C. S. Lewis’ Emeth: An Illustration of Inclusive Salvation

*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 some 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 that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”[2]

Aslan’s comment can be understood as a development of Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians 12:3: “No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” 

The implication for Christian belief is that people who reflect a righteous heart are justified, regardless of unbelief or misbelief. This relates to a longstanding question in Christian soteriology: if only explicit faith in Christ saves a person, then the large numbers of people born and raised in other faiths, perhaps even without knowledge of Christianity, seem to have no hope of salvation. The reverse position, that they are saved regardless, represents a type of Inclusivism.

Lewis himself contributed to the commentary on this question, for example in a letter from 1952:

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.[3]

Lewis argues that this view can be derived[3] 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[3] at least 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.

*[Excerpted from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emeth for educational purposes only]


^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.^ a b Lewis, C.S. The Last Battle. London: Harper Collins, 1956. Chp. 15, in which Emeth recounts his history.^ a b c 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.


Biblical considerations for an inclusive view of salvation

Banished from Humanity

Tolkien, Lewis, and Christ

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