“The Jesus symbol, the witch and the wardrobe”
is an interesting article in Salon that proposes to examine how “Christian” Lewis’ story is. She opens by supposing that most children who read it failed to notice its Christian underpinnings and saw it as simply a fairy story. From their she says that she felt betrayed by the peddling of “dreary old Sunday School” stuff in the guise of “silvery delight”.
She then goes on to tell us about John Goldthwaite’s critique of the stories. He says that
"whenever a professed Christian feels he must create some wholly other world to explore the meaning of his religion, he is flirting with bad faith. When he fills that world with the make-believes of other religions, he is playing at polytheism. When he further sets sorceresses to rule over it, and werewolves, incubuses and wraiths, he is dabbling in Manichaean dualism, the idea that standing opposed to God's good creation is another, separate and equal, or nearly equal, creation given over to evil."
Now I had to go and look up Manicheanism. It is a belief that from the beginning to equal and opposite forces existed and conflicted. Neither Narnia nor Christianity teach that sort of dualism. Both teach that evil came along early from a creation that rebelled, but that evil is set to rule only for a time and that good is destined to overcome. And actually in The Chronicles, the queen came from another realm entirely, brought to Narnia by accident though in her own realm she was in no way divine or equal to Aslan.
The Salon author goes on to say that if
“Christians choose to believe that evil is an independent entity (like Satan or the White Witch of Narnia), instead of understanding, as Goldthwaite puts it, that "the darkness that is in this world we are quite adept at casting ourselves, by eclipsing God's will with our own," they are lapsing into heresy. The true belief of Christianity is that God created everything and that because God is good, all creation is good. Evil arises when human beings exercise their free will by turning away from God and putting their own pride first. For purely evil creatures to exist, God would have had to create them, and God does not create evil.”
So believing in Satan is heretical now? Creation was all good at the moment of creation. Evil did arise from God’s creation in the form of Satan and the rest of the Fall. Satan is not “purely evil” in the sense that he has always been thus. He was once a servant of God too. I wouldn’t swear that the same was true of the witch, but I think that’s the case. I’d need to go back to my copy of the Magician’s Nephew where she first appears.
In closing she says
“So when the film of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" opens, and if it's good, and if millions of children see it and fall in love with it, what they will love about the film, and the books if they seek them out, will be Narnia's equivalent of "the snow and the snow-shoes, beavers and canoes, warpaths and wigwams." If they don't realize that all this supposedly conceals a Christian message like a drop of monotheistic medicine concealed in a spoonful of pagan sugar, we'll be foolish to think they've been duped. If they're like the generations of children before them, they won't see or learn the lesson Lewis was trying to teach. Instead they'll see battles and adventure and magic -- and who's to say that's not what really counts? “
Which leaves me a bit confused. In her opening she says that she felt betrayed by the drop of “monotheistic medicine” but then says that the children that watch the movie won’t be duped, they’ll just see the fantastic elements and that will be enough. If all they see are the fantastic elements that’s fine and I think that would please Lewis. Sure he wanted to paint a picture of Christ and His creation. That’s not anti-Christian or heretical. Painters, sculptors, and authors have been doing it for centuries. But he also wanted a fairy story that could be enjoyed by children of all ages. I think if you get just the fairy part, that’s fine but if you’re in any way educated you’ll also get the rest which is just grand.