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Narnia: Seeing afresh

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“When he is reborn, Narnia can be saved at last; with Aslan’s blood on the ground, the land can blossom into spring.” Brian Murphy in his article “Last Works: Further in and Higher up” the idea of the Narnia chronicles bringing the reader to that “Edenic delight” was briefly contemplated.

The fiftieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death has passed, but his influence is stronger than ever. He is a Christian staple from the child to the adult, from the commoner to the intellectual. C. S. Lewis speaks to all levels.

C. S. Lewis was a strong defender of the moral and aesthetic purpose of education. In his time, this original intention of education was under threat. It is still under threat. There is no moral standard taught anymore, nor a religious standard. The result has been an erosion of morality—what is right and wrong, but also religion has been undermined. C. S. Lewis speaks of this dilemma in The Abolition of Man. Lewis describes the education system bringing up men without chests. These men without chests have no higher understanding to look toward and guide them. They are stuck in the cave of unrealities, stuck in the Shadowlands.

Some results of not having a moral compass or understanding something other than material things, have been school shootings beginning with Columbine, abortion as an option without batting an eye (though more and more abortion clinics are closing), multiple pre-marital sexual relations, and making whatever feels good and seems right to me as dogma.

One of C. S. Lewis’ missions in writing the Chronicles of Narnia, was to tell stories that brought the reader back to Edenic delight and giving the image of reconciling the world to Christ.

The Chronicles are beloved by children and adults alike. There is something in the books that evoke delight and joy in the reader. Lewis refers to magic in each story, but what it truly is, is joy—that deep-seated longing in every person. The stories bring the reader to another world reminding some of a land untouched by the fallen world, though with echoes of the Christian redemptive story.

All who have read the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe recognize the world oppressed by evil, the sacrifice of Aslan, which brings redemption and life to the creatures, but also the cosmos of Narnia. The great thaw of a world frozen by a tyrant. Again Brian Murphy sums The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe well,

The children and the Narnians can progress from the dead, birthless winter to the crocuses of spring only by means of blood: the great Lion, Aslan, agrees to die, slain by the Witch, to save Edmund (and by extension, the other children and all the talking beasts in Narnia)… When he is reborn, Narnia can be saved at last; with Aslan’s blood on the ground, the land can blossom into spring.

In a sense, the Chronicles of Narnia have the same kind of interpretive approach as the Bible. It is taken literally, but also spiritually, and one can go further in evoking the moral sense of the Chronicles.

In all of Lewis’ writings, he wished to evoke deeper levels. He wanted the reader, like his students, to use his imagination and intellect, which started with greater things—the one who created both. The Chronicles of Narnia bring the reader to another place that echoes realities of this world, yet also beyond this world. In like manner to Plato’s allegory of the cave, Lewis wishes to draw people stuck in unrealities—those in the cave--to reality. Lewis wanted to help develop men (and women) with chests—not hollow men.

The Chronicles of Narnia are tales that break the barrier between mind and heart. The reader is able to see the world afresh. In a way, theology does the same thing. Christian theology is formative. The one learning the queen of the sciences sees through the lens of theology, changing his perspective of things. The Chronicles of Narnia do the same thing because Lewis sees his world through the lens of Christianity. As C. S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Lewis’ work also draws the reader toward redemption. The Chronicles awaken the reader to Christian truth, goodness and beauty. The reader longs with the characters that the morning will come soon; that the dream will be over. (Yet, not in an escapist manner). Again, the reader in Edenic delight sees that the redemption of the world has happened, but has not yet been culminated. The reader journeys like the children of the stories as a wayfarer obeying the kings command to love and serve him and others, but knows there is an end to the journey where the twilight will break into dawn and the story will continue on, “the next chapter being better than the chapter before.”

As we await the culmination of all time, we take delight in what C. S. Lewis has written as we long with him—for that never ending joy. Our Edenic delight longing for how things once were that Christ has brought again through his redemption of the world, here, but not yet culminated. As we wait for spring to come, we remember Lewis and his work to change the hearts of his readers and listeners. We continue his mission of pointing the way toward the redeemer of all, guiding those hollow men to be men with chests.

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