(Biblical Teaching from The Chronicles of Narnia)
Numerous volumes about The Chronicles of Narnia have been written simply because this series has captured the hearts of countless readers - fascinating stories not only enjoyed as excellent fantasy but also as environment for timeless truth - entertaining and instructive at the same time. In fact, C. S. Lewis was a master at using the most universally received vehicle to convey truth - stories - to hold the reader's attention and simultaneously to prepare the mind for teachable moments.
This paper will attempt to cull out some of those teachable moments Lewis designed to reach our souls. Behind all of them is a personal wealth of biblical truth he has woven into the fabric of his fantasy. Perhaps some of these truths you have seen already in your reading of the text, but others may be revealed to you as they are brought to your attention.
In (1/220-21) we are introduced to the author - C. S. Lewis' projection of himself as Professor Kirke - the adult Digory. It is he who has the famous wardrobe fashioned out of a tree grown from Narnian apple seeds infused with otherworldly powers. Lewis' imagination employs that magical wardrobe to introduce the Pevensie children - and us - to the fascinating world of Narnia - a place with otherworldly truth for this present world.
Professor Kirke/C. S. Lewis wants us to know he is quite dissatisfied with modern education which neglects the imagination and seeks to enclose all truth into totally materialistic/secularistic packages. Declares Professor Kirke: "Bless me, what do they teach them at their schools." (2/205-6). Perhaps that is one of the main motivations for his creation of The Chronicles of Narnia. He wanted his readers to understand that worlds beyond the material are the real thing - perhaps what Narnia itself symbolizes. Lewis was convinced the growing materialistic/secularistic influence on his culture was robbing everyone - but especially the youth - of reality which goes far beyond the material. He was convinced all greatness and virtue of spiritual reality was being replaced with meaningless things, and he wanted to do something about that through his writings. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:14).
Lewis was motivated by his biblical understanding of reality: "For since the creation of the world God God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20); "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:18);
"For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16); "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Hebrews 1:3).
Lewis will have accomplished his purpose if his readers are encouraged to consider the metaphysical world beyond the physical - as they concurrently enjoy the pure fun of
The Chronicles of Narnia. He most certainly would like his readers to convinced of what he surely believed: "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.", (John 8:36).
This paper is organized according to various theological sections - each making up a chapter - the Cross, Christ, Believers, Opposition, and Themes (miscellaneous topics).
Because C. S. Lewis' mind was so completely saturated with Scripture, he almost unconsciously wove biblical truth into each book of the series - and each part of each book. Although there might be one area of biblical teaching concentrated in one book of the series (like Providence), most scriptural truths are scattered throughout. That is why each chapter includes quotes from several books.
You will note at times that actual Scripture is quoted by the author, but more often than not it is biblical concepts which Lewis is teaching with his marvelous symbolism. After employing quotes from Lewis which reveal spiritual realities he wants to emphasize, I will often simply quote the biblical passages which correlate -- without comment. Other times I may add commentary to those passages in order to make the application I imagine C. S. Lewis may have intended.
In order to locate quotes from Lewis' seven-volume series, I have identified them in parentheses with the book number first -- followed by the page number.
Theodore H. Loy
(The Main Work of Christ/Aslan)
C. S. Lewis sets the stage through Aslan's words when he declares: "And as Adam's race
has done the harm, Adam's race shall help to heal it."(1/62) You can hear the evangel echo of I Corinthians 15:21-22: "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (Please also see Romans 5:12-21.) If the Gospel is at the root of The Chronicles of Narnia, then the Cross is at the very center of that root.
Unmistakably, the substititionary atonement of Christ is found in Aslan's statement: "Evil will come of that evil, but it is still a long way off, and I will see to it that the worst falls on myself."(1/161) This is the essence of the Gospel: "Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:40-46)
Lewis places atonement truth in the mouth of the Queen of Narnia/the Witch: "He (Aslan) knows that unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."(2/156) This recalls Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar: it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."; "In fact, the Law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
His Stone Table scene (2/164-70) is one of the most brilliant metaphors in all of literature regarding the Cross, and throughout the series we return often to this central place. We're reminded of Jesus' words: "The reason my Father loves Me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 10:17-18) All the hordes of evil are given full sway under the White Witch's/Satan's direction, and mighty Aslan is reduced to a pitifully shorn cat - despised, mocked, spat upon and killed. Yet it is very clear Aslan has allowed himself to be sacrificed, and in so doing is seen to be ultimately in control - as he not only lays down his life but also takes it up again in resurrection. (2/178ff.)
The Witch and all her minions are taken by surprise since they know nothing of the Emperor's Magic/God's eternal redemption plan. (2/156) "She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack, and Death itself would start working backward." (2/179) The cracked Table reminds us of the Veil torn in two at the time of Christ's death - a symbol itself of a New Covenant replacing the Old - a new and living way opened to the Father.
Throughout the entire Chronicles of Narnia we find Aslan playing the prominent role - symbolically representing Christ. As the author describes Aslan he is also describing many aspects of Christ Himself.
Queen Lucy observes, "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than the whole world."(7/177)
"…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn." (Luke 2:7) The hugeness of this birth was foretold by Isaiah: "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)
"In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it …. Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn't come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out - single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world."(1/116-17) "The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose …. The earth was of many colors; they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited until you saw
the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else. It was a lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright, it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song and it was about three hundred yards away."(1/119-20) "The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave. In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making that young world every moment softer. The light wind could now be heard ruffling the grass. Soon there were other things besides grass. The higher slopes grew dark with heather. Patches of tougher and more brisling green appeared in the valley. Digory did not know what they were until one began coming up quite close to him. It was a little, spiky thing that threw out dozens of arms and covered these arms with green and grew larger at the rate of about an inch every two seconds. There were dozens of these things all round him now. When they were nearly as tall as himself he saw what they were. 'Trees!' he exclaimed."(1/123-24) "Can you imagine a stretch of grassy land bubbling like water in a pot? For that is really the best description of what was happening. In all directions it was swelling into lumps. They were of very different sizes, some no bigger than mole-hills, some as big as wheelbarrows, two the size of cottages. And the bumps moved and swelled till they burst, and the crumbled earth poured out of them, and from each bump there came out an animal."(1/133)
"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm." (Psalm 33:6-9) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."(John 1:1-5) "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Hebrews 11:3)
"For Mr. Beaver had warned them, 'He'll be coming and going,' he had said. 'One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down - and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.'" (2/200) "Do not look so sad (Lucy). We shall meet again soon.' 'Please, Aslan,' said Lucy, 'what do you call
soon!' 'I call all times soon,' said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away and Lucy was alone with the Magician. 'Gone!' said he,' and you and I quite crestfallen. It's always like that, you can't keep him; it's not as if he were a tame lion.'" (5/174)
This theme is repeated throughout to dispel the idea that Jesus is predictable and bound to do what we think He should. He is not like some sort of tame lion that can be trained to jump through our hoops. Some circles of Christianity give us the impression we can determine what Jesus ought to do if we just use the right words -- or pray in a certain way.
No! We must always learn from His fervent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not my will, but yours be done."(Luke 22:42)
"'Who are you?' asked Shasta. 'Myself,' said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again 'Myself,' loud and clear and gay: and then the third time, 'Myself,' whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it." (3/176)
Just as Aslan identified himself as "Myself," - self-evident and self-existent -- so we are reminded of Jesus who proclaimed Himself as the "I AM": "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" (John 8:58) There is no doubt Jesus identified Himself with the great "I AM" who spoke with Moses some 1500 years before:
"God said to Moses, 'I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14)
In the same way Aslan's existence is without comparison, so Jesus communicates to us his eternal uniqueness. He can live in time but is beyond its limitations - the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end - the I AM!
Light of the World
As Aslan approaches Shasta the black mist changes first to gray and then to white. Next the blinding whiteness becomes like the sun. "It was from the Lion that the light came. No one even saw anything more terrible or beautiful." (3/177)
Brilliant light like the sun is associated with Jesus Christ: "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transformed before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." (Matthew 17:1-2) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) (Please see also Revelation 1:12-16; 21:22-25.)
Jill is dying from thirst and hears Aslan say to her from beside the crystal-clear stream:
"If you are thirsty, you may drink." (6/20) Fearing Aslan she proposes to look for another stream, but he declares to her: "There is no other stream." (6/21) Mustering courage Jill drinks: "It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched her thirst at once." (6/21)
Surely we hear echoes of Jesus provision: "Everyone who drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) "If anyone is thirst, let him come to Me and drink."
