What is the difference between sight and blepo?
In one sense, there is no difference. Both words mean the same thing. However, most readers see through “sight” but only to “blepo.” C.S. Lewis believed the Christian faith is meaningful not only because of what we see in scripture but through scripture. This is why he would suggest that the modern idea of “going deep” actually limits faith.
C.S. Lewis’ faith was based on Christianity’s capacity to explain reality. It was a widescreen faith. “I believe Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”1 This isn’t novel, as Louise Cowan, University of Dallas Professor of English, also defines faith as “a widening of the imagination.”2 When Mary learned of her pregnancy, she asked the angel How can this be? Her faith in God shaken, Mary was asking the angel to widen her imagination.
Individuals don’t abandon the faith because of what the Bible says but because they cannot see how it explains reality. In the 19th century, a host of influential individuals left the faith, including Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Darwin, and John Muir. Most were familiar with the faith; several had theological degrees. In the case of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., he left the faith after witnessing the carnage of the Civil War. Scripture no longer made sense of what seemed senseless to Holmes. He could go deep into scripture but could not make sense of reality through scripture.
This is why C.S. Lewis might have had doubts about today’s call to “going deep.” He had a different take. Lewis first used the phrase “deep church” in a letter to The Times in 1952. He was urging the Catholic and Evangelical wings of the Church of England to make common cause against the pretensions of the Enlightenment—a movement viewing maturity as drilling deep for information. But Lewis, as well as Albert Einstein, believed imagination is more important than knowledge. Imagination comes from going wide, since Lewis understood the gospel as a four-chapter story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. It is meaningful when it routinely explains the expanse of reality, or as Lewis put, when this story is “a part of the habitual furniture of our minds.”3 When businesspeople see through the Bible to business, faith becomes meaningful. But Lewis believed this deep knowledge comes from reading across the span of scripture and the four-chapter story, not simply by “going deep.”
This is why Lewis wrote fantasy literature, such as his space trilogy. The first volume, Out of the Silent Planet, takes place on Mars, where a young man named Ransom learns that Planet Earth fell long ago. The second volume, Perelandra, takes place on Venus, (called Perelandra). Ransom is brought there by the powers he met on Mars. He finds himself in a re-telling of the story of the Garden of Eden. Humanity had not fallen yet, but here again the Beast (a physicist not a snake) tries to tempt Eve (the Green Lady) into breaking the only taboo set by God. The taboo here is not avoiding a certain fruit but rather never staying after sundown on the only solid island on the planet.
If this sounds wild, try widening the faith. In the story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration, the last chapter is restoration of “all things” (Col.1:20) in the “new heavens and new earth” (II Pet.3:13). Going deep, many believers miss “heavens,” a plural noun. Scripture says there are many, perhaps countless, heavens. The “first heaven” is here on earth, the atmosphere or air that surrounds your body, writes Dallas Willard.4 This is another way of saying the “first universe” or the environment most immediate to you. We know Paul was “taken up to the third heaven” (I Cor.12:2), so a second and third heaven must exist. There might be countless heavens.
The most immediate environment, the “first heaven,” includes the cities where we live and do business. Cities are part of what constitutes “the heavens,” meaning cities are in the second, third, and perhaps even countless heavens. Since reality can only be arranged in a finite number of configurations, cities operate in an identical, parallel way—creation-fall-redemption-restoration. In other words, scripture suggests that creation is being played out in cities in countless, identical universes.
This is not as wild as it seems. Jesus promised to put his faithful followers in charge of many cities in eternity (Luke 19:17-9). Many believers imagine these cities only being planted on Planet Earth. What if they are also spread throughout the new heavens? What if his followers rule these cities because creation is being played out there?
In Perelandra, Lewis imagines the possibility of identical, parallel universes. He recasts why the human race fell. Many read Genesis and imagine Eve as being deceived in about 15 minutes. She’s easily duped by a silly seduction. But in Perelandra, Lucifer works slowly and slyly; over days, weeks, and months, much as Proverbs 25 describes how a man’s estate falls into disrepair. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” Perelandra widens the imagination, yielding a see-through faith explaining how seduction works. In Eve’s case, it might have required 15 years.
By reading fantasy literature as well as the Bible, faith is widened and explains the ideas put forth by Brian Greene in his new book, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. Greene is Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University. He suggests that there may be countless universes in existence, some looking identical to our solar system. Greene imagines particle matter as a deck of cards. “Just as a deck of cards can be arranged in only a finite number of orders, matter can only arrange itself in a finite number of configurations. If you shuffle the deck infinitely many times, the card orderings must necessarily repeat.”
In the infinite expanse of space, Greene says it works the same way. Particle configurations have a finite number of possibilities. They must necessarily repeat. “If the particles in a given region of space the size of ours are arranged identically to how they are arranged here, then reality in that region will be identical to reality here.” A see-through faith would agree, since scripture also imagines identical, parallel universes.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is described as “seeing—blepo—what the father is doing” (Mt. 6:4, 6, 18). There is no difference between the two words. It’s just that most readers see through “sight” and make sense of the sentence. Scripture is supposed to be see-through. So is faith. Making sense of the Bible requires reading beyond the Bible and including fantasy literature, since faith is a widening of the imagination.
1 C.S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 140.
2 Louise Cowan, “How Classics Address Our Imaginations” Mars Hill Audio Journal, 1998. Vol. 34.
3 C. S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, ed. Walter Hooper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1966), p. 34.
4 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1998), pp. 67-68.