The “Bi”nity of “Out of the Silent Planet”

“Out of the Silent Planet” is a Christian work in that it focuses on the Trinity, but unfortunately, it leaves one member out.

As history has taught us, talking about the Trinity is hard. Controversy after controversy has arisen as the Church wrestles with how we are supposed to talk about the Trinity. Are they Persons? Energies? How many of them are there? How is One God Three? Lewis, in 1937, writes far after most controversies have ended, but he still finds himself in trouble in terms of speaking about God.

The most talked about “deity” on Malacandra is not the Oyarsa, nor is it the seroni who occupy a sort of angelic mythos (65). Rather, the hnau of Malacandra trust in Maledil. Oyarsa is not god, because “[T]here was one God, according to [the hrssai], Maledil the Young[.]” (86) They don’t worry about a scarcity of food because “Maledil will not stop the plants growing.” (73) Turns out, Maledil is the creator of the world who continues to rule.

Maledil lives with The Old One. This seems like a direct allusion to The Ancient of Days from Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7, 9). The Ancient of Days rules over the kingdoms of the world, handing his kingdom over to the Son of Man and the little kingdom. The Old One is not the type to live anywhere, yet he is with Maledil the Younger at all times. (80)

The theology of the Old One is not developed very far in this novel. Maledil seems to be based on a few Christological texts (Colossians 1:15-20 being the obvious favorite). Yet, there is nothing of the Spirit in the book.

Before one claims that the Spirit was developed in the eldil or the Oyarsa, they are clearly angelic figures. The Oyarsa is merely a messenger, calling for a man to meet with (remember in the New Testament, angel and messenger come from the same word). In fact, Lewis uses Petrine doctrine to talk about the Oyarsa and the eldil: “We think that Maledil will not give it up entirely to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange council and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you and desire to look into these things.” (cf. I Peter 1:11-12)

In this case, the book is still Trinitarian. I wonder what we’ll find out about the Spirit in Perelandra, where it seems the villain takes on a Hegelian “thesis/antithesis/synthesis” framework.

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