Wow, it's been a while! I'm back on the East Coast, ready for school to start a week from tomorrow. Presumably once I'm back in school I'll have a little more to write about. We'll see if I also have time to write...
A couple weeks ago I re-read C.S. Lewis's science fiction book "Perelandra." I read this trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) in middle school and hadn't read them since then, so it was interesting reading it with adult eyes with some theological training. No longer was it just a fun story, but it was an interesting look into Lewis's theology and world view.
The story is basically about this guy (Ransom) who goes to Venus (Perelandra). Venus is, in Lewis's early 20th century lack of knowledge, habitable, and it is in a similar stage to how the Earth mythologically was in Edenic times, before the Fall. There are two people (although slightly different from humans) and the entire world is perfect: warm, covered with clouds so the sun can't burn the skin or hurt the eyes, friendly animals, satiating fruit, etc.
Enter the Devil, who cannot get into this idyllic place without an invitation. Another person from Earth, a mad scientist if you will, comes to Venus and invites the Devil to take him over, so he becomes demon possessed and starts talking to the Eve character, trying to convince her to break God's one command of something they're not supposed to do.
The story is interesting in that it ponders the question of whether it was possible for humans not to sin, what temptation might have looked like, how far temptation goes before sin actually occurs, and the role of God when someone is being tempted.
A couple of Lewis's ideas were particularly interesting to think about, although not necessarily accurate. He suggested that things that are the stuff of our myths may all exist in other places. There were dragons and other mythological creatures on Perelandra. When angels appear they appear in the form of Greek gods. His angels are interesting, too. He imagines them as beings who live in a different dimension from the ones we can normally sense. They are very powerful and intelligent so humans generally think of them as gods, although they only serve God. But God puts the planets under their care, as we think of with the names of our planets. These angels, or "eldila" as they're called, can communicate with us without our knowing it, putting thoughts in our minds, or they can cause us to become aware of them. What we think of as "demons" are actually evil elidla who have become twisted and no longer follow God. Earth has been under siege by these evil eldila since the dawn of our histories. Sometimes good eldila come to Earth as well, and that's where we get ideas of angels. This is an interesting idea, although of course all conjecture.
Lewis apparently believes that humans could have chosen not to sin, and in that case, we would have continued in wisdom and understanding without the actual necessity of doing evil. To Lewis, because we chose evil God used it for good and sent Jesus, which was the central point of all history on all planets and would never be repeated, and was a redemptive act for all creation, not just for our planet. I don't agree with his entire theology on this point--it's hard to explain here, but he believed in predestination in a harsher sense than I do and that came across in his writing.
Another thing that I don't remember from reading this book when I was 13 was how sexist it is. The Devil comes to the woman, tempts the woman because, presumably, she is the weaker one and there is more of a chance of her failing. Every time he comes to her, if she thinks he's perhaps made a good point, she says, "I must talk to the King about this," meaning the man. She can't make a decision for herself, she has to ask him because he's "older" (wiser) than her. If she had to go talk to the King about it because they make all decisions together, that would be one thing--that would be a positive way of living in community, in a healthy relationship, where important decisions are made together. But that wasn't what she was indicating. Also, she is the one who is tempted for several weeks on end, while the King is off doing some random stuff with God, and yet when the celebration happens at the end because she withstood the test, it is the King who is given dominion over the planet and given the privilege of naming everything. He wasn't even tempted!
So, although I would recommend this book because it has some interesting ideas and makes you think about various aspects of Creation & Fall mythology, take it with a grain of salt!