Friday, February 24, 2006

The Two Gospels of Narnia

The wonderful movie, "The Chronicles of Narnia" starts out with the frightening scene of German bombers flying over London during World War II. The fear of the bombs and the hurry to find shelter creates conflict in the Pevensie family as they berate and belittle one another. This is a perfect introduction to the Christian gospel message which brings hope to God's dysfunctional family throughout the world.

The movie's director, Andrew Adamson, himself has said, "So I've really tried to make the story about a family which is disenfranchised and disempowered in World War II, that on entering Narnia, through their unity as a family become empowered at the end of the story. It's really bringing the humanity of the characters into what is effectively a symbolic story."

The brunt of most of this conflict falls on Edmund, the younger brother. As the family is hurrying to get to the protection of the backyard bomb shelter, Edmund runs back into the house to save the framed photograph of his father who has left the family to fight in the war. During and after this heroic attempt to save the image of his father Edmund is criticized by his siblings.

Peter: (grabs Edmund) Come on! To the shelter, now! Susan: (grabs things from next to her bed with a flashlight, notices Lucy in bed): Lucy, come on! Lucy! (Pevensies are running to the shelter, we hear them shouting, Hurry up! and RUN!.) Edmund turns around, as if forgetting something. Edmund: Wait, dad! (Run inside, grabs picture gets blown against the wall) Peter: Come on idiot (Throws Edmund onto the ground and starts shouting) Why do you always have to be so selfish! You only think about yourself. Why can't you ever do as you're told!

When Edmund reaches the photograph it has fallen to the floor and the glass has shattered, distorting the image of their Father. To me, and I hope to the producers of the movie as well, this shattered image represents the image of God, our Father in heaven. The bombs falling outside represent the cares of the world that are trying to distract us from loving one another as we reflect His image of love.

With the Pevensie father gone off to the war, Peter is left in charge. I think that Peter represents the Law of Moses. The Law ruled Israel in God's stead. The Law was an expression of the character of God. Notice how Peter is consistently commanding and condemning until his "fatherhood" is replaced by Aslan.

Edmund: If Dad were here, the war would be over, and we wouldn't have to go Peter: If dad wasn't fighting and the war was over we wouldn't have to go. Mrs. Pevensie: You will listen to your brother, won't you Edmund? Mrs. Pevensie (to Peter): Look after the others Peter: I will mum

Peter: Why don't you just stop it, you always have to make everything worse. Grow up! Edmund (gets angry): Shut up! You think you're dad, but you're not! (storms out)

(The children are looking at the broken window and the suit of armor on the floor) Peter: Well done, Ed!

Peter: You little liar!

Peter: Well I don't think the professor will mind. And if you think about it logically we are not even taking them out of the wardrobe. (Hands coat to Edmund) Edmund: But that's a girl's coat! Peter: I know.

Peter: Ed, time to go- Ed? (looks around the room) I'm going to kill him.

Susan: This is all your fault! None of this would have happened if you had just listened to me in the first place! Peter: So you knew this would happen? Susan: I didn't know what would happen... Lucy: Stop, this fighting isn't going to help Edmund Beaver: She's right. Only Aslan can save him now.

Susan: Wait, maybe we should think about this. Peter: We don't have time. Susan: I was just trying to be realistic Peter: No, you're trying to be usual!

This theme of the shattered image is repeated later in the film when a framed picture of Tumnus' father is found shattered on the ground after his near betrayal of Lucy. Sin, throughout the movie, is the result of forgetting the Father's love, the shattered image. In London the children sin because of their father's absence and in Narnia sin is the result of Aslan's absence. With Aslan's return the eternal Winter finally melts into Spring. Aslan is the perfect representation of the Father's (Emperor's) love.

(Lucy looks at picture) Tumnus: Oh... That is my father. Lucy: He had a nice face. You look just like him. Tumnus: No, we're not alike at all really. Lucy: My father is fighting in the war. Tumnus: My father went away to war too... but that was a very long time ago... before this dreadful winter.

(They all run to Tumnus' house) Lucy: Who would do something like this? (Edmund steps on broken picture of Tumnus's dad)

The theme of the return to God's love is portrayed through the transformation of Edmund. He is the only one who risks all to go back into the house to save the photograph of his father. The rest criticize him for this "selfish" act. Edmund has lost his father's love and is not loved by his brother and sisters. When he comes to Narnia, the land of redemption, he falls prey to the evil queen's temptation when she seems to provide Edmund with the love that he has lost.

