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Aug 04

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Lions and Muggles and Hobbits, Should I? Part 2

The second installment of our discussion series.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis:  Really Christian? Or just another adventure story?

 

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines “allegory” as:

1.  The expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions, of truths and generalizations about human existence.  OR

2.  A symbolic representation.

As we will demonstrate in a few moments, The Chronicles of Narnia can be demonstrated to be a “Christian allegory”, by which fictional characters and their actions convey the message of the Gospel and other Biblical truths.  Pilgrim’s Progress is another example of Christian allegory.  Some Christians may grumble that if you really want the Gospel and other Biblical truths, then read the Bible itself; it is unneccessary to hide Biblical principles behind fictional symbols, particularly magical talking animals and the like.  While that is certainly a valid point, I would point out that many of Jesus’ recorded teachings were purposely presented in the form of parables, which are really just “mini-allegories”.  Sometimes, the direct approach is not fully understood, appreciated, or received.  If, through allegories, you can get someone to grasp Biblical truth through a different angle or perspective, or you can enrich someone’s existing understanding of Biblical truth, then allegories can be an acceptable tool. Now, let’s look at the Christian themes and symbols in the seven book Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.  (Some of these symbols are quite obvious to all, but I am indebted to the excellent website “gotquestions.org” for material for some of the later books – it has been a while since I read some of them.)

1.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Book 1)

a.  The lion, Aslan, is obviously symbolic of Christ, the lion of Judah.  He is in conflict with the “Queen of Narnia”, who represents Satan.  The frozen Narnia is paradise in a fallen state, ruled by the Queen (Satan).

b.  Peter and Edmund are “sons of Adam”, while Susan and Lucy are “daughters of Eve”.

c.  Edmund willingly partakes in Turkish Delight (sin).  He also leads the Queen to his siblings and friends (Judas).

d.  To atone for Edmund’s (mankind’s) sin, Aslan sacrifices himself on the altar.  Also like Christ, he is resurrected, and victorious over the Queen.

Obviously, there are many lesser Christian symbols in the book, but, for the sake of time, we will not cover them all.  What about the other six books in the series – besides the continued presence of Aslan, are they also fully developed Christian allegories?

2.  Prince Caspian (Book 2)

a.  Classic “good vs. evil” story.  The two sides are the “Old Narnians” who remained true to Aslan (Christ) and the “New Narnians” (Telmarines), who think that the old faith is “fairy tales”.  The Old Narnians are in hiding and not in control.  This is somewhat reminiscent of first century Christianity, with Christians being ridiculed and persecuted by the Roman armies.

b.  The struggles and rewards of the Christian walk are symbolically examined in this book, as various characters either have faith in Aslan or don’t, and even those with faith question the timing of Aslan’s intervention when dire events occur.  The concept of doing things in your own power versus doing things with the help of others and Christ is also explored.

 

 

3.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 3)

a.  Aslan is ever present, and when Eustace’s sin changes him into a hideous dragon, Aslan is the only one who can “transform” Eustace into a “new creature”.

b.  Aslan, as more representative of the Holy Spirit, guides Edmund and Caspian away from greed and Lucy away from vanity. He also saves the Dawn Treader from an evil darkness, which can be both symbolic of Christ’s light vs. sin’s darkness, and the storm on the sea that Jesus saved the apostles from.

4.  The Silver Chair (Book 4)

a.  Reformed Eustace and his friend, Jill, are given a mission by Aslan to rescue a prince from a witch.   Aslan gives the children four signs to obey, which will help them to fulfill the mission.  Straying from the four signs will only result in trouble.  Aslan tells them to pay no attention to appearances, just follow the true signs.  This is indicative of following the “narrow path of God” and not following the “way which seems right to a man, but leads to death”.  Some may be troubled by another witch in the series, but she is clearly evil and symbolic of Satan’s imprisonment of man through sin.

 

5.  The Horse and His Boy (Book 5)

a.  Probably the least symbolic of the Narnia series, there are still themes of “good vs. evil” and pride vs. humility” in this book.  If you read this far into the series, you obviously don’t have a problem with the symbolism (or you just can’t see the symbols).

6.  The Magician’s Nephew (Book 6)

a.  This is a prequel to the other books.  Aslan is seen speaking the Narnia world into existence (Genesis).  The original witch (Satan) is also here, attempting to establish her own kingdom.  She is defeated, and dwells in an unpleasant area of Narnia (rebellion in Heaven, fall from Heaven to Hell).

b.  There is a Garden of Eden “fruit temptation” scene, with a bit of a twist.

c.  One of the concepts in the book that some Christians may have a problem with is the idea that there are other worlds besides Narnia (Earth).  Not Heaven or Hell, but other worlds like Earth with living beings.  This is often a lively topic of debate among Christians – are we truly alone in the universe as God’s special creation, or are there other living worlds out there?  If there are other worlds, how does Christ apply to them?

7.  The Last Battle (Book 7)

a.  Very symbolic of the end times on Earth.  A donkey (Antichrist) and an ape (false prophet) imitate Aslan (Christ).  A final battle (Armageddon) ensues.

b.  Narnia is destroyed (Revelation), and a new world is revealed.  Aslan conducts Judgement, and true believers go to Aslan’s Country (Heaven).  Non-believers are banished to another place (Hell).

c.  There is an interesting passage in the next to last chapter of the book, which I will quote here and leave it up to the readers as to whether they agree with it or not.  It concerns who may or may not get into Aslan’s Country (Heaven).  An enemy of Aslan (who worships Tash) comes face to face with the great lion: 

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him.  Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.  But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.  But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine but the servant of Tash.  He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.  Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false.  Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore, if any man swear by Tash 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.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.  Dost thou understand, Child?  I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.  But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yes I have been seeking Tash all my days.  Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.”

     Even with the best allegories, authors will inject some of their own personal beliefs.  So, what do you think readers?  Do C.S. Lewis’ beliefs on this issue jive with your own beliefs?  The Bible?  If this passage troubles you, does it trouble you enough to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and discount the message of the entire Narnia series?  I will let this go for now, but I do remember, in a world religion college class I took, the non-Christian teacher read this very same passage from The Last Battle, and used it to justify the beliefs of all religions.

     The purpose of this discussion is not to decide whether or not the Narnia series is a Christian work.  That has been done before, and I think the evidence is overwhelming.  This discussion and the discussions on other fantasy material to follow will concern themselves with how the subject material ties in with the 80-10-10 model that we introduced in the last post.  That is to say, how does the Narnia series affect the one 10% (atheists), the other 10% (devout Christians), and the remaining 80% (the general public without strict beliefs)?  Devout Christians have always been (on the whole) pleased with the Narnia series.  The Christian symbols behind the fanciful creatures are strong enough to present a clear message beyond just a good adventure story.  I believe that they are also a good way of increasing children’s interest toward Biblical truth.  I do not think that the other 10% (atheists), or even the 80%, would be steered towards witchcraft or mythology after partaking of the Narnian world.  Actually, the Chronicles of Narnia series is a great “gateway” material for non-believers.  That is to say, readers may be led to C.S. Lewis’ excellent Christian essays after reading the Narnia series.  Lewis has often been called “the apostle to the skeptics”, because his early life ran the gamut of belief and skepticism before he became a committed Christian.  His “walk to the faith” and his “walk in the faith” have proven to be a powerful inspiration to believers and non-believers alike.

Next Up:  Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.

Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2012/08/04/lions-and-muggles-and-hobbits-should-i-part-2/

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