Reflections on Narnia
By Ted Baehr with James Baehr
The first thing I would say as a Christian about the upcoming Narnia film is that no Christians should have much to say about it until they see it. Certainly, many people have seen bits and pieces of the final work, but until the film is complete, we must reserve judgment to preserve our integrity. Making Narnia into a movie is a process that requires the greatest care, and every Christian will be watching and hoping that Walden Media and Disney have given it just that. A failure to authentically portray Narnia will be an aching disappointment, so our hopes and prayers are with its makers.
But, the wonderful thing is that we can talk about Narnia, what the film should be, and what it will be if it fulfills our expectations. We can talk about C.S. Lewis and the powerful, life changing message of Mere Christianity that he spread in story. And, we can talk about those first few moments we opened The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, feeling pine needles against our skin and hearing the crunch of snow underfoot.
It’s been a long time since that moment for me. I’ve done a lot since, including writing and compiling a book on Narnia that’s just been released by Broadman & Holman: Narnia Beckons. But, it’s a fresh memory because it was a defining moment. I grew up far from God and scornful of Christians. When someone challenged me to read the Bible, I did it expecting to find new opportunity for scorn. The Bible’s words live, though, and they transformed my life in the reading.
As a new Christian, I didn’t know who to look to for my theology. I was so excited about the faith that I enrolled at the nearest mainline seminary. Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, this may have been one of the most liberal seminaries in America. A leader in this mainline institution once grabbed my arm and told me, “We don’t believe in a theology of conversion.” I did, because I had been blind and then I saw. I had been converted. So, I needed different spiritual fathers. C.S. Lewis was one for me. His works of layman’s theology are among the greatest introduction to the faith ever put to paper. His fictional stories make that theology live in hearts and imaginations. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe does just that.
When we open up the wardrobe, we find a world not unlike our own. This is a world in bondage. Eternal winter prevails. Lewis’s story is so unlike many in the dramatic genre, though. Instead of a climax 80% through the novel, we know 30% into the telling that the winter is ending. Rumor has it that Aslan is on the move. The snow begins to melt. There are several chapters to go before that glorious ending, but we know that it is coming.
This is a fantastical world, but it is one not unlike our own. Christians can live confidently in the here-and-now, aware of the victory God has provided on the cross. We know the end of the story even while the struggle continues. The snow is melting. The glory is approaching.
This is just one example among dozens of Lewis’s imbuing theology in simple story, and it’s something the secular press doesn’t really understand about Narnia. What make it special are not the fawns and centaurs, or the magic and special effects. What makes it powerful is how it reveals the relationship between God and man so vividly. Even as fiction, it makes the spiritual more real to us. Without the spiritual, Narnia would be a second-rate fairy tale. With it, it’s filled with a meaning beyond its making.
In fact, many people overlook Lewis’s greatest literary accomplishment in the character of Aslan. The reason they do so is because Aslan the lion comes across as such an authentic representation of Christ that we forget he was written. We begin to see him as God because his voice sounds so much like God’s voice. The reason for this is clear, for those with eyes to see. Lewis had a relationship with God. He knew what God’s voice sounded like. He could reduce it to writing and retain its majesty. In many ways, the character of Aslan is inspired.
Your experience going to see the upcoming film will be enriched by a deeper understanding of Lewis and the books. Read all The Chronicles of Narnia and enjoy them. Some of my children’s earliest memories are of my wife and me reading them The Chronicles. Then, read the deep introduction and expert commentary in my book, Narnia Beckons: C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – and Beyond. Or find the work of another expert or thinker or lover of Lewis. Make sure you and your family understand the strong theological basis so you can actively watch and enjoy the film.
Lewis worried about the making of a film about Narnia. Once, a woman visited Lewis to discuss dramatizing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lewis responded unequivocally, “Aslan is a divine figure and anything remotely approaching the comic (anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy.”
So our hopes and prayers are with the makers of this film, and it’s ironic that Disney is one of them. Make it true. It means a lot to a very many people.
Order your copy of Dr. Ted Baehr's book, Narnia Beckons: C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Beyond
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Watch for CBN.com's special Chronicles of Narnia Section coming soon!
Order your copy of The Chronicles of Narnia
Order your copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Dr. Ted Baehr is the author of What Shall We Watch Tonight?, Frodo and Harry, Fairth in God and Generals, The Media-Wise Family, Getting the Word Out, and other books. He is the publisher of MovieGuide ®, and the Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission™ ministry. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to www.movieguide.org. Used with permission.
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