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Christin Ditchfield
Author Christin Ditchfield

A Family Guide to Narnia
Family Guide to Narnia

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INTERVIEW

'Teachable Moments' in The Chronicles of Narnia

By Andrea D. Hicks
Associate Producer

CBN.com As Christians, we know the ultimate source of truth comes from the Bible. However, God can work through authors in creative ways to bring the Gospel to life.  Like Jesus, beloved author C. S. Lewis taught important spiritual lessons using parables, allegories, and “stories within stories.”  Based on his works, letters, and a concordance, author Christin Ditchfield takes the treasured Chronicles of Narnia and turns it into an easy-to-follow family devotional.  Complete with scripture references, biblical principles and parallels, plus bonus “further thought” questions, Ditchfield’s A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, people of all ages can use this as a teaching tool and accompaniment to story time.

In a recent interview, Ditchfield passionately spoke about how Lewis’s CON shaped her life and how “teachable moments” in storytelling led to this book-by-book lesson on the spiritual elements within the series.

ANDREA HICKS: You were exposed to The Chronicles of Narnia early in your childhood.  How has reading that series influenced your life? 

CHRISTIN DITCHFIELD:  I was seven when I was given my first copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It had such a profound impact on my life. I was immediately drawn into the adventures of these four children who tumble through the door of a mysterious wardrobe, only to find themselves in Narnia – an enchanted world of talking beasts, fauns, dwarfs, giants, and other creatures. Having been raised in a devout Christian home, I recognized that the great Lion, Aslan -- creator of Narnia -- was really Jesus. And that just made me love the story even more. Over the next few years, I read each of the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia more than a dozen times, until they literally fell apart! The spiritual truths, the powerful life lessons I learned from those stories, stayed with me throughout my adolescence and into my adult life.

HICKS: You dedicated this book to your Auntie Diane and Auntie Jacquie. You said reading The Chronicles of Narnia to Aunt Jacquie’s class led you to write this book. Tell me about that experience. 

DITCHFIELD: I taught in Christian schools for almost ten years. One year, my aunt asked me to tutor a group of junior high boys at her school. She suggested we read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe together as one of our literature activities. I really wondered if these kids would enjoy the story as much as I had when I was a child. They were all into video games and sports, and this was a book written 50 years ago. It’s classic literature. But the kids absolutely loved it! I couldn't believe their enthusiasm. We'd get to the end of the chapter and talk about what happened in the story. I had their full attention. It was such a "teachable moment."

Often, I found myself wanting to bring out one of the Biblical parallels in the scene or chapter we'd just read. It sounded so familiar -- I knew there was a verse about that in the Bible somewhere, but I couldn't always remember where. Was it in the Old Testament or the New? Was it something Jesus had said or the Apostle Paul? I knew if I took the time to hunt for the verse in a concordance, I'd lose the kids' attention. I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be great if there was a book that listed all of the relevant Scriptures chapter by chapter, so that teachers and parents and grandparents could just flip to the right page and have the material at their fingertips?’ Then we could make the most of those wonderful, teachable moments that come about so naturally during story time.

HICKS: Your book follows a very consistent format, with each chapter of each book discussed using a Bible verse, several biblical parallels or principles, and a question to encourage further thought. How did you come up with this format? 

DITCHFIELD: Well, as I researched the book, I realized that the Biblical truths I found in the stories seemed to fall into one of two major categories: (1) biblical parallels -- characters and events that seemed to come right out of the Bible, scenes that are nearly identical to those in Scripture -- and  (2) biblical principles -- found in scenes where we can make a more general (Scriptural) observation or draw a life lesson from the behavior of the characters. Then there were "lesser" points -- interesting comparisons between characters or events in the story and their Biblical counterparts. I turned these into "trivia" type questions that encourage the reader to explore the Scripture to make the connection. For me the goal in all of this was not to interpret literature and tell readers: ‘This is what the author meant to say,’ but rather to explore ways in which we can use a classic children's novel to communicate Biblical truth. Let the stories that C. S. Lewis told whet the reader's appetite -- give them a greater hunger for the Scriptures that inspired the books.

HICKS: How did you gather research for A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia

DITCHFIELD: Whenever possible, I referred to C. S. Lewis's writings, speeches, radio broadcasts, letters to friends, and to fans. While he preferred not to use the term "allegory" to describe The Chronicles, he openly acknowledged what he called "the story within the story." He was very clear about a lot of things, especially the fact that the great Lion Aslan is meant to be a representation of Christ. I also consulted works by noted Lewis scholars. I studied their observations and interpretations. And then I spent hours and hours with a concordance, looking up the exact location of all those familiar phrases that come right out of Scripture. If you know your Bible, you can't help but be reminded of Scripture after Scripture as you read The Chronicles of Narnia.

