“We see at once (when we have been waked) that the important question is not whether an atomic bomb is going to obliterate ‘civilization’. The important question is whether ‘Nature’- the thing studied by the sciences- is the one thing in existence.”
– C.S Lewis, On Living In An Atomic Age
It’s been a bit since we talked about Clive Staples Lewis in this small, cozy nook of the internet, and I feel as if the Evangelical Protestant Police will show up on my doorstep at any moment to take away my Christian badge. So, to fulfill the void of C.S. Lewis banter which exists at times, we will take a look at some Lewis gold in honor of one of the few men who has ever been able to pull off having a piece of office supplies for a middle name. So here are five (posts) for Clive.
I love this little quote from Lewis: it’s absolutely jarring. His essay, On Living In An Atomic Age, begins with an examination of the ridiculousness with which we worry about dying in an age dominated by the rise of nuclear weapons. It’s ridiculous, because, as Lewis so matter-of-factly points out, “you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways… It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.” What was first used in the Second World War is utterly terrifying; its capacity for killing quickly while causing such pain and suffering is a horrendous achievement of the human race. No one denies that fact.
Still, all of us, from the moment of birth, have faced the immanence and certainty of death (unless, of course, our Great Lord comes back prior). It is really only a matter of how one dies, not if. As Lewis rightly points out, the atomic bomb is just one more on a list in an extremely long and depressing list of the various ways in which we could die.
So, the real question becomes, “Is this all there is?” Is there something on the other side of the atomic blast or the cancer cell? That’s what everyone wants to know, and that’s the question every one of us asks in the dark of night, when everyone else is asleep and the stillness and safety of our house has become threatening and cold. It’s the question that haunts us every day and the question whose answer changes everything. And, if Christianity is true, the atomic bomb is the least of our worries, as we are a human race that prefers sex, fame, and selfishness to God. If the God of the Scriptures is true, the One True God is coming back, and He’s coming back angry: angry enough to judge and avenge those who have wronged Him and, by extension, His people.
As Lewis tells us, in a world under the shadow of death, there are a couple of alternatives to accepting the reality of Christianity: “you might commit suicide…you might decide simply to have as good a time as possible,” or “you may defy the universe.” No other religion will answer the questions that burn within us, and no other God is able to exist besides the Christian God; it’s either Christianity or nothing. No one knew this better than Lewis, who, in his autobiography, described himself as one whom God dragged into the kingdom. Faced with the overwhelming proof of the validity of Christianity, we may accept it or reject it, but in rejecting it, we reject all other possibilities of deity, all other possibilities of life after death, all other possibilities that there is something more than SAT scores, exhaust fumes, and the rat race to become someone important .
But surely there remains in us all a faint inkling, distorted and drenched in depravity, which whispers, “Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is ‘another world’, and that is where we come from. And that explains why we do not feel at home here.” It is best to follow this inkling, if one can sense its undertow, for it is a prompting by the Spirit. We would do well to let it sweep us away to the inevitable conclusion that there is more to this universe than meets the eye, that death by atomic bomb, old age, or raging dog attack is not the last word. Indeed, “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Christ will have the last word, not atomic bombs. So the question to be posed to all of us today is this: “Is this all there is?” Your answer will change everything about you, from your conversations and relationships to how you spend your time today. What will be your answer?