Emeth in Aslan's Country

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Vidugavia » Dec 22, 2009 8:40 pm

I'm sure someone has thought of this before, but this is my idea:

The two most controversial scenes in the series are both found in The Last Battle - Susan's exclusion and Emeth's inclusion, with the former being derided by "liberals", the latter by "conservatives". (So something must be right :) ) They were likely written to parallel each other.

If you read Mr. Lewis's other works it's apparent he believes in some sort of "anonymous Christianity", but I think here the point was more to show that "the last shall be first, and the first last". The two don't exactly match - Susan didn't die - but they surely illustrate how God will judge the heart, and not only the outward affiliations - that we should neither feel secure in the knowledge of being on the "right side" nor heap scorn on those outside its visible bounds.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Olorin55 » Jan 17, 2010 10:59 pm

I think the answer to this question lies in how Lewis and Tolkien interpreted the idea of the "Noble Pagan". In Lewis's conversion he was led to Christianity by the echos he heard in myth. He saw the story of the death and resurection in the story of Baldur. This was a character who had been killed and ,following Ragnarok, the end of the world, was resurrected and saved what remained (interesting to note that the sign of the return of Baldur was a golden chess set, referenced at the beginning of Prince Caspian). Several of the Greek myths follow this line (Pygmalion, etc.). In these Tolkien and Lewis saw the joy of Eucatastrophe, the joy of a sudden change of things for the better. C.S. Lewis was convinced to become a Christian by the argument of the "True Myth": that the purpose of the other myths was to reflect the Gospel which alone was true (these reflecting the "True Myth" with their presence of Eucatastrophe). I think Lewis and Tolkien defined the "Noble Pagan" belief of the Middle Ages as one who has accepted the offer of the ultimate Eucatastrophe throught the echos of other mythologies. I think that Emeth must fit this description.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby 220chrisTian » Feb 05, 2010 2:18 pm

@Olorin55: interesting thoughts on the "noble pagan." I don't know if the concept is from the 18th century or goes back earlier. :-\ At the same time, I'm not sure how the concept reflects on ideas of salvation. For Rousseau and the English Romantics at least, the "noble pagan" was someone close to nature and therefore a better/purer person--in contrast to those corrupted by the city and its sins. :-\

Vidugavia wrote:I think here the point was more to show that "the last shall be first, and the first last". The two don't exactly match - Susan didn't die - but they surely illustrate how God will judge the heart, and not only the outward affiliations - that we should neither feel secure in the knowledge of being on the "right side" nor heap scorn on those outside its visible bounds.
Interesting! Thanks for sharing! I never thought about it like this. Basically, you're saying Susan was too comfortable in being a Pevensie, "Queen Susan," one who'd seen Aslan rise from the dead. At the same time, she was close but never really believed. What she saw didn't make her want more. Emeth wanted more. His desire drew him straight to Aslan. Yes, in both cases, "the first shall be last and the last first." :)

I've been doing some research on Christianity in Narnia the last few weeks and I came across the following in Lewis's writings--on Emeth. It is a Hebrew word that means "stability . . . certainty, truth, trustworthiness" (Strong's H.571). Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms (1986): God's "laws have emeth 'truth,' intrinsic validity, rock-bottom reality, being rooted in His own nature, and are therefore as solid as that Nature which He has created" (61). So ... your thoughts?
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 10, 2010 1:26 pm

22chrisTian,

That is certainly interesting about "emeth" being the Hebrew word for truth.

I have my opinions on the Emeth problem/scenes in TLB. I believe that Lewis was saying that other people could get to heaven without being the Narnia equivalent of Christian---because they might already be "Christian" in their hearts. Emeth was a Christian, and he didn't know it. This does not mean that other religions are right, but that other might "stumble upon" the truth from those other religions.

I also think of the argument about evangelizing: what if not everyone in the world heard the gospel news and never had a chance to hear it--would God simply leave them out because of their ignorance? Which brings up the larger proposition: Christianity is for US, and we can't exactly deduce what God should/could/would/can/cannot allow into heaven.

