Plato, The End of Narnia, and Eternity

Unknown-4In The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis brings his Narnian tale to an end. The forces of good and evil come to a head, and Aslan ushers in the end of Narnia and the beginning of eternity. Toward the end of the book, the old Narnia has ended and the faithful have entered through a magical door into Aslan’s land. As they explore this new world, they notice that it looks a lot like the old Narnia, just better—richer, purer, more real, untainted by evil, eternal.

And Lord Digory, who had been present during the creation of Narnia (another wonderful tale found in The Magician’s Nephew), blurts out:

It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!

I’m sure my six-year old son had no idea why I was suddenly reading about plato (the pasty dough), but, as a history of ideas professor, this exclamation startled me! Lewis, the eminent classical scholar, is painting a picture of heaven, modeled after Plato’s theory of Forms!

For Plato, the Forms are the eternal, unchanging, uncreated, immaterial, archetypes of all reality. As Plato would put it: there are beds and then there is BED. The former I sleep in, the latter is the Form. The former “participates” in the latter. Beds comes into being and passes away, BED is eternal and unchanging.

Granted, Lewis is writing fiction here, but what deeper truth about eternity is he pointing to? I think it is this. When this age has passed, and God redeems and restores all of creation, the faithful will finally experience life the way it is supposed to be. In a sense, our experience will seem more real, because it will be untainted by sin and misery. In eternity, the faithful will experience intimacy with God and harmony with each other as we worship, serve, and explore for eternity the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1).

This is the great hope of Christianity—that this world is not the end of the story for those who know Christ, rather it is just the beginning. Lewis ends the book with this:

. . . it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

I can’t say that I know exactly what eternity will be like. Scripture paints a beautiful picture of eternity, even if we can’t make out all the details this side of heaven. But I think Lewis is right on this: we will finally and fully experience life “the way it is supposed to be” and our time on earth will seem like a dot on an infinite line. This is why the gospel is best understood as a three-part play—tragedy, comedy, and fairy story—for fairy stories never end.

For an interesting discussion of heaven and eternity that is along the line’s suggested here by Lewis, see this video interview of theologian N.T. Wright:


 

 

 

2 Responses to Plato, The End of Narnia, and Eternity

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Books of 2015 | Paul Gould

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