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Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian? (Contains Spoilers)

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian? (Contains Spoilers)

Postby Steve » 17 Aug 2004, 11:21

I am going to throw out a radical idea for comment:

Do we know at all whether Till We Have Faces is a Christian book?

The supernatural being in the story is Psyche's husband. And he is "really there", not a myth. At the end, Orual describes him as "Lord", and in terms that seem monotheistic, but is that perhaps only our monotheistic background being read into the story?

Some would say since Lewis was a Christian, surely the book must be Christian? Does this argument make sense, or is it an example of the Personal Heresy (interpreting a book in the light of the author's personal experience). Maybe it does. I think most of what Lewis condemned in the term personal heresy was interpretation based on opinions the critic believes the author holds unconsciously. And Lewis certainly didn't hold his Christian convictions unconsciously.

PS. My throwing out this idea does not mean I dislike the book.
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Re: But Is It Christian?

Postby Guest » 17 Aug 2004, 13:47

Hi Steve,

I will be interested in responses to your question (I, myself, have not yet read Till We Have Faces).

But your post prompts another question:

Just what is a Christian book?

Pax et bonum,
~Karl
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby a_hnau » 17 Aug 2004, 17:14

This is a shorter reply than the question deserves, but perhaps can be developed as we go along. One of Lewis's key ideas was that all myths contain to a greater or lesser degree pointers to Christian truth, e.g. the myths of a dying and rising god "dying, who knows where or when" point to an event - the Crucifixion and Resurrection - that happened at a particular point in history, in a specific place once and once only. I think Till we have Faces is - as Lewis specifically states - a retelling "with a twist" of a classical myth that already existed, but that Lewis would say that even the original myth contained a kernel of truth, a pointer, and that his reworking contains allusions and themes that "harmonise" with the nature of reality seen from a Christian worldview. In a similar way the Space Trilogy, while not intended to be literally true, points to ideas - angelic beings who are tutelary spirits, the destiny of Creation to be fulfilled "as all things are brought together in Christ" - which are truer than literal statements of fact by, say, materialists (or as Lewis called them "everythingists" - "what we see is everything there is")
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Steve » 18 Aug 2004, 02:03

I suppose this idea makes sense. Although the narrative is far too factually based to be a myth, it seems to me. The story is written as direct eyewitness testimony of a real encounter with a supernatural being. And in a Christian world view, supernatural beings are either God, angels or demons. And Psyche's husband is which then?
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Re: But Is It Christian?

Postby Steve » 18 Aug 2004, 11:07

I would say a Christian book is one that expresses a Christian world view.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 18 Aug 2004, 19:39

I think your reply to Karl's question answered your own--it's author has a Christian world view, which is reflected in his interpretive reworking of the myth.

Although the narrative is far too factually based to be a myth, it seems to me.


Are you saying that Faces is a true story? Sorry, that doesn't make sense.

The story is written as direct eyewitness testimony of a real encounter with a supernatural being. And in a Christian world view, supernatural beings are either God, angels or demons. And Psyche's husband is which then?


The story's point of view is a literary device. I think you're taking it entirely too literally. It is, after all, a work of fiction, which means we can stretch the boundaries of the world view a bit to accomodate myth, poetry and allegory. We don't read Jesus' parables as true stories, nor do we read the Song of Songs as erotica--because they are or employ literary devices that point beyond the actual words to a greater Truth. I believe that Lewis was attempting something along those same lines with Til We Have Faces.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 19 Aug 2004, 12:56

I read Till We Have Faces so long ago that I can't answer the question of whether it is Christian or not, but I wanted to mention the strange effect the book had on me (which is why I haven't read it again).

I'm the oldest of three sisters, and the three sisters in the book seemed so much like me and my sisters that I felt that Lewis was looking straight into my soul.

Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about? Have you ever met a character in a book that seemed too much like yourself?
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 19 Aug 2004, 16:19

Gael wrote:Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about? Have you ever met a character in a book that seemed too much like yourself?


Yes.

Micawber in David Copperfield.

:-)
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby loeee » 19 Aug 2004, 18:34

In Lewis's own words:

26 March 1963

Dear Patricia
Your letter was cheering, for Till We Have Faces has attracted less attention than any book I ever wrote. The names are just "made up". I expect some Jungianisms do come in but the main conscious prose work is Christian, not Jungian. Divine Love gradually conquers, first, a Pagan (and almost savage) soul's misconception of the Divine (as Ungit), then, shallow "enlightenment" (the Fox), and, most of all, her jealousy of the real God, whom she hates till near the end because whe wants Psyche to be entirely hers.
Yours sincerely,
C.S. Lewis

from Letters to Children Macmillan Publishing, 1985
"You can't go walking through Mordor in naught but your skin."
Put on the full armor of God.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby a_hnau » 19 Aug 2004, 20:37

Thank you, loeee. It will be good to reread TWHF with this overriding theme of "the gradual conquest of Divine Love". I'm reminded of Lewis's parable of our selves as a house into which we invite God to do some "fixing up", and at first God does what we'd expect, unblocking the gutters and the like, but then He gets more radical, tearing down and rebuilding till we feel like our very foundations are shaken. "God loves us as we are, but too much to leave us that way". Or, one of my favourites, we are sculptures and a rumour is going around that we are to become real - "the blows of the chisel that hurt us so much, are what make us perfect". As a famous sculptor said when asked how he created a horse from a block of marble, "I just remove everything that doesn't look like a horse" (or in God's case, removes everything that isn't like Christ).

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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Steve » 20 Aug 2004, 11:10

I know that Faces is fiction, what I was trying to say is that the story comes across as meaning to portray something that could have happened.

And I'm wondering whether it isn't too far of an imaginative leap, to think of God or the angels appearing to Psyche and Orual playing the role of the God of the mountain.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 24 Aug 2004, 03:07

I've only read "TWHF" once so I'm not an expert by any means. I don't think TWHF is something that you can just put in a box or that "Chrisitan" nessisarily means that it has to contain the whole gospel story complete with every detail. TWHF is based on a greek myth. I rather think one might say TWHF contains many truths just as LOTR does. I don't think that you can say "Psyche represents Christ and Orual represents such and so...." ect. Pysche shows what Christ did for us - offered himself as a sacrifice. He took our sin upon Himself and literally became a curse which God turned HIs face from. Likewise, Orual bore the pains and sorrows that belonged to Psyche. We see that even when you are forgiven, someone must take the punishment because justice is justice. Psyche tells of her longing for the mountian......which makes me tear up lol. It's beautiful. Being the Christian he was, Lewis' beliefs seem to come out in his works. I personally found it an uplifting book.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 03 Nov 2004, 07:32

I am now reading Till We Have Faces a 2nd time. This is definetly a Christian work, but we cannot read it like The Chronicles and we sure cannot read it like Pilgrim's regress. If there is any allegory at all, it is of the weakest kind. I think Lewis was telling a myth, a fictional story that has entwined within it those truths that mankind seems to have always known. Through this, we learn those truths better.
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Re: Till We Have Faces -- is it Christian?

Postby Guest » 30 Nov 2004, 22:27

of course it is christian, and just so happens to be my favourite book of all time! lewis wrote the myth as it would be in the christian mind set. he believed that all myths were actually the story of salvation in a corrupted sense. so, he just retold the story of psyche as it would be in the christian sense.
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Welcome, Vikingmaiden

Postby Sven » 30 Nov 2004, 22:28

Glad to see you jumping right in swinging an axe :)
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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