Saturday, November 16, 2013

Expanding the Canon: The Chronicles of Narnia

“He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

            In my statement of faith I posted here months ago I said that I believed in Holy Scripture, both canonical and non-canonical. One of my good friends asked me what I would consider to be non-canonical Scripture. Obviously, there are a ton of books Christians use like they use Scripture (some even bring in patriotic texts into their theological formation ie. the Constitution, or just pick up a hymnal). Of course I am not putting any of the books that make my list on the same level of Scripture, merely showing my audience how these books have shaped my faith despite not being a part of the canon of Scripture. 
              Personally, a lot of CS Lewis makes my list, but I count the entire Chronicles of Narnia as one text, without all of them the text is not complete. 

To me these tales have shaped in formed my own views of God in two major ways.
      1.      God cannot be tamed
            Too often I find that theology preached in churches, sang in “Christian music” tries to either make God this broad shouldered militant bully, or an easily transported figurine to be worn like jewelry around one’s neck or put in a box. Lewis writes that Aslan (the Christ character in the story) is not a tame lion. He is good, but not tame. Aslan is always about his father’s business; his father is the Emperor Across the Sea. Aslan is essentially this unpredictable character that pops up in the books without warning or notice, but only when human beings are involved. He saves Lucy in Prince Caspian, sacrifices himself for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and he greets the travelers outside the Kingdom of the Sea where his father lives in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Aslan does what he wants; it just so happens that what he wants is to help humanity while at the same time protecting and saving all of Narnia.

       2.      It is God’s will that none should perish (1 Peter 2:9)
              Rob Bell was heavily criticized for his book Love Wins, a book which asks the question in chapter 4 “Does God Get What God Wants?” It was a question pointed at a particular theologian that lead to him saying “Farewell” to Rob Bell on his twitter account. Yet, CS Lewis in The Last Battle answers Bell’s question in a much more nuanced fashion. In the book penned by Lewis all of Narnia is battling over its fate, whether or not Tash (the Ba’al false god idol) or The Emperor Across the Sea will have full control over the land. In the end The Emperor Across the Sea and his allies win “Heaven” comes to Narnia and joy abounds, but a servant of Tash has found his way into Narnian heaven. Confused he asks Aslan how he made it into “heaven” and Aslan replies:

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. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him . . . .

Lewis appears to be taking 1 Samuel 16:7 literally, and his allegory reflects it, to Lewis God judges not the outward appearances but the heart of the person. The servant of Tash was doing good for goodness sake – thinking he was serving Tash, but really Aslan was taking his actions into account and judged him to be righteous. To answer Bell’s question, Lewis in this allegory says a resounding yes.
          These novels have shaped my faith in a way that is very unique, I would be a different person, and would view my faith in a completely different way if these books did not exist. For me, The Chronicles of Narnia count as non-canonical scripture, through them I am “reproved, rebuked, and exhorted with great patience and instruction (2 Tim 4:2-5)”.

Any thoughts, questions, comments or concerns?