Bles: Centenary Press 1945 (Also available in reprints)