Friday, December 15, 2006

Chronicles of Narnia an Abomination?

Someone asked me to "check out" Cobblestone Road Ministries' "Beware of Narnia" webpage since we include The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe in our curriculum.

I thought I should check it out.

The referenced article begins with a quotation from Romans 1:21-23 in the King James Version: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." The underscore was (and is) in the original on the "Beware of Narnia" webpage. . . . I had an idea where the article was going. The "four-footed beast" could be none other than Aslan, the Lion. . . .

The article is exceptionally long, so I wrote back: "Obviously, that's a long article, and it pretty well 'challenges' much--very much--of what we are "all about" here at Sonlight. So I'm going to have to take a fair bit of time, first, to read the article, then to digest it, meditate on it, pray over it, and decide how to respond."

It took over a week, but I finally replied in some depth.
Dear ____:

Having now taken a lot of time to go through the article you asked us to "check out," I realize I may have misunderstood your purpose. Was this an article you wanted to recommend to us because you thought we should stop carrying The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and/or (since we have carried it at various times) the entire Chronicles of Narnia set? Or because you found the article troubling, and you wanted our perspective? Or . . . ?

I assumed the second purpose: that you weren't really sure whether you ought to "buy" the critical author's perspective or not.

On that assumption, then, I tried to read and prayerfully consider what the author has to say.

My general impression: s/he has legitimate reasons for concern if. . . .

The problem is (in my mind), the "if" in that sentence--his or her assumptions--ultimately don't hang together.

I think, in the end, I am left with the impression that this person is using the Chronicles of Narnia primarily as a foil--something to enhance by way of contrast--some important points s/he really could (and, in my opinion, should) make by other means.

For example, I think s/he has a good point: we and our children need to study the Bible; the Bible has tremendous value; it is the primary source from and by which we should be seeking to know God; let us not become so distracted with other possible "sources" of knowledge about God that we fail to understand God as He reveals Himself in His Word; and so forth.

These are all good, necessary, valid and valuable points. But when, as it seems, s/he suggests that the Chronicles of Narnia are of the Devil himself, I am afraid s/he goes too far.

Rather than working my way through the article "point by point" (which is what I did until about a third or halfway through the article), I would like to call your attention to only a few illustrative matters. If you want more, I will be happy to provide more.

I would like to begin with a comment found somewhere about a third of the way through the article:
In Lewis' novels, there are many mythical creatures described. This, my dear friends, is an abomination. God did not make such creatures.
My response: If a potential reader of the Narnia series is so lacking in discernment that s/he might mistake the fantasy/fiction world for the real, then I think the author has a point. But if the potential reader is able to discern the two, I don't understand the author's objection. Does s/he really intend to condemn all imaginative mind-play? Are "thought-experiments"--which, in my opinion, is one legitimate way of thinking of any and all works of fiction . . . --Are thought experiments all abominations?

Did Albert Einstein engage in an abominable practice when he said (something along the lines of), "Imagine you were riding a beam of light . . ." --Does the author of this critical article really intend to condemn such thought-experiments as "abominations"?

After all, "God did not make you capable of riding a beam of light! . . ." --Isn't that the gist of the author's criticism: the description of anything that God did not make is an abomination?

If his/her criticism is valid, however, then every child who "makes believe"--the little girl who dresses as "a princess" or who "has tea" with her dolls; or the little boy who plays with toy trucks and makes "motor" sounds with his voice-- . . . According to the author of this article, every such child is engaged in an "abomination" or an "abominable practice." Right?

I'm sorry. I don't buy it.


Just a couple more examples, and then I'll quit.


The real question is will Christian children even have faith after reading the series? The Bible says that, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." [Romans 10:17]
From my perspective: I know of no one who would recommend replacing the Bible with the Narnia series, or who would suggest that the Narnia series can serve as a replacement for the Bible.

Now. I could imagine someone complaining, "But any time spent reading the Narnia series is time away from the Bible!"

Yes. And so is any time spent talking with friends. Or telling stories around the dinner table, and so forth. All of those pursuits take time away from reading the Bible. . . .

Does the author of the article really and truly believe that we should do nothing but read the Bible all day? Or, if and when we read, the only thing we should read is the Bible?

If s/he believes that there are other works besides the Bible that one might read, does s/he truly believe--as his/her statements make it sound s/he believes--that the Narnia series ought to be on the list of works specifically proscribed?
2 Cor 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

God's Word reveals to us everything we need to know.
The Bible reveals to us everything we need to know for salvation. But if God's Word reveals everything we need to know, then there was and is no need for the author's article. No need for books about how to write HTML code. No need for books about science or math or linguistics or Hebrew or Greek or anything. Just the Bible.
Redemption is the message of the entire bible.
Yes. Agreed.
We do not need fiction to convey this.
Okay. But does the author believe it is wrong to have more than we need, to develop more than we need? By way of illustration:

Was the inventor of the telephone in sin for having created that instrument--an instrument that, in very truth, we don't need? (Unless we are looking for medical help in a life-threatening emergency, or . . . )

How about the inventor of the dishwasher?

Or of eyeglasses?

I mean, if we were to quote Scripture on the matter, isn't it true that all we "need" is basic food and clothing, and with that only, we should be content (1 Timothy 6:8)? . . . If we were to take 1 Timothy 6:8 a bit more literally than I believe we ought, then we don't need and ought not to be seeking to live in homes, right?

But suppose we grant ourselves food, clothing and shelter: according to the author, are we in sin if we own or develop or enjoy more than these things? (That's what his/her "argument" sounds to me as if it is saying. . . . )
We need to read God's words. . . .
Absolutely! (Well: to be literally correct, we need, at least, to hear God's Word/words.) Yes. Okay. Right. And so? . . . What's the point? I know of no one in the Christian community who would dispute this statement. . . .


I could go on, but I'm afraid I would bore you.

In sum, I believe the person who wrote the article to which you called our attention: that person has gone "too far" in his or her zeal to uphold the value of Bible study, Bible meditation, Bible memorization, and so forth. All of these practices and disciplines are of great value. But not, I'm afraid, so great that we should criticize every work of fiction, every child who plays a game of imagination, every person who reads anything besides the Bible . . .

Those are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

Thanks for writing.

I hope I may have been of some help to you--or to someone else--today.


John Holzmann
I think I should add some comments.

I read the Cobblestone page and found myself disturbed by its apparently extreme statements, which, when analyzed, hardly seem to make sense. I mean, really: Is the author ready to condemn children's (or adults') imaginative play? Is the use of imagination wicked?

Yet. Yet.

I admire the author's intense desire to do right, to be right.

Perhaps the Scripture passage makes sense in this context: "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise" (Ecclesiastes 7:16; KJV; or, in NIV: "Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise").

And one final word of warning.

One woman wrote, "I have never allowed the Narnia series in our home. I read them all as a Junior High student (they were in the public school library) and they led me directly into occult interests--witches, spells, etc. . . . Just my experience."

I find her testimony cautionary and sobering, at least.
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