Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

A Christmas beyond our expectations.

According to C.S. Lewis, his book (and now the film), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, is a “supposal,” not an allegory.

Both Lewis and his colleague and friend J.R.R. Tolkein resisted calling their works “allegories.” Allegories, in their opinion, were cheap storytelling because all they did was switch out one set of characters for another set.

And while the media and most movie audiences keep referring to this vision of Narnia as an allegory of the Bible, Lewis would hear none of that.

Narnia is a “supposal,” a term which Lewis coined to say, “Suppose that another world existed where animals – not humans – were the primary inhabitants. Suppose that world also needed redemption from God. What do you suppose that redemption would look like?” The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was the answer to that question.

In this film, redemption for the kingdom of fauns, talking beavers, and centaurs comes in the form of Aslan the lion. The only issue I have with this supposal is that in the world of Narnia, the animals all know and respect the fearsome creature, whereas the redemption of our world came from a direction no one expected.

Before Christ, people expected the messiah to be either a royal king, a victorious warrior, or a most holy high priest. Jesus of Nazareth was none of these. He was a simple Jewish carpenter from a backwards village in Galilee whose ministerial climax was a bloody death in a manner reserved for common criminals. Aslan, on the other hand, was known as the savior before he even entered Narnia. He led his army into battle and all Narnia trembled at his roar.

What makes our world’s savior so wonderful is it comes from a God who loves the unexpected. Christ defied expectations, and in so doing, he transformed the world.

Perhaps this blog comes out of a growing dissatisfaction I have had throughout the month of December. As I sat in the theatre watching The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe a few weeks ago, I felt somewhat disappointed at the end. All the elements of a “Christ story supposal” were there – the Advent prophecies of a coming savior, the Satan figure of the White Witch, the betrayal from within the inner circle, the Garden of Gethsemane scene on the night before Aslan’s death, the abuse and sacrifice of Aslan on a rocky hill, and his subsequent resurrection from the dead. So what was missing?

What was missing was the heart of the ministry and what made a savior so special.

At Christmas time, the celebration of the birth of our own world’s savior, what keeps me going is that this savior, Jesus of Nazareth, was indeed quite special. In the Scriptures, we read about his powerful deeds, his healing touch, and his wonderful words. We know that even in the things we don’t know about what he said or did, he was so extraordinary that this simple Galilean carpenter transfixed the highest authorities of his time, even causing some so much discomfort as to make them conspire against him to keep him quiet.

Narnia gives us a wonderful reference to the Christ story and a reminder to pay attention to what makes this the greatest story ever told. The best thing about a film like this is that it just might get us to open our Bibles and re-read what makes our faith so special.

But let us also never forget that ours is a God who surpasses our world, giving us miracles beyond our imagination, an an Incarnation beyond our expectations.

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