As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Calormene Soldier

My mom called me tonight and we talked about my Uncle. He is suffering from some severe physical ailments and she is concerned about his salvation. I tried to tell her why I was not particularly worried about him, but I feel like what I said was largely unintelligible, even to myself. In retrospect, I should have used the example of the Calormene soldier in Lewis' The Last Battle.

Emeth is pure of heart (even though he has worshipped the “false” god Tash), and Aslan appears before him and speaks to him as the kingdom of Narnia comes to its end. Here is the exchange in the words of Emeth:
Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. 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.

"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
I've written about this before, relating to Josiah. I started with these two a priori principles:
  • Christ is the ONLY way
  • Those who have not been presented with the Gospel are not automatically condemned to Hell.
I then followed with the following statements:
  • Even though someone may be presented with the Gospel, that doesn't mean they are automatically convinced of its Truth.
  • All people who present the Gospel are, at best, fallible messengers. Some so much so (like abusive parents or priests or crooked televangelists) that they poison the message they are presenting.
  • No one can know, with absolute certainty, of the Truth of Christ on Earth.
I mixed in an address to the inevitable objection:
  • It is not certain that everyone would choose Christ after death. Lucifer knew God face to face and rebelled anyway. It is quite probable that many humans would do the same.
  • Also, there are those like Nietzsche who summed up Christ and the Christian faith beautifully, only to negate it wholeheartedly. He, too, would reject Christ at sight, I think.
And came up with this conclusion:
  • Christ is the only way to salvation. However, that doesn't mean that if you don't choose Him before death, you are automatically doomed to Hell.
I return to the story of Emeth, the Calormene. It is obvious that the Calmormene's are meant to mimic the Arabic culture and religion, specifically Islam. Emeth had heard of Aslan, but believed Him to be what we would call Satan. Yet, according to Lewis, Emeth loved Aslan from first sight and Aslan accepted him into paradise. I wonder why many Christians, who love Lewis so much, seem to ignore this. If we were to put that into modern context, it would be like a Muslim, who knew of Christ and Christianity and who had fought against England, dying and, when coming before the throne, loving Christ instantly. Apparently, most "Bible-believing" Christians postulate that God would say, "Tough cookies, buster. Your bound for your master. Enjoy Hell!" But that's not what Lewis is saying.

This leads me to two conclusions. First, many are fearful of Islam taking over the world. I would say that might be exactly the thing the Church needs. It blossomed most under intense persecution by the Romans and, it stands to reason, would do so again under Muslim persecution. And, for those who fear that their children would become Janissaries and stray from the Faith, look to Emeth. Lewis most certainly has a God who is MUCH more loving than most Christians give Him credit for.

Second, regarding my uncle, I believe that he will know and love Christ when he sees him. I believe that in Him is everything my uncle has been seeking his entire life. The message of the Gospel has been polluted by a complacent, selfish, lazy, hypocritical Church. I don't think Christ would hold anyone having known Him from our witness, certainly not mine.


Anonymous BAP said...

Chris, I think you're asking some questions that have puzzled me for a long time, since before I could articulate them. Put in other terms, part of what you're asking is whether the world of our experience is metaphysically substantial, significant, both, or neither. I think the answer is both, although I think any claim of its substance must be qualified somewhat. The world is "really there" AND signifies something else that is "really there" and which is not the world itself. Particularly, the point that the world signifies something beyond itself leads to the question of its adequacy as a sign with respect to Christ.

Another issue related to your posting is the significance of death. If death is a sign of separation as well as a substantially real event, what do you think that implies concerning an Emeth-like scenario?

Furthermore, how important do you think the human contribution, if any, is to the substance of the world? In your opinion, to what extent is the world like God in that God is substantially independent of human contribution?

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Daddy said...

In regards to Russ. I cannot judge his salvation--however, at best he will get into heaven with smoke on his clothes. I think a case can be made about some kind of special arrangements for those who have never heard the gospel (darkest Africa, etc.) from the Scriptures. However, anyone who has grown up in the US of A or Europe cannot plead that they never heard. They may have heard badly but the Bible is widely available as is TV and radio. Yes, some of those presentations are perverted but most are excellent. There are thousands of books about Christianity available. There is no way that Russ, if He has rejected Christ, can make the excuse at Judgement Day that he did not know--he has no excuse. Pam heard the same Gospel he did and grew up in the same house and she is wholly committed to the Lord. Tom Ed, to my grief, is the same and maybe Bill. If you swim in the water you can't say that you never saw the water.


4:57 PM  

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