Aslan assures Shasta/Cor he was with him all along: there was really only one Lion: "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you would reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you." (3/175) "'I see,' said Shasta to himself, 'Those are the big mountains between Archenland and Narnia. What luck that I hit it! - at least it wasn't luck at all really, it was Him! And now I'm in Narnia.'" (3/180)
Jesus concludes his Great Commission: "And I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) "In Him (Jesus) we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the purpose of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-12)
Indeed, He is back of all the stories! This is his Providence!
At the very end of the world a Lamb is seen by the Pevensie children - a Lamb who then calls to them: "Come and have breakfast." "Then they noticed for the first time that there was a fire lit on the grass and fish roasting on it: They sat down and ate the fish, hungry now for the first time in many days. And it was the most delicious food they had ever tasted." (5/268-9) Later in the narrative the Lamb becomes the Lion, Aslan. This of course, calls to mind both the Lamb and Lion imagery used for Christ in Scripture.
Who would not think of Jesus' resurrection appearance to his disciples?: "Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' None of the disciples dared to ask Him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish." (John 21:12-13) (Please see also John 1:29; I Corinthians 5:7;
I Peter 1:18-20 and Revelation 5:5-14.)
Jill questions Aslan: "'Do you eat girls?' she said. 'I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,' said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it." (6/21)
Yes, Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of
his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." (Revelation 19:11-16) Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of all history since it is truly "his story" - BC and AD! (Please see also Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 2:9-11 and Revelation 17:14.)
What Can and Cannot be Done
Although we often say God can do anything, this section of The Chronicles makes clear there is something Jesus cannot and will not do.
"'Aslan,' said Lucy through her tears, 'could you - will you - do something for these poor dwarfs?' 'Dearest,' said Aslan, 'I will show you both what I can do, and what I cannot do.' At this, Aslan provided a sumptuous feast for the Dwarfs served on the most magnificent dishes. The Dwarfs, however, convinced themselves there was nothing before them but the worst of food served up in the worst possible manner.
The Dwarfs respond: "'Well, at any rate there's no Humbug here. We haven't let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.' 'You see,' said Aslan, 'They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they're in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.'" (7/183-6)
What a perfect description of what God can and cannot do! He showers the earth with the feast of his providential blessings - rain, sun, food, human love and family. He displays Himself in creation through the far-flung stars and galaxies - and the micro-universe of cells and atomic particles. Also he gives ample historical evidence of Himself in Christ through eye-witness accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. But He will never force anyone to believe He is the source of it all. That God cannot and will no do!
Faced with the Pharisee's profound spiritual blindness at having witnessed the miracle of sight given to the man born blind, Jesus make this commentary: "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.' Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, 'What? Are we blind too?' Jesus said, 'If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.'" (John 9:39-41)
Then Paul writes: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel in the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 2:3-4) (Please see also I Corinthians 1:21 and 3:19-20.)
C. S. Lewis so skillfully describes those whose minds are blinded to the obvious - those who would rather create their own god of chance rather than recognize the universe and all that is in it could not possibly have happened by itself. They have so imprisoned themselves within their own ideas that they cannot recognize the philosophical prison surrounding them has no semblance to what really is.
Truly, the eyes most blind are those which will not see!
Acting in Jesus' Name
In the words of Trinian: "And now friends, in the name of Aslan let us go forward." (7/73)
"And whatsoever you do in work or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:17)
The narrative involving Eustace in VolumeV, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, contains some of the most memorable scenes in the entire Chronicles of Narnia. During his eventful voyage Eustace changes from a selfish, spoiled youth (5/110) into a most honorable and noble young man. (5/119-20) And as you might have guessed, Aslan in central in it all.
In this narrative Eustace outwardly becomes the dragon he has been inwardly all along - isolated from the others because he wandered off not wanting anything to do with their work details. "He realized that he was a monster cut of from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see that the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed." (5/98)
In his sorry "monster" state, Eustace is comforted by Aslan who asks him to rid himself of his ugly dragon skin - which task he attempts to accomplish three times with no success - only to have the same scaly covering reappear. Then Aslan told Eustace it would have to be he alone who would once and for all remove his "dragonness." Eustace
tells his own story: "The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peal off." "Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been."
(5/116) The lion then dressed him in new clothes. (5/116-17)
All our attempts at self-reformation end up as futile as Eustace' efforts to rid himself of his dragon skin - and don't really "hurt" our pride. Such attempts do not recognize how pervasive is the deep, abiding ugliness we think we can control. True change only comes at the hands of Jesus - only as we come to ourselves -- acknowledge our dragon-like selfish sin - and believe He is the true agent of change.
"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasure. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)
(Please see also Luke 15:11-31 and II Corinthians 5:17.)
Dependency on Christ
"'Welcome, Prince,' said Aslan, 'Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?' 'I - I don't think I do, Sir,' said Caspian. 'I'm only a kid.' 'Good,' said Aslan. 'If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.'"
Lewis points up a great truth: the one who thinks of himself as self-sufficient has a false sense of complacency. "Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (II Corinthians 3:4-5) Jesus declared, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
Lewis looks at true faith as eternal: "Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, daughters of Eve,' said Aslan."
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:28)
God's Call on the Believer's Life
"'You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.' said the Lion.'"
Although there is every evidence in Scripture we have a bone fide responsibility to believe/respond to God's offer of life in Christ, there is also every evidence of God's lasting call on our lives. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws
him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)
"You did not choose Me, but I choose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." (John 15:16)
"We love because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)
God Deals With Us On the Basis of What is - Not on the Basis of What Might Have Been
"'To know what would have happened, child?' said Aslan. 'No, nobody is ever told that.'" (4/149) "'Child, did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what
would have happened?'" (5/171)
All of us spend entirely too much time speculating as to what might have been if this or that course of action were to have been taken. God will not deal with us on that basis; rather, He deals with us only on the basis of what is! "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Our Growing Perception/Understanding of Christ
Aslan wisely teaches Lucy: "But every year you grow, you will find me bigger." (4/148)
Of course, it is not our Lord who grows at all - but rather our knowledge of Him!
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen." (II Peter 3:18) (Please see also Ephesians 4:14-16.)
When King Tirian makes his earnest plea to Aslan and the children, it would appear that Lewis is using this as a teachable moment to instruct us in the whole matter of prayer.
Tirian is in desperate straits, but there is one who is able to help and is never beyond his cry.
King Tirian of Narnia is a prisoner of the Ape - and feels all is lost. Narnia is overrun with Calormenes, and the Ape is usurping control by making others believe he is in control of Aslan. Tririan is lost in his thoughts: "He thought of other Kings who had lived and died in Narnia in the old times, and it seemed to him that none of them had ever been so unlucky as himself. He thought of his great-grandfather's great-grandfather King Rilian who had been stolen away by a Witch when he was only a young prince and kept hidden for years in the dark caves beneath the land of the Northern Giants. But then it had all come right in the end, for two mysterious children had suddenly appeared from the land beyond the world's end and had rescued him so that he came home to Narnia and had a long and prosperous reign. 'It's not like that with me,' said Tirian to himself. Then he went further back and thought of Rilian's father, Caspian the Seafarer, whose wicked uncle, King Miraz, had tried to murder him and how Caspian fled away into the woods and lived among the Dwarfs. But the story too had all come right in the end: for Caspian also had been helped by children - only there were four of them that time - who came from somewhere beyond the world and fought a great battle and set him on his father's throne. 'But it was all long ago,' said Tirian to himself. 'That sort of thing doesn't happen now.' And then he remembered (for he had always been good at history when he was a boy) how those same four children who had helped Caspian had been in Narnia over a thousand years before; and it was then that they had done the most remarkable thing of all. For then they had defeated the terrible White Witch and ended the Hundred Years of Winter, and after that they reigned (all four of them together)at Cair Paravel, till they were no longer children but great Kings and lovely Queens, and their reign had been the golden age of Narnia. And Aslan had come into that story at lot. He had come into all the other stories too, as Tirian now remembered. 'Aslan - and children from another world,' thought Tirian. 'They have always come in when things were at their worst. Oh, if only they could now.' And he called out, 'Aslan! Aslan! Aslan! Come and help us now.' But the darkness and cold and quietness went on just the same. 'Let me be killed,' cried the King. 'I ask nothing for myself. But come save all Narnia.' And still there was no change in the night or the wood, but there began to be a change inside Tirian. Without knowing why, he began to feel a faint hope. And he felt somehow stronger. 'Oh Aslan, Aslan,' he whispered. 'If you will not come yourself, at least send me the helpers from beyond the world. Or let me call them. Let my voice carry beyond the world.' Then, hardly knowing that he was doing it, he suddenly cried out in a loud voice: 'Children! Children! Friends of Narnia! Quick. Come to me. Across the worlds I call you; I Tirian, King of Narnia, Lord of Cair Paravel, and Emperor of the Lone Islands.'" (7/51-3)
King Tirian's plaintive cry for help is beautifully illustrative as to the prayers of God's people down through the ages - even to this present day. Time and again patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, apostles and disciples have cried out to the Lord in time of need, and He has never failed to intervene when prayer has come from repentant, believing hearts. The repetitive cycle of prosperity leading to complacency - leading to disobedience - leading to enslavement - leading to repentance - leading to deliverance -- has been a sad commentary on both Israel and the Church. One only has to read the book of Judges to see this cycle in operation from one judge to the other. Tirian remembered the many times his forefathers cried out to Aslan, and deliverance came - either from Aslan directly or indirectly through his "children" from another world. On that basis he called out to Aslan in faith - knowing the Lion could be trusted - recalling many wonderful answers in the past - but wondering if his situation might be without remedy. "Therefore, since we have a great high Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of
grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16) "Is there any one of you in trouble? He should pray.... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." (James 5:13-18) "This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him." (I John 5:14-15)
Does God sometimes answer prayer through his people as well as directly? He most certainly does - as illustrated by the children from another world who act as instruments of Aslan to accomplish his purposes. Behind their brave deeds is always the power of the lion. "Now unto Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work in us, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21) This is precisely why God's people become his agents to accomplish his purposes!
