Puddleglum’s Theology

I’d like you to consider a brief theological statement from The Silver Chair, one of the Narnia novels of C.S. Lewis.

To set the stage: our heroes are prisoners of the Witch in her dark and dreary Underworld, and she’s trying to convince them that Narnia, the world on the surface, under the sun and sky, does not exist. To help her do this, she has cast a magic spell on them. (Magic is a wonderful short-cut. That’s why I don’t use it in my Bell Mountain novels.) But even with the magic in play, Puddleglum continues to resist her evil teaching. And this is what he says.

“…I won’t deny any of what you’ve said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars, and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. [For “Aslan” read “Jesus Christ”–editor.] I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia…”

I have always liked the sound of this, but lately–I guess in light of recent current events–I’m not sure what to make of it.

It’s hard to see Christ’s Kingdom in this fallen world; but can we even entertain the notion that Christ’s Kingdom isn’t real? No, we can’t–because God has said it’s real. Let God be true, but every man a liar. (Romans 3:4) This fallen world, this “real” world, where everything “is what it is,” where you can’t fight city hall–we have God’s word for it that this world shall pass away: but Christ’s Kingdom shall not pass away. Instead, as God promised Daniel, it will grow into a measureless mountain which “shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

Knowing that C.S. Lewis believed God’s word, how do you interpret Puddleglum’s statement?

7 comments on “Puddleglum’s Theology

  1. Great comment, and one that I fully agree with. I choose to believe God,
    as there is nothing in this fallen world that is believable. Not only that, but when we experience His voice and touch, nothing in the world is as real as that.

  2. I think that Puddlegum is right on the money. If our faith in God’s word is misplaced, what are we left with? There’s nothing in this fallen world which appeals to me. Were I suddenly to become wealthy, I might be able to address some practical problems and make life easier for loved ones, but I would still live in a world which is like the Witch’s dreary underworld. Even if I lived in the best circumstances possible there would still be unspeakable horror happening around the world and my loved ones would still face illness and death.

    The situation for the attack of Gog of Magog is shaping up around us. Many of the very nations mentioned are swiftly forming alliances and the lands of Syria and Lebanon are filled with warriors and their hardware. A major realignment has taken place just in the last few weeks which sees Turkey (many of the names mentioned in Ezekiel 38 are ancient place-names in what is now known as Turkey) allied with Iran, AKA Persia. Virtually every faction of the Middle East is represented somewhere in Syria and every one of them is an enemy of Israel itself.

    If my faith is misplaced and the Bible is a made up reality, it is an amazing illusion, complete with a military buildup predicted thousands of years ago.

    1. As the puzzle pieces fall into place, we see the middle east with hooks in their jaws for sure. There are events happening daily which seem to put Ezekiel 38 ever closer.

      You’re right, Unknowable. If God’s Word were not true, world events would certainly be one doozy of an illusion!

  3. It certainly looks as if there is a gathering of many nations just north of Israel, as part of the Syrian conflict. I hope that our president chooses not to participate in that invasion.

  4. I’ve had trouble with some of C.S. Lewis’s theology myself in the past, including this stand by Puddleglum. I became a Christian because I believed that Christianity was true, not because it was nicer than atheism. To say “I don’t care whether it’s true or not” is essentially to doubt or even disbelieve.

    I’ve also objected to Lewis’s portrayal of “Mere Christianity” as being the parlor where the basics are, and all the adjoining rooms hold the different variants on basic Christianity, so that we try the different rooms until we find the one that’s most right for us. To me, that smacked of relativism or syncretism — again, not what’s true, but what’s most comfortable to ME. But if a thing is true, it’s true whether I like it or not; and if a thing is false, it’s false whether I like it or not.

    There’s a lot of good stuff in C.S. Lewis. But there’s some questionable stuff as well. I think it may be more a matter of his lapses into preciosity than his lapses of faith.

    1. He had a very long way to go, just to get to the stage of Christian faith he finally reached. His friend Tolkien–who tried to attend mass every day–warned him about some of things things you mentioned. The one that makes me cringe is in “The Last Battle,” when the Professor says, “It’s all in Plato!” Ugh.

      Even so–it does not hurt to have in one’s faith an element of “I’ll never give it up, no matter what!” That, I think, it what Puddleglum was driving at.

      Of course it’s true whether we like it or not. Of course it’s true even if some sophist can debate rings around us.

  5. In Luke 17:21 Jesus said “The kingdom of God is within you” – sounds tangible to me. In I Cor 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Then there is always Pascal’s Wager.

    Yes, this world is going to pass away, but it is not the Maya of Hinduism where this world is just an illusion and doesn’t count. The judgment seat of Christ is what makes this world definitely count.and super relevant.

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