A Brief Defense of C.S. Lewis (and Narnia)

Tom Baker as Puddleglum in the classic BBC production of The Silver Chair… One of my favorite Narnians

I still get comments from Christians who think The Chronicles of Narnia are rubbish and their author, C.S. Lewis, just two shades short of being an out-and-out pagan.

Well, his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, warned him: put all those fauns and centaurs and river gods in Narnia–and Bacchus, of all things!–and readers are going to think there’s something not quite right about your Christianity. Worse, in the Narnia finale, The Last Battle, he has the old Professor say, “It’s all in Plato!” I love these books, but that line makes me cringe.

Nevertheless, I am here to plead with Narnia-knockers–please, give the man a break! He was an academic, surrounded by other academics along with college students. He could have just as easily wound up worshiping a box of rubber bands. That he had any Christianity at all is cause for celebration.

There is Christian gold in Narnia. It’s not hard to find. If you don’t care for it, only a fool tries to convince someone that he ought to like something that he doesn’t like. But at least grant me this:

For a man who started out as an atheist and was a college professor for most of his life, old “Jack” Lewis did just fine.

14 comments on “A Brief Defense of C.S. Lewis (and Narnia)

  1. Sometimes for me, it is hard to understand that why people argue over fantasy and relate it to the religion. Both are two different aspects of imagination, of a person’s own mind. Religion is nowhere a fantasy or is what these people think that it is and that is why they fear of the contradiction created by themselves.

    1. Well, in the case of “Chronicles of Narnia,” C.S. Lewis wrote his fantasy as an allegory of the Christian faith. That’s why Christians argue about it.

  2. I agree! And Puddleglum is one of my favorite Narnians too. I love his speech in the Silver Chair about living as a Narnian even if there is no Narnia…a huge nugget of Christian gold in that scene, probably several really. Yes, Lewis’ work is allegorical, but it is also fantasy and a book intended for children, both of which give him some creative license. I have used old European mythology as an inspiration for some elements in my own Christian fantasy series. Lewis drew on the Greek classics and other places for his, which is not a surprise given his education background. Nowhere does he connect them with the Christian message though. The truth is all still in there, and nowhere does he tell you to worship the dryads or centaurs and fauns. At the end of the day, they all bow to Aslan, which is how it should be.

    1. I agree, but some don’t.
      My fantasy world is cobbled together out of bits of Herodotus and other ancient historians, and–I hope–steeped in the Bible.

  3. Personally, I find it easier to find Christian Worldview in C.S. Lewis’s writings. I just read the Silmarillion, one of Tolkien’s books. It has many characters, and it is very hard to keep track of them all. C.S. Lewis may have a River God, but Tolkien has Ulmo, the Lord of the Waters, another kind of god. First it started with Eru, or Iluvatar, the Father of Middle-Earth, and then he made these lesser gods called the Valar, who created things like plants and stars.

    1. The Valar are more like angels than gods. Oddly enough, Tolkien’s Middle-Earth seems to contain no pagans. But whether it’s Ulmo or the River God, both are subordinate to the great God who created them.

  4. I have read the Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, Screwtape Letters. With Chronicles I could see clearly a connection with the character of Aslan and the Lion of Judah. Mr. Lewis’ imaginative fantasy writings are so full of rich imagery and characters. For me, reading his work is a real treat. I’ve read some of his other works dealing with the Christian faith and he’s deep…..for someone coming to Christ at the age he did, he exhibited an understanding of Christ and the Bible that I’m still learning. No matter what other believers may say, Mr. Lewis was a blessing to the church and a good example of a man using his talents for God’s glory. Fifty-two years ago today he stepped into eternity to fellowship forever with his “Aslan”

  5. In The Chronicles of Narnia, I saw how Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy matured throughout the story to become the Kings and Queens of Narnia.
    You notice maturing right away in the beginning when Peter ran back for the picture for his brother. That was just one of the courageous things he did because it takes a true leader to leave a bomb shelter to retrieve a picture of his father which meant a great deal to his younger brother and for him to lead Narnia into the deadly battle against the Witch as well. Most children at that age would not think of doing acts like that. He stepped up to the challenge and embraced the dangerous tasks in front of him to protect the people he loved and cared about. When people first saw Edmund in the first scene of the story, they thought he was rather selfish and portrayed as a person who causes trouble, as we later found out he becomes more mature and helps right alongside of his brother and sister and was a key contributor in the battle over Narnia. Susan was the wisest of them all and the smartest too. She was the gentle one in the group because she was against killing and wanted to find ways to help win the battle for Narnia and would do whatever it took to protect Narnia. Lucy was the youngest of the siblings but was definitely one of the most considerate because she wanted to help in any way she could. Lucy was very kind and love helping in any way she could in any situation. If it wasn’t for Lucy Aslan would have been dead and killed at the Stone Table and Narnia would have lost the mighty King and would have fallen.
    Even though Edmund, Peter, Susan and Lucy started off as scared and young individuals, they end up being mature and caring Kings and Queens of Narnia that would protect the people and animals of their land with their lives and would never betray them.

    1. I think we have to be careful about saying things like “if it wasn’t for Lucy Aslan would have been dead.” God will carry out His designs, with or without us. Christ did not need worldly help to be risen from the dead.

      I wasn’t entirely pleased with the new Narnia films, although I very much wanted them to succeed.

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