Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Out of the Silent Planet

This is my sixth day since I "retired" from my teaching career, and my days so far have been full of joy and rest. Today, even still, I have joy, although it is touched with the sadness of death. My high school teacher died yesterday after a battle with brain cancer. He was my freshman Bible teacher and my English teacher junior and senior year. His wonderful wife was my Spanish teacher three of the four years in high school. My sister and I loved them dearly, still love them, and kept in touch since high school.

Dr. Rainbow was a remarkable teacher. His class was my first "real" Bible class, my first opportunity to dig into God's word in a new way. Although the Bible class was special, I remember better our English classes. Perhaps I remember them because they were the last two years of high school; perhaps it is because I developed a deeper love for literature and God's truth revealed in literature. I'm not sure. But Dr. Rainbow was committed to giving us the good stuff to read, including two authors who still remain the most impactul to me: C.S. Lewis and Dostoevsky.

This past weekend, I finished the first book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet. It was poignant and beautiful. I loved it. It is the story of Dr. Ransom, a man who is kidnapped and forced to go to Malacandra (Mars) with two evil men to be a sacrifice. What he discovers when he arrives is that Oyarsa, the ruler of Malacandra, never intended a sacrifice; in fact, Oyarsa is wholly good, and the people of Malacandra are good, too. I will write more about it later because it is a book I would recommend everyone to read. For now, I am going to write about just one of the many things stood out to me: the way the people of Malecandra understood death. A glimpse of their understanding can be seen when their poets sing after one of their fallen has been "un-bodied":

"Let is go hence," they sang. "Let it go hence, dissolve and be no body. Drop it, release it, drop it gently, as a stone is loosed from the fingers drooping over a still pool. Let it go down, sink, fall away. Once below the surface there are no divisions, no layers in the water yielding all the way down; all one and all unwounded is that element. Send it voyaging where it will not come again. Let it go down; the hnau [soul] rises from it. This is the second life, the other beginning. Open, oh coloured world, without weight, without shore. You are second and better; this was first and feeble."

And Oyarsa, the ruler of Malacandra, says to the two evil men, "One thing we left behind us on the harandra: fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people does not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil, you would have peace."

I know this is just a fictional story, and Lewis by no means attempted to explain away death or heaven. But nevertheless it is true that our life here on earth, though a gift from God, is the "first and feeble"; heaven, with all of its glory and with the risen and magnified Christ, is "second and better". Even the weakest Christian does not need to fear death because it only leads to what is second and better.

Since Dr. Rainbow's diagnosis with cancer, his daughter Hannah had been keeping all of us updated through email prayer journals. Occassionally, Dr. Rainbow would sent an email out to us. His last one was in April, right around Easter. He wrote:

In some ways, of course, my "story" is about sickness and healing. Of course it is -- how could it not be about sickness and healing?[...]But, the fact remains that we all live in a world of sin and death, and what we all really need is more than comfort. What we all really need is ... resurrection! The problem that lies at the very bottom of all of our problems is DEATH, death closeup, death far away, death. So, what we really need is not therapy, but resurrection. And what Jesus Christ has obtained for believers is not anything less than resurrection from the dead. To be clear ... resurrection for the dead, resurrection of the body, first Christ's and then, in God's ordained order, believers' too.

So, I've been talking a lot and thinking a lot, about resurrection. It's bigger than just an "Easter" theme. The traditional Easter is about only Christ's resurrection, but it's bigger than that! Christ must rise, the first fruits of them that sleep. Christ's body must rise, yes. But all bodies of all the saints must rise too! Christ is the harvest!
(Dr. Jon Rainbow, March 25, 2010)

That is why we have no fear. Because Christ has already obtained for us what is the antidote to death or any fear we could possibly have of death: Resurrection. New life. Eternal life.

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Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? Oh Death, where is your sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

3 comments:

  1. Can - Thanks for these beautiful thoughts. We have seen the first fruits and now eagerly await to see death and curse finally swallowed up in ultimate victory!

    A note on Lewis' space trilogy: It is my considered opinion that the second book, Perelandra, is the best of the three, not to mention the best of his novels, period. While there is less that happens there, plot-wise, than in the first and third, it is just much better-written. I found Out of the Silent Planet to be ponderously dull and That Hideous Strength to be annoying and possessed of a certain preening and self-righteous Anglo-Christian "twee-ness" (to coin a term). Perelandra has solid atmosphere and a genuine understanding and exploration of the fundamentals of the human condition.

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