Summary of chapter 9: Eternity, temporality, and the art of dying well


The medievalist C. S. Lewis could not shake the idea of purgatory—the place of final sanctification before the judgment. He believed it, though not (he said) in its full Roman Catholic panoply. This came partly from a seriousness about sin: surely none of us thinks we can stand before a holy God after death without some sort of cleansing! But the deeper grounding of the doctrine for Lewis as for the medievals is this: Our life is a breath; a blade of grass; a brief, transitory phase between birth and death; a twinkle in time compared to eternal life with God in heaven, or eternal damnation without God and with Satan in hell. You want to live it as well as you can, and when it comes time to die, you want to be as prepared as possible to meet your eternal destiny. While we moderns covet a quick, painless death, the medievals prayed that they would not be overtaken suddenly. Deaths were very public, social: you died surrounded by family and friends—people came, talked to you, you settled grievances with them and wept and prayed with them. How different from the modern desire to hide death behind hospital curtains, extending its sterile solitude with fluid flowing down tubes. For medievals, death was the culmination of life—the launching or entrance into the eternal world. All this was explained in an important late-medieval genre: the plentiful manuals teaching the “art of dying well”—the Ars Moriendi.

5 responses to “Summary of chapter 9: Eternity, temporality, and the art of dying well

  1. “There is only one end for those that die in their sins. Everlasting punishment.”

    Wow. Then there is no hope for any of us. For who can say we are pure (not “in our sins”) at our death?

    • Everyone that is born of God can say so boldly for the Word of God says…

      We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. 1 John 5:18

      A sin-free life is a distinguishing mark all the children of God have.

      Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 1 John 3:9-10

      God loves us and keeps us from those things that are too much for us to resist. Therefore the only way we can turn back to sin is if we desire to.

      There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

  2. The reality is that we will die just how we lived and meet God just as we were at death. Paul confirms, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

    • Forgive me, calledsoldiers, but I don’t see how the verse appended to your comment proves your point (if indeed it was intended to). It certainly seems to leave room for a post-death purgative process. Now, I’m not sure I follow Lewis on purgatory, but I think the conversation is a valuable one. I invite your response to mine.🙂

      • Well I thought sure it was written out very plainly. Once to die… after this… You die then after this the judgment. Does that leave room. After you die the judgment.
        Perhaps more verses will help…

        Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. John 8:21

        For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27

        There is only one end for those that die in their sins. Everlasting punishment.

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