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Belief in Heaven and Hell

Lewis: No, wait. Let’s not get bogged down in the swamps of “spiritual senses.” Let’s use words as literally has we can. I have not been in either heaven or hell.
Kennedy: Fine. Then how can you possibly know anything about them?
Lewis: I’ve been told.
Kennedy: What? What do you mean?
Lewis: Do you know anything about Tibet?
Kennedy: Of course.
Lewis: Have you ever been there?
Kennedy: No.
Lewis: Then how do you know anything about it?
Kennedy: Oh, I see. I’ve been told. But that’s knowing only if you believe what you’ve been told.
Lewis: Exactly. It’s called “faith.”
Kennedy: You just passively, uncritically believe?
Lewis: No, I believe for good reason, and then I explore my belief with good reason.

Kennedy: I guess I mean, Do you take everything in the Bible literally?
Lewis: Of course not. When Jesus says, “I am the door,” I don’t look for a knob on him.
Kennedy: And when he talks about heaven and hell, do you look for real angels and demons?
Lewis: Yes.
Kennedy: Why? Why not interpret that poetically?
Lewis: Because the speaker didn’t mean it poetically.
Kennedy: How do you know that?
Lewis: It’s just common sense. Look here do you think anybody, either Jesus or any of his hearers reached for a literal knob when he said, “I am the door”?
Kennedy: No.
Lewis: And when he talked about heaven and hell, do you think his hearers interpreted it poetically?
Kennedy: No. They probably weren’t sophisticated enough.
Lewis: Was Jesus a good teacher?
Kennedy: Of course.
Lewis: Does a good teacher take into account his audience, and how they are likely to interpret his words?
Kennedy: Of course.
Lewis: And does a good teacher deliberately use poetic language when he know his audience will misinterpret it and take it literally?
Kennedy: No.
Lewis: You see what follows then. He meant to be taken literally when he talked about he existence of heaven and hell. They’re real places. We will certainly go to one of them forever. It matters infinitely which. That is certainly what he meant everyone to get out of his teaching about heaven and hell.
Kennedy: So you really believe in a place with devils with horns and hoofs and all? You, a twentieth century man?
Lewis: As I wrote in one of my books, I’m not sure what time has to do with it, and I’m not particular about the horns and hoofs.
Kennedy: But otherwise, yes?
Lewis: Yes.

—from Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialogue Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley by Peter Kreeft

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