Sujet: Lewis's Beloved Narnia
De: tothesource
Date: 23 Nov 2005 09:58:37 -0800

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November 22, 2005  

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Dr. Anne Carson Daly

"In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." So writes C. S. Lewis, who later became one of the twentieth-century's leading Christian apologists. An author of brilliance, clarity, humor, and charm, Lewis wrote successfully for scholars, theologians, the man in the street, and perhaps, most surprisingly, for children. None of his works is more beloved by them than The Chronicles of Narnia. This seven-book series begins with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a symbolic re-telling of the Christ story. The much-anticipated movie, which bears the same name as this first book, will open in theaters in the United States on
December 9.

Lewis's admirers are hoping the film will accurately reflect his Christian sensibility and not fall prey to the "dumbing down" and emptying out that often accompany the secularization of spiritual classics. The fact that Douglas Gresham, Lewis's stepson, is deeply involved in the movie's production gives cause to hope that the film will be true to the spirit of its remarkable creator.

Clive Staples Lewis, who as a child re-named himself "Jacksie"–later "Jack"—was one of the best-known and most influential writers of the previous century. Translated into at least thirty languages, his works have sold more than two hundred million copies worldwide—with the Narnia stories accounting for half that number. Nearly all of Lewis's thirty-eight books are still in print, and for decades they have sold more than a million copies a year around the globe.

Born in 1898 in Belfast to a middle-class, Protestant (Church of Ireland) family, he fought briefly in World War I, graduated with a brilliant record from Oxford, and then taught English Literature there for nearly thirty years.

A man of great erudition, sterling prose, terrific humor, and heroic kindness, this intellectual giant was not only an expert in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, but also, as his great friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, put it, "a scholar, a poet, a philosopher" and "after a long pilgrimage," a "lover…of Our Lord."

Lewis's evolution into a one-man army in defense of orthodoxy—was neither quick nor easy. Although raised as a Christian, Lewis had, by his teens, become a "convinced atheist," considering Christianity on the same level as Norse mythology—and preferring the latter.

Through reading G. K. Chesterton and discussions with believers, Lewis became a Theist in his late twenties, but it took an amazing late-night conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien, to convince Lewis of the divinity of Christ. This was all the more remarkable because Lewis had been raised "never to trust a Papist" or a philologist—and Tolkien was both. On September 19, 1931, Lewis finally accepted Christ when Tolkien convinced him that Christianity was not —as he had thought—only a myth, but a story that had actually happened. From then on, Lewis believed that the "myth" had indeed become fact, and as the Gospel of John so beautifully puts it, "the Word was made Flesh."

A couple of years later, Lewis, Tolkien, and some other friends formed the Inklings, a group that met several times a week—in Lewis's rooms and at a local pub, "The Eagle and Child"--to read their unpublished work aloud and to discuss matters of the moment. Many of Lewis's books and much of Tolkien's now-famous Lord of the Rings were first read to and discussed by this highly literate group.

During this time, Lewis, a committed Anglican, began to distinguish himself as a defender or orthodox Christianity with The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Weight of Glory. He also wrote a space trilogy, "smuggling in," as he put it, quite a bit of theology.

But how did a childless bachelor immersed in scholarship come to write classics for children? Perhaps listening to Tolkien's Ring Trilogy encouraged Lewis to try his hand at a fairy tale. Indeed, both of them had agreed that since no one wrote the kind of stories they liked to read, they would have to write some themselves! Even as a child, Lewis had loved and written stories about animals performing gallant deeds. A further impetus may have been the arrival of four children who came to stay with him after being evacuated from London during World War II. Amazed at how few stories they knew, Lewis began to write a tale about children who had gone to stay with an old professor who lived alone in the country.

Later he picked up that thread, impelled by images of "a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen in a sledge, and a magnificent lion" that kept coming to his mind. On a conscious level, Lewis also said he wanted to answer the question, "What might Christ be like if there really were a world like Narnia and he chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as he actually has done in ours?"

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, published in 1950, answers that question by telling the tale of four children who accidentally enter Narnia through a magic wardrobe. With their help, the great lion Aslan (a Christ figure) redeems Narnia by breaking the power of the evil White Witch who has made it "always winter,…but…never Christmas."

Through Lewis's faith, imagination, and humor, his books have won a following worldwide. They continue to win hearts for Christ and have built a bridge of understanding among Christians, especially between Evangelicals and Catholics. In fact, the late Pope paid the author of The Chronicles of Narnia the ultimate compliment when John Paul II said, Lewis "knew what his apostolate was. And he did it!"

That is a tribute that Lewis, whose life and work flowed from recognition that "the Word was made Flesh,” would certainly have been quick to appreciate.

