C.S. Lewis and the Myth of Creation (Part 3)

Now, it’s true that Lewis might describe himself as a creationist in the sense that he believed “God created” and was the source of all existence, except for His own. After all, he states, “No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words in Genesis, that ‘In the beginning God made Heaven and Earth’” (M, 4:15). To reiterate the point above, Lewis’ distinction between nature and the supernatural entails that God, since he created nature, is not part of nature. Something cannot create itself.  But in terms of modern conceptions, he would likely reject the contemporary movements of both religious and nonreligious (perhaps even anti-religious) individuals to qualify the natural sciences like evolutionary biology as having the power to make metaphysical statements on God’s existence or non-existence. In fact, Lewis advocated the opposite: “The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make” (MC, I, 4:2). Lewis understood that those that usually make such statements about what science informs us about the metaphysical are usually not scientists at all. They are popularizers, novelists, and media figures. Lewis’ assessment may be even more true today. Science cannot answer answer questions of morality, meaning, purpose, etc. That is the job of philosophy and theology done proper. Thus, the fact that science can tell us that the universe began at a particular point in time out of nothing, for nothing, and by nothing does not allow one to jump to the conclusion that the universe was caused by God. That, Lewis would say, is the job of philosophical inference from the scientific evidence. One may disagree with Lewis’ philosophical assessment, but it should not be done on the basis of what science itself says.

Thus, we see that in Lewis’ creation theology his problem is not with what science says, but in the philosophical presuppositions some scientists bring to the table. He was not an opponent of evolution, but in evolutionism. Evolution as a biological paradigm that explains life’s development through change, mutation, and process was completely acceptable as long as the science actually supported it (Lewis was aware of the fact that science rapidly changes). But evolution as a determining worldview, as a way to think about reality as a whole, was inappropriate.

Evolutionism as a worldview would have certain things to say about reality, purpose, meaning, and morality. So would creation. Thus, Lewis’ creation theology went beyond just merely looking at the myth of creation and an interpretation of the science. Lewis saw a purpose to creation. Both a purpose for man and a purpose for God. Lewis did not believe that scripture leaves the question of “why are here” left unanswered. He fully believed Christianity offered a full explanation for why God created humanity.

Let it be said at the forefront that for Lewis, the question of whether it was better for God to create versus not create was absurd. This would be like suggesting that it would be better for one not to be born. The one who’s aware of such a statement and what it entails would find it to be an absolutely pointless scenario since one would not know its better to have not ever existed if they never existed. If there is any answer even possible, Lewis was sure that it is yes. The fact that God created automatically meant that it was better to create than not create, since God will by default do what is more right and proper.

Lewis believed that God created out of “love and artistry” and that its essence was good (GID, ST, 148). This, of course, factors into how we are to relate to the world now. We are not to see it in any sort of Gnostic sense as if the world—God’s creation—is inherently evil and bad. It is merely a corruption of what is essentially good. The evils in this world are mere perversions of the true goodness which stems from God’s original creation. And just as this creation requires our reverence (ibid), it also requires us to fight against certain perversions like death (ibid, 150).

Lewis writes, “It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be fathered together in Him” (MC, IV, 8:10). Of course, this is somewhat of an ambiguous statement. In what sense are we to suppose that Christ needs the universe? Lewis would suggest that in no way did Jesus actually need the universe. He reminds us that when looking at Creation, Christian theology leads us to see it as more than a “mere datum” (RP, 83) but as an achievement made out of love. The love was not from any “Divine Need-Love” but from a pure “Gift-Love” (FL, 6:21). One may presume that this gift is extended solely from the Son and given back to the Father: We “can become part of that wonderful present” which the Son gives to the Father. The present, the gift, is the Son himself. And since Christians can be “in Christ” we are, thus, given also to the Father (MC, IV, 8:12).

The universe was made for man. God created the cosmos so that man would be the recipient of a divine love, a sacrificial love: “Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake…We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’ (PP, 3:15). Thus, in line with Rev 4.11, Lewis presumes that creation was primarily for the purposes of God’s desire to have an object to receive his love.

