Monday, January 11, 2016

Worshiping Tash

On the one hand:

This is the line of thinking that also appears in the famous scene near the end of C. S. Lewis’s book The Last Battle, where Emeth, the worshiper of Tash, is accepted by Aslan.  Unknowingly he was actually serving Aslan because his worship was motivated by a love for truth and righteousness.  The point is that Christ died for all persons, whether they know it or not, and the Holy Spirit is working to draw them to Christ, whether they know it or not, and they may be responding truly to the “light” they have and consequently be on the way to final salvation.
On the other hand:
Third, and following on from these two points, some understandings of the Supreme Being are so wrong, so wicked, that they simply direct worship wildly off target. Such clearly would be the case of the worship of the Canaanite god Moloch, or any other wicked, bloodthirsty deity elsewhere in the world. Such an abominable view of God cannot possibly accommodate, let alone facilitate, worship of the One True God. In sum, if you like that kind of deity, you’re not going to like the One True God. 
Sidenote for those who get their theology of such matters from The Chronicles of Narnia: This is why I think C. S. Lewis gets it wrong in The Last Battle. (I say this with trepidation as a great admirer of CSL.) The god Tash is so clearly devilish that it seems incongruous to me that the estimable Emeth could worship this version of God and then, as it were, rather effortlessly transfer his allegiance to Tash’s adversary, Aslan (the Christ figure). I think Lewis overreaches here. 
There has to be some identity between the two understandings of God such that the former is a cloudy and partial and adulterated but genuine understanding of God that the gospel at once extends, fulfills, and corrects. If instead the gospel simply has to supplant the former understanding, as in the case of horrible views of the divine, I find it impossible to conceive of worshipers of that horrible god connecting in any important way with the One True God. Instead, people raised in such religious traditions would have to develop deep misgivings about that god such that they do not worship it and instead long for the Great Alternative, however vague their notion of That might be. And that longing is the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit drawing people away from error and toward The Truth.


  1. Steve:

    Love the blog. I'm a daily reader.

    A few comments/questions, please:
    1. While I like C.S. Lewis, I have trouble understanding the great admiration some christians have for him. It seems to me, that his theology is really suspect.

    2. Question 1: Are both of these posters saying that if I worship a false god, as long as he's nice in my mind then I'm saved?

    3. While the study of theology is new to me, I have always been what one would call an exclusivist. I believe a person must repent and call on Jesus to be saved. I thought that was the historical, orthodox position. Am I incorrect?

    4. In your opinion, do the two opinions you linked represent the majority opinion in evangelical circles these days? I know my RCC friends hold to this inclusive theology, but I was unaware that it was common in conservative, evangelical circles.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. 1. C. S. Lewis is an unreliable guide. It's striking how many people act like his fictional works (e.g. The Great Divorce) are divine revelation.

      I'm guessing that his inclusive views were influenced by the death of friends like Paddy Moore. George McDonald may have been a different kind of influence.

      2. The first quote comes from Jerry Walls. He believes in postmortem salvation. He takes the position that God never gives up on the lost. I believe he's a closet universalist.

      Although John Stackhouse is what I'd generously call a theological moderate, he's critical of Lewis's example.

      3. You're stating the classic Protestant position.

      4. Most evangelicals aren't Calvinists. As a result, there's a basic tension in their theology. They believe that God loves everyone. God wants everyone to be saved. Christ died for everyone. The Holy Spirit "woos" everyone.

      But, of course, billions of people never had a chance to hear the gospel in this life. Moreover, some people hear the gospel under far more favorable conditions than others.

      So it's not a level playing field. And that creates friction in their theology. How can be the provision for salvation be unlimited if the opportunities are so limited? There are different ways they try to thread that needle:

      i) A person can be saved by believing in natural revelation

      ii) If a person lives according to the light he has, God will give him more light.

      iii) God has arranged the world so that those who never heard the gospel wouldn't believe it even if they were given the chance (W. L. Craig).

      iv) God encodes the Gospel in non-Christian cultures (Don Richardson).

      v) God gives people a second chance after they die (J. Walls).

  2. I certainly agree that Lewis isn't infallible, and I've always found it a little unrealistic that Emeth is so noble despite worshiping such a horrible god as Tash. At the same time, it's only fair to note that in that same book Lewis decries the idea that Tash and Aslan *are the same deity*. And that seems analogous to what the "same god" apologists are saying right now. In fact, Aslan specifically says that he and Tash are "opposites" and that this is why good deeds cannot really be accepted as worship by Tash. Tash is real and is a demon, by the way. Which may in fact be true of "Allah."

    1. Just to support what Lydia has said with a few key examples from The Last Battle:

      1. It's the evil ape named Shift who identifies Tash with Aslan and Aslan with Tash:

      "The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb. 'Baby!' he hissed. 'Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk. What do you understand of such things? But the others, listen. Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That's why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your, heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.'"

      2. At the same time, Lewis puts in the mouth of Poggin the Dwarf: "He called for Tash: Tash has come...People shouldn't call for demons unless they really mean what they say."

      3. Lewis likewise has the last king of Narnia, King Tirian, say: "Here stand I, Tirian of Narnia, in Aslan's name, to prove with my body that Tash is a foul fiend, the Ape a manifold traitor, and these Calormenes worthy of death. To my side, all true Narnians. Would you wait till your new masters have killed you all one by one?"