Narnia - Part 1
Blending Truth and Myth
Blending Truth and Myth
by Berit Kjos - December 2005
Emphasis in bold letters added throughout
Skip down to Stonehenge
"...the children discover a charming, peaceful land inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs and giants that has become a world cursed to eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Under the guidance of a noble and mystical ruler, the lion Aslan, the children fight to overcome the White Witch's powerful hold over Narnia in a spectacular, climactic battle that will free Narnia from Jadis' icy spell forever."
"C.S. Lewis is someone who paints a picture and lets you imagine the rest. To me it's about making a movie which lives up to my memory of my book rather than specifically the book itself. And it needs to live up to everyone else's memories and that is what my challenge is - to make it accessible and real.... I want it to feel real...." Director Andrew Adamson
"There is a prophecy that two sons of Adam and daughters of Eve will appear and defeat the white witch and put an end to this 100 year winter." Talking Beaver in Full-Length Trailer
The movie opens with a glimpse of the cruel, violent world of reality. Air raid sirens shriek through the night as Nazi bombers drone overhead, dropping their deadly bombs. The Pevensie family heads for the bomb shelter, well aware of the ongoing dangers that threaten in war-torn London. Soon afterwards the four children board a train and head for safety at a country mansion owned by a mysterious old professor. They are about to discover the thrilling world of fantasy.
As most of us read long ago in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the four children explore their new home and grope their way through a magical wardrobe into the cold, wintery world of Narnia. Here -- as in the ancient myths that had captivated C. S. Lewis' heart -- animals talk, witches bewitch, curses turn flesh into stone, and the veil between physical reality and spiritual fantasies fade away. Myth and truth merge into more compelling illusions, while good and evil are redefined to fit the new story.
"The book is about imagination," says Roger Ford, the production designer of Disney's version of Narnia. "So the imagery is provided by the child's and the reader's imagination." But, unlike books, movies implant ready-made images. "The challenge of a film-maker is to live up to and exceed the people's imagination," continues Ford, "and really transport them to another time and place."
Today's digital magic fulfills that function all too well! But where does this movie transport the minds of our children? What kinds of enticements does it feed to their human nature and emotional appetites? What suggestions will leave lasting imprints in their memory? Those are the questions that Christian parents need to ask. And a single phrase answers all three: the world of the occult.
The enticing pagan worlds nurtured by C.S. Lewis and his myth-making friends were not inspired by God's Word or Spirit. Those stories grew out of a lifelong immersion in the beliefs, values, rituals, languages and lifestyles of former pagan cultures. C. S. Lewis himself -- even years after professing faith in Christ -- remained obsessed with those old myths. As in his famous 1931"conversion" encounter with Tolkien, he continued to suggest that Christianity and paganism were, in some ways, mutually supportive. Ponder his description of a 1960 visit to Greece three years before his death:
"I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica! At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Appolo the Healer. But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong — would have only been addressing Christ sub specie Apollinius. We witnessed a beautiful Christian village ceremony in Rhodes and hardly felt a discrepancy."
The same book quotes Lewis'
earlier statement of regret that he hadn't been taught the supposed link between
Christianity and paganism during his school years: "No one ever
attempted to show in what sense Christianity fulfilled paganism or
paganism prefigured Christianity."
The white witch, Jadis -- the self-professed Queen of Narnia -- emerged from that pagan worldview, not from a Biblical frame of reference. Her ritual sacrifice of Aslan has more in common with the ancient Winter Solstice rituals and blood sacrifices to cultural gods (whether Hindu, Mayan, Inca or Babylonian) than with the crucifixion of our Lord. Small wonder the movie director chose a sacrificial setting for Aslan that looks strangely like the ancient ritual stones and pillars at Stonehenge, now a gathering place for the world's fast-growing networks of neopagans.
"Earlier in his life, Lewis visited the ruins at Stonehenge, a mysterious circle of giant prehistoric stones in Southern England. In her book, Journey into Narnia, Kathryn Lindskoog notes, 'The stone that is lowest at Stonehenge is called the stone of sacrifice because people suspect that humans were bound and stabbed there in evil ceremonies thousands of years ago.... It's almost certain that Stonehenge gave Lewis the idea of the Stone Table."
Unlike Jesus, our Lord, Aslan negotiates the terms of the "ancient magic" with the white witch. And unlike God, Aslan attributes the ultimate victory to the humans, not to his own plan and power.