Often we come to the same conclusion as King Tirian: we know God has faithfully and wonderfully answered prayer countless times in the past - confirmed by the long history of his people. But, we doubt God will again come to the aid of his people today as he did of old. C. S. Lewis wants to remind us that Jesus is the still the same Lord - yesterday, today and forever, and He is just as desirous today to grant grace and mercy to help in our time of need as He has ever been! (Hebrews 13:5, 4:16)
Receiving the Kingdom as a Child
"'Where do you think you saw him (Aslan),' asked Susan. 'Don't talk like a grown-up.'
said Lucy, stamping her foot. 'I didn't think I saw him. I saw him!'" (4/132)
Lucy seems to symbolize the child-like faith Jesus spoke of: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'"
(Matthew 18:2-4) "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" (Matthew 19:14)
Susan, on the other hand, would seem to symbolize those who think growing up automatically relegates faith in Christ to some childhood fantasy: "'My sister, Susan,'
answered Peter shortly and gravely, 'is no longer a friend of Narnia.' 'Yes,' said Eustace, 'and whenever you've tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do something about Narnia, she says, 'What wonderful memories you have! Fancy your still talkingabout all those funny games we used to play when we were children.'" (7/169)
Susan's attitude symbolizing the "wise" of this world is so well described by Paul:
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (I Corinthians 1:18-24)
Following the theme of child-like believers being greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Lewis casts the children of Narnia as kings and queens (7/166) - recalling Peter's words describing the exalted position of believers: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (I Peter 2:9)
In a most touching scene, King Caspian is resurrected by means of the blood of Aslan - this life-giving flow caused by Eustase' driving a thorn into his paw at the command of the lion - perhaps symbolizing our part in causing the death of Christ -- (6/252-53)
One cannot help but think of Jesus'declaration: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die." (John 11:25-6)
Lewis also definitely alludes to the background of Jesus' raising of Lazarus when, prior to the raising of King Caspian, he portrays Aslan as weeping because of the death of his dear friend and faithful servant. "Even the Lion wept: great lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth could be if it were a solid diamond." (6/251)
Who can forget the shortest verse in Scripture?: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35) How Jesus loved his good friend Lazarus!
Few authors have captured the essence of temptation the way C. S. Lewis does in his description of "Turkish Delight" offered by the Queen (representing Satan) - and its addictive hold on Edmund - such that he would do anything to get more. "At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking: for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves." (2/39) Once he was "hooked" on the Turkish Delight, much like a fish on a lure, Edmund was at the mercy of the Queen - and with her there was no mercy at all! She exploited his total addiction so that he would even betray his own family. His only way to escape its ravages would be the Stone Table intervention of Aslan. (Please see Chapter One, The Cross.)
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after the desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15) All temptation has the appearance and allure of pleasure and satisfaction - just like the Turkish Delight. And all temptation gives the lie there is greater satisfaction with more - although just the opposite is true. With all temptation the law of diminishing returns is in effect: i.e. the more Turkish Delight you eat the less it satisfies, and the more it takes to reach the previous "high." Satan's ultimate goal is death by self-inflicted indulgence.
Thankfully, Scripture gives the antidote: "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:16-17) What is the deception? It is simply to think that anything good and perfect must be selfishly taken in our own way and in our own time - rather than patiently receiving it as a gift of God - in his way and in his time.
For any of us in Edmund's predicament there is always hope: "Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Work to Accomplish for Christ
"You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia." (6/250) Here the children are commended by Aslan for having accomplished the work he sent them to do in the
Underland by means of his signs (symbolizing the Scriptures) - even though they poorly
remembered them - and at times failed to obey them. (Please see Chapter Five, Themes, Scripture.)
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:23)
C. S. Lewis is very aware of the many philosophies militating against spiritual realities he champions in The Chronicles of Narnia, and he incorporates those competing views into characters he brings into its pages. There's Nikabrik, the Dwarf, for example, who advocates black magic/witchcraft (4/177-185). Also there's the humanists/skeptics who appear as dwarfs (7/88-94, 150-153) - also Rishta Tarkaan together with Ginger the cat (7/96-98) Then there's the materialists who propound the universe is all there is - anything else being pure imagination - mere children's tales. These are portrayed by King Miraz (4/42-44) - and especially by the Queen of the Green Kirtle (6/180-194). As we shall see, each of these characters is cleverly made to advance their positions in opposition to Aslan and his followers. Lewis shows he is very familiar with their schemes which he sees as competing for the soul of his beloved England - and especially for the hearts of young people. He very much wants his readers to be forewarned and prepared for their arguments. As stated in the Introduction to this paper, I am convinced this is the main motivation for Lewis' Chronicles. As he himself struggled with humanism/skepticism/materialism and finally saw the truth of spiritual realities, so he wants his readers find the same freedom from the confines of former philosophies which shackled him for so long.
"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:1-4, 8)
"'Either Aslan is dead, or he is not on our side. Or else something stronger than himself keeps him back. And if he did come - how do we know he'd be our friend? He was not always a good friend to Dwarfs by all that's told. Not even to all beasts. Ask the wolves. And anyway, he was in Narnia only once that I ever heard of, and he didn't stay long. You may drop Aslan out of the reckoning. I was thinking of someone else.' …. 'What so you mean?' said Caspian at last. 'I mean a power so much greater than Aslan's that it held Narnia spellbound for years and years, if the stories are true.' 'The White Witch!' cried three voices all at once, and from the noise Peter guessed that three people had leaped to their feet. 'Yes,' said Nikabrik very slowly and distinctly, 'I mean the Witch. Sit down again, children. We want power: and we want a power that will be on our side.
As for power, do not the stories say that the Witch defeated Aslan, and bound him, and killed him on that very stone which is over there, just beyond the light?' 'But they also say that he came to life again,' said the Badger sharply. 'Yes, they say, answered Nikabrik, 'but you'll notice that we hear precious little about anything he did afterward. He just fades out of the story. How do you explain that, if he really came to life? Isn't it much more likely that he didn't, and that the stories say nothing more about him because there was nothing more to say?' 'He established the Kings and Queens, said Caspian. 'A King who has just won a great battle can usually establish himself with the help of a performing lion,' said Nikabrik. …. And anyway,' Nikabrik continued, 'what came of the Kings and their reign? They faded too. But it's very different with the Witch. They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There's power, if you like. There's something practical.'" (4/178-180)
Those advocating witchcraft have an ancient heritage which has always used the arguments of Nikabrik. They have always believed the power of darkness to be greater than the power of Light - if there is any acknowledgment of the power of Light at all.
"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or socery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the Lord our God will drive out those nations before you." (Deuteronomy 18:9-12) (Please see also Galatians 5:19-21.)
