Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Problem With Narnia

I just finished rereading the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, and found them generally satisfying (if a little simplistic to an adult reader) adventure stories. But that is perhaps an unfair criticism and aside from the point of this post. As many are probably aware, they are written as a Christian allegory, with the lion Aslan representing a Christ figure. There are similarities, of course, if not exact parallels between Aslan in the stories, and Christ as God and Saviour.

But one detail in the final story, "The Last Battle" made me uncomfortable. It is that Emeth, a Calormene, seems to be, "saved," even though he worshipped Tash, a false and evil god, as opposed to the true God, Aslan. The Calormenes seem, in the story, to be somewhat parallel to Muslims, and therefore Tash might be thought to be a parallel to the Allah of Islam, but at various times in the stories he is more akin to Satan.

Now this opinion of mine may seem strange, in light of some of my writing in the past, and my discussions with other Christians in which I have expressed the opinion that God may indeed offer salvation to those who have never heard of Christ. But let me try to clarify here.

What I am definitely not saying is the popular liberal saw that all religions lead to God. Not at all. Nor am I saying that I believe that people can be saved by other religions. (It would be closer to the mark to say that God can save people in spite of their religion.) Of course, the truth is that no one is saved by any religion. They are saved only by the sovereign grace of God, by trusting in Him only, not by their own works or merit, but by the work and merit of one man and one man only, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

Here, then, is a quote from, "The Last Battle;" Emeth the Calormene relating his encounter with Aslan,
"But I said, 'Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.' He answered, 'Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me...
..Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites -- I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him...'"

It seems to me that anyone, even in another religion, who somehow comes to an awareness of God, would or could not continue to worship or seek the false god or teachings of his own religion. I believe he would have to come to a realization that the god he had heard about through his own religion was not the true sovereign God of the universe, and that the teachings learned in his own religion were not the entire truth. I was once asked in a Alpha course if I thought a good Buddhist might be saved. My reply was, "I don't suppose he could, but a bad Buddhist might."

I think Chesterton is closer to the point when he writes,
The savage who thinks nothing of tossing off such a trifle as a tale of the sun and moon being the halves of a baby chopped in two... will then retire to secret caverns sealed against women and white men... where... the priest whispers the final secrets, known only to the initiate: that honesty is the best policy, that a little kindness does nobody any harm, that all men are brothers and that there is but one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible. (The Everlasting Man)

Much of the nature of God can be deduced through reason. A Muslim, for instance, should be able to reason that one cannot be saved by good works. If salvation is just a matter of tilting some kind of balance by more good works than bad, how can one ever know what the tipping point is? How can any number of good works please a god who demands perfection. A Jehovah's Witness should be able to reason that Jesus must be God, elst how would his sacrifice be sufficient. A polytheist must be able to deduce that there can only be one Supreme Being, a God above all other gods, and the only one truly deserving of worship. And any atheist or agnostic should be able to deduce that there must have been a Source of all that we see, and that Source must be outside the universe and precede its existence.

But reason can only go so far. Reason might lead us to an awareness of God, but to know Him can only be because He allows us to, and only by His own revelation to us. Even reason can only make use of His common revelation, that of Romans 1 and Psalm 19 that is given to all. Those who have become born-again children of His will know that it was by no accomplishment of their own that they were saved. It was God alone, and by His sole prerogative, who opened the eyes of our hearts, filled us with His Holy Spirit and gave us new life.

But back to my original subject. I am not saying that a person in Emeth's religion could not have been saved. I am also not insisting that they can; I just don't rule it out. But I think they could not, in all conscience, have continued to worhsip Tash. They would have to have doubts. They would then have to have believed there was another; a One True God. They would then have to have begun to seek the Him. And that One True God might then, if their seeking was genuine, have rewarded them. (Hebrews 11:6, Deut 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13

Take Care


Warren said...

I have heard the comment a number of times that people who would not hesitate to take others to task for theological positions they disagree with are willing to give Lewis a pass. That said, I have many of Lewis's books on my bookshelf and have benefited greatly from his writing.

John K said...

I love Lewis too, but again, the only inspired writing is the Bible itself. I find the first half of Mere Christianity brilliant, but shake my head sometimes at the second half, about us being little gods, etc.