God can save Emeth in The Last Battle, because Emeth was looking for God. That means Emeth is saved.
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed."- CS Lewis
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby 220chrisTian » Feb 11, 2010 1:20 pm

Clive wrote:I believe that Lewis was saying that other people could get to heaven without being the Narnia equivalent of Christian---because they might already be "Christian" in their hearts. Emeth was a Christian, and he didn't know it.
For Lewis at least, this may make sense in Narnia, but none at all in our world. /:) When people get saved, i.e. become Christians, they KNOW it. You know you're alive, don't you? It's the same with Christians. We know we're spiritually alive. :) I see Emeth's case as one who chooses what is right, who follows his conscience, who seeks truth ... because Aslan is seeking him. Like Cornelius in the book of Acts, he still had to choose the source of truth, i.e. bow before Aslan and recognize his sovereignty. Cornelius wasn't saved until he accepted the gospel of Christ from Peter's lips. Likewise, Emeth wasn't "saved" until he bowed before Aslan. What would have happened if Emeth hadn't bowed [albeit unlikely]? :-\

What if not everyone in the world heard the gospel news and never had a chance to hear it--would God simply leave them out because of their ignorance? Which brings up the larger proposition: Christianity is for US, and we can't exactly deduce what God should/could/would/can/cannot allow into heaven.
:-o What?! Christ is the only way to heaven for every person on the planet. Those who die in ignorance go to hell. "Jesus" is heaven's open sesame. ;) And Christianity is not for the US only! Today, there are more Christians in the non-western world than in the "civilized" West! /:)
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Olorin55 » Feb 20, 2010 4:38 pm

@Olorin55: interesting thoughts on the "noble pagan." I don't know if the concept is from the 18th century or goes back earlier. At the same time, I'm not sure how the concept reflects on ideas of salvation. For Rousseau and the English Romantics at least, the "noble pagan" was someone close to nature and therefore a better/purer person--in contrast to those corrupted by the city and its sins.


I think Lewis meant "Noble Pagan" in the sense of a person who had accepted the basic truth of Christianity(namely the ressurection of the Creator and its saving power from sin) without one of the details (knowing the precise name of the Creator, etc.).

This idea is present in Dante's Inferno written around 1300 A.D. In Canto four Virgil says:
and if they merit had,
'Tis not enough, because they had not baptism
Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdest;
And if they were before Christianity,
In the right manner they adored not God;

However in this Dante puts the "Noble Pagans" in Limbo, the highest region of hell, where the entirety of the punishment was the lack of hope to enter heaven, in this it is also suggested that Limbo is what used to be the Bosom of Abraham, essentially pre-incarnation heaven.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Clive Staples Sibelius » Feb 21, 2010 5:21 pm

22ChristTian,

I just came back to this thread after all this time. I think you and I had a little misunderstanding ;). I definitely wasn't saying that only people in the U.S. could be saved =)) . I use caps a LOT, and I was merely writing "us" in caps :D . It happens :ymhug:
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed."- CS Lewis
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby 220chrisTian » Feb 22, 2010 2:22 pm

@Clive: thanks for clearing up the misunderstanding. Maybe I should have tried to see other points of view or explanations before lashing it out at you? :ymhug:

@Olorin55: our ideas of "noble pagan," who this person and what he/she believes, are radically different. I'm not understanding you at all. What I was taught as an undergrad about the "noble pagan" in English classes is what I described above, i.e. Rousseau. What you're describing is something else. :-\

Angus Menuge, "Fellow patients in the same hospital: Law and gospel in the works of C. S. Lewis" ... "Part 3: The existence of the Moral Law points to a divine Lawgiver."
Now if, as our consciences suggest, these moral laws are expectations the Lawgiver has for us, we must conclude that we have earned the wrath of the Lawgiver. At this point we feel the full condemning power of the law as the original will of a personal God which we have irrevocably violated. This leads to the dismay Lewis talks about in the opening quotation. This is the dismay of the noble pagan who knows he has transgressed the divine will and flounders around looking for a means of restitution. Lewis has succeeded in convincing us of the unwelcome diagnosis of sin.


I found this in an LOTR fansite:
Pico’s NeoPlatonism could well have struck a chord with Tolkien and Charles Williams, two of the Inklings whose writings can be placed in the long tradition of Christian Platonism, and his humanism can perhaps be said to be reflected in both Tolkien and Lewis’s fascination with the ’noble pagan’ and natural law, what Lewis called the ’anima naturaliter Christiana."


Maybe I'll have to do more research on this... :)

RE: Dante ... He's so wrong! The "noble pagans" he describes were the Old Testament righteous! They went to heaven! Bosom of Abraham: heaven. It's certainly not hell, according to Jesus' parable in Luke 16:19-31!
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Olorin55 » Mar 15, 2010 5:55 pm

@Olorin55: our ideas of "noble pagan," who this person and what he/she believes, are radically different. I'm not understanding you at all. What I was taught as an undergrad about the "noble pagan" in English classes is what I described above, i.e. Rousseau. What you're describing is something else.


