As a young man I fell in love with the work of C.S. Lewis, and I have never been the same. While I loved his Chronicles of Narnia, I also love his science fiction trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. A good friend and I recently read the first of the trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet. While the third in the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, is my favorite, I enjoyed re-reading the first volume.
One of Lewis' most helpful insights is what he has to say about fear. In the novel, a character is summarizing one of the problems of the human race. One of the key issues is fear.
A central character says to Weston (a villain in the story): “When first you came here, I sent for you, meaning you nothing but honour. The darkness in your own mind filled you with fear. Because you thought I meant evil to you, you went as a beast goes against a beast of some other kind, and snared this Ransom” (Ransom is the chief protagonist/hero in the story) (p. 134).
Oyarsa, a leader of an alien planet (I don’t want to give too much away, if you have not read the story!) confronts the evil Weston (the villain from earth): “Yes . . . but one thing we left behind us . . . fear. And with fear, murder and rebellion. The weakest of my people does not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world [i.e., earth], who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace” (p. 140).
I am currently writing a book on the nature of works, obedience, and faithfulness in the Christian life. This entails that one tries to make sense of why one obeys the Lord, and why one does not. I have been helped over the years by the work of Scott J. Hafemann. One of the things I have learned from Scott (although the insight is not unique to him) is the relationship between unbelief and disobedience (and the relationship between belief and obedience ).
As Hafemann has suggested, we obey the Lord because we trust Him. Indeed, as Hafemann sees it, our obedience is really simply trust in action. That is, our obedience is a form of trust. If this is the case—and I believe Hafemann is right here—then we would be led to say something fairly radical: when we disobey the Lord, in the moment of our disobedience we are—in a sense—practicing unbelief in that moment. That is, if we disobey the Lord we are in fact—when we disobey—saying, “I don’t really believe Lord that You are providing for me, and that the best thing for me to do is to obey you in this instance. At least at this moment I am not so sure that I can trust you to best provide for my needs, and to be the ultimate source of my greatest joy and satisfaction. So, at least at this moment I am going to try another path.” In sum: disobedience is evidence of a type of “temporary” unbelief.
When I re-read Out of the Silent Planet, I thought of Hafemann’s work on the nature of belief/obedience, and unbelief/disobedience. For Lewis seems to be saying that so much of the tragedy and wickedness and sinfulness we see around is rooted in fear. And one way of coming to terms with fear is to realize that it is simply one way in which unbelief manifests itself. For the Christian, fear can never be the final or ultimate way of life. Suffering is real, and tragedy is real, and need not be minimized. But fear is not the final word. If we truly trust the Living God, and believe in the resurrection, we know that death has been defeated, and that God—one day—will make all things right. We should trust that the God of Scripture will do right, and not fear for our future. Fear, it would seem, is simply one more way in which unbelief manifests itself. Ultimately, fear is not an option.