Ben: I was a bit surprised to hear your analysis on p. 300 of Lewis being something of a Platonist, following, you suggest, the author of Hebrews. I don’t really think that works as an analysis of Hebrews since both the shadows and substance transpire on earth, and the really real is on earth and also in heaven. For instance the death of Christ is on earth as the sort of antechamber to heaven where Christ applies the blood and intercedes for us. What happens in this world is not a mere shadow of what happens above. The shadows are the foreshadowing OT institutions of which Christ and his work are the substance whether on earth or in heaven. As for Lewis, it would be interested to know what he really thought about the Greek notion of the soul, as opposed to the resurrection of the body. What’s your take on the latter?
Alister: Yes, Lewis is a Platonist – but in a rather Christian way. We can leave Hebrews to one side here, as Lewis’s main sources here are not the Bible, but Renaissance interpretations of Plato, which he found helpful and illuminating. I do, however, wish that Lewis had engaged the text of the Bible more often. On the few occasions when he does (e.g., Reflections on the Psalms), he tends to treat the text as problematic, rather than inspirational.
Yet the extent and importance of Lewis’s Platonism are open to debate. Some worry that Lewis has Christianized Plato; some that he has Platonized Christianity. My own view is that he found Plato a useful ally in exploring the relation between this transient world and heaven. He uses Plato’s analogy of the cave at several points, particularly in The Silver Chair, and clearly found this to be a helpful device. Yet Lewis, as far as I can see, believed strongly in the resurrection of the dead, rather than the eternity of the soul.