January 9th, 2006

edog think

narnia 1: puddleglum

A couple of weeks ago, I finished up "The Chronic(what?)cles of Narnia," for the first time in probably twenty years or so. I have a set of seven well-thumbed paperbacks published in 1980, which were a Christmas gift from my parents after the old hardcover ones they had fell apart.

This reading was, to be honest, the first one in which I read the series with themes of Christianity in mind, because it's occurred to me that Lewis' version of Christianity differs from traditional doctrine. The catalyst of this idea was probably the recent phenomenon of the film being so loudly advocated by so many Christian groups, but its genesis is really unknown; I've wanted to revisit the series for a long time to figure out the nature of the doctrine being pushed by Lewis in these books. So far, I've noted quite a few departures.

The first involves the nature of faith. Some weeks back, I posed an unfortunately-worded hypo to the christianity group, essentially asking what would happen to a Christian's faith if the entire written record turned out to be hogwash. The answer I guess I expected to receive is that nothing would happen: the power of the Word is in the message communicated by the stories, not in the stories themselves. Coincidentally, this is also my personal take on it.

Some of the answers I did receive echoed this sentiment; many disputed the hypo itself ("you can't disprove the existence of a person! pwn3zd!"); but a surprising number were of the general idea that without the literal flesh-and-blood sacrifice of the perfect victim on the cross, nothing has happened to set the message apart from any other message ... in other words, that without the truth of the stories, Christianity is nothing.

When you look at it, the latter argument doesn't really say much: the flesh-and-blood sacrifice is just as much a part of the message as any other part. However, those who vocalized this type of answer were ... quite stalwart.

I think Lewis would agree with my take on it. Here's why.

In The Silver Chair, two children from our world (Jill and Eustace) are summoned into Narnia and given a task by Aslan: to find and rescue the missing Prince Rilian. The story proceeds with the children being introduced to a marsh-dwelling creature named Puddleglum, a rather somber fellow, who acts as a bare-footed guide and companion to the children on their mission.

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