Christians know what they’re saved from. How many know what they’re saved for?
This week is more grist from last week’s mill. The term grist refers to something useful. I hope what I share is useful for parents concerned about their kids and social media.
The grist comes from the rest of Jane Studdock’s story. In the closing chapter of C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength Jane is preparing a bridal chamber for Ivy Maggs, a member of the faith community at St. Annes. This stirs Jane’s literary memories of ancient lore, of “bridal beds and marriage.” And it stirs another of Jane’s dreams, this one of a giant woman, little gnome-like men, and fire that doesn’t burn what it touches but instead sprouts vegetation. Mystified as to what this means, Jane has a lengthy discussion with the Director, Ransom.
Recall that Ransom was taken up into the heavens in the first two books in Lewis’ trilogy: Out of The Silent Planet and Perelandra. He recognizes Jane’s dream signifies the “world beyond Nature.” It may be as sexually charged as the natural world itself. Jane begins to perceive that there might be differences and contrasts (i.e. male-female) “all the way up, richer, sharper, even fiercer, at every rung of the ascent.”
This ascent with rungs is drawn from Dante who was taken up to the third heaven, peering into heaven itself. Dante drew this from the Apostle Paul who was taken up to the third heaven, peering into heaven itself, Paradise, full of God’s light and love. Dante, Paul, and Ransom saw not only what we’re saved from; but what we’re saved for. Love, depicted in scripture and the natural world as bridal beds and marriage. Paul put it this way to the Church at Corinth: “I betrothed (married) you to Christ our husband so that I might present you to him as a pure virgin” (II Cor.11:2). This is the marital gospel. It’s the most wondrously enchanting spell that can break the spell Lewis said we’re under.
It’s an epiphany for Jane. She recognizes her determination not to have a child with Mark (“this invasion of her own being in marriage from which she recoiled”) is in fact resistance to conjugal “invasion” by God. Nuptial union with Mark is the lowest rung of the ascent, the first shocking contact with reality that runs all the way to the highest level of all—nuptial union with God as his bride. The Director tells Jane there is no escape from the sexual: “You are offended by the masculine itself. But the masculine none of us can escape. What is above and beyond all things is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it.”
God is neither male nor female but so masculine that humanity is all feminine in relation to him. This breaks the spell for Jane. No surprise, as the most wondrous spell that can be found is a man and woman making love. “What Lewis pictures in Jane’s submission is a model, not just for female Christians, but for all Christians.” That Hideous Strength closes with Mark and Jane enjoying nuptial union.
Lewis is not suggesting we revert to medieval romance but return to the powers of enchantment cast aside by the practitioners of modern technology. It starts with the reenchantment of the body and sexuality, extending to the entire natural world. And here I offer a suggestion for parents, especially those drawn to “purity pledge” programs where teens promise to go cold turkey from sex until marriage. The results remind me of Jesus’ warning that merely getting clean from something rather than for something often results in the second state being worse than the first. A study published in 2009 found that the sexual behavior of teens who took purity pledges did not differ from that of non-pledgers. Related studies found that teens are more likely to be sexual active if they attend an evangelical youth group than those who don’t. Teens knew what they’re saved from (sin), but not what they’re saved for, other than disconnected abstractions like “glorify God.” The disconnect turns abstinence into merely keeping a law, and when law increases, so does sin. The kids are worse off than if they’d never pledged purity. They were never enchanted.
Same dynamic applies to parents seeking to break an addiction to social media in their kids. Going cold turkey will get your kids get free from it, but what are they clean for? C. S. Lewis feared that each generation of technology will be worse than the previous one. He was prescient. Look at the crisis of Gen-Z, a generation that got off Facebook only to find Tik-Tok and Instagram make the second state worse than the first. They merely traded one spell for another more addictive. They haven’t been rightly enchanted.
I realize some will say my suggestions are so heavenly-minded they’re no earthly good. I disagree. When we’re taken up to the third heaven, what God’s Word does when we read it imaginatively, we see bridal beds and marriage. This has broken the spell for me as I don’t see how extensive time on social media is the highest and best use of my life in preparing to be presented to Christ our husband as a devoted virgin.
I also realize some might say this column is sexist. It’s all Jane’s problem. Not so. Next week we see her husband Mark has an epiphany. It occurs right as Jane is having her epiphany.
 Jennifer L. Woodruff Tait, “‘You Will Have No More Dreams; Have Children Instead:’ Or, What‘s a Nice Egalitarian Girl Like You Doing in a Book Like This?” Inklings Forever 6 (2008), 10.
 Sanford Schwarz, C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy (Oxford University Press, 2009), 18.
Mike, I love your addressing these topics. I read That Hideous Strength in my late 20s and wondered if it was the best book I’d ever read. So much to choose from your text to discuss. Kids come to youth groups from so many avenues, and things can go awry, but they can go well too. I’m older than “The Purity Pledge” but me and my cohort wouldn’t have stayed pure if we hadn’t pledged together to do so. As always, it’s the heart that’s at stake, not the method employed. And thankfully, when the heart “slips” it’s not broken ~ it can heal. Methods? They get dumped for new ones, proving methods are very secondary to anything we do, except in fixing machines – but we are not machines. You’re focusing on being saved for ” ______ .” That’s very fruitful. As I/we articulated that among ourselves, even better than the adults in our lives, we knew we were in the right place. When youth lead youth groups they do so to love one another, or lord it over each other. As always, good leadership matters so much. You lead our discussions well, thanks Mike.