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Emeth (Hebrew אמת : "truth," "firmness," or "veracity") is a Calormene character from C. S. Lewis's book The Last Battle (from the Chronicles of Narnia series). He is a controversial character with some Christians who disagree with Lewis' soteriology. Specifically, the 'salvation' of Emeth is understood to be an implicit endorsement of Inclusivism.
Emeth is a young Carlomene officer, second in command of a detachment of the Tisroc's soldiers under Rishda Tarkaan who enter Narnia in the guise of merchants. This is as part of a conspiracy to seize the north of the country by using the Narnians' faith in a false Aslan controlled by the ape Shift. While welcoming the chance to distinguish himself in battle, Emeth is troubled at the "lies and trickery" used in portraying Aslan as the Narnian version of the Carlomene deity Tash. When Shift and Rishda set up the notion that "Tashlan" is in the stable, Emeth insists on seeing Tash with his own eyes. Once inside, Emeth kills a Calormene soldier waiting to dispatch anyone who entered the stable, and then finds himself in what apparently is Aslan's Country. It is there that Emeth encounters Aslan himself, who explains that he and Tash are opposites: With any virtuous act done in Tash's name is actually accepted by Aslan as Tash can only accept acts of evil. Thus Emeth's devotion to Tash, founded on noble motives, was actually to Aslan himself.
Implications in Christian theology
Aslan's words to Emeth, in which he ratifies the good deeds the latter did even under the name of Tash, are the subject of this controversy.
I take to me the services which thou hast done to Tash [the false God]... if any man swear by him and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me [Christ] that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him."
The implication is that people who reflect a righteous heart are to some degree justified, regardless of misbelief. This is a cornerstone of Christian theology: one party cites the Christian paradigm that faith in Christ alone saves, and the other wants to account for the fate of those born and raised into another faith. There has been extensive commentary on the question. In a letter from 1952, Lewis summarized and explained his position:
I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats those who are saved do not seem to know that they have served Christ.
Lewis cites this view as derived from the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34-40, from Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17:23: "What you now worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you", and from 1 Timothy 4:10: "God, the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (all references NIV).
Lewis encountered one contradiction to this idea in Romans 10:14: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (TNIV). This is consistent with Paul's doctrine that though God is already with the pagans, they still need to see him revealed. Lewis, however, replied with 1 Corinthians 1:12-13: "One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' -- Is Christ divided?" (TNIV), which he interpreted as indicating the sameness of God regardless of his context.
Perhaps the strongest support for Lewis' case is found in Romans 2:13-15 (TNIV):
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
A final reply is found in Jesus' words in John 14:6: "No one comes to the Father except through me" (NIV). However, its interpretation is ambiguous: if Jesus meant that he was an object by conscious faith in whose name a person is saved, this verse would appear to contradict Lewis' argument. However, Jesus could have meant (a) that he alone made salvation possible (i.e., activated it by his death), and/or that (b) as Lewis suggested, some might come to the Father through Jesus who did not at first realize that was what they were doing.
In one version of the golem legend, the Kabbalist Elijah Ba'al Shem of Chelm crafts in clay a man's form, which he brings to life by writing word Emeth on its forehead. When he sees that the golem grows and grows, he realizes that he has a potentially troublesome situation. He knows that if he can erase from the golem's forehead the first letter of 'Emeth', the Hebrew letter Aleph, the remaining letters would spell 'meth', or death. This the rabbi does by commanding the golem to remove his boots, but in so doing, the golem's clay collapses upon the rabbi.
- McCormack, Elissa (2008). "Inclusivism in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis: The Case of Emeth". Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 11 (4): 57–73.
- Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle. London: Harper Collins, 1956. Chp. 15, in which Emeth recounts his history.
- Lewis, C.S. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007. Quotes from pp. 244-245, 163, and 506, respectively.