2009-06-25 The World’s Last Night

Today’s show covers the book “The World’s Last Night and Other Essays”.  I is a very interesting “read” in itself and provides us a good background for covering The Last Battle, the finals book in the Chronicles of Narnia.

At the start of the show we mentioned three good websites for C S Lewis information, particularly news about the Narnia movies.  They are

There are seven essays in the book, although we will cover only three of them.  The essays in order of appearance are

1.  The Efficacy of Prayer

2.  On Obstinacy in Belief

3. Lilies That Fester

4.  Screwtape Proposes a Toast

5.  Good Work and Good Works

6.  Religion and Rocketry

7.  The World’s Last Night

We cover numbers 1, 4 and 7 – the rest are left for your reading pleasure.

These essays were written in the later portion of Jack’s life, when he was more than 50 years of age, and cover the period from from 1952 to 1959.   This was an eventful time in Jack’s life.  He left Oxford in 1954 after being there for 37 years and went to Cambridge.  He had lost an election in Oxford to a chair as a professor of poetry, perhaps due to anti-Christian feelings, and this was a factor in his decision.  (Cambridge offered him a position as a professor).  In addition, during this period he met, married, and then lost his wife to cancer. (The story is well told in the movie “Shadowlands”.)  Jack’s wife was named Joy, and she was a Jewish ex-Communist from New York.  (She was also a good writer and a poet).  Lewis married her in a civil ceremony in April of 1956 and in a religious ceremony in 1957.  Joy was hospitalized with cancer in October of 1956, but after her marriage she experienced a miraculous remission (in Jack’s opinion) and they had 3 happy years together before the cancer returned and she died.

Now as to the three essays we cover

The Efficacy of Prayer addresses the issue “Does prayer work?”, that is, if we believe enough and pray enough do we get what we ask for?  Jack shows that this is the wrong question for it treats God as a big vending machine in the sky.  The real situation is that a prayer is a request, and like any request from one person to another, the request can be refused.   If you are at all interested in this subject, this essay will interest you.

Next we cover Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  This is usually found as an appendix to the book “The Screwtape Letters”, but we cover it here.  The background is that Jack imagines Hell as a large, bureaucratic organization dedicated to damming our souls.  His chilling vision is that devils can consume or feed on a soul’s angush in Hell, and that’s why they want us.  Like any large business organization, Hell has its separate functions that all contribute to its mission.  As we start, a senior devil, Screwtape, rises to giave a toast at a dinner at the Tempters College.  The occasion is the graduation of the latest class of devils, and Screwtape’s speech is reorded in this essay.  This permits Lewis to make some biting comments on the results of modern education in regards to forming the character of its students.

Finally,  we look at “The World’s Last Night”.  This essay addresses the doctrines of the Second Coming of Christ and the associated Judgment Day.  These are not popular today (or in Jack’s time), except possibly with some of the more fundamental Christian believers.  He suggests that is because the Second Coming contradicts one of the fundamental beliefs of the age – the gradual evolution of history to a world that is becoming better and better and simply goes on and on.  The Second Coming says that there will be an end, a sudden end, that  God will ring down the final curtain and then give us an evaluation of how well we played our parts in God’s play.

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