Skip to main content

C. S. Lewis Goes to Heaven

I am often asked what my favorite C. S. Lewis book is. It is such a difficult question to answer. Therefore, I often say, “Whatever C. S. Lewis book I happen to be reading at the time.” However, The Great Divorce has to be in my top five favorite Lewis books. I enjoy the story for Lewis’ picture of heaven, for the vignettes that reveal so much about our choices in this life, and for what Lewis teaches through this tale about Christ’s descent into hell.

Because Lewis is such a favorite author of mine, Lewis illustrations naturally find their way into my sermons, perhaps too often for the taste of some in various congregations I have served. However, for others, these little tit-bits from Lewis have encouraged them to read Lewis for the first time. I remember one parishioner who started reading The Great Divorce because of my frequent references to Lewis. However, I think she gave up part way through her reading because she was put off by certain phrases and references she could not understand.

Now, David Clark has provided a solution to that problem with his book, C. S. Lewis Goes to Heaven: A Reader’s Guide to The Great Divorce. This book may not have helped my friend unless she was willing to persevere with Lewis and have her mind greatly stretched. However, for the reader who loves Lewis and wants to penetrate more deeply into the meaning of one of his greatest books, Clark’s volume is a real treat. Despite having studied Lewis’ work in depth for quite some time, I learned many new things through reading Clark’s book.

Clark examines The Great Divorce from almost every conceivable angle: literary, theological, historical, biographical, dramatic and biblical. This 180-page study is divided into three major sections: on the Sociology, Geography and Theology of The Great Divorce. By “sociology”, Clark denotes his study of the characters and their various relations in Lewis’ story, and by “geography” he refers to the landscapes of Lewis’ book and how these landscapes illustrate spiritual principles. My favorite part of the book, however, is the examination of the theology of Lewis’ tale. I especially appreciated Clark’s presentation and defense of Lewis’ teaching on Christ’s descent into hell and the hope that offers for every person who has ever lived or will live to make an informed choice to follow Christ.

In addition to these three major sections of the book, Clark offers a glossary of terms (something that would have been most helpful to my stumped parishioner), some notes on Lewis’ sources, and three appendices offering a summary of characters, a guide to biblical references and a guide to historical personages and literary references. Some of Clark’s guesses as to historical persons lying behind Lewis’ fictional characters in the book were most intriguing.

While Clark’s volume may provide more information and background to The Great Divorce than most readers would want, for others (like me) this work may not go far enough. Regarding the theology behind The Great Divorce, I would have appreciated an exploration of Lewis’ leaning toward annihilationism in his thought on hell. Furthermore, Clark fails to clearly distinguish Lewis’ stance as an inclusivist in contrast to George MacDonald’s tendencies toward universalism. At points, Clark lacks accuracy when he touches on some biographical details related to Lewis and MacDonald, but these points are so slight, they do not detract from the overall contribution of this work to Lewis studies.

In summary, I found C. S. Lewis Goes to Heaven to be both intellectually expanding and even at points devotionally edifying. I recommend this book to all readers who want to learn more about the meaning of one of Lewis’ greatest works and the wealth of literary sources that fed Lewis’ wide-ranging imagination.

To learn more about C. S. Lewis Goes to Heaven or to purchase the book, click here:

C.S. Lewis Goes to Heaven: A Reader's Guide to The Great Divorce


SLP said…
The Great Divorce is also one of my favorite Lewis books - I listened to an excellent audio version of it by Blackstone Audio earlier this year, and that was a different (but also very good) experience from reading the book.

Thanks for the post - I plan on buying Clark's book!
Will Vaus said…
You are welcome. I hope you enjoy Clark's book. Blessings on your journey "further up and further in".

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis . For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right.... In Surprised by Joy , Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displa

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so

A Prayer at Ground Zero

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner. Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book,  In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis , is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War.... Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring  on 14 December 1944.... C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London.

The Shepherds' Perspective on Christmas

On December 21, 2015, the following headline appeared in the International Business Times: “Bethlehem Christmas 2015 Cancelled”. To be fully accurate, religious celebrations of Jesus’ birth went forward last year in Bethlehem, but many of the secular celebrations of Christmas that usually surround it were toned down due to instability in the area. Looking back a decade, there was even one year when Christian Arabs canceled community celebrations of Christmas in support of the Palestinian uprising. However, the Jewish government would have no part of that, so the Israeli military sponsored its own holiday celebrations in the area. It is also interesting to note who celebrated the first Christmas and who didn’t. The first Christmas was not celebrated by the emperor Caesar Augustus, nor Quirinius, the governor of Syria, nor was it celebrated by the lowly innkeeper. But Christmas was celebrated by a few lonely shepherds along with Joseph and Mary and the angels of heaven. How

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

" I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all. "But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world. "While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday ( ) got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog: It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could. Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?" His answer w

Does the Bible mention treating animals with kindness?

When I solicited questions to be addressed in this series, a member of the congregation wrote this to me: “Animals are mentioned in the Bible as beasts of burden and sacrificial animals.  Is there any mention of treating animals with kindness?” The short answer to that question is: yes. However, it is important to note that what the Bible says about caring for animals comes in the midst of a great narrative. It is a narrative of  Creation, Fall, and Redemption.  Let’s look at these three great acts in the narrative play of world history one by one. First, let’s look at creation. Creation At the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, chapter 1, verses 26 through 28, we read this: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy , the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis. While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996. It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van&