"The future of Narnia rests on your courage," the lion told Peter before his sad departure. Soon afterwards, this commissioned knight in shining armor would ride into the fierce battle on a snowy white unicorn, wielding a glimmering sword.
Does this picture remind you of the Armor of God or the Sword of the Spirit? If so, it's a misleading match. That victorious Sword is the eternal, unchanging Word of God. It has no place in the myth of Narnia.
To illustrate this discrepancy between Biblical truth and Narnian fantasy, we will use God's armor as an outline. It disproves the popular assumption that Narnia is a Christian allegory -- a notion Lewis himself denied. According to Christianity Today, "not only was Lewis hesitant to call his books Christian allegory, but the stories borrow just as much from pagan mythology as they do the Bible."
In fact, those who want to see Aslan as Jesus Christ would have to do some mental gymnastics. The two opposites simply will not match unless God's truth is conformed to the human imagination. Sad to say, such spiritual compromise is happening every day. And the better the counterfeit, the more deceptive is its power.
God's Armor-- a summary of the true Gospel -- is made up of six parts. Find the next two parts of the armor here: Narnia Part 2
The Belt of Truth -- The vital truth about God and His plan for redemption
The Breastplate of Righteousness -- The truth about our need for the cross and God's righteousness
The Sandals of Peace -- The gracious gift of the Prince of Peace to those who walk in His Truth and Righteousness
The Shield of Faith -- Putting all our trust in the sovereign power and love of our King and His Word.
The Helmet of Salvation -- Keeping our eyes fixed on the hope of His victory today and forever.
The Sword of the Spirit -- His Word, hidden in our hearts, and wielded against any enemy to peace that might come against us.
These parts become all the more significant in light of the fact that Jesus, at various times, identified Himself before His disciples as Truth, Righteousness, (Prince of) Peace, our Salvation and the living Word. So when you "put on" God's armor, you "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 13:12-14) He becomes your hiding place and your shelter in the storm. Hidden in Him, you can count on His victory, for He not only covers you as a shield, He also fills you with His life.
1. God's TRUTH: His eternal, unchanging and triumphant Word!
How do we find it? Chuck Colson points to C. S. Lewis as our guide. "...what really makes [Lewis] so compelling," writes Colson, "is his ability to blend reason and imagination in his works. As he wrote, 'For me, reason is the natural organ of truth, and imagination is the organ of understanding.' He is right. The imagination sees what the mind might take only to be as abstract truth. So Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate both Lewis’s endlessly creative imagination, and the way he grounded even his works of fantasy in absolute truth."
But Colson as well as Lewis seems to define truth from a humanistic rather than a Biblical perspective. God's Word warns us repeatedly that neither the imagination nor man's reason or logic will lead us to His truth. "Lean not on your own understanding," He warns us in Proverbs 3:5-7. "Do not be wise in your own eyes."And the faithful (but despised) Old Testament prophet Jeremiah shows us the result of humanist thinking -- both then and now: "They obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart..." (Jeremiah 11:8)
Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide also agrees with C. S. Lewis. “The movie... is a great tool for the Church to help people understand the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he wrote. Was he right? Or was he simply accepting today's culturally correct version of God's timeless and unchanging Word?
His conclusion: "Very, very few people will see the slight divergences that the movie takes from the novel."
The last statement may be true. Caught up in the thrilling high tech fantasy, few are likely to notice the changes in the script. But the first sentence should raise concern. How will this movie help people understand the truth of the Gospel? What is actually true in this so-called "Christian allegory?"
Dr. Baehr gives a partial answer in the following summary. What gross distortions of the supposed "truth" do you see here?
"A prophecy says that four sons and daughters of Adam and Eve will come to Narnia and help Aslan... free Narnia from the White Witch. To thwart the prophecy, the White Witch has told everyone that, if they see a son or daughter of Adam and Eve, they should kidnap and bring them to her....
“...the resurrection romp with Aslan, Lucy and Susan has also been eliminated, and the movie focuses more on the children being the solution to the evil in Narnia when, in fact, the victory is Aslan’s.... [The children] are heirs to the victory that Aslan wins on the stone table, and Jesus Christ won on the cross....
“In fact, the movie is a very clear Christological allusion, or imagining, of the story of Jesus Christ. The minor changes do not take away from that meaning in the book...
