Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Inclusivism in the Fiction of C. S. Lewis: The Case of Emeth

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Inclusivism in the Fiction of C. S. Lewis: The Case of Emeth

Article excerpt

ONE of THE SCENES in C. S. Lewis's collection of fiction that most puzzles readers concerns the salvation of Emeth, a Calormene and worshipper of Tash, in The Last Battle. (1) The god Tash is portrayed as evil, as a false god, and is given Satan's job in claiming the evil Calormenes and Narnians (LB, 738-40; 12). Since the Narnians' faith in Aslan can be compared to a Christian's faith in Jesus, Emeth's salvation in spite of his erroneous beliefs raises the question of Lewis's views concerning the possibility of salvation in non-Christian religions. (2) Is Lewis an inclusivist? (3) What, according to Lewis, is necessary for salvation?

Although never treated as a major theme, the possibility of salvation outside of Christianity does show up continually in Lewis's works, especially in his fiction. Often characters who do not hold correct beliefs obtain salvation as long as those beliefs are contained within a sincere search for Truth throughout their life. It is this search for the Truth, or as Lewis experienced it, this desire for joy, that is necessary for salvation. Joy "is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be.'" (4) It is associated with an "inconsolable longing" for heaven, even if, like Lewis, one does not recognize this connection at one's first experience of Joy. (5) Those who are sincerely searching for Truth are really exhibiting a longing for heaven. Therefore, it is possible, according to Lewis, to be saved from within a non-Christian religion as long as one does have this true longing for Truth.

Alternatively, in his book Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell, Wayne Martindale argues against the idea that Lewis could be considered an inclusivist. He wrote, "The belief that Christ may save some who haven't heard is sprinkled here and there in Lewis's writing, but it does not bulk large. His emphasis was on the orthodox view that salvation comes by hearing the Word (the good news of salvation in Christ and placing our trust in his death for us), and that works of righteousness flow out of a changed heart." (6) Martindale seems to go back and forth on this opinion, sometimes admitting the possibility of salvation for non-Christians but mostly emphasizing that Lewis does not hold that view. We can look into some of Lewis's fiction to see what views he generally takes regarding salvation of non-Christians, most clearly found in The Chronicles of Narnia (especially The Last Battle), The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and Till We Have Faces. He does indeed take an orthodox view, in the sense that although there are occasions of salvation attained by those who are not Christian, these people are always saved through Christ (by Aslan in the case of Emeth). This orthodox view, however, is not the orthodoxy envisioned by Martindale because Christianity for Lewis is more than just hearing "the good news of salvation in Christ and placing our trust in his death for us" but also includes participating in the sacraments. (7) Also contrary to what Martindale believes, Lewis's fiction clearly shows a possibility for salvation in non-Christian religions as long as those people who are saved are devoted to a search for the Truth, a search that is necessary for anyone's salvation.

In The Last Battle, the character of Emeth, even though a Calormene, is portrayed as a good and truthful person. He was upset by the plan to sneak into Narnia disguised as merchants because he did not find it to be honest. He was also greatly angered by the teaching of Shift the Ape, who said that Tash and Aslan were one because, as he explains to the kings and queens of Narnia, "For always since I was a boy I have served Tash and my great desire was to know more of him and, if it might be, to look upon his face. But the name of Aslan was hateful to me" (LB, 755; i5). He was angered by the realization that neither Shift nor the Tarkaan (the leader of the Calormenes) believed in Aslan or Tash. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.