Search Society Blog

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Between Heaven And Hell Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions for Between Heaven and Hell (BHAH) by Peter Kreeft, published in 1982

Introduction: Three great men died on November 22, 1963: C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley. All three were, among other things, writers of best-sellers. Lewis’s published works and life are well known to this group. Kennedy’s senior thesis, “ Appeasement in Munich,” was published as Why England Slept; another best-seller was Profiles in Courage. Huxley is perhaps best known for his futuristic novel, Brave New World, but he also wrote other fiction, drama and essays.

1. Kreeft, a conservative Catholic, imagines a Socratic dialogue among the 3 men, shortly after they died, before they went “on.” (as Professor Dumbledore would say) Is the dialogue balanced; fair; realistic? Based on Kreeft’s depictions, what is the worldview of each man?

2. Perhaps the most important question within the dialogue is : who is (was) Jesus Christ? What are other main themes?

3. What are the book’s strengths and weaknesses? What worked, what didn’t?

4. Do you agree or disagree with the following criticisms of BHAH: dumbs down humanism and pantheism too much; Kennedy and Huxley just lobbing softballs to Lewis; Kennedy and Huxley concede too easily, failing to argue with any enthusiasm or conviction.

5. Imagine that Lewis, before his death, wrote such a dialogue (same players). What might be different/ better? Are there other imaginary dialogues involving Lewis that you have read, or would like someone to write?

6. Make of this trivia (some trivial, some not) what you will: Kennedy was born across the pond from the other two, but he claimed Ireland (where Lewis was born) as his ancestral home; Huxley spent much of his adult life in America. Both Kennedy and Lewis fought in war (WWII and WWI respectively), while Huxley was a devout pacifist (for which he was refused American citizenship). Kennedy spent much time in England before and during WWII, as his father was the American Ambassador there; his time as American president was often referred to as the new Camelot. Lewis died of natural causes; Huxley died from a deliberately lethal dose of LSD; Kennedy was assassinated (for full details, see latest conspiracy theory.) Huxley extolled the virtues of illicit drugs; Kennedy was a heavy user (and alleged abuser) of prescription pain medications. Huxley’s book of essays The Doors of Perception (re: value of psychedelic experiences) shows the influence of and quotes from Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Lewis’s The Great Divorce argues that heaven and hell are not and cannot be married. Lewis: a vertical religion; Jesus is God become man. Kennedy: a more horizontal religion; Jesus is man become God. Huxley: “whatever, man”; Jesus is one of several great sages.

7. Would you recommend this book to an agnostic friend? What about an atheist friend?

No comments:

Post a Comment