Brilliant, as always, C.S. Lewis did a tremendous job in this novel, although Bible-believing Christians will notice frequently that Lewis went further out of his way than usual (seemingly) to force into this work both some of his “orthodox” (if unbiblical) “Christian” doctrines, and some of his “unorthodox” (and unbiblical) ideas such as a systematic theology that ponders (allows?) a fairly complete merger of pagan mythology (and extra-biblical writings in general) with various aspects of “the Christian tradition” in a combined sphere of thought. There is much wisdom and wit in the story that makes it worth tolerating some areas where the concepts are “off” biblically speaking.
Note: the following points are perhaps not major elements of the story, but at the least they are certainly themes found in the underlying backstory, and they are worth considering.
I’m a fan of Lewis, and thus I tend to try to tolerate those areas where his “Christian” ideas stretch far beyond what the Bible says or even allows, such as his view that certain personal beings created by the One True God are to be called “gods” (lower case ‘g’), some of whom God may have used as agents in getting aspects of the Creation, well, created. In this installment in his Space Trilogy, Lewis bluntly puts forth that an immortal, angelic being that is the “guardian” over Perelandra (the planet we call Venus) was actually the “personal being” who created the planet called Venus—a task that was accomplished under God’s instruction and at God’s bidding. Thus we’re to accept that if God created the cosmos “via” multiple lower beings, it is still God who should be credited as the Creator, even if someone else did the creating. This is a serious contradiction with what the Holy Scriptures teach about the One True God—He plainly stated He did all the creating “alone” and “by Himself.” (See Isaiah 44:24: “I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself….”)
Lewis’ overall scheme here, when taken to its logical conclusion, is that each of the planets in our star system was created by a different angelic being, with each of these angelic planet-creator-beings corresponding to one of the “gods” of Roman mythology. To wit: Malacandra (the planet we call Mars, which was the focus of book #1 in the trilogy) was thus presumably originally created by its own Oyarsa (a title of status that is a version of an ancient word essentially meaning “arch angel” or “boss angel”). In book #2, Lewis openly proposes the notion that the Oyarsa of Mars (ruler and guardian of that planet) is essentially the Roman “god of war” (called Mars in ancient Roman religion and myth), and likewise that the Oyarsa of Perelandra (ruler and guardian of the planet we know as Venus) is an angelic being who is the Roman “god of love” (called Venus in ancient Roman religion and myth). The correlations would continue with a creator-guardian-being that rules over Jupiter as being the personal creature whom the Romans worshipped as Jupiter. In such a fashion, Lewis simultaneously “slaps” the ancient Romans in the face for worshipping under-shepherds instead of the Great Shepherd, while also “validating” their religion as possibly having some basis in reality instead of being merely ideas invented “out of whole cloth.”
Furthermore, Lewis’ concept here is that the head devil of our world, also known as Satan, began as the Oyarsa over planet Earth (also known as Tellus), and later chose to rebel against God and became the “Bent Oyarsa.” (Satan is now pure evil, and his followers likewise are pure evil, but they were not always so.) Satan was once free to roam the “Deep Heavens” (interplanetary space), but after his sin he and his angelic followers have for a very long time been imprisoned on Earth, in order to keep the other planets safe from him. Parts of this seem biblically sound, but the Bible does not say (at any place, as far as we are aware) that Satan was once the ruler/guardian of Earth. In the Scriptures, the only angel who is called an archangel (“head angel” or “boss angel”) is Michael, who was summoned to make war with Lucifer after his sin and rebellion. Satan is described as having been cast down from heaven to Earth.
We then see (by putting two and two together to get four) the twist here is the notion (or hint?) by Lewis that our own world was actually created by Satan, while he was still a good Oyarsa, in obedience to God. Of course, the above-mentioned verse in Isaiah, taken on its face, nullifies all such notions. I don’t recall Lewis specifically stating the concept that Satan was supposedly the Oyarsa whom God used to create the planet Earth (Tellus), but all his hints point in that direction as his intended thought. Throughout the first and second titles in the series, Lewis paints a very strong tie between Satan (the “Bent Oyarsa”) and Tellus (Earth, the Silent Planet).
On the one hand, I don’t wish to put stronger Christians “off” from reading this book/series, as the wit and wisdom within are wonderful and there is much to be learned if someone is capable of “eating the meat while spitting out the bones.” On the other hand, whenever Lewis waxes into some of the underlying ideas he proposes here, it is safe to say that disclaimers are warranted. Any recommendation of such titles without a note of warning could be mistaken as support for all the notions contained within. This series is excellent overall, and this title is no exception. This installment’s dialogue of satanic deception, waged as spiritual warfare against the innocent, human First Mother on the island-world of Perelandra, and Dr. Ransom’s valiant battle to aid the woman against the demonic seduction, are “delicious” portions that are wonderful to provoke deep thought about all that really matters. Nevertheless, the above-mentioned concerns make it difficult for me to give a recommendation without some reservations regarding any “faint of heart” Christian who is easily confused about what he or she believes (essentially anyone who is not well grounded in what the Holy Scriptures teach).