"Andrew Adamson ... understands the element of sacrifice and redemption, but his concern was for the empowering of the children. ...his love for the original source ultimately keeps the movie on target.”
Since Adamson's focus was on "empowering... the children," it makes sense to give them (rather than Aslan) credit for the ultimate victory, doesn't it? It also helps explain Aslan's twisted message:
"The future of Narnia rests on your courage."
While that statement should disturb those who love the Gospel, it matches Narnia's ancient prophecy very well. To us, the word "prophecy" implies God's omniscient (foreknowledge of future events) revelation of what lies ahead. Because we know Him and trust His Word, we take seriously the precious Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Everything God has told us will or has already come true! Jesus came and gave His life for us! He will come again for His people!
But Narnia's prophecy promises no such Savior. In stark contrast, it promises that four humans will come and save the land. What a sham to call this deceptive story a picture of truth!
If that appalling lie colors our understanding of the Gospel, we will see ourselves as co-saviors. We will pat ourselves on the back, rather than humbly and joyfully praise our God for His amazing grace in our weakness! Translated into the language of the gospel, this view implies that Jesus' death and resurrection was not sufficient to save His people. Instead, God depends on us to accomplish His salvation. That untruth has already become a vital marketing ploy in today's man-centered Church Growth Movement.
The following comment by Joseph Pearce (Tolkien's biographer and author of a new book about C. S. Lewis) illustrates the persuasiveness of these myths. It applies to Lewis as well as Tolkien:
"... the power of Tolkien lies in the way that he succeeds, through myth, in making the unseen hand of providence felt by the reader.
“In his mythical creations, or sub-creations as he would call them, he shows how the unseen hand of God is felt far more forcefully in myth than it is ever felt in fiction. Paradoxically, fiction works with facts, albeit invented facts, whereas myth works with truth, albeit truth dressed in fancy disguises.”
Do you see the strange reasoning? If the mythical realm of magic "makes the unseen hand of providence felt by the reader," what message does it actually teach? What new "truths," feelings and perceptions do people "take home" when they leave the theater? - Or when they read the book? Remember, the two blend together in the minds of Narnia fans.
For example, what truth or deception does the following conversation from the book transmit to a child? Peter asks,
[Peter] "Isn't the witch herself human?"
[Mr. Beaver] "She'd like just to believe it, and it's on that she bases her claim to be Queen. But she's no Daughter of Eve. She comes of your father Adam's... first wife, her they called Lilith. And she was one of the Jinn."
Our wise God has a far different view of the human imagination than either Tolkien or Lewis, and He is well aware of its power to inflate lies and distort truth. Therefore, He warns us repeatedly that "the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth."[Genesis 8:21]
To better understand the twisted Gospel taught through this mythical series,Part 2 of this Narnia series will look at the strange creation story told in The Magician's Nephew, the book that precedes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the 7-set Chronicles of Narnia.
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15
The Chronicles of Narnia: The
Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005) Video Clips & Multimedia
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005) Video Clips & Multimedia
2. Director Andrew Adamson talksat http://dvddungeon.com/news/news.php?id=4207
3. Full-Length Trailer at http://movies.aol.com/movie_exclusive_the_chronicles_of_narnia
5. Roger Lancelyn Green, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Inc., 1974), page 274, 30.
6. http://www.roarofnarnia.com/ask_the_professor.aspx (link not working on 12-6-05)
7."Into the Wardrobe and Straight to Hollywood," Christianity Today (11/07/05), www.christianitytoday.com/movies/special/narnia-news.html
8. A Wardrobe from the King - Chapter 2 at www.crossroad.to/Bible_studies/Wardrobe/chapter2.html
9. Chuck Colson, "Lewis Revisited" (12- 9-05) at www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=BreakPoint1&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=17510
10. ‘Absolutely Thrilling! Disney's Chronicles of Narnia at www.assistnews.net/Stories/s05110091.htm
11.The Letters of J. R. R Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, editor (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, page 201.
12. C.S. Lewis, The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (Harper/Collin Publishers), pages 77.
13. Lilith: According to Jewish and Gnostic myths, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. A model to radical feminists, she was banished from the Garden of Eden because she refused to submit to Adam. Like Satan, she was counted among the powerful and demonic figures that opposed God. Meanwhile, Adam was given a new wife, Eve. There's much more to this story, but since it belongs in the realm of occult Jewish mysticism and Gnostic tales, it's best not to delve deeper into such dark fables.
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