Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley
© Peter Kreeft 1982
The scene: ….well, we’re not sure. Somewhere out in the ether. The players: C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and JF-Serial-Adulterer-Kennedy. Open on all three personalities standing, confused. They’re dead, having all shuffled off or having been shoved off the ol’ mortal coil on November 22, 1963. They have found neither eternal bliss nor everlasting torment, however. They have found…an argument, and for all three this is a welcome diversion while they ponder their fate. A discussion of ‘where the hell are we?’ quickly turns into a theological debate between Lewis, representing traditional Christianity; Kennedy, representing liberal humanistic Christianity (or secularism); and Aldous Huxley, representing pantheism. It’s a two-stage debate, with Lewis first squaring off with Kennedy on the necessity for believing in core Christian doctrines versus modern hedging, and then Lewis debating Huxley on Christianity’s distinction and fundamental incompatibility with other religions. The first is essentially an expansion of Lewis’ “Lord, Lunatic, or Liar” argument from Mere Christianity, and the latter was a thought-provoking argument for why Judaism and Christianity are so markedly different from all other religions, save those that borrowed from them — Islam being viewed as an imitator or a Christian heresy. As you might imagine from a Catholic author, Lewis presents the strongest case — though Kreeft does not permit himself to write Kennedy and Huxley as converts; they’re somewhere in the “I get the argument but I still can’t believe it” neck of the woods. I was hoping Kreeft would get more into the weeds of Lewis pointing out the implications of the men’s worldviews, as he looked to the logical extension of relativism in The Abolition of Man, but Kreeft keeps things confined to the two major debates. I haven’t read enough of Kennedy or Huxley to know if he captured their voices, but Lewis was fairly recognizable — though it helped that Kreeft often had Lewis quoting himself, either consciously or unconsciously. I do love the premise of the book, though, and it appears Kreeft has another with Socrates arguing with modern philosophers.
Next up: Wendell Berry’s How it Went and The World Ending Fire. Stories and essays…