Lewis was well aware of the continuing persistence of witchcraft and the specious argument of supposed superior power. He would echo the inspired words of the Apostle John: "You dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us: but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." (I John 4:4-6)
"'You must think we're blooming soft in the head, that you must,' said Griffle. 'We've
been taken in once and now you expect us to be taken in again the next minute. We've no more use for stories about Aslan, see! Look at him! An old moke with long ears!' 'By heaven, you make me mad,' said Tirian. 'Which of us said that was Aslan! That is the Ape's imitation of the real Aslan. Can't you understand?' 'And you've got a better imitation, I suppose!' said Griffle. 'I have not,' said Tirian angrily, 'I serve the real Aslan.' 'Where is he? Who is he? Show him to us!' said several dwarfs. 'Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?' said Tirian. 'Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He's not a tame lion.' …. 'Do you mean you don't believe in the real Aslan?' said Jill. 'But I've seen him. And he has sent us two here out of a different world.' 'Ah,' said Griffle with a broad smile. 'So you say. They've taught you your stuff all right. Saying your lessons, ain't you?' 'Churl,' cried Tirian. 'Will you give a lady a lie to her very face?' 'You keep a civil tongue in your head, Mister,' replied the Dwarf. 'I don't think we want any more Kings - if you are Tirian, which you don't look like him - no more than we want any Aslans. We're going to look after ourselves from now on and touch our caps to nobody. See?' 'That's right, said the other Dwarfs. 'We're on our own now. No more Aslan, no more Kings, no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.' And they began to fall into their places and to get ready for the marching back to where they had come from." (7/90-1) "'You're just as big humbugs as the other lot. We don't want Kings. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs. Boo!'" (7/151) "'Thought we were on your side, did you? No fear. We don't want any Talking Horses. We don't want you to win any more than the other gang. You can't take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.'" (7/151,153) "'Well, at any rate there's no humbug here. We haven't let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.' 'You see,' said Aslan, 'They will not let us help them. They have chosen their cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their mind, yet they are in that prison: and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.'" (7/185-6)
Lewis masterfully captures the essence of humanism/skepticism which basically wishes a plague on both houses - spiritual evil and spiritual good. For them, nothing is true except they themselves. As a result they are focused entirely inward - totally self-centered. "The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs."
"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."
(I Corinthians 1:21) "For, as I have often told you before and now again even with tears, many live as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things."
(Rishda Tarkaan and Ginger the Cat)
Poggin the good Dwarf is speaking: "'My belief is that the plot is now mostly carried on by Ginger or Rishda - that's the Calormene captain. And I think some words that Ginger
has scattered among the Dwarfs are chiefly to blame for the scurvy return they made you.
And I'll tell you why.' Poggin then explains how he overheard Ginger and Rishda. '…I heard a cat's voice say Mew and a Calormene voice say, 'here…speak softly,' so I just stood as still as if I was frozen. And these two were Ginger and Rishda Tarkaan as they call him. 'Noble Tarkaan,' said the Cat in that silky voice of his, 'I just wanted to know exactly what we both meant today about Aslan meaning no more than Tash.' 'Doubtless, most sagacious of cats,' says the other, 'you have perceived my meaning.' 'You mean,' says Ginger, 'that there's no such person as either.' 'All who are enlightened know that,' said the Tarkaan. 'Then we can understand one another,' purrs the Cat. 'Do you, like me, grow a little weary of the Ape?' 'A stupid, greedy brute,' says the other, 'but we must use him for the present.. Thou and I must provide for all things in secret and make the Ape do our will.' 'And it would be better, wouldn't it, ' said Ginger, 'to let some of the more enlightened Narnians into our counsels: one by one as we find then apt. For the Beasts who really believe in Aslan may turn at any moment: and will, if the Ape's folly betrays his secret. But those who care neither for Tash nor Aslan but have only an eye to their own profit and such reward as The Tisroc my give them when Narnia is a Calormene province, will be firm.' 'Excellent Cat,' said the Captain, 'but choose which ones carefully.'" (7/97-8)
As in the case of the majority of the Dwarfs, Ginger and the Tarkaan have little use for spiritual realities of any kind, good or evil. They are convinced only of their own great powers of wisdom and their own personal welfare - again the stock-in-trade of humanisn/skepticism. It's the same inward-looking philosophy: "The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs."
"For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him. God was please through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (I Corinthians 1:18-25)
"'I wish - I wish - I wish I could have lived in the Old Days,' said Caspian. (He was only a little boy at the time.) …. 'Eh? What's that?' he (King Miraz) said. 'What old days do you mean?' 'Oh, don't you know, Uncle?' said Caspian. 'When everything was quite different. When all the animals could talk, and there were nice people who lived in the steams and the trees, Naiads and Dryads they were called. And there were Dwarfs. And there were lovely little Fauns in all the woods. They had feet like goats. And -' 'That's all nonsense, for babies,' said the King sternly. 'Only fit for babies, do you hear? You're getting too old for that sort of stuff. At your age you ought to be thinking of battles and adventures, not fairy tales.' 'Oh, but there were battles and adventures in those days,' said Caspian. 'Wonderful adventures. Once there was a White Witch and she make herself Queen of the whole country. And she made it so that it was always winter. And then two boys and two girls came from somewhere and so they killed the Witch and they were made Kings and Queens in Narnia, and their names were Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy. And so they reigned for ever so long and everyone had a lovely time, and it was all because of Aslan -' 'Who's he?' asked Miraz. …. 'Oh, don't you know?' he said. 'Aslan is the great lion who comes from over the sea.' 'Who has been telling you all of this nonsense?' said the King in a voice of thunder. Caspian was frightened and said nothing. …. 'Who has been telling you this pack of lies?' 'N-Nurse,' faltered Caspian, and burst into tears. 'Stop that noise,' said his uncle, taking him by the shoulders and giving him a shake. 'Stop it. And never let me catch you talking - or thinking either - about all those silly stories again. There never were those Kings and Queens. How could there be two Kings at one time? And there's no such person as Aslan. And there are no such things as lions. And there never was a time when animals could talk. Do you hear?'" (4/42-44)
Materialists have always closed their minds to anything other than the physical - although their explanations of something which obviously exceeds the physical - such as love - fall embarrassingly short. In an a priori fashion they have always refused to consider anything beyond the rather tightly-closed world of their own making. Never mind the Creation itself which begs for an explanation outside of itself.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; right after night they display knowledge. There is nospeech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4)
Materialists also conveniently ignore eyewitness history to which Peter bears testimony: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." (II Peter 1:16)
(Queen of the Green Kirtle)
The following quote is quite lengthy, but I am convinced it strikes at the heart of C. S. Lewis' passion to illustrate the great struggle between true spiritual realities and the false siren song of materialism - whose singer is none other than Satan.
After Prince Rilian is freed from the Queen's enchantment he replies to her: "'Madam there will be no more need of that chair. And you, who have told me a hundred times how deeply you pitied me for the sorceries by which I was bound, will doubtless hear with joy that they are now ended forever. There was, it seems, some small error in your Ladyship's way of treating them. These, my true friends, have delivered me. I am now in my right mind, and there are two things I will say to you. First - as for your Ladyship's design of putting me at the head of an army of Earthmen so that I may break out into the Overworld and there, by main force, make myself king over some nation that never did me wrong - murdering their natural lords and holding their throne as a bloody and foreign tyrant - now that I know myself, I do utterly abhor and renounce it as plain villainy. And second, I am the King's son of Narnia, Rilian, the only child of Caspian, Tenth of that name, whom some call Caspian the Seafarer. Therefore, Madam, it is my purpose as it is also my duty, to depart suddenly from your Highness' court into my own country. Please it you to grant me and my friends safe conduct and a guide through your dark realm.' Now the Witch said nothing at all, but moved gently across the room, always keeping her face and eyes very steadily toward the Prince. When she had come to a little ark set in the wall not far from the fireplace, she opened it, and took out first a handful of green powder. This she threw on the fire. It did not blaze much, but a very sweet and drowsy smell came from it. And all through the conversation which followed, that smell grew stronger, and filled the room, making it harder to think. Secondly, she took out a musical instrument rather like a mandolin. She began to play it with her fingers - a steady, monotonous thrumming that you didn't notice after a few minutes. But the less you noticed it, the more it got into your brain and your blood. This also made it hard to think.
