Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual
looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a
form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is
meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it
is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for
the present world were just those who thought most of the next The Apostles
themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great
men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the
Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds
were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to
think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim
at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get
neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work
in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health
one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining
there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health
provided you want other things more -food, games, work, fun, open air. In
the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is
our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.
Most of us find it very difficult to want "Heaven" at all-except in so
far as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. one reason
for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education
tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real
want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it Most people, if
they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they
do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There
are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they
never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first
fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some
subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no
learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be
ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I
am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in
that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think
everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and
scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting
job: but something has evaded us. Now there are two wrong ways of dealing
with this fact, and one right one.
(1) The Fool's Way.-He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes
on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a
more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would
catch the mysterious something we are all after. Most of the bored,
discontented, rich people in the world are of this type. They spend their
whole lives trotting from woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from
continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest
is "the Real Thing" at last, and always disappointed.
(2) The Way of the Disillusioned "Sensible Man."-He soon decides that
the whole thing was moonshine. "Of course," he says, one feels like that
when one's young. But by the time you get to my age you've given up chasing
the rainbow's end." And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much
and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, "to cry for
the moon." This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a
man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society. It tends to make him a
prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls "adolescents"),
but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably. It would be the best
line we could take if man did not live for ever. But supposing infinite
happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach
the rainbow's end? In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a
moment after death) that by our supposed "common sense" we had stifled in
ourselves the faculty of enjoying it.
(3) The Christian Way.-The Christian says, "Creatures are not born with
desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger
well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there
is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a
thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world
can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another
world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that
the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to
satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so,
I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for,
these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the
something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I
must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not
find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside;
I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and
to help others to do the same."
There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the
Christian hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying they do not want "to spend
eternity playing harps." The answer to such people is that if they cannot
understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All
the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely
symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are
mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the
present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are
mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity
share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the
timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it
People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ
told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.
Lewis describes hope as one of the Theological virtues.
- Lewis mentions some accomplishments of men who left their mark on earth because their minds were set on heaven. Can you name these accomplishments and some others?
- What are some symptoms of real desire for Heaven that are present in all of us?
- Although we may experience some of the greatest gifts in life, still something has evaded us. What are the two wrong ways of dealing with this? What is the one right way?
Hope is one of the Theological virtues
- Hope means that we are to look forward to the eternal world (but not as a form of escapism).
- Hope does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.
- Historically, the Christians who made the greatest difference in this world, are the ones most fixed on the next
- The Apostles
- The builders of the Middle Ages
- The English Evangelicals who worked to abolish slavery
- Since Christians have learned to think less of the next world, we have become almost ineffective in this one.
Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.
We generally find wanting Heaven difficult, because we are educated from our earliest days to fix our minds on this world.
We have longings that can never be fully satisfied in this world. Those longings are an indication of a fulfillment only available in the next world/Heaven.
Ways that men handle the failure of 'ultimate fulfillment' in this world:
- The Fool's Way - continual chasing of the 'next thing.' Wives, husbands, hobbies, jobs, cars, etc, etc.
- The Way of the Disillusioned 'Sensible Man' - "[H]e settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, 'to cry for the moon.' ... It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls 'adolescents'), but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably."
- The Christian Way - "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.... I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same."
There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of 'Heaven' ridiculous by saying they do not want 'to spend eternity playing harps'. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.
The biblical language of heaven: harps, crowns, gold, etc., are metaphorical for...
- Harps: Music->ecstacy
- Crowns: united with God in splendor, power and joy
- Gold: timelessness, preciousness, no-decay
People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.