Friday, October 30, 2009

Bleak Moments...

About a week ago, I read Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis for the first time. Yes, I know what you are thinking - Steph, how is it that you have not read this book with your great love for Jack? Let me tell you, friend.... I don't know. I truly have no excuse. A great friend of mine has been hounding me about the Science Fiction trilogy of Lewis' for almost a decade now. And I will say it now - he is right, I was wrong in neglecting this for so long.

One of the biggest lightbulb moments for me while reading this was in the discovery of what exactly the Silent Planet was and why it was Silent. This is what I would like to write about now, so if you have not read the book, and you would NOT like to be spoiled - don't read this blog. However, if you don't mind a little spoiler, go ahead and read it - or you could go pick yourself up a copy of this very short 158 page book, read it, then come back here to discuss some thoughts.

OK, so spoiler readers and readers of the book from here on out.

Here is an excerpt from the book. It is Oyarsa (basically the head "angel" on the planet Malacandra) speaking to Ransom (our human hero of the book) telling him about Planet Thulcandra (aka Earth). Lewis writes,

"Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside the heaven, and no message comes from it... It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world - he was brighter and greater than I - and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own. He smote your moon with his left hand and with his right he brought the cold death on my harandra (upper level of the current planet, Malacandra) before its time... There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil (God) taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent."

Lewis' myth-making here of the story of the fall of Satan is pretty amazing. He has an uncanny gift to be able to take what we know to be true from the Word of God and make it into another story/reality/myth that explains an idea about what we know. So for Lewis, Earth which is ruled by the Bent One is silent to all other angels. They cannot see or receive any messages from it, because the Bent One has silenced it to them.

This idea of silence as sin is striking to me. When I think of the injustices in the world - like a teenager being gang-raped for 2 1/2 hours while onlookers do nothing about it - I do not think of silence. The sounds of that one incident ring out in my ears - rage, anger, loudness, yells, screams, terror - sin is not silent here. It cries out in a loud, boisterous voice of ugliness to all the world. Yet the angels do not hear this, because they are separate beings and sin is not a part of them. To them, this world that is ruled by the Bent One is silent; and this is what brings great sorrow into my heart. Because sin has overtaken this world, and what God truly designed for this world is no longer visible or heard to angels.

The wonderful flip side to all of this is that once we leave the world of the Bent One and become a part of the plan of God, the angels rejoice in seeing us and hearing from us again. Luke 15:10, "Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

I have been challenged this week to be more active in this bleak, silent world. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Plantinga, this is "not the way it's supposed to be."


  1. I'm glad you finally got around to it Steph. :) I've always loved his portrayal of evil as being 'bent'. It gets us out of our shoulder devil cartoon upbringing. I hope you continue in the trilogy as Perelandra hits this whole idea in greater depth. I just listened to The Great Divorce this last week again and had the whole 'did Jesus descend into hell' conversation Saturday night with some friends. Onward and upward. (and why do ya have to keep using that picture?)

  2. I keep using that picture because we must always remember, Dan. We must never forget. ; )