Eventually, the queen's love proves false and Edmund is lost in hopelessness. This despair is illustrated by his isolation and imprisonment in the queen's castle. Finally, Edmund is transformed by Aslan's declaration of love for him as demonstrated by his sacrificial death in Edmond's place. Aslan's love also transforms the other children as they warmly accept Edmond just as Aslan, himself, has accepted him.

Professor: Well then, if your sister isn't lying and isn't mad then logically we must assume that she is telling the truth. She's your sister, isn't she? You're a family! It's high time you start acting like one!

Peter: It is my fault really. I was too hard on him. Susan: We all were.

Aslan: What's done is done. There is no reason to bring up the past with your brother. Edmund: Hello... Lucy: Oh, Edmund (Hugs him and Susan does too) Susan: How are you feeling? Edmund: I'm feeling kinda tired Peter: Get some rest...and Edmund try not to wander off again.

Edmund: Then you'll have to lead us. There's a whole army out there waiting to follow you. Peter: I can't Edmund: Aslan believed you could. And so do I.

The triumph of grace over law is expressed in Narnia by the triumph of the Deeper Magic over the Deep Magic. This partially explained in the movie, but is especially clear in the book itself. The witch was only familiar with the Law and could not see the grace that the law was predicting. Law condemns and leads to failure. Grace believes accepts and leads to love for ourselves and each other.

Peter: There is a Deep Magic that rules over Narnia. It defines right from wrong and helps us fulfill destinies, both yours and mine.

Jadis: You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan (Everyone gasps) Aslan: His offence was not against you. White Witch : Have you forgotten the Deep Magic ? Aslan : Do not cite the Deep Magic to me , Witch . I was there when it was made . White Witch : Then you will know that the boy belongs to me . ( turns to crowd ) That boy ( points to Edmund ) will die on the Stone Table . Peter : Come and take it then . White Witch : You think that a simple threat will deny me my right , little king ? Aslan knows that if I do not have blood as the law demands, all of Narnia will be overturned, and perish, in fire and water . Aslan : Enough , I shall talk with you alone . (time passes and the Witch exits tent) Aslan: The Witch has denounced her claim on Edmund

Aslan: If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the Deep Magic a little differently. For she would know that if a willing victim who had committed no treachery died in a traitor's stead, the Stone Table would crack and death itself would begin to unwind.

"But where is the forth?" asked Aslan.
"He has tried to betray them and joined the White Witch, O Aslan," said Mr. Beaver.
And then something made Peter say,
"That was partly my fault, Aslan. I was angry with him and I think that helped him to go wrong."And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.

p 128, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

p162, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

Zechariah 3:1

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

Revelation 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

John 8:44

" You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Luke 15:27-32

"And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ''But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

Titus 3:3

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

Titus 3:4-5

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

James 2:13

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Matthew 5:48

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 6:36

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"The danger of our guilt, both personal and collective, is less that we won't take it to heart than that we'll take it to heart overmuch and let it fester there in ways that we ourselves often fail to recognize. We condemn in others the wrong we don't want to face in ourselves. We grow vindictive against the right for showing up our wrong as wrong. The sense of our own inner brokenness estranges us from the very ones who could help patch us together again. We steer clear of setting things right with the people we have wronged since their mere presence is a thorn in our flesh. Our desire to be clobbered for our guilt and thus rid of it tempts us to do things we will be clobbered for. The dismal variations are endless. More often than not, guilt is not merely the consequence of wrongdoing but the extension of it. " Pp 34-35, Wishful Thinking, A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner.

Okay, so now you're probably wondering why I entitled this article, "The Two Gospels Of Narnia"? In the movie, the story should have been over when the family was restored by the love of Aslan. Instead, there is this huge battle that seems to go on forever. This battle even has an image of the eagles dropping rocks on the enemies of Narnia which calls to mind the Germans dropping bombs on London. This is the second gospel; the gospel of the world. Freedom and peace come from force. This is the Law. This is the Old Message. The New Way is that freedom and peace are the result of resting in God's love for us.

Director Andrew Adamson said in this regard, “The battle is a page and a half of retrospective. I remember this epic battle and when I went back and reread it, I was looking for it. C.S. Lewis wrote in a way that relied on your imagination. He created very evocative imagery but the only things he really described in great details were small details. He would talk about the food in great detail and then breeze over a huge battle."

In the book there is one brief chapter devoted to the battle. It's almost as if Lewis is embarrassed by this warlike aspect of modern Christianity.

I really loved this movie; up until the battle scene. The gospel of force of the final act completely negated the gospel of love which was so well portrayed in the first two acts. The time for war is over and now we are to live out the gospel of peace on earth.

Matthew 11:12

" From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force."


At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well interpreted and sightful Bill.


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