Responses to Remade in Our Image:

Super article. One of the best ever from tothesource. All the questions asked were hard ones and deserve our utmost attention. Some of the issues raised have some disturbing consequences. Others need careful consideration before moving forward. However, it was the first question upon which we are stumbling...and until we resolve how we want to answer it, the answers to the others make very little difference. Does human life have intrinsic value simply because it is human? The "sanctity/equality of life ethic" holds that all human beings have equal moral worth, regardless of their abilities or capacities. The author goes on to assert: This objective standard is now threatened by "personhood theory," which holds that rights only belong to "persons," a status earned by possessing minimal cognitive capacities. I would agree that the "personhood theory" has some disturbing consequences. But there i s an issue that proceeds even that. And that is, I don't believe we universally hold that all humans have equal moral worth; or, that life is all that sacred. A prime example is the disregard for human life in Iraq. We are, as we should be, very concerned about the lives of the American Armed Forces in Iraq, but there seems to be very little, if any, concern for the hundreds of thousands Iraqi children, teens, women and men, young and old, who are being killed and maimed because of this war. Yes, under the previous regime life wasn't sacred at all, but we haven't changed that perception, even if we call ourselves Christian or God-fearing. Little evidence of the sacredness and value of human life here. Another prime example is the debate about torture, the chief proponent of which is the Vice-President. Where is the sanctity and value of life here. Those of us who call Jesus Lord can not support the wholesale slaughter of fellow humans (no matter who is doing the slaughtering) nor the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering on a fellow child of God and still say we are Christens. Until we resolve these large, glaring inconsistencies about the sanctity of human life, and that as members of God's Kingdom we affirm that all persons are of worth and value to God and then treat them as such, the "personhood theory" and issue, and indeed the rest of Mr. Smith's questions are at best moot and at worse hypocritical. - P. G.

All through the Old Tesatment God sent warning shots to get the people to wake up and return to him. Today warning shots are being fired all around us and yet we keep over looking them. God is not going to over look our stupitity forever, and he his not going to allow man to go beyond his boundries. Lets quite worring about what man is going to do and worry about saving the lost. Hell will be real and lost souls will be real. The plan for salvation is simple and is found in Acts 2:38-39 spread this message and the rest will take care of itself. - T. S.

Most of your articles have a critical flaw... the lack of citation or source. For example, I attend UC Davis, and if transhumanism was truly a new social movement, and not a small group of crackpots on the web, I guarantee you we'd be discussion it on this campus. - E. P.

Responses to Prodigal Parents :

In response to the letter on the blight of divorce; it seems to me that the whole question of divorce and remarriage is moot unless we recognize that it is not the blight of our age, it is the symptom. Until we experience a spiritual /biblical /moral revival in the west we will see an increase in symptomatic reflexes of our helpless efforts in dealing with the social cost of sin. Likewise the sin of Sodom. Genesis 13:13 and 18: refer to the exceeding wickedness of the anti diluvian age. Destruction of the race followed. Ezekiel 16:49 describes the problem of Sodom that led to the wicked symptoms of sin and ultimately their destruction. ie. Pride, affluence, idleness, and selfishness. It reminds us much of our age with its idle, self absorbed, stutting sissies. There are more; abortion, gambling, single parenthood, prostitution, and still there are more. We can mount pyretic crusades against them all, but they are symptoms of the real issue. We are self centered, affluent sinners in need of The Savior living in a society which has rejected the biblical mandates for life. It remains to be seen if destruction will come from outside of our culture, or if we self destruct socially because of moral decay. The historical record would seem to indicate that the destruction will come. - R. C.

From a Christian viewpoint I am outraged that in today's churches NO ONE seems to have the courage to start a massive counter offensive, based on Jesus' clear teaching against divorce and remarriage, against this most devastating cancer called "Divorce and Remarriage"... - H. F.

H.F. is outraged at the church's silence on the issues of marriage break-up and divorce. Yes, that is an outrage. However, statistics would indicate that a high percentage of children who are now entering adulthood have been abused in one form or another. Why is the church silent on such issues as both parents being employed outside of the home? Why has the church succumbed to the materialism of our day? Why has our Chrsitian theology not spoken up against the worship of themodern American concept of individualism? THe list goes on and on. Divorce is merely teh tip of the iceberg. - L. F.

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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Anne Carson Daly
Carson Daly is a writer and former professor of English who lives in the Washington, D. C. area. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College, magna cum laude, with a B. A. in English and History, and earned her M. A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Daly has taught English Literature—including courses on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien--at the University of Notre Dame and at Georgetown University. She has published many articles; delivered numerous lectures both here and abroad; and has appeared frequently on television and radio.
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