Written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible
CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are now acclaimed as the standard for what is considered ‘classic’ in Children’s fantasy literature. The seven book series, The Chronicles of Narnia were first published in the 1950s. CS Lewis wanted to write a ‘good’ story rather than a ‘Christian’ story. Yet the allegorical Christian message in the Chronicles of Narnia is hard to miss. In fact, to loosely quote from the Magician’s Nephew (Book 1 in the series), “Even though you know that the lion was singing, if you pretend really hard – you make yourself believe that it is just a lion roaring!” And in the same way, if you pretend really hard you could make yourself believe that CS Lewis was writing about something other than eternal truths…
THE GOSPEL IN THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
The Chronicles of Narnia take vital elements of the Gospel and communicate them in fantastic (literally- “of fantasy”) images. The eternal truths of a Supreme Emperor, an incarnated Son of the Emperor, the problem of evil and sin as a universal condition of all people, the ultimate redeeming sacrifice of the Creator Himself, the empowering of all those who chose to follow the Creator, and the promise of a final solution to evil are key ingredients to the Narnia stories.
CS Lewis used the term ‘magic’ in a different way from the way it is generally used. By ‘magic’ he meant something closer to science. To him, magic has an author, rules, an initiation, and practitioners. Magic is what he called the realm of knowledge beyond what science had unravelled. It was therefore, the science of the mysterious. Before the reader imagines that Lewis was restricting knowledge to rationalism it must be understood that to Lewis the unseen spiritual real was something that natural science had little or no way of classifying. To Lewis, this realm was probably more real than the ‘physical’ realm in which we live. In the Magician’s Nephew he describes those first humans in Narnia as feeling like they had awoken from a long dream. This is an insight into how Lewis contrasted this physical real with the spiritual realm where we will spend eternity either with God or exiled from His presence depending on our response to his offer of forgiveness in this life.
The use of such mythical creatures as –
Centaurs (half man half animal) –
Minotaurs (half animal half man) –
Evil creatures –
-have prompted some concerned people to declare that these stories are of no use to Christians at all. Some parents have forbidden their children reading the Narnia Chronicles because it uses such mythical creatures as an integral component to the stories. But Christians need to consider several factors regarding this type of fantasy-
The Bible also contains references to witches, witchcraft, and sorcery. (eg. 1Sam. 28)
- The world of Narnia is not our world. It is a make-believe world.
- The Bible also describes fantastic creatures (eg. Ezek. 1-2; Book of Revelation) these include flying dragons, half scorpion-half humans, beasts with multiple faces including that of a man, seraphim, cherubim, and “beasts” that arise from the sea (Dan. 8; Rev. 13).
Perhaps this is to be distinguished from “bad” fantasy stories where evil creatures interact in our world and their evil actions are justified as reasonable. CS Lewis does not do this.
The climax of The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe is the Stone Table scene. This is one of the most profound allegories of Calvary ever written. Many believers have testified how this Narnia scene has enhanced their appreciation of the Cross.
WHO IS ASLAN?
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
The parallels between Aslan and Christ are obvious: Son of the Emperor, Creator, Incarnate One, Redeeming Sacrifice, Empowering Lord. CS Lewis wrote to an 11 year girl, Hilla, answering her question about Alsan by asking her who it was who (i) arrived at the same time as Father Christmas, (ii) said He was the Son of the Great Emperor, (iii) gave Himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people, and (iv) came to life again. The obvious answer is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
When you see the movie, enjoy the story, admire the film, wonder at the symbolism, and then read the books with your children!
THE TASMANIAN CONNECTION TO CS LEWIS
The sole relative of CS Lewis is Douglas Gresham (his step-son). He was 8 when he first met his father-to-be. He was 18 when CS Lewis died. After he graduated from College and married he moved to Tasmania where he farmed and moonlighted as an announcer on 7BU. He moved to Ireland the mid 1980s where he still lives, but he is a regular visitor back to Australia. His memoirs of his relationship with Jack (CS) Lewis were published by Collins as The Lenten Lands.
Douglas Gresham as a 6 year old boy-
Doug Gresham, aged 60 –
It is Douglas Gresham who produced the Disney distributed film- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Andrew Corbett, December 2005