Friday, 15 April 2016

On "Out of the Silent Planet" by C. S. Lewis

        Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis, is a remarkable book. It charts some of the adventures of Dr. Elwin Ransom, a philologist, who, when on a walking tour in England, was abducted by an old schoolfellow and his partner in devious deeds. After managing to land in a spacecraft on a planet, his two companions try to give him as an offering to the inhabitants of the strange world – but Ransom escapes and runs away. In his exciting and mysterious travels he meets many sorts of creatures, and learns that the planet he is on, known as Malacandra, is actually Mars. He then receives a summons to come to someone called Oyarsa, who rules over the world. When he gets there, there is a very intriguing confrontation between Oyarsa and Ransom and his two companions – which serves well as the climax of the book. This book is a well written story of a world which acknowledges its need for a Saviour – unlike our world, which needs to read this book.

        There are many good things regarding this very engaging yet thought-provoking novel to be pondered, studied, and discussed. In reading Out of the Silent Planet, there are two things which probably stand out the most to any reader. One is the corruptible nature of mankind and the solution for him; the other is the remarkable contrast between our world and Malacandra. The corruptibleness of man might seem a little too obvious to some, but there is a hidden element. Even though it was in God’s plan that man would fall, it was not the way man was created to be.

        Man was created in the image of God, to be his image bearer and dominion-taker over all of His creation. But very soon man fell, bringing down with him all hope of being a friend and servant of God – or so it seemed. The relevance of this in Out of the Silent Planet in singularly striking. When Dr. Ransom was kidnapped, who kidnapped him? His old schoolfellow and his friend who were what? Partners in crime. Then when they take Ransom to Malacandra they want to sacrifice him to the creatures there. Who in his right mind would do such a thing to a fellow human being? Only those who are depraved.

        In the book, those who are depraved are called ‘bent’ by the creatures that live on Malacandra. Ransom, in his talking with the creatures, finds out that there is a bent Oyarsa ruling over Earth. That is what makes the men of Earth so evil. The same thing had happened to the world of Malacandra, but Maledil, the Son of the Great One, who created all the worlds and their Oyarsas, had sacrificed himself to free the world from the power of the bent Oyarsa, and banished him to rule only within the Moon’s orbit. This does sound familiar, especially when you understand that the Great One is God, the bent Oyarsa is the Devil, and Maledil is Christ.

        The second theme which is very evident is the contrast between our world and Malacandra. The worlds themselves, not just the life on them, are extremely varied. On Malacandra, the atmosphere lies far down in the deep valleys and never reaches the heights. The water is perpetually warm, not normally cold as it is on earth. The colours are all, according to our view, ‘wrong’. Rock is pink; plants and trees are green – and any other colour as well. But perhaps the most striking element, as on any ‘other world’, is the creatures and beings.

        There are three main ‘races’ of sentient living beings on Malacandra: the Hrossa; the Séroni; and the Pfifltriggi. These three each contribute to the technology, agriculture, and scholastic learning of Malacandra. Each of the races lives in harmony with each other – which is more than we can say who live on earth! Each of the races knows that they cannot survive without the help of one another. So they work together to live in peace and harmony.

        This is in direct contrast to our world. There may be some alliances between nations on earth, but they are tedious at best. The creatures of Malacandra are a great example of the peace and unity which comes from a civilisation that recognizes its Creator. On Malacandra, the creatures have been rescued from their Fall and live according to the moral code of the Great One, God. Our earth does not recognize that we need a Saviour – which is a terrible mistake. The contrast between Malacandra and Earth should make us want to change all that and preach the Gospel to our fallen world.

        And here we must end this look at Out of the Silent Planet, but it is certainly not the end of the story. The adventure may have finished for now, but the message ought to be remembered in the minds and hearts of those who read the book. C. S. Lewis, in subtly writing the history of our world into the amazing story of Dr. Ransom’s adventures, points out that the only way to be rescued from our bent condition is to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.  And that is the remarkableness of Out of the Silent Planet.

Written by William A Moore

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