Love reading C. S. Lewis. Always have. Doesn't mean I think he's always right.
For instance, take one of Lewis' most oft-quoted observations on Hell:
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.This is quoted and re-quoted all over the place. I just read it again, in Ortlund's little book that treats parts of Proverbs (48). Why do we like this Lewis quotation so much?
Well, I think we like it because its binary, and many of us like binary. In fact, I suppose I could say there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who like binary, and those who don't.
That Bible is certainly binary on most things that matter: two wisdoms, two ways, two ends. This Lewis quotation is like that: "only two kinds of people." We like that. And we like that Lewis exalts the Lordship of God, makes clear that knowing God, belonging to God, necessarily involves an embrace of His will.
I daresay many people really, really like this snippet because it makes Hell seem less objectionable. It takes the heat (no pun intended) off us — and off God — and puts it all on the lost. "They're in Hell because they want to be," we say, echoing Lewis. Oh. Well then, that's not so bad, is it? We thought of Hell as a place God threw people, screaming and wailing and miserable. Terrified, not wanting to be there. But heck (again, no pun), if they want to be there anyway...
Yes, well, except that's just the thing. They don't want to be there. There is no evidence whatever that they want to be in Hell. This quotation, at least as commonly used, is mostly fudging, and mostly balderdash.
Nobody wants to be in Hell! Look at the actual folks who are sent there. Look at the folks in Matthew 7:22f. Are they thinking, "Oh, terrific, what a relief; we were afraid we'd have to go to Heaven and, you know, that would really suck"? Heavens (again, no pun), no! Every last one of them wanted to be in Heaven, expected to be in Heaven! Jesus' pronouncement was unexpected and unwelcome.
What of those in Matthew 25:41ff.? Again, not a one hears what he expects to hear. Every one expected to hear an "Attaboy! Come on in!" from the Lord. His pronouncement of doom is a shock.
What of the lost in Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30 and so forth? Do these sound like folks who are being sent where they want to go? Do they sound happy, satisfied? Weeping? Gnashing their teeth? Are those happy sounds?
The image of God actually saying, "Oh well, look; I'd just as soon you come be in My Heaven; but if this is what you really want, if you insist, here you go: you can go over there and be rid of Me" may work in the short run. We don't have to explain the justice of God sending people to Hell. He's hardly even doing it. They're doing it to themselves. "They're there because they want to be," we say, and we feel done.
Except, again, it just isn't Biblical.
First, God doesn't say "Thy will be done," to the thwarting of His will of decree. Ever. To anybody. Check Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 16:4, Daniel 4:35, and Ephesians 1:11, for starters. God says "My will be done."
Second, if God did say "Thy will be done," none would ever be saved. We hate God, we flee God, we want nothing to do with God or His law (Rom 3:11-12, 18; 8:7). We are saved because God sovereignly, supernaturally transforms our will (Ephesians 2:1-10). If He did not, all would be lost.
Third, God does this transforming work in the hearts of some men, not all (Matthew 22:14; 2 Thess. 3:2)
Fourth, Hell isn't where you go to get away from God. There is no getting away from God (Ps. 139). That in part is what makes Hell Hell: eternal existence under the unrelenting wrath and displeasure and judgment of God. However, it is the ultimate, ultimately-failed destination in the flight from God.
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, what sinful men actually want is not to be allowed to go to Hell. What men actually want is for God to go to Hell. Men actually want to do their will (this much Lewis has right), and they want to get away with it. They want no interference and no negative consequences. God represents both. Leaving a binary situation of two choices:
- We must repent and bow the knee to God; or
- God must be eliminated.
Lewis' thoughts could be used with adjustment, I suppose. If I were to reword him to make it more Biblical, it might go like this:
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "My will be done, despite your will." All that are in Hell, are there because they rebel against God. Without rebellion against God there would be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. Our problem is that none of us seeks those things, so long as we keep trying to be God instead of seeking Him. And none of us does seek Him — until God in sovereign grace transforms us.What puzzles me is how many Reformed types who know their Bibles continue to use Lewis, without a bit of reworking.