|Major character in|
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). As a Calormene, Emeth was raised to follow Tash, the antithesis of Aslan, and did so with an emphatic devotion and loyalty. Nevertheless, Emeth manages to travel to Aslan's paradisaical country after the destruction of Narnia, and is welcomed by Aslan. Because he worshipped a devil and not God, his acceptance has been controversial with some Christians who disagree with Lewis' soteriology.
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.
- 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.