From Paul Franklyn, Electronic Editor at Abindon Press
I usually don’t contribute to the list, for I am an editor in publishing and not a congregational leader, but I touched this topic today at an Easter Monday worship, here at the office.
On absolute truth, take a look at the works of CS Lewis. In particular, the movie Shadowlands offers some insights into “absolute truth” and “true joy.”
CS Lewis was living in his apartment at Magdalen College of Oxford University in 1929, where he was an instructor in literature. He was an atheist who studied mythology, including the myths of dying and rising gods, such as the Egyptian Osiris or the Roman Bacchus. At the time, Oxford University was roiled with controversy because realism was replacing idealism as the reigning philosophy that could explain everything. These two schools of thought were struggling over whether there is an absolute truth outside of one’s own imagination.
We have been taught (by the realists) to think that the imagination is less reliable than our reason as a path to truth. However, reason is just as malleable and open to interpretation as is the imagination. Take the resurrection, for example. Lewis argued that resurrection myths (e.g., Osiris and Bacchus), which preceded Jesus, had become Truth in the resurrection of Jesus. For many years Lewis continued to work out his views about the imagination with a group of Oxford professors, known as the Inklings, which included JR Tolkein. Perhaps the two greatest examples of religious imagination in the 20th century were the Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis and the Rings trilogy by Tolkein.
CS Lewis pursued the imagination relentlessly after he became a Christian, because he knew it to be key to finding true Joy, by which he meant the deepest craving and longing that we have. He was well ahead of his time in perceiving that reason fails to get Lewis or his academic peers to absolute truth, so he turned to the imagination and the craving for joy. Lewis teaches us that True Joy is the highest and purest state of the imagination. Joy is not to be confused with happiness or pleasure. Joy is not the adrenalin that surges through your chemistry when your team wins a championship game. Nor is joy to be confused with your work or your hobbies. If joy is mistaken for these other things, you will chase it but never find it.
Because the English language has too many trivial meanings for Joy, he used the German word, Sehnsucht, which signifies a very deep longing. It is the ultimate desire that you and I have, a craving for a relationship with an objective reality that exists outside myself, outside yourself. This longing is the desire to personally know the Holy One. True Joy escapes me when my deepest longing is distracted by all of the other desires and disappointments that build one upon another in life. Joy – Sehnsucht — cannot be found by choosing safety. True, satisfying Joy is finally and only to be experienced in taking the risk to love the other. It is a risk to love God and to fully love another person because suffering is part of the Joy. “That’s the deal.”
Though he may have addressed it more directly in a very large body of writing, perhaps Lewis would urge us to imagine and crave a true and pure resurrection joy rather than an abstract, absolute truth