After she had thrummed for a time (and the sweet smell was now strong) she began speaking in a sweet, quiet voice. 'Narnia?' she said. 'Narnia?' I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia.' 'Yes, there is, though, Ma'am,' said Puddleglum. 'You see, I happen to have lived there all my life.' 'Indeed,' said the Witch. 'Tell me, I pray you, where that country is?' 'Up there,' said Puddleglum, stoutly, pointing overhead. 'I - don't know exactly where.' 'How?' said the Queen, with a kind, soft, musical laugh. Is there a country up among the stones and mortar on the roof?' 'No, said Puddleglum, struggling a little to get his breath. 'It's in Overworld.' 'And what, or where, I pray is this…how do you call it…Overworld?' 'Oh, don't be silly,' said Scrubb, who was fighting hard against the enchantment of the sweet smell and the thrumming. 'As if you didn't know!
It's up where you can see the sky and the sun and the stars. Why you've been there yourself. We met you there.' 'I cry you mercy, little brother,' laughed the Witch (you couldn't have heard a lovelier laugh). 'I have no memory of that meeting. But we often meet our friends in strange places when we dream. And unless all dreamed alike, you must not ask them to remember it.' 'Madam,' said the Prince sternly, 'I have already told your Grace that I am the King's son of Narnia.' 'And shalt be, dear friend,' said the Witch in a soothing voice, as if she was humoring a child, 'shalt be king of many imagined land in thy fancies.' 'We've been there, too,' snapped Jill. She was very angry because she could feel enchantment getting hold of her every moment. But of course the very fact that she could still feel it, showed that it had not yet fully worked. 'And thou art Queen of Narnia too, I doubt not, pretty one,' said the Witch in the same coaxing, half-mocking tone. 'I'm nothing of the sort,' said Jill, stamping her foot. 'We come from another world.' 'Why, this is a prettier game than the other,' said the Witch. 'Tell us, little maid, where is this other world? What ships and chariots go between it and ours?' Of course, a lot of things darted into Jill's head at once: Experiment House, Adela Pennyfather, her own home, radio-sets, cinemas, cars, airplanes, ration-books, queues. But they seemed dim and far away. (Thrum - thrum - thrum-went the strings of the Witch's instrument.) Jill couldn't remember the names of the things in our world. And this time it didn't come into her head that she was being enchanted, for now the magic was in its full strength; and of course, the more enchanted you get, the more you feel that you are not enchanted at all. She found herself saying (and at the moment it was a relief to say): 'No, I suppose that other world must be all a dream.' "Yes, it is all a dream,' said the Witch, always thrumming. 'Yes, all a dream,' said Jill. 'There never was such a world,' said the Witch. 'No,' said Jill and Scrubb, 'never was such a world.' 'There never was any world but mine,' said the Witch. 'There never was any world but yours,' said they. Puddleglum was still fighting hard. 'I don't know rightly what you all mean by a world,' he said, talking like a man who hasn't enough air. 'But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won't make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We'll never see it again, I shouldn't wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I've seen the sun coming up out of the sea al a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I've seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn't look at him for brightness.' Puddleglum's words had a very rousing effect. The other three all breathed again and looked at one another like people newly awakened. 'Why, there it is!' cried the Prince. 'Of course! The blessing of Aslan upon this honest Marsh-wiggle. We have all been dreaming, these last few minutes. How could we have forgotten it? Of course we're all seen the sun.' 'By Jove, so we have!' said Scrubb. 'Good for you, Puddleglum! You're the only one of us with any sense, I do believe.' Then came the Witch's voice, cooing softly like the voice of a wood-pigeon from the high elms in an old garden at three o'clock in the middle of a sleepy, summer afternoon; and it said: 'What is this sun you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?' 'Yes we jolly well do,' said Scrubb. 'Can you please tell me what it's like?' asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, went the strings). 'Please it your Grace,' said the Prince, very coldly and politely, 'You see that lamp? It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky.' 'Hangeth from what, my Lord?' asked the Witch; and then while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: "You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children's story.' 'Yes, I see now,' said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone. 'It must be so.' And while she said this, it seemed to her to be very good sense. Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, 'There is no sun.' After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together, 'You are right. There is no sun.' It was such a relief to give in and say it. 'There never was a sun,' said the Witch. 'No. There never was a sun,' said the Prince, the Marsh-wiggle, and the children. For the last few minutes Jill had been feeling that there was something she must remember at all costs. And now she did. But it was dreadfully hard to say it. She felt as if huge weights were laid on her lips. At last, with an effort that seemed to take all the good out of her, she said: 'There's Aslan.' 'Aslan?' said the Witch, quickening ever so slightly the pace of her thrumming. 'What a pretty name! What does it mean?' 'He is the great Lion who called us out of our own world,' said Scrubb, 'and sent us into this to find Prince Rilian.' 'What is a lion?' asked the Witch. 'Oh, hang it all!' said Scrubb. 'Don't you know? How can we describe it to her? Have you ever seen a cat?' 'Surely,' said the Queen. 'I love cats.' 'Well, a lion is a little bit - only a little, mind you - like a huge cat - with a mane. At least, it's not like a horse's mane, you know, it's more like a judge's wig. And it's yellow. And terrifically strong.' The Witch shook her head. 'I see,' she said, that we should do no better with your lion, as you call it, than we did with your sun. You have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You've seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it's to be called a lion. Well, 'tis a pretty make-believe, though, to say truth, it would suit you all better if you were younger. And look how you can put nothing into your make-believe without copying it from the real world, even you children are too old for such play. As for you, my lord Prince, that art a man full grown, fie on you! Are you not ashamed of such toys? Come, all of you. Put away those childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But, first, to bed; to sleep, deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams.' The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare feet he stamped on the fire, grinding the large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once. First, the sweet, heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marsh-wiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone's brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes. Secondly, the Witch, in a loud terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, 'What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I'll turn the blood to fire in your veins.' Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum's head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic. 'One word, Ma'am,' he said, coming back from the fire, limping, because of the pain. 'One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always likes to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Narnia.' …. 'Oh, harrah! Good old Puddleglum!' cried Scrubb and Jill. But the Prince shouted, suddenly, 'Ware! Look to the Witch.' When they did look their hair nearly stood on end. The instrument dropped from her hands. Her arms appeared to be fastened to her sides. Her legs were intertwined with each other, and her feet had disappeared. The long green train of her skirt thickened and grew solid, and seemed to be all one piece with the writhing green pillar of her interlocked legs. And that writhing green pillar was curving and swaying as if it had no joints, or else all were joints. Her head was thrown far back and while her nose grew longer and longer, every other part of her face seemed to disappear, except her eyes. Huge flaming eyes they were now, without brows or lashes. All this takes time to write down; it happened so quickly that there was only just time to see it. Long before there was time to do anything, the change was complete, and the great serpent which the Witch had become, green as poison, thick as Jill's waist, had flung two or three coils of its loathsome body round the Prince's legs." Prince Rilian, Scrubb and Puddleglum all were able to strike blows with their swords, and the Serpent was killed. (6/180-193)
"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 4:34)
There are none so blind as those who will not see, and the awful tragedy is that they don't know it! Such are the materialists.
Although materialists like to take credit for their fine arguments ridiculing spiritual realities as child's play, they are playing the same instrument Satan as used for millennia. They will always charge that anything having to do with God is only a projection of the unexplainable - an imaginary creation of something bigger and better than what can be observed. Their tactic will always be to trivialize any sort of theology - just as the Queen did. But spiritual realities will just not go away - as illustrated by the remarks of Jill, Scrubb, Prince Rilian and Puddleglum. In fact, they are all plain to see!
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20)
One of the most common ideas about religion is the "one-mountain-many-paths" concept.
That is, we all worship one god: it's just that he has many names in many cultures. All religions are simply alternate ways to reach divinity. This relativistic approach is also addressed by C. S. Lewis as one of many opposing philosophies. This is just a guess, but Lewis could have had the Muslim religion in mind when he created the Calormenes - a people who appear to have some of the characteristics of Islamic culture.
"The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb. 'Baby!' he hissed. 'Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk. What do you understand of such things! But the others, listen. Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That's why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.'" (7/40)
"Jesus answered, 'I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Eternity and Time
Given his quick inquisitive mind, you can imagine C. S. Lewis was quite caught up with the fascinating topic of time and eternity. He knew well the utterly brain-challenging statements of Scripture which view events as having happened before the creation of time - causing him to muse about the strange intersection between eternity and time. This mind-expanding theme cleverly finds its way into The Chronicles of Narnia.
