Friday, January 13, 2017

Touring Perelandra

One of the exhilarating things about Christian metaphysics is how it opens up vistas of possibility that atheism can only dream of. Literally, that atheism can only dream of.

For instance, how many readers of Perelandra have yearned to actually visit Perelandra and experience firsthand the exotic world of sensory enhanced sights, sounds, taste, touch, and fragrance. Lewis's intense, visionary descriptions whet the appetite to go there. His novel is a tantalizing appetizer of an imaginary world that's too good to be true. Or is it?

But if the Christian God exists, then there are senses in which it would be possible to visit Perelandra. Lewis's Perelandra existed in God's mind before it ever existed in Lewis's mind. Human imagination is parasitic on God's imagination. There's nothing we think that God hasn't thought before. Indeed, Lewis's Perelandra is a pale imitation of God's minutely detailed idea. 

Given God's omniscience and omnipotence, it's possible for God to create Perelandra in a parallel universe. God can fill in all the practical necessities to make it feasible and hospitable.

Or God could cause us to experience an immersive simulation of Perelandra. Our experience of virtual Perelandra would be phenomenologically indistinguishable from a physical visit to a physical planet. 

I'm by no means suggesting that Perelandra is real. I'm just pointing out that God could make that a reality. Christian metaphysics makes so many things possible that are utterly impossible in a godless universe where only matter and energy exist. A bracing consideration. 


  1. This reminds me of a quote from Luther's Bondage of the Will:

    These things, I say, being temporal, may be endured with less harm than inveterate evil ways, which will inevitably ruin all souls that are not changed by the Word of God. If the Word were removed, eternal good, God, Christ, and the Spirit, would be removed with it. How much better, then, is it to lose the world than to lose God, the world's Creator, who can create countless worlds afresh, and is better than infinite worlds! For what are temporal things beside eternal?
    [possibly the J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston translation]

    Alternatively translated:

    But how much better is it to lose the whole world, than to lose God the Creator of the world, who can create innumerable worlds again, and is better than infinite worlds? For what are temporal things when compared with eternal?
    [Henry Cole translation]


    But how much better were it to lose the world, than to lose the Creator of the world; who can create innumerable worlds afresh, and who is better than an infinity of worlds! For what comparison is there between temporal and eternal things?
    [Edward Thomas Vaughan translation]

  2. "Lewis's Perelandra existed in God's mind before it ever existed in Lewis's mind."
    I disagree with that statement! I think Mr. Lewis himself would also disagree. I think it would be relatively easy to demonstrate from Lewis's own writings, possibly in the pages of Perelandra itself.

    It is important to note that the human characters in Perelandra are not actual humans. They do not have human agency and simply take the actions that Lewis wrote for them to take. God could certainly recreate that. I do not think it is possible for God to create Perelandra with actual humans, at least not with it necessarily turning out the same way as it did in the book. If God created an actual human queen, she may or may not have slept all night on the fixed island.

    It is also interesting that God himself is a character in the book, if you consider Maleldil is actually God. Could God create an alternate universe where he himself would necessarily do the things Lewis described Maledil doing in the book? Hurts my brain thinking about it.

  3. I loved Perelandra. But a long time ago, I made a decision to write non-fiction rather than fiction, precisely because I thought that God's reality was far richer than anything I could think up on my own.

  4. A thought that I have been (background) processing comes to mind. It is an apologetical point that I want to make.

    "Reality has a storified character." Graham Cole once said. What exactly he meant by that I did not ever find out. However, I think that what he meant was that our world – this actual world of soil and sky - is imbued with various sorts of constructs normally found in literature.

    So all those literary devices we see played out in fiction – these are actually a part of the world we live in. Certainly, they are a part of the world of the Bible which is history. So, Joseph can be a type of the Anti-type, Jesus Christ. The bread and wine are actual symbols of the body and the blood. Sarah and Hagar actually existed and yet they are also allegories of the New and the Old Covenants.

    My point is this:
    On the one hand, you have God, whose wonders, we cannot even begin to fathom who can actually create a Perelandra with all the amazing stuff that Lewis imbues it with. So if Lewis’ Perelandra contains metaphors, foreshadowing, synecdoches, etc., then God can actualize such a literary world where said devices really are operative. Amazing! Lewis can only write, but God can actually create!

    Yet on the other hand, alas you have atheists like Camus, Sartre or Sagan and others who will use fiction to argue for a world without God. And what will they use to argue for such a world – literary devices that cannot obtain in an atheistic literary world. So for example the bread in Camus’ The Stranger – it is not symbolic of anything. It is just bread. Rand’s forest in Anthem is nothing but a bunch of trees. (And so on by extension for movies (e.g. Gravity) and a good bit of modern art.) The atheist’s literary imagination can only allow for these things on pain of inconsistency.

    ~ Raj