HICKS: How did you come up with a further thought for every chapter of every book? 

DITCHFIELD: I thought about the major theme of the chapter, the Biblical parallel or principle that seemed most profound. And I asked the question: If that theme (resisting temptation, facing fear, showing mercy) really resonated with me as a reader, where could I find more words of wisdom from the Scripture that would help me in that area of my life? If I wanted to do a more in-depth Bible study on this topic, where would I start? That's where those verses came from.

HICKS: For those who wish to use this book for the family devotional time, you recommend choosing several topics or chapters instead of reading cover to cover. Why?

DITCHFIELD: There's just so much material. It could easily be overwhelming. If you're a teacher or a home schooling parent or an adult wanting to do an in-depth study, you'll probably appreciate having so much to work with. If you really want to take your time, reading one chapter at a time, you can. There's something there in every chapter. But most families find it hard enough to find time for story time or family devotions in the first place. You don't want to turn it into a long, drawn-out lecture. Just pick a few points that seem the most interesting or relevant to you and go from there.

HICKS: If you were to use this as a study guide for yourself or your family, what would you focus on?

DITCHFIELD: Well, for each book in the original series, I've written a two page summary that gives a broad overview of the plot and the main spiritual themes of that book. If you don't have time for anything else, those two pages will give you the highlights -- the most important points. Of course, in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,  it's the story of the Gospel: "Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13)  and "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). The Magician's Nephew is the story of Creation and the Fall of Man, The Horse And His Boy is all about Divine Providence -- God at work behind the scenes. Prince Caspian teaches us to stand fast and remain faithful in dark days. The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is a story of spiritual journeys, the process of growing and maturing in our faith. The Silver Chair warns us to stay on guard and alert, so we won't be deceived by the enemy of our souls. And The Last Battle is about the end of days, the judgment and destruction of this world, and the far more glorious paradise that awaits us all.

HICKS: In recent years, using movies or books to accompany Bible studies has become popular.  Some Christians are not happy with this trend, thinking we should not focus on outside forces for biblical truth. What is your response to that line of thought?

DITCHFIELD: I think I understand the concern. Our faith can't be based on a novel or a movie or even a best-selling Bible study series by a popular preacher.  It's got to be based on the Scripture, the Word of God itself. The Bible is the ultimate authority for us as believers, and no other book is due such reverence and respect. At the same time, I have to say that I'm personally very grateful for all the wonderful books and Bible studies written by my brothers and sisters in Christ down through the ages, books in which they share what they have learned to help me grow in my own relationship with the Lord. I appreciate their wisdom and insight. I'm glad I can learn from their experiences and observations. God has given us some incredible resources through the Body of Christ.

HICKS: How did writing this book impact your spiritual walk?

DITCHFIELD: It was wonderful to reread the stories that had such an impact on me as a child and allow God to speak to me through them all over again. Spending hours and hours a day just looking up Scriptures was an incredibly powerful experience. So many times I found myself weeping as the words leapt off the page and spoke directly to my heart.

HICKS: What kind of feedback have you received?

DITCHFIELD: It's been so encouraging to hear how God has used this book to help families jumpstart their devotions. Parents tell me after reading the stories, they've prayed with their children to receive Christ. Youth leaders tell me it's helped spark some great conversations with their teens. Homeschoolers love it!  Recently, a woman shared that reading through the Family Guide with The Chronicles of Narnia really awakened in her a hunger for more of God's Word. She decided to go out and get a One Year Bible -- which she read in six months. It's changed her life! When I hear stories like that, I'm just in awe -- so grateful to have a tiny part in what God is doing.

HICKS: Who is your favorite Narnia character? Why?

DITCHFIELD: There are so many!  It's hard to choose. I think we relate to different characters at different times in our lives. But of course many of us find ourselves really identifying with Lucy. She has the heart of a disciple. She's not perfect; she makes mistakes. But she so wants to know Aslan (Jesus) in a deeper way. More than anything, she wants to be near him -- to fellowship with him -- to walk in obedience to him -- to be pleasing to him. That's my heart cry, too.

HICKS: And finally, are you planning anything special with your family or friends to celebrate the new film release of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?”

DITCHFIELD: Well, I've been doing a lot of radio and television interviews, talking about the book and the new movie. It's such an exciting time for Narnia fans. Over the next few weeks, I'll be speaking at schools, churches, and bookstores around the country -- helping prepare believers to make the most of this opportunity to share their faith with their family and friends. Then I'll be back home in time for the premiere, where I'll be attending a special showing with my family. I've been asked to share a few words with the audience afterward. We're praying that God will touch many hearts and lives.

Send Andrea your feedback.

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