"Narnian time flows differently from ours. If you spent a hundred years in Narnia, you would still come back to our world at the very same hour of the very same day on which you left. And then, if you went back to Narnia after spending a week here, you might find that a thousand Narnian years had passed, or only a day, or no time at all. You never know till you get there. Consequently, when the Pevensie children had returned to Narnia the last time for their second visit, it was (for the Narnians) as if King Arthur came back to Britain, as some people say he will. And I say the sooner the better."
(5/12-13) (It's obvious Lewis loves to poke fun at British politics.)
"But do not let this fact escape your notice, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day." (II Peter 3:8)
Scripture stretches our thinking when it views the Cross as already having taken place before Creation - and the results of that saving act already affecting life in the believer before the world began.
"All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - and all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:8) "(God) Who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:9-10) (Please see also Ephesians 1:3-6.)
Because eternity is of such a totally different nature than time, our Lord Jesus could say:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad. 'You are not yet fifty years old,' the Jews said to him, 'and you have seen Abraham!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'" (John 8:56-58)
For our Savior, all time is soon: "'Please Aslan,' said Lucy, 'what do you call soon?' 'I call all times soon.'" (5/174) Jesus Christ lives in what could be called an eternal now which cannot be defined in the limiting time-terminology of "before and after."
There is no way to know, but I think C. S. Lewis identified with some his characters in the Chronicles - Puddleglum and Reepicheep in particular. Puddleglum the Marshwiggle
doggedly wants to follow the Signs (Scriptures), and Reepicheep, the Chief Mouse, has a single eye for heaven (Aslan's country) - the great goal of his life. (No doubt Lewis also identified much with the chivalrous bearing of Reepicheep - being the great student of early English literature that he was.)
Early on, Reepicheep reveals his goal: "'When I was in my cradle a wood woman, a Dryad, spoke this verse over me: "Where sky and water meet, Where the waves grow sweet, Doubt not, Reepicheep, To find all you seek, There is the utter East." 'I do not know what it means. But the spell of it has been on me all my life.'" (5/22) As the Dawn Treader sails to the end of her eastward voyage before returning home, Reepicheep senses the time has come for him to enter the utter east, Aslan's country. "No one in the boat doubted that they were seeing beyond the End of the World into Aslan's country. At that moment, with a crunch, the boat ran aground. The water was too shallow now for it. 'This,' said Reepicheep,' is where I go on alone.' They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. They helped him lower his little coracle. Then he took off his sword ('I shall need it no more,' he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea. Where it fell it stood upright with the hilt above the surface. Then he bade them good-bye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness. Lucy, for the first and last time, did what she had always wanted to do, taking him in her arms and caressing him. Then hastily he got into his coracle and took his paddle, and the current caught it and away he went, very black against the smooth green slope. The coracle went more and more quickly, and beautifully it rushed up the wave's side. For one split second they saw its shape and Reepicheep's on the very top. Then it vanished, and since that moment no one can truly claim to have seen Reepicheep the Mouse. But my belief is that he came safe to Aslan's country and is alive there to this day." (6/165-6) (Please see also 7/228.)
"For me to live it Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I chose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." (Philippians 1:21-23)
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you." (I Peter 1:3-4)
"'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.' Caspian bowed." (4/233)
Every great author is an acute student of people. C. S. Lewis is no exception. In fact, his observations of human nature (among other things) led him to question his formerly-held views. He saw in people the poles of lofty, divine goodness and base, diabolical crime. Lewis knew a cosmic accident could not explain the universal sense of "oughtness" everywhere in mankind - even though tainted with evil. From whence came this sense of right and wrong? Surely such universality was beyond mere happenstance. By the same token he knew the sheer depths of human depravity were unexplainable in simple accidental terms. C. S. Lewis was driven to accept the ultimate reality of the divine and the diabolical - which is so evident in The Chronicles of Narnia.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them." "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:27,31)
"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."
(Ephesians 4:17-19) (Please see also Romans 1:18-32.)
Besides being concerned with the general trend to view reality only through materialistic lenses, C. S. Lewis was also perplexed with modern educational methods he observed in his beloved England. He was dismayed by the move to abandon teacher-directed education in favor of student-directed education. He was also disappointed with the wane of common courtesy, discipline and ethical values -- which have their roots in the spiritual reality and teaching he espoused. Lewis playfully weaves all of this into some episodes involving a modern school by the name of Experiment House where both Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb are attending.
"It was a dull autumn day and Jill Pole was crying behind the gym. She was crying because they had been bullying her. This is not going to be a school story, so I shall say as little as possible about Jill's school, which is not a pleasant subject. It was "co-educational," a school for both boys and girls, what used to be call a "mixed" school; some said it was not nearly so mixed as the minds of the people who ran it. These people had the idea that boys and girls should be allowed to do what they liked. And unfortunately what ten or fifteen of the biggest boys and girls liked best was bullying the others. All sorts of things, horrid things, went on which at an ordinary school would have been found out and stopped in half a term; but at this school they weren't. Or even if they were, the people who did them were not expelled or punished. The Head said they were interesting phychological cases and sent for them - talking with them for hours. And if you knew the right sort of things to say to the Head, the main result was that you became rather a favorite than otherwise." (6/1-2)
Little passing remarks are made throughout Volume 6 such as, "But the people at Experiment House hadn't heard of Adam and eve, …" (6/40) "…(girls are not taught how to curtsey at Experiment House)…" (6/12); "And this was the first time they had ever used Christian names, because one didn't do it at school." (6/201) It's quite obvious C. S. Lewis was not all fond of the direction in which modern education was going.
He has great fun with Experiment House as Jill and Eustace returned from their adventures in Narnia: "He (Aslan) led them rapidly through the wood, and before they had gone many paces, and the wall of Experiment House appeared before them. Then Aslan roared so that the sun shook in the sky and thirty feet of the wall fell down before them. They looked down through the gap, down in the school shrubbery and on to the roof of the gym, all under the same dull autumn sky which they had seen before their adventures began. Aslan turned to Jill and Eustace and breathed upon them and touched their foreheads with his tongue. Then he lay down amid the gap he had made in the wall and turned his golden back to England, and his lordly face toward his own lands. At the same moment Jill saw figures whom she knew only too well running up through the laurels toward them. Most of the gang were there - Adel Pennyfather and Cholmondely Major, Edith Winterblott, "Spotty" Somer, big Mannister, and the two loathsome Garett twins. But suddenly they stopped. Their faces changed, and all their meanness, conceit, cruelty, and sneakishness almost disappeared in one single expression of terror. For they
saw the wall fallen down, and a lion as large as a young elephant lying in the gap, and three figures in glittering clothes with weapons in their hands rushing down upon them. For, with the strength of Aslan in them, Jill plied her crop on the girls and Caspian and Eustace plied the flats of their swords on the boys so well that in two minutes all the bullies were running like mad, crying out, 'Murder! Fascist! Lions! It isn't fair.' And then the Head (who was, by the way, a woman) came running out to see what was happening. And when she saw the lion and the broken wall and Caspian and Jill and Eustace (whom she quite failed to recognize) she had hysterics and went back to the house and began ringing up the police with stories about a lion who escaped from a circus, and escaped convicts who broke down the walls and carried drawn swords. In the midst of all this fuss Jill and Eustace slipped quietly indoors and changed out of their bright clothes into ordinary things, and Caspian went back to his own world. And the wall, at Aslan's word, was made whole again. When the police arrived and found no lion, no broken wall, and no convicts, and the Head behaving like a lunatic, there was an inquiry into the whole thing. And in the inquiry all sorts of things about Experiment House came out, and about ten people got expelled. After that, the Head's friends saw that the Head was no use as a Head, so they got her made an Inspector to interfere with other Heads. And when they found she wasn't much good even at that, they got her into Parliament where she lived happily ever after." (6/255-7) (Again, Lewis' political humor comes out!)
What C. S. Lewis knew about education and discipline he learned both through common- sense experience and Scripture: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15) "And have you forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined, (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:5-11) These definitely are not concepts acceptable to modern education! Modern educational psychology cannot imagine how discipline can in any way be related to love, but Lewis knew that true discipline and love always go together. Those who leave children to their own devices actually show no love at all to them.