Finally, we must explore the concept of ‘word’ in Lewis creation theology. It is no accident that Lewis’ creation of Narnia is reminiscent of the first chapter of Genesis and the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In Genesis, YHWH speaks creation into existence. It is by his words that reality comes into existence in a very poetic and rhythmic matter. It is to be remembered that Lewis sees this the poetic nature of Genesis as probably deriving from Semitic folk-lore and a lengthy process of redaction. But it is this very poetic nature which was inspired by God as the best way of describing what creation actually entailed. It was this poetic tale which seemed to best exhibit the intentions of YHWH and beauty and purpose of His creation.

In the first (and last) book of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series entitled The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis describes how Aslan—the God figure—creates Narnia. As opposed to YWHW speaking creation into existence, Aslan sings it into existence. Digory, the young boy in the story, hears the song: “There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard” (TMN, 61). The sound Digory heard seemed to come from every direction at once, even from the earth. This says something about how Lewis envisioned YHWH’s creation. In his view, we probably cannot imagine God really “speaking” in the same way that humans speak. We’re not to really imagine him vocalizing certain words across the empty space of the universe but simply something which can only best be explained as such. Interestingly enough, Aslan’s song had no words and not really a tune, but it was the most beautiful song Digory ever heard. In the same way, YWHW spoke the universe into existence while not really using vocal chords, languages, and/or words. Language is simply the best way to describe what actually happened at creation.

Secondly, it’s important to note that Aslan’s song was more beautiful and majestic than what was going on around Him. It was not really the creation that they were focused on. It was the Creator. It was not the consequence of his song but the song itself that was more beautiful. Thus, in Lewis’ estimation, Genesis one is focused more extensively on introducing us to God and who he is and the attributes that He holds, specifically as they are expressed in the creation process, than it is about creation itself.

As the song progressed and created the world around them, Polly “thought she was beginning to see the connection between the music and the things that were happening” (65). The song which Aslan sang—just as the words which YHWH spoke—were not independent of what was going on around them. Aslan’s intentions were delivered through song; the song was directly related—even the direct cause—of creation. Without YHWH’s command “Let there be…” throughout Genesis 1, the cosmos and its attributes would never have come into existence. Finally, Aslan finishes creation with a benediction: “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters” (TMN, 70). The commission at the end of the creation is highly reminiscent of the poetic language in Genesis and the use of the “Let there be” command found within the days to bring forth the different functions of creation. In a certain sense, the world is alive in both creation accounts.

The logos (logoj) theology of John speaks of Christ as ‘the word’ and as ‘the word’ being the source of all creation. In Lewis’ Narnia narratives, Aslan represents both the Father and the Son and later even serves as the atoning sacrifice for Edmund. It could be said that Lewis wanted to make a parallel in his Narnia creation between the Creator and Redeemer. It is through the Redeemer that creation occurs. Everything is made through Aslan (the Word) and without Aslan (the Word) nothing is made. Again, it should be noted that the song that Aslan sings is not really a song at all. It appears to be something more that exudes from Him and is part of his identity. In this sense we may also parallel Aslan with the Word found in John’s gospel.

As can be seen, Lewis’ theology of creation does not lack depth. Though he never wrote a book specifically on creation, it is a critical part to his theology, his view of truth and myth, and our sense of purpose. Creation factors into how the world was meant to be, what happened in the fall, and our current relationship to God through it. The world’s current state is not something to be rejected as solely and inherently evil; it is something to be revered. Creation, along with ourselves, still bears the image of the God who created us.

There may be various legitimate critiques of Lewis’ creation theology. Lewis would never suggest that his views are paramount to others that are ‘more qualified’ to think in the field (he often reminded his readers that he was only a layman thinking about such things, even if that was not really true). Perhaps one legitimate criticism centers on his lack of focus concerning an eschatological view of creation. Lewis never sufficiently deals with the question of how the final eschaton will relate to God’s initial work in the cosmos. But the point to be recognized here is that even where Lewis lacks depth in his theology of creation, it is evident that he has genuinely explored and thought about the issues and implications more than many trained theologians. His creation theology is multi-faceted to say the least, but it is brilliant.