I have done some research on Rousseau's idea. The idea that he proposed was that of the "Noble Savage". This expressed the idea of a man who was closer to nature and therefore wiser. The term "Noble Pagan" is a different term that refers to the medieval doctrine, not Rousseau's idea :) .


RE: Dante ... He's so wrong! The "noble pagans" he describes were the Old Testament righteous! They went to heaven! Bosom of Abraham: heaven. It's certainly not hell, according to Jesus' parable in Luke 16:19-31!


There is, as I understand it, a large difference between The Bosom of Abraham and Heaven. Heaven may be described as being in the full presence of God (or to use Madeline L'Engle's word: fully kything with God). Before the incarnation, God was separated from his Creation by Sin. This curtain between God and his creation was removed at the Death and Resurrection of Christ. But, before this, it seems that, not being able to go to heaven, they went to a temporary place for the time before the incarnation: The Bosom of Abraham. Before the incarnation the afterlife strongly resembled the Greek view of the afterlife(the good and bad parts of Hades: Elysium and Tartarus, the good and bad parts of the pre-incarnation afterlife, The Bosom of Abraham and Hell). Hell can be defined as eternal separation from the Creator. With the incarnation came the addition of Heaven, which caused both the good and bad parts of "Hades" to be Hell. The picture of the afterlife given in Luke describes the pre-incarnation "Hades". The view expressed in Dante is that Christ took the "righteous" dwelling in the good part of "Hades" and took them to heaven, leaving the "Noble Pagans" in the better part of Hell (however there is some suggestion in Dante that these "Noble Pagans" might be rescued from The Bosom of Abraham/Limbo at some time in the future.) In this interpretation in might be considered notable that Emeth was only saved from destruction at the end of time in The Last Battle.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Lucy P. » May 18, 2010 4:48 pm

220chrisTian wrote:Those who die in ignorance go to hell. "Jesus" is heaven's open sesame. ;)


I disagree.

But first, let me make myself clear in that I do believe that without Jesus Christ no one could enter heaven.

I just don't think that ignorance of Christ bans a person from heaven, and I think C.S. Lewis agreed with me, which is why he placed Emeth in The Last Battle.

Jesus is God, and God is Love-- and Truth. Whoever serves Truth in his heart all his days is serving Jesus. Now how would a good person like that (don't get me wrong, it's extremely hard to be good without the faith, but good pagans exist) deserve hell? How could someone who strove to serve Goodness all his life deserve to be separated from that Goodness for eternity (forget the flames, being cut off from Jesus is the worst part of hell).

Emeth, who thought that Aslan was Tash, entered Narnian paradise because in reality he had been doing good things in the name of Tash for Aslan.

Likewise, there are those Narnians (think Shift) who do bad things in the name of Aslan for Tash.

We can never judge. That's up to God and God alone.

"I believe in Jesus! I'm saved! That person doesn't. He's going to hell."
^ It's not that simple, and Lewis was illustrating it by including Emeth in the number of Narnians worthy of traveling further up and further in.

If you want to discuss implicit baptism of desire, faith and works, and other such doctrines further, let's go on over to the theology thread in the Spare Oom.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Olorin55 » May 19, 2010 8:52 pm

The doctrine of salvation as understood by Lewis had as its base the idea that God came to man as a man and died for the salvation of man and was resurected. Salvation can only come from acceptance of this salvation, however there is the problem of those who have not heard the story as it is told in the gospels. However there are echo's of this "true myth" (as Lewis called it) throughout all of the mythologies of the world, that is, this story is so ingrained in the human psyche as to give everyone the possibility of accepting the true ressurection without ever having heard the details. However without accepting the Eucatastrophe of the Ressurection, regardless what form it is presented in, that person may only have sinned once in their lives, but they have sinned (due to the fallen nature of man), and therefore without the forgiveness given by accepting the Eucatastrophe of the Ressurection they will go to hell, regardless of how good they have been. In regards to the idea that there are people of any sort, pagan or not, that have not sinned, and therefore are "good", I would have to reference the passage Romans 3:10 "There is none righteous", that is, there is nobody who has not sinned. Thus while one does not need to know the details of the death and ressurection of Christ to be saved, one does need to accept the salvation offered by Christ, which does not require direct knoledge of the details.
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Re: Emeth in Aslan's Country

Postby Gildor_Inglorion » Sep 08, 2011 7:54 pm

I liked Emeth a lot, and I don't understand why he wasn't in the books more.
*Doesn't know what to say to all the intelligent conversations in this thread....*
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