Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy: Perelandra and the Cosmic Christ Event

David Russell Mosley

St John Chrysostom’s Day 2014
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

In Lewis’s Perelandra, we get much less of the angelic. Perelandra, or Venus as we know it, is at the point of decision where Tellus before it had failed. Two rational creatures, in the shape––but not in any of the standard hues––of humanity, have evolved from a rather fishier biological background and have been separated. The woman, along with first meeting Ransom who has been sent there to aid the planet ward off the attacks of Satan, meets the tempter. This time, the tempter takes on the body of Dr Weston from Out of the Silent Planet. The book is made up primarily of these three characters: the Perelandrian Eve, Ransom, and the possessed Weston. Ransom and Weston thus battle not only for the Lady’s soul, but, in a way, for the whole planet. There are many interesting facets of this book. It can be read as a kind of suppositional commentary on Genesis 2 and 3. What fascinates me about it, however, is the cosmic level.

Lewis gives us a cosmos where the planets are ruled and governed by angelic beings, as I discussed in my last letter. Yet while Oyarsa was an ever present character, though unseen at first (and then only seen dimly when present), the eldila are unseen and mostly unknown on Perelandra (we later discover that at least the oyarsa of Perelandra is present, but more on that in a moment). What intrigues me is the way Lewis’s cosmos is connected. Too often, both in our real discussions of whether any potentially existent extraterrestrial beings or their depiction in science fiction focuses on the purely localised nature of the Christ event. We either assume that the extra terrestials would be damned by nature, in need of salvation, or at the very least, unaffected by what happened on Earth. Lewis challenges this. In Out of the Silent Planet, we have a world that is populated before humanity’s Fall, but during the angelic rebellion. Malacandra is thus peopled with creatures of varying shapes and sizes. Perelandra, however, gives us human shaped creatures. In fact, Ransom learns from the lady that there will be no more hrossa, no more sorns from here on out all rational creatures will come in the shape of a human. Why? Because Christ became human. While humanity’s fall did not cause the Fall of the entire Cosmos, it affected how the Cosmos would develop.

Earth becomes a step in the Cosmic dance that is tending toward the Beatific Vision. Both its Fall and its Redemption effect the direction of the rest of Cosmos. For a while, I was concerned about this. It seemed almost to make the Cross (and even the Incarnation) merely a reaction. The Oyarsa of Malacandra even tells Ransom that because Adam and Eve fell at this same point of decision, something greater (namely the Incarnation) happened there. Therefore, on Perelandra, what didn’t happen on Earth happened there instead. However, I was wrong to think this a reactionary view. By reactionary, I mean that God was surprised by the Fall and replied with the Incarnation, that is, plan A failed and so now it is time for plan B. Instead, however, Lewis gives us a cosmos where the Fall is not necessary, but is used to play an integral role in the development of the entire cosmos. It is the means by which the Son’s becoming human is, in some ways facilitated, but it is not a reaction, it is an eternal plan. It is necessary for the Son to become incarnate for all rational creatures, all ensouled creatures, are intended for deification, for the beatific vision. Thus, in Lewis’s cosmic vision, this is done on Earth, in part to combat the Fall, but in full to bring about the deification of all hanu (ensouled, rational creatures). It is for this reason, the Lord and Lady of Venus are human shaped yet green. It is for this reason there will be no more creatures like those seen on Malacandra. The Fall may have facilitated a need for incarnation, for we could not have been fittingly redeemed without it (not that we absolutely could not have been redeemed without it, but that is a letter for another day), but it is not the only reason for it. Rather, it’s ultimate purpose is to return the entire Cosmos, that is all of Creation, to God in deification. Christ’s becoming human has shaped the course of history, both tellurian and Cosmic.

In these first two books, Lewis’s Cosmic focus is extraterrestial. When I write about That Hideous Strength, we will see how Lewis takes this Cosmic understanding of the Universe and applies to the life lived on Earth. Until then, I remain,

Sincerely yours,
David

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‘The Evolution of Adam’ by Peter Enns: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

26 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam. I hope you enjoy.

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Peter Enns seeks to evidence that in the Christian tradition, we do not need a historical Adam and Eve, that is, that our theology will not rise or fall on Adam and Eve’s existence or lack thereof. Enns first begins by discussing the changes geology and evolution caused in modern thinking about the age and construction of the world. He then goes on to note how biblical scholars began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to notice that books such as Genesis seemed to be compilations of various sources. Enns then shifts to discuss how early Israel seems to have understood and used Genesis and how Paul used the OT scriptures in general and Adam in specific. Essentially, Enns suggests that while Adam is treated as historical for Paul, more significantly, Adam is a theological example of the plights of humanity, sin and death. Enns does not suggest that we replace theology/Scripture with evolution, but that we must recognise that the two speak different languages and must be synthesised.

While I generally agree with many of Enns conclusions about Genesis and evolution, I have several issues with this book. His almost naive acceptance of modern biblical, historical-critical method of interpretation aside, Enns spends no time on two issues that seem rather important from his conclusions. First, Enns suggests that all we really need to know is that sin and death are problems for humans and we need ask no further. Enns completely ignores the question of evil and his approach would almost suggest that God created humanity as sinful, or that sinfulness naturally arises in humanity, which comes to the same thing. The second issue Enns ignores is how the tradition understood/understands Genesis and Adam and Eve. For that matter, chronologically speaking, Enns ignores what the Gospel writers have to say on the issue. One could perhaps forgive Enns for ignoring the early and medieval theologians as outside his purview since the subtitle says ‘What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins’. Although Enns does make fleeting reference to the reformers. However, one cannot forgive Enns for promising in the title to tell us what the Bible does and does not say about this topic and then focus only on the Old Testament Scriptures and Paul. Admittedly, Adam only appears in two other places and seems to have less theological import than in Paul, but to ignore them entirely seems negligible.

In the end, I would recommend this book for those interested in learning more about this topic, but more so would I recommend reading Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea and Peter Bouteneff’s Beginnings.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

‘The Ancestral Sin’ by John S. Romanides: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

19 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is my review of The Ancestral Sin by John S. Romanides. Hope you appreciate it.

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This book is a primarily unhelpful polemic from start to finish. Romanides main point seems to be to show how the West is woefully wrong concerning sin and death (sinfully wrong, perhaps) and how the East contains only the right vision. Romanides argues that the West’s understanding of created grace, evil as privation of the good, the analogia entis in Thomas, and God being love, good, etc. in his nature all lead to notions of original sin. The East, instead, sources evil and death in Satan, rather than in God (as he understands the West to do), and God is primarily free in his essence while attributes such as love are uncreated energies.

There are too many problems with this characterisation to go into here, but the one major problem I want to point out is this: Romanides desperately wants to make it clear that God did not create death as a punishment, that instead death is the dominion of the devil who is at war with God. The problem? Did not God create the devil? Is the devil capable of creating from nothing like God? Is this how God is not responsible for death? If so, then we fall into dualism, which Romanides would repudiate.

While in many ways I agree that we need to think of sin, death, and the Fall in ways other than original sin and man’s fall from perfection, Romanides’ attempt at this is inept and often glosses over areas where Eastern Fathers, whom he cites elsewhere often coincide with Western positions he repudiates. Chief among these would be how Athanasius writes about evil, what the Cappadocians write about the soul, and how Maximus understands the human desire for the supernatural.

I neither recommend this book nor don’t. Read at your own risk.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley