Thursday, October 25, 2007

Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia - Part One

Today I’m continuing a series I announced last week. The series is entitled “Expressions of the Christian Faith in Narnia.” Last week I discussed some of the difficulties with such a series, but I hope to bring out some meaningful insights in this and future articles.

In this first installment I’m looking at book one (although the books have been re-ordered in recent versions of the series, this was still the first book): The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

In this book we encounter the four Pevensie children, who are sent to live in the British countryside during the “Battle of Britain” to avoid the Blitz. The children--Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – move into the home of old Professor Digory Kirke (perhaps a representation of Lewis himself, or one of his own mentors).

While living with the Professor, they encounter a magic wardrobe, through which they gain entrance into the magical land of Narnia. Now, if you’re reading I am going to assume that you’ve read the books, and will feel free to give away some key plot points. When they enter Narnia they learn that the land is being ruled by the cruel, usurping White Witch, who has caused the land of Narnia to exist in perpetual winter (but never Christmas). This White Witch, in most respects represents Satan, whom the Bible refers to as “the prince of this world” (and other similar titles). The true King of Narnia is Aslan, the son of the Emperor beyond the Sea (recognize him as representative of Jesus, who is the Son of God). Aslan has not been in Narnia for many years, though the residents of His lands expect his return and wait with great anticipation (much like the Jews look for the return of the Messiah). There also exists a prophesy that foretells the coming of two sons of Adam, and two Daughters of Eve, who will come to claim the throne of Narnia.

Once they enter Narnia, however, the children realize that their brother, Edmund, has (like Judas) betrayed his brother and sisters to the White Witch. He has done this because the Witch gives him Turkish Delight and offered him the promise of ruling over Narnia at her side. This series of events can be all too familiar for some. While we may not be giving up our right to a throne, or delivering our own flesh and blood to an evil witch, perhaps we have passed up some good things, or exchanged God’s blessings for temporal pleasures. Of course, we know – and Edmund soon finds out—that the Witch has no intention of making good on her promise.

The children are saved, however, by the return of Aslan. At His return, the winter begins to melt away (but not before Father Christmas comes). Aslan’s reappearance forces a confrontation with the Witch. Recognizing (with fear) Aslan’s power, the Witch plays her trump card. She informs Aslan that according to the laws of Narnia, she has rights to the blood of traitors (i.e. Edmund). Aslan recognizes this and purchases Edmund’s freedom by offering Himself in exchange. As Christians we recognize that we were like Edmund – sinners, and were guilty before God. However, God chose to send His only Son—Jesus to die in our place in order to pay the penalty.

That night, Aslan, accompanied by Susan and Lucy, has His own Gethsemane experience. Afterward He proceeds to meet the Witch as the pre-assigned location – the Stone Table. Then, as Susan and Lucy look on from their hiding place, the Witch and her henchmen bind Aslan, shave His mane, and mock him. At this the girls recognize that Aslan, had He so chosen, could have stopped them, but He does not. Finally, the Witch takes her dagger and kills Aslan.

The Witch rejoices at her victory and rallies her army for the final showdown with Aslan’s army, now under the leadership of Peter. Yet, as the dawn comes, the girls (mourning Aslan’s death) recognize that He is not on the table, but has Risen from the Dead! This, of course is a direct parallel to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Aslan then frees the captives of the Witch and returns to lead His forces to victory, and kills the Witch.

Afterwards Aslan sets the four children upon the thrones at Cair Paravel, from which they reign in peace over Narnia for many years. Then one day they happen upon the place from which they entered Narnia and all tumble out of the wardrobe to realize that in our world, no time has passed at all.

This story, while much of it is simply a fantastic children’s story, contains great themes of redemption, good versus evil, and tells the story of Christ’s mission to redeem us, His people. We are all Edmund. All of us have done something that makes us guilty before God, and as a result we must pay the price (death – viz, Romans 6:23). However Jesus, like Aslan in the story, came and offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. Neither death nor Satan defeated Him, rather He defeated them, just as Aslan defeats the Witch in the story. The children recognize, just as you and I should, that Aslan (in our case God) rewards those who are His and blesses them. You and I, if we accept Christ’s sacrifice, and give ourselves to Him, will receive blessings in Eternity as we spend it with Him in Heaven.

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