C. S. Lewis had no illusions as to what happens when children are left to themselves with no solid, moral instruction and discipline, and he definitely did not see British education heading in the right direction. Experiment House, for him, was definitely a bad experiment! If Lewis in the mid-twentieth century saw education heading in the wrong direction, what would he be saying about education today?
Anyone familiar with the writings of C. S. Lewis knows he unashamedly accepts the reality of Satan and his schemes - compare, for example, his Screwtape Letters. As Lewis teaches through the "oldest Dwarf": "'And the lesson of it all is, your Highness,…,
that those Northern Witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it." (6/240) As Jesus clearly taught, Satan's means and methods are always to destroy - to tear down what God designed to be good and beneficial - and always by means of deception: "'Why is my language not clear to you. Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me!'" (John 8:43-45) Paul adds: "…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (II Corinthians 2:11) "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-12)
In the great struggle with evil, Lewis teaches we can be "more than conquerors" since each volume in The Chronicles of Narnia ends in victory through Aslan. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Romans 8:37) He shows we are not at the mercy of the evil one: rather there is protection from him. "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (II Thessalonians 3:3) And what an assurance we have in the words of Jesus' intercession for us: "My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15) Ultimately, it is always Aslan who stands between his own and the Witches.
No doubt C. S. Lewis sensed a mission much like that which Christ gave Paul: "I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the
power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me." (Acts 28:17-18) He certainly was not just penning a fascinating story when he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. I am convinced he was presenting the reality of spiritual warfare to a world largely in denial of it.
Lewis was convinced of the ultimate victory in Christ Who would come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords - and of the ultimate defeat of Satan. "The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: 'Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.'" (Revelation 12:9-10)
Empress Jadis, the White Witch, the Queen of the Green Kirtle and Tash
Without apology, C. S. Lewis lets his readers know he is convinced of personal Good in the character of Aslan and personal evil in the characters Empress Jadis, the White Witch, the Queen of the Green Kirtle and Tash. He has no truck with contempories who were fond of relegating Satan to some sort of medieval mythology - a figment of superstitious ignorance. Indeed, in his observations of humanity, Lewis saw the great heights of good and the deep chasms of evil as unexplainable without accepting the personal Good of God and the personal evil of Satan.
In Volume One the reader is introduced to the cosmic struggle between Good and evil which runs through the entire Chronicles of Narnia. Genesis chapters one through three form the backdrop - and as a consequence there are all the main characters and places in Volume One which correspond to Adam and Eve, God and Satan, the Garden of Eden etc.
Evil is seen entering Narnia only hours after Creation by means of a "Son of Adam," Digory, and the evil he lets loose is none other than the Empress Jadis. (1/161)
As with Uncle Andrew, the Witch discovers newfound power , in this case, by eating an apple from the Tree of Life - only to find she has nothing but misery in the end. "'Child,' he (Aslan) replied, 'that is why all the rest (of the apples) are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The fruit is good, but they loath it ever.' 'Oh, I see,' said Polly. 'And I suppose because she took it in the wrong way it doesn't work for her. I mean it won't make her always young and all that?' 'Alas,' said Aslan, shaking his head. 'It will.' Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart's desire, she has
unwearying strength; and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want;
they do not always like it.'" (italics mine, 1/207-8)
Herein lies a great truth. As for those who follow the way of Satan - selfishly taking what would be good in itself - in the wrong way and at the wrong time - they cause what is taken in that way to become bitter fruit - in the end bringing upon themselves nothing but misery and death. Lewis knows there is an unbreakable law involved ("Things always work according to their nature.") "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from that Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8) What is the deception? I can sow to my sinful nature (selfishly taking from God's Creation in the wrong way and at the wrong time), and everything will be just fine! This is Satan's major deception: it always has been. No, the result is destruction - sooner or later. Lewis is convinced no one is capriciously remanded to hell or received into heaven by God; rather, he sees each individual as making the choice to please the sinful nature or to please the Spirit. In other words,
C. S. Lewis understands it is the individual who chooses heaven or hell - eternal life or eternal death - and God cannot be blamed for that choice.
Each volume in The Chronicles of Narnia seems to have at least one overriding theme. For example, Volume Three, the Horse and His Boy, beautifully teaches the lesson of Providence. The Silver Chair, Volume Six, is a marvelously illustrated textbook on the practical, daily necessity of the Scriptures - or as they are called - the Signs. This volume makes abundantly clear C. S. Lewis' high view of the Bible. He could not make a stronger statement.
Above all, believe, remember, repeat, memorize, and apply the Scriptures in all situations.
As Jill and Eustace set out to find the lost Prince, they are given four specific signs by Aslan to guide them. (6/23-4) Before Aslan sends them off on their journey, he gives this specific command: "'But first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.'" (6/25)
"Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD, is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
"'And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.'" (6/26) Truly, Lewis could make no stronger statement than this regarding Scripture in our lives. "Nothing else matters." Biblical truth must be our overriding guide in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves.
"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. ...." (Joshua 1:7-8)
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Satan will seek to deter us from following the Scriptures:
The Lady's advice to head for Harfang, home of the giants, was nothing but trouble for Puddleglum, Jill and Eustace - although it seemed to be the right way after speaking with the Lady of the Green Kirtle. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:13; 16:25) After speaking to the Lady, "They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning." (9/94) As the trio faced a raging snow storm on the way to Harfang, Puddleglum reminded Jill, "'Are you still sure of those signs, Pole? What's the one we ought to be after now?' 'Oh, come on! Bother the signs,' said Pole. 'Something about someone mentioning Aslan's name I think. But I'm jolly well not going to give you a recitation here.' As you see, she had got the order wrong. That was because she had given up saying the signs over every night. She still really knew them, if she troubled to think: but she was no longer so "pat" in her lesson as to be sure of reeling them off in the right order at a moment's notice and without thinking. Puddleglum's question annoyed her because, deep down inside her, she was already annoyed at herself for not knowing the Lion's lesson quite so well as she felt she ought to have known it. This annoyance, added to the misery of being very cold and tired, made her say, 'bother the signs.' She didn't perhaps quite mean it." (6/103-4)
"Listen to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy, but since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matthew 13:18-23)
Later on, the trio learned of their fate to be eaten by the giants during their autumn feast, and they all bemoaned their neglect of the signs - having failed the first three. (6/123) Then Puddleglum makes the finest of Scripture affirmations: "'Aslan's instructions always work: there are no exceptions.'" (6/124) "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35) "I will show you what he is like who comes to Me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like the man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:47-49)
We are to obey the Scriptures - even when we're not sure of the outcome.
Finally, the time has come to obey the last sign - and free the Prince; however, Puddleglum, Jill and Eustace are fearing what the Prince might do to them once freed. Then Puddleglum again comes through with these words to Eustace: "'Do you mean you think everything will come out right if we do untie him?' said Scrubb. 'I don't know about that,' said Puddleglum. 'You see, Aslan didn't tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign." (6/175)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it." (Matthew 16:24)
If we fail at times to obey the Word, God will never give up on us - and will reward faithfulness in the end.
Jill "…remembered only how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarrelings. And she wanted to say 'I'm sorry' but she could not speak. Then the Lion drew them toward him with his eyes, and bent down and touched their pale faces with his tongue, and said: 'Think of that no more. I will not be always scolding. You done the work for which I sent you into Narnia.'" (6/250)
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:21)
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on the day - and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:7-8)
In the creation of Uncle Andrew, Digory's uncle (Vol. 1), C. S. Lewis has shown us what sin does to a human being. In fact, he has Aslan describing Uncle Andrew as an "old sinner!" (1/202) And as Lewis is quick to teach, sinners get what they want, but what they receive becomes their greatest despair and downfall. Indeed, he goes so far as to say the end result of sin, spiritual death and hell, are not so much the judgment of God (though they are that) but what sinners have chosen for themselves.
First of all, Uncle Andrew has the universal sin characteristic of self-centeredness and a very exaggerated concept of self-importance: i.e. what he wants to do takes precedence over any moral standard or consideration of others. When Digory calls into question a broken promise made by Uncle Andrew, the "old sinner" shows how totally self-absorbed he really is: "'Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper. I'm sure, and I'm very glad you have been taught to do it. But, of course, you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys - and servants - and women - and even people in general, can't possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory, men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as they are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.'" (1/20-1) Consumed with this self-centeredness and self-importance, Uncle Andrew lures Polly to touch one of his magic rings causing her to disappear. (1/16) He shows no remorse over his "experiment;" rather, he is quite pleased with himself - caring nothing for what may have happened to Polly.
