In this chapter, we have a fundamental question being worked out — one which, I believe, every person of faith comes to.
Why does God care?
Many faiths come to the conclusion that ultimately, God doesn’t care, and of course there is ample evidence to support that point of view, once taken. Nature is indifferent to human or any other form of suffering. Spiritual beings clearly do not hinder evil — or if they do, they are so mercurial about it as to be practically irrelevant. There are many faiths where there are good and evil beings more powerful than men, but the ultimate creator is mysterious, unknown, and beyond human concepts of morality (Zoroastrianism, ancient Greek mythology, certain branches of Buddhism, etc). Even in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, the book of Ecclesiastes offers a pretty grim outlook on the meaning and value of our individual human lives, weighed in the balance of God’s mysteries.
The narrator confronts this core (existential) dilemma as he considers his own (tangible) fear of Heaven — indeed, his fragility makes Heaven a very dangerous place for him. What if he and the other ghosts were merely lured up here for abuse? What if this is just a cosmic joke?
In short, why are these ghosts, these thin, bickering, selfish creatures being offered a shot at Heaven?
This debate is essentially put on display by the Ghost of the well-dressed woman and the Solid Person she debates. She is afraid of being naked, ashamed, and he is trying to convince her that none of that will matter if she will only exercise her faith a little.
She can’t bring herself to do it, so he blasts his trumpet and summons a herd of giant unicorns… and the scene ends.
Plot summary: Well-dressed ghost is demure, Solid Person uses overwhelming force, results unknown.
If I were Lewis’ editor, I’d have suggested he cut this chapter, so I don’t see much point in expounding on it here. The good stuff is about to get underway in Chapter 9, when Lewis (through the narrator) finally gets to talk to his idol, George MacDonald, the real-world 19th century Scots preacher whose writings helped bring Lewis back to the faith.
And, even that imagined conversation, we will find some existential gymnastics that would make any existential philosopher proud. 🙂