Christian Review – Chronicles of Narnia

I saw a post recently on the QF digest praising The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. While I did greatly enjoy the movie and most of the books, I thought it important to offer some caution and point out some un-biblical points about the series and the movie that may be good to discuss with your children.
We purchased the books a month prior to the release of the movie as I wanted my children to read and let their minds produce the images of the setting to the stories before I allowed Hollywood to impress it’s images on their minds. So the comments offered are from freshly reading the series and seeing the movie.
First CS Lewis, was not known for his Christian virtue early in life. In fact, like all of us, he was an enemy of Christ for the early part of his life. He finally converted in 1931 and says “I came into Christianity kicking and screaming.” I say that to point out that he was human and is indeed fallible just like the rest of us.
This is important to understand as we attempt to place the stamp of Biblical Christianity on his works. Like all of us who are on a path to maturity and growing in Christ, I would make the case that not everything in the Narnia series lines up with a true Christian allegory. I believe Lewis was maturing as a Christian, but do not believe he effectively portrayed what Christianity is in the series. In fact, a case could be made that he confused what true Christianity is by his inclusion of the following issues.
The first stumbling block I ran into, was the half human and half animal creations of Greek mythology. This flies in the face of God’s created order and the differentiation he made between humans and animals. One is to have dominion over the other. They are not equal in any sense according to the Bible. All good dogs do not go to heaven.
Next is the extra biblical stories that are weaved into the series, such as the witch issuing from Adam’s relationship with his first wife Lilith. (There is no Biblical basis for this, but it is Jewish and Islamic folklore which Lewis includes and thereby muddies the allegory.) This along with the idea that there are other created worlds that are in parallel to ours. This is not discussed in the Bible and therefore outside the scope of orthodox Christianity as well. The concern here, is this is one or two pieces of folklore I was familiar with. What else is there that I don’t know? This was not discussed in the movie at all, which was a pleasant edit.
Next in the books, at the end of a few of them, there is a portrayal of Aslan as some accompaniment to the Greek gods of mythology. Prince Caspian, for instance, includes the Greek god of wine and his party nymphs as they go around the kingdom with Aslan bringing “good cheer” to the inhabitants as the battle has been won and liberty has come once again to Narnia. While I’m sure that there will be great celebration as Christ Kingdom is fulfilled on the earth, I somehow can’t seem to think that it will be much like the partying that is portrayed by the Greek god of wine and his dancing fairy nymphs.
The major issue that was in the movie and the books was the use of magic as opposed to the supernatural or more accurately the miraculous. Aslan refers to the “deep magic” verses the miraculous hand and designs of God in explaining his resurrection. This is in complete opposition to the Bible and it’s teachings on magic and witchcraft. Also, the dialog at the “resurrection” scene says that if anyone gives his life willingly than he can not die. In this manner it disparages the Trinity and the absolute necessity of Christ the Son of God dying for our sins. Anyone can not die for our sins only Christ who was a direct descendant of Adam and a member of the Godhead could satisfy the blood guilt we are all born into.
Lastly in “The Last Battle” there is a scene where one of the enemy combatants was in “heaven” and he was allowed in because he served Tasch (Satan) with a pure heart. In other words be did good works in the name of Tasch. This is about as far from orthodox Christianity as one can get. Throughout the series there are subtle pieces of pagan religions and practices that are interwoven with the story which blur the line between Christianity and the rest of the world. I know that it has to be a tough endeavor to attempt to write an allegory. But, perhaps it would be better not to write one than to sacrifice the true gospel in the process.
In our house, we purchased the books because we believe in education and in knowing what moves the world that God created. The influence of this series has made it a “must know” for someone who is living in this world and seeking to bring it under the dominion of Christ. But our conclusion on this series is that it serves as an example of what not to do, not as a brilliant work of art that should be honored. True, it is a brilliant telling of a story. But the question is, how many people has the story led astray verses how many has it pointed towards the truth. I’m not attempting to make that determination, I’m simply pointing out that we will all give an account for what we do and say when we stand in judgment before God. I don’t think God has a special category called fantasy where he changes the rules for how we live and for how we are accountable for what we say.
We used it as a training tool and we discussed all of these items within our family devotions at different times. We determined that if one of us wanted to write an allegory that portrayed the Christian faith that perhaps John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress would be a better example to follow.
Things I did like about the movie, are the casting and the portrayal of the characters. The children were cast perfectly and I could not help but love the interaction they had with one another. Edward, although defiant to his older brother, was not made to be so out of a normal bickering spirit, but out of missing his father who was away at war. In this way Disney did the best job I have seen them do in portraying a decent family with good relationships.
Secondly the dark scenes, specifically the alter scene, were not as dark as other Disney movies and I felt they did a good job differentiating between the good and evil, without going over board with the darkness. That being said, I still did have my boys (8 and 10) look away during this scene.
I know there are folks out there who are at different stages and have different opinions about art and how we should approach it – from ignoring it to embracing it. I’m not attempting to change anyone’s mind on this question. However, I hope some of this will be helpful to those who are wrestling with this series and the challenges it creates for us as parents.