This brings us to a second characteristic of sin: it always uses people and loves things - rather than the reverse. People are always reduced to objects. "'You will keep on looking at everything from the wrong point of view,' said Uncle Andrew with a look of impatience. 'Can't you understand that the thing is a great experiment? The whole point of sending anyone into the Other Place is that I want to find out what it's like.' 'Well, why didn't you go yourself then?' Digory had hardly even seen anyone look as surprised and offended as his Uncle did at this simple question. 'Me, me?' he exclaimed. 'The boy must be mad! A man at my time of life, and in my health, to risk the shock and the dangers of being flung suddenly into a different universe? I never heard anything so preposterous in my life! Do you realize what you're saying? Think what Another World means - you might meet anything - anything.'" (1/24-5) (Please see also 1/151)
Thirdly, sin is always intentionally blind to spiritual truth. "'He (Uncle Andrew) thinks great folly, child,' said Aslan. 'This world is bursting with life for these few days because the song with which I called it into life still hangs in the air and rumbles in the ground. It will not be for long. But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam's sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good! But I will give him the only gift he is still able to receive.' He bowed his great head rather sadly, and breathed into the Magician's terrified face. 'Sleep,' he said. 'Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.'" (2/202-3) (Please see also 1/148-150.)
One cannot help but hear the lament of Christ over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) Lewis pictures Aslan's sadness as he laments the foolishness of men: "How cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good." (1/202) Jesus longs to get through to the most hardened "old sinner." There is no great desire to punish or condemn anyone - whatever may have been the sin. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9) Lewis has made it known in his writings this simple but profound truth: "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:1) In a way, Uncle Andrew symbolizes those who will not turn and live - but sadly find the awful destiny of their own choosing - not at all what God desires for them.
"For the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Corinthians 2:13-15) "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-20) "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:1-3)
Whatever list you look at, Galatians 5:16-21, Ephesians 5:3-6, I Peter 4:3-5, II Peter 2:10-15, Revelation 21:8, 22:15, there is a terrible price to be paid for a life of sin. What moves Lewis so much is the pure foolishness of it all. It is so unnecessary. With Ezekiel he would say, "Why will you die, O house of Israel?" - or anyone choosing a life of sin.
A relevant application of the "Uncle Andrew attitude" could easily be made regarding the abortion question. Uncle Andrew had no trouble at all subjecting Polly to the Other World. He had not a care for what she might encounter. But when he was confronted with prospect of going there himself, he couldn't imagine such an idea! Supporters of abortion quite cavalierly relegate unborn children to oblivion while they themselves are quite pleased that someone let them live. In other words, they are most willing to subject pre-born children to something they would never have wanted for themselves. This is the essence of sin - selfishness - and treating others as mere objects - the "Uncle Andrew attitude."
United View of the Physical/Metaphysical
Anyone reading The Chronicles of Narnia is struck by the frequent personalization of animals, trees, streams etc. Lewis is not bound by the common but artificial boundary between the physical and spiritual since his biblical worldview is holistic. He was very much aware of the interconnection between the spiritual and physical taught early in the biblical record: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:17-19) Quite obviously the metaphysical affects the physical. Human disobedience is reflected in plant life changes, and Satan becomes "the god of this age" - with a definite "chilling effect" on both the physical and spiritual realms. (II Corinthians 4:4) This sort of thing occurs in The Chronicles of Narnia when spiritual evil be means of the White Witch affects Narnian climate, and the entire realm is subjected to chilling, winter cold.
When Aslan appears the thaw begins - again the spiritual affecting the physical. "'Come on! cried Mr. Beaver, who was almost dancing with delight. 'Come and see! This is a nasty knock for the Witch! It looks as if her power is already crumbling.' 'What do you mean, Mr. Beaver?' panted Peter as they all scrambled up the steep bank of the valley together. 'Didn't I tell you,' answered Mr. Beaver, 'that she'd made it always winter and never Christmas?'" (2/116) Then Father Christmas makes his appearance: "'I've come at last,' said he. 'She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch's magic is weakening.'" (2/117) "Since the children have flesh and blood - He too shared in their humanity so that by his death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15) Aslan comes to break the Witch's curse, the ice thaws, and the creatures are freed from their stony statue prisons and their dungeons. (2/183-194)
Biblically this all comes to a climax with the Second Coming and the millennial reign of Christ: "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed." (Isaiah 55:12-13) "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:19-22) As C. S. Lewis so clearly saw, there is a wonderful synergism between our liberating salvation in Christ and the marvelous future freedom of this material universe when Jesus comes again in fulfillment of the messianic age began two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. (Galatians 4:4-7)
Although The Chronicles of Narnia might not be thought of as the deepest and most profound of C. S. Lewis' writings, hopefully it might be seen by means of this paper there are deeper thoughts waiting to be found beneath the surface. Also, The Chronicles of Narnia might not be thought of as intensely personal, but I hope the reader might be able to see windows which give a glimpse into the author's soul. Most certainly some of his characters speak for him and convey experiences and thoughts he himself had.
Lewis was totally lost in the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I have no doubt the following expresses his personal feelings: "Both the children were looking up into the Lion's face as he spoke these words. And all at once (they never knew exactly how it happened) the face seemed to be a sea of tossing gold in which they were floating, and such a sweetness and power rolled about them and over them and entered them that they felt they had never really been happy or wise or good, or even alive and awake, before.
And the memory of that moment stayed with them always, so that as long as they both lived, if ever they were sad or afraid or angry, the thought of all that golden goodness, and the feeling that it was still there, quite close, just round some corner or just behind some door, would come back and make then sure, deep down inside, that all was well."
(1/212-13) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
Could C. S. Lewis have had these words of Paul in mind as he expressed the adoration of Christ through the children? "For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (II Corinthians 4:5-7)
In his creation of The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis will have accomplished his purpose if we not only tune our thoughts to real world of spiritual truth but also if we become totally lost in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are reminded of Charles Wesley's fourth verse of "Love Divine, all Loves Excelling":
"Finish then, Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love and praise."
(C. S. Lewis describes his conversion to Christ and his subsequent joy with the Lord Jesus in his book, Surprised by Joy.)
I have made the assertion that C. S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia with a sense of deep purpose to present to the youth of his day a definite counterweight to the materialistic worldview they were experiencing educationally. He was convinced his Christian worldview was definitely countercultural, and he saw in The Chronicles a way of bringing young people back to what he called "old western" thought. How do I know this?
When Lewis gave his inaugural lecture as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge on November 29, 1954, he gave us clear insight into his thinking.
He gave his listeners to understand he was coming from a different worldview than theirs - from the Christian/old western/spiritual viewpoint - not from the current post-Christian/new western/materialistic viewpoint. "The christening of Europe seemed to all our ancestors … a unique, irresistible, irreversible event. But we've seen the opposite process. Of course, the unchristening of Europe in our time is not quite complete." "I've said that the vast change which separates you from the old western has been gradual and isn't yet complete. The chasm is wide, but people born of opposite sides of it can still meet. Of course, that's quite normal in times of great change. I myself belong far more to that old western order than to yours. I'm going to claim that this, which in one way is a disqualification, is yet in another a qualification."
Lewis goes on to quite humorously describe in a self-deprecating way how he thought his old western position could be a qualification for communication to the young scholars of Cambridge. Certainly with a grin on his face he described himself as a "dinosaur" out of the past - what his young scholars might have thought of someone still holding to the Christian/old western worldview. He continues: "It is my settled conviction that in order to read old western literature aright, you must learn to suspend most of the responses and unlearn most of the habits you have acquired in reading modern literature. And because this is a judgment of a native, an old westerner, I claim that even if the defense of my conviction proves to be weak, the fact of my conviction is an historical datum to which you should give due weight. That way, when I fail as a critic I may yet be useful as a specimen. I would even dare to go further. Speaking not for myself but for all other old western men whom you may meet, I would say use your specimens while you can. There aren't going to be very many more dinosaurs."
Whether through the academic teaching environment or through his literary works, C. S. Lewis was not at all reticent about expressing his old western/Christian worldview in the most persuasive and illustrative way he could. This I believe he accomplishes marvelously in his The Chronicles of Narnia.
The above quotes are found in a radio adaptation of Lewis' inaugural lecture as Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature given at Cambridge on November 29, 1954. This material was printed on page 31 of Volume IV, Number 3, of Christian History Magazine, Worcester, PA.