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Till We Have Faces: Chapters 5 & 6 January 4, 2007

Posted by Danielle in Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.
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We are discussing chapters 5 and 6 here. Leave and check out comments below.

In chapter 5 we have a “debate” between the Priest, representing the house of Ungit, and Fox, who represents a sort of secular philosophy, before the king (pg. 48-49). What point, do you think is being made here? How can this relate to our current society?

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1. bethany3boys - January 8, 2007

Can I just say the King drives me nuts…he is such a jerk and selfish coward.

2. heather - January 9, 2007

I looked at this debate as an example of secular knowledge vs. divine wisdom. Fox, the personification of rational knowledge, looks for a logical explanation for everything, and his explanations always come back to this: is it according to nature? In other words, can it be explained according to nature? Even when he’s unsure, he still chalks it up to being “natural.” When Orual wonders if Psyche can really heal people, Fox responds “It is possible. It might be in accordance with nature that some hands can heal. Who knows?” p. 31 In the debate with the Priest and the King, Fox rationalizes the shepherd’s tale of the shadow: “…the shepherd’s tale is very questionable. If the man had a torch, of necessity the lion would have a big black shadow behind it. The man was scared and new waked from sleep. He took a shadow for a monster.” p. 48 On the next page, he criticizes the “nonsense” he sees in the Priest’s call for a Great Offering of the Accursed: “Do you not see, Master, said the Fox, that the Priest is talking nonsense? A shadow is to be an animal which is also a goddess which is also a god, and loving is to be eating — a child of six would talk more sense. And a moment ago the victim of this abominable sacrifice was to be the Accursed, the wickedest person in the whole land, offered as a punishment. And now it is to be the best person in the whole land — the perfect victim — married to the god as a reward. Ask him what it means. It can’t be both.” p. 49 and 50

The Priest, on the other hand, has no mental struggle with the paradoxes. He accepts the hard to explain as part of the divinity of the gods, with holiness and horror going hand in hand. “Some say loving and devouring are all the same thing.” p. 49 “They (Greek philosophers) demand to see such things clearly, as if the gods were no more than letters written in a book. I, King, have dealt with the gods for three generations of men, and I know that they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them. Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like bood. Why should the Accursed not be both the best and the worst?” p. 50

I think this debate alludes to the title of the book. Till we have faces — till we are on the other side and see God face to face — we, the finite, will always be trying to figure out the infinite. And no matter how hard we try, we will not be able to fully grasp and understand Him. The Bible is full of pradoxes that don’t make sense to our rational minds. How can the first be last? The weak, strong? The humble, lifted up? The servant, great? How can a loving God allow suffering? The list goes on and on.

3. Danielle - January 9, 2007

Good point there about this debate between as you say secular knowledge and divine wisdom as alluding to the title. Neither the secular nor religious answers are completely satisfying, or, in the end, as we’ll see, completely right.

4. Ashleigh - January 15, 2007

Heather, you summed up the debate beautifully. I love how you relate it to the title of the book.

At points in the book, specifically this section of the book, I found myself getting so lost in the story that I wasn’t reading the book on multiple levels. Meaning, I wasn’t taking the time to stop and think about how Lewis is using this story as a type of allegory.

Because I wasn’t thinking “allegory,” I found myself having problems with the paradoxes and being swayed to the side of the Fox. Perhaps because in the book it’s clearly a pagan religion and their practices seem so perverted. The whole issue of the god — whether it’s Ungit or the Brute — first sleeping with the victim and then devouring them. Yuck!

5. Ashleigh - January 15, 2007

Bethany, I have to agree that the King is contemptible. I found myself especially upset when it was clear that he was relieved that he was not the sacrifice.

6. Nicole - January 22, 2007

I thought it was so interesting the part the Priest brought about the Brute “devouring” the Accursed and whether that meant literally or through sexual relations. And it made me think about something Jonathan (my husband for those of you who don’t know me) was reading in “The Dificult Doctrine of the Love of God” D.A. Carson was speaking of word studies and using the word love to demonstrate how merely studying the meaning behind the word can be pointless because it’s all about the message and the bigger picture of what the words are trying to say. The same word in the Bible used to describe God’s love (I forget which one) is also used to describe the love Amnon had for Tamar which eventually led to her rape. Now I’ve completely strayed from the topic, I know, but it jarred my memory of that passage and made me think of how the priest was twisting the meaning of the word to be whatever he wanted…much like his entire story. And the people fell for it.


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