In the Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis lays out his vision of a universe where everything and everyone must choose between Heaven and Hell. There is nothing else to choose and the choice is absolute.
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” “Everything becomes more and more itself.”
He argues that every good choice, if taken to its logical conclusion, leads to complete submission and holiness. Every bad choice, if taken to its logical conclusion, leads to a complete rejection of God. We, who choose both good and bad, will eventually see them emerge in personalities in unavoidable conflict. This is the teaching that says a house divided against itself cannot stand.
In a sense we do face choices this stark. If a man says, in however small a way, My will, not Thine, be done, that man cannot be exalted. Everything other than exaltation is damnation in a sense. Progress is stopped. If a woman says, in however small a way, Thy will, not Mine, be done, that woman cannot be given over to Satan. Everything other than perdition is, in a sense, salvation. A portion of happiness lives with one forever.*
In another sense, we have more eternal destinies than Heaven and Hell describe. Portions of happiness differ. Some have progressed very far before stopping progress. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. Joseph saw many kingdoms. The telestial, the terrestial, and the first degrees of the celestial kingdom are not Hell and not fully Heaven.
Going back to C.S. Lewis, this can only mean that some people, many people, have not followed their choices out to their logical consequences. God is kind enough, and our agency is strong enough, that we are able to hold on to positions that are tied together by nothing other than our will. This shakes my complacence, I who have always assumed that if I keep muddling along, all my badness and goodness will work themselves out into the clear.
*Putting it like this makes me wonder if perdition and exaltation are the only two choices that must be made entirely on our own. I’ve long wondered how it is that God can give any effect to our influence on other people without being unfair to them or someone. I thought it was a question of timing: my good influence gives people good opportunites sooner than they would have gotten otherwise, and my bad influence delays them. Maybe also our influence helps determine where those who shrink from the ultimate choices of exaltation or perdition end up, both in kingdom and in degree.