8 Comments

  • Watchful says:

    This is my first time posting a comment on this blog, and am not sure exactly how it works… it’s a little different from blogger’s software.
    Thanks for addressing this issue, I can understand where you are coming from even if I would not quite agree with your final analysis. But have any of us ever agreed completely on all things in this life?
    I was wondering however, if you could clarify what you meant by the following statement?
    “In fact, like all of us, he was an enemy of Christ for the early part of his life.”
    I’m a little confused as to exactly what you meant by this. How does this statement affect those who are raised in the covenant and who have not been enemies of Christ in their early years, but who were instead raised as His disciples?
    Thanks!

  • Paul TN says:

    Watchful:
    Here I had in mind that we are all born into sin. Our sin nature, makes us an enemy of Christ.
    Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
    In Lewis’ case he did not convert until later in life, and was in fact an open enemy of Christ, even though he was born into a Christian home. This is by his own admission. During this time, Lewis was serving his own interests, not those of God.
    Phi 3:18-19 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
    Because you are born into a covenant, does not mean that you are exampt from being an enemy to Christ.
    Col 1:21-23 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven;
    While Lewis did repent and serve Christ the point was he did not start that way as many of us don’t.

  • Watchful says:

    Thank you for the response. I certainly was not disputing that Lewis did not start as an enemy of the cross of Christ. And I would not dispute that Lewis had some strange carry overs certainly, but that is for a different conversation that I don’t have the energy for at this time ;-).
    I did wonder how you would relate the all inclusiveness in your statement though and thank you for clarifying. I would totally agree that we are all born into original sin (in other words, born with the guilt of Adam), and there is nothing we can change about that. We didn’t have the choice to not be born into original sin. But what we hope to accomplish by the grace of God is to prevent our covenant children from being like Lewis was in the beginning of his life, an enemy to the cross of Christ. We are instead passing on the work of kingdom building to our children and to their children after them.
    This is the burden God has placed on my heart, to raise up a Godly seed that will serve Him with all of their heart and mind and soul. I pray that the Lord will bless my wife and I with many of his little disciples, and may he grant us the grace to train and nurture them as His disciples.
    BTW, thank you for this encouraging blog.

  • Nicholas J. Stojakovich says:

    The chronicles of narnia was never intended to be a theological treatise and apologetic for chritianity it was and is a highy imaginative and allegorical story intended for children. Lewis always demonstrated his humility by acknowledging in both his fiction and non-fiction works that he was not a theologian. You miss entirely the overall purpose of the work if you attempt to put it under a “biblical microscope” and critique it as a theological treatise on christianity. Lewis and his works are not beyond criticism and critical thinking however his non-fiction works are the place to start if you must pick his bones to save the church and society from errant doctrine.

  • Daniel Grady says:

    I can certainly appreciate the knowledge, and advice of any man who investigates and uncovers the many different views of any form of media for the protection of his family. Praise be to God that He has supplied to us this example, shown by His love and actions. I personally had never read any C.S. Lewis material in my life, and now at the age of 34 I have seen the movie “The chronicles of Narnia; the lion witch and the wardrobe” and I must say that I appreciated his works and his (from my finite view) ever so slight “christian” similarities. I dont think that the question is of his “theological” background, or lack of, but his appearance to include small sililarities of his faith and what he believed to be “Christian character”. This set of books, as well as, “A pilgrims progress” show evidence of his belief in the Christian idea and more specific of his understanding of God. In the 1930’s he wrote other religious books, some having more profound application to character than others, yet he had application to a christian lifestyle. These books included, “The screwtape letters”, and “The problem of pain”. If there are more, I am not aware of them, as I have not investigated him too intensely. However, I do see these as “highly imaginative” stories, with certain christian application that many could pull from. Christian thoughts were there, in fact he applied many of these principles to his everyday life. He gave away nearly two-thirds of his income throughout his life, sat at bedside with the sick, and personally served and gave to the poor. If we were to examine these actions, and know of what he wrote, how could we not come to any other conclusion, except that there could have been some Christian application in his works?

  • Vitil, Thank you for your encouragement.
    I intended to post this link to the follow up and only just now realized that I had failed to include it in this thread.
    Please see the following link for additional discussion of Narnia and Lewis.
    http://www.josiahproject.com/2006/01/20/chronicles-of-narnia-follow-up/

  • Chalieg123 says:

    I thank you so much for this post! I remember reading the books for school while growing up, and thought nothing of it. But as I’ve matured in my christianity, my eyes are also being opened and renewed every day. Someone had bought the Narnia series on CD for my children a few years back, but they were too young to understand them. Now that they are getting older, I also find myself thinking about what I’ll be actually teaching them if I let them listen. I dont get a lot of support in my thoughts that maybe this isnt the best way to teach my children christianity, so am thankful for your post. I see I am not alone in my conviction, and I too will wait until my children are older and I can fully explain what parts don’t match up with God’s word!

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