Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

No Pity in Heaven

August 12th, 2014 by G.

The Great Divorce is a great story. It is not a perfect story. I’m thinking here of the episode of the Dwarf and the Tragedian. Short summary: there is a sinner who uses other people’s pity to manipulate them. His wife descends from Heaven to tell him to repent and be saved. In the process we learn that she doesn’t feel sorry for him any more. She doesn’t even feel sad that he’s damned. In Heaven there is no pity, Lewis says.

Well, bunk. (See here for why).

But Lewis’ idea that Heaven is pitiless is a solution to a problem. Rejecting the solution leaves the problem still around. What to do about it?

My solution was to argue that the joy of the blessed far outweighs the sorrow they feel and even that sorrow makes their joy possible.

Friend of the JG Arakawa has a more prosaic and more satisfying solution:

Suppose I am quite far gone in a desire for ice cream, such that having to go without it for a week sends me into tantrums of demoniac rage. My condition would be irrational and pitiable like unto the damned. Then a spiritually healthy bystander who is not afflicted with the same condition, looking at me, would suffer in sympathy — not on account of my not having ice cream, but on account of my irrational state of madness over it. In a certain respect the bystander’s suffering would be more real than my own, because there is an actual objective basis for it (my damnation), whereas the basis for my own suffering is purely irrational. At the same time, the bystander is far more spiritually equipped to deal with their own suffering and — if something can be done about my irrational state, to calmly undertake corresponding actions; and if nothing can be done, I suppose, then to avoid being “dog-in-the-mangered” into eternal suffering oneself (as CS Lewis would put it), by not letting my situation interfere with the other aspects of the bystander’s life.

Comments (6)
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August 12th, 2014 14:56:04

August 12, 2014

You have certainly touched on one of the problems in Lewis’ flawed but wonderful work.

My own solution is that, if we are to accept exaltation, we must accept the reality that happiness consists of joy and sorrow, while unhappiness consists of pleasure and misery.

I think Tolkien may have hit nearer the truth than Lewis, in Manwe’s reaction to Feanor’s response to the Doom of Mandos.

August 12, 2014

that little summary of exaltation is the best thing written on the blog all week.

Bruce Charlton
August 13, 2014

So – Adam G is now posting and commenting as G… right?

Lewis is (of course) great – but where he is *not* great it is usually because he views Christianity through the lens of (Neo-)Platonism – and makes theology fit into philosophy rather than the reverse.

I don’t think he really realized that he was doing this. I would love to know how he would have responded if he had realized.

I suspect he might have tried to stop.

BTW – I’m going to write something about The Inklings and Mormonism soon (I hope). I don’t think any of them knew anything substantive about Mormonism – and I have found no references anywhere.

(Aside from Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams – the most likely would be Owen Barfield who spent a lot of time in the USA and live until 1997 – he was an Anthroposophist – who are self-described as Christian; as well as later an Anglican.)

What interests me is how each of them might have reacted *if* they could have been brought to understand Mormonism. Because there are distinctively Mormon elements and concerns in each of the main Inklings major preoccupations.

Charles Williams was the least Mormon (most Platonist) of the Inklings, but might have recognized that Mormonism easily and successfully solved his major theme of Romantic Theology – whereas Williams own philosophical/ theological formulations (and personal attempts) were a near total failure.

August 13, 2014

I’m afraid I must disagree with the interpretation from beginning to end.

Lewis was 100% correct in this. “nothing can trouble her joy.” “the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it.”

You ( I assume Adam wrote the piece), that “love by nature cannot be unmoved.” and then you back it up by quoting Eugene England, who is hardly an authoritative expounder of Mormon tradition.

I believe you quote England as follows? “But unless I mistake the meaning of a certain episode on a cross, the story of Christianity is essentially the story of a God who has put himself and his happiness in our power.”

Yes, England does horribly mistake the crucifixion (something he often did). Jesus did not deliver Himself to any of our powers, He willingly delivered Himself to the punishment required to HIS FATHER, for our happiness.

There is no scripture anywhere that states that God’s happiness will be less because one person refuses to repent. Take infinity and subtract a finite value from it, are you left with an infinite or a finite value? If God’s joy is full (which I submit it is) the loss of one self-determined failure is but a finite loss which infinite joy, peace, and happiness can withstand fully.

I submit that God’s view of self-selection based salvation and exaltation removes a lot of the pain. Satan is just much happier trying to mislead souls than being humble and repenting. There’s just something wrong with the starting material. Same’s true of Kate Kelley, else she would humble herself and repent. It’s about agency, not God’s lack of goodness for being as flaccid as some liberals tell us we should be.

I represent that part of Mormonism that thinks allowing our emotional well being and health to be negatively influenced by negative individuals is a pernicious evil, which ultimately leads to a lot of unnecessary pain.

August 13, 2014

I don’t think its possible to take joy in someone’s successes without taking sorrow at their failure.

David "Zen" Foster
August 13, 2014

What we want, and what makes us happy are two very distinct things. Satan may want to encourage sin, but it does not bring him happiness.

There are many scriptures that show God and the rest of Heaven weeping because the actions of those on earth. The Joy of Heaven is not Joy because it is blind, or unaffected by others. But nor is Deity a depressed individual who can only see what is going wrong. He may weep, but he also rejoices and in the end, I think the amount he rejoices far outstrips the amount he mourns.

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