Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscars and a Biblical Rumination

Yeah, I didn't see many of the movies this year so I didn't really care that much. I watched it when I got back from the prison around 9, mainly for Jon Stewart, who I liked and always do.


In our Sunday School class, we looked at the story of Melchizedek, the priest king of Salem in Genesis 14. The specific verses say,

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.

20 And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

What was interesting to me was an NIV text note that said that the terms "God Most High" and "Creator of heaven and earth" were used to refer to the chief Cannanite god. Now, the assumption that we make in reading this passage is that Melchizedek was worshiping the God that we call God, or the Hebrews would have referred to as YHWH. The question I wondered about was whether or not Melchizedek knew he was worshiping and serving that God, and what would it mean if he thought he was serving another one, if the chief Cannanite god and the God of Abraham were perceived as being different.

CS Lewis didn't seem to think it mattered what the name of the God you were serving was, as long as you were doing good, as evinced in the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle. The Calormene Emeth has served Tash, the enemy of Aslan, but in the restored Narnia, encounters Aslan. And the following exchange occurs:
But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.
And that's not to say that CS Lewis has the final word here, but it is an interesting perspective.

Any other thoughts?


Brian said...

Hi Phil,
Yes I agree. I remember being struck by the same passage when I first read The Final Battle. I believe it more strongly now.

When Paul was writing his letters, he was often addressing the narrow mindedness of the Jews who believed that they had an exclusive key to God. He might as well be writing to the church of today. The prevailing thought is that we have the golden ticket to heaven, and that everyone else has lost out.

As Christians, we tend to be strongly against other religions without recognising that even though other faiths have different names for God, they still have faith and are seeking truth, so why would God not be real to them.

Your ref to Abraham and Melk is very significant because they both used different names for God, yet both recognised that God was real to each other.

I believe that Allah as worshiped by Muslims is the same God as we worship. We all come from the same Abrahamic root, so Allah and God must be the same.

Justin said...

I was talking to my mom about this today at lunch. I differ in my theology from mainstream christianity in several key areas. I don't think they are going to hell for believing different than do I, and that is the point. I want to tell them about what I feel like Jesus's life, death, and resurrection mean for us, and how we should respond, but just because someone understands differently from me doesn't mean they aren't still worshipping the same God, and that he for some reason isn't pleased when they do the right things.

Tony Arnold said...

I think I remember reading quotes from Lewis that the Chronicles of Narnia were not intended to be theological opinions but they were fantasy--fairy tales meant to entertain.

Although certainly he let his Christian views shape the stories, I certainly don't think you can ascribed an opinion of theology to him from those books. Now if he had made some comment similiar in one of the theological, non-fiction books that would be different.

I liked your question Phil, but you may stretching quite a bit with Lewis and maybe unfairly to him. I would not want my theological views to be assumed based on a work of fiction I wrote, even if I may have intended that work of fiction to give others pause for thought.

Did you ask your question in class? I would have loved to hear Randall's answer.

Phil said...

Tony, I didn't ask, because it wasn't really germane to the discussion at hand.

And as to Lewis, didn't he make some similar points in The Great Divorce? And anyway, that seems like a pretty big deal, even from a fictional standpoint.

Tony Arnold said...

I have not read the Great Divorce. I am not saying it wasn't a big deal. I just don't think you can assume that was what he was trying to do.

Authors can explore alternative thoughts through their fiction, thoughts they would not espouse as a firm opinion in non-fiction.

An example using Lewis is the Space Trilogy. You could assume his opinions on what happened in the Garden of Eden from the parallel story he tells on Venus, but it was fantasizing and exploration of "what if", not trying to subtley express doctrine or philosphy. There it was so fanciful it was not hard to confuse. Maybe with CoN, it just wasn't so easy to discern.

If he says something similiar in the Great Divorce, you are not assuming at that point.

I still would love to hear Randall commment on your question. That would be entertaining.

Brian said...

Interestingly, yesterday another blog I follow had a VERY similar line of discussion. A link was provided to a page that parallels Pauls writings about God with earlier Greek writings about Zeus. Here is the link:

Thomas+ said...

Hey all,

This is every universalist's favorite C.S. Lewis quote. Lewis, however, was not a universalist, as his theological writings make clear.

Of course, if he was a universalist that wouldn't bother me. I don't think his theology was all that great on a lot of levels, and I have no problems disagreeing with my fellow Anglican (whom I love).

Anyway, when I read this part of the Final Battle, it causes me to reflect on that truly important influence on Lewis' life: World War II. The idea of the German solider or officer who is true to his faith while fighting for Hitler is, I believe, more pertinent to Lewis' thoughts in this passage.

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