Welcome to Narnia

The much anticipated first intallment of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, opens today. I am a big fan of the Chronicles, having read them in my youth and several times since. There was some concern among Christian fans of the series that the Christian allegory would be diluted. Ultimately, Disney decided to simply be faithful to the book without enhancing or diminishing the religious themes. So now it is finally here and no expense was spared in its production.

For the most part, the critics like the film, though on more of a B+ scale than an A scale. I found this review from the San Francisco Chronicle particularly informative and informed.

Not everyone is so happy. Apparently some are offended that the movie retains the Christian allegory (how it could be avoided is seldom mentioned). This is hard to understand, because great artistic achievements can come from many different places. The Chronicles of Narnia is a literary accomplishment whether it be Christian or secular or pagan. It is interesting in Hollywood that films celebrating other religions, such as The Little Buddha (Buddhism), Robin Hood Princes of Thieves (Islam at the expense of Christianity), Malcom X (Islam), and The 13th Warrior (paganism and Islam), can gain approval or even praise for their treatments, but films that hint at Christianity can be condemned on that basis.

Often the anti-Christian sentiment breeds baseless other attacks since it may still be bad form to attack Christianity per se (though some have warned about the movie on that basis, see here). So, accusations of sexism, racism, and religious intolerance have also been leveled at this children's masterpiece. For an effecitve point by point response which also shows just how ignorant are Lewis' critics, see this article from National Review Online. There is also available at NRO an interesting interview with the director of the movie.

Some other Narnia info:

For a Christian review that believes the film undercuts the Christian allegory, especially the authority of Aslan, see this article in Christianity Today.

Setting aside the allegory, how faithful is the movie to the book? Check here.

Curious which character you most resemble? Take this quiz at Beliefnet.com. For the record, I scored 90 out of 120, failing to be identified with Aslan but not upset to be a Lucy.

For background on how Disney approached the project, read here.

To keep up with the anti-Christian critics of Narnia, follow the article and comments at this blog.


BK said…
I was going to blog on this topic, and may still do so. But in the event I don't, here is a link to an article in today's Wall Street Journal entitled "The Left vs. Lewis -- The culture wars find their way into the wardrobe" which can be linked here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007655

What I found interesting was the reaction from some of the more extreme people on the anti-christian side. The WSJ article states:

"Of course Lewis, who died in 1963, was also one of the 20th century's foremost defenders of orthodox Christianity, and his adult titles, such as the 'The Screwtape Letters' and 'Mere Christianity,' continue to be widely read. If there is anything our liberal elites detest more than dead white men, it's dead white men of faith.

"Lewis's detractors insist, unconvincingly, that the Narnia saga is little more than religious propaganda (or worse), all the more pernicious for being aimed at precious preteens. Philip Pullman, an acclaimed children's author, has described the 'Chronicles' as 'sadomasochistic' and 'one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read.' In October, after Florida Gov. Jeb Bush chose 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' for a state-sponsored reading list, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the selection was tantamount to state promotion of religion and thus 'constitutionally problematic.'

"The British polemicist Polly Toynbee also spotted something sinister afoot. In a column this week, she noted that the new film was financed in part by Philip Anschutz, 'a big Republican donor and a donor to the Florida governor's book promotion--a neat synergy of politics, religion and product placement.' Ms. Toynbee went on to assert that 'here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America--that warped, distorted neofascist strain that thinks might is right.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia are sadomasochistic? It promtes a warped, distorted neofascists strain of Christianity? Give me a break. These people are warped -- plain and simple.
John R. said…
Good post.

Good movie.

Everyone has their take--but when its all said and done--IT'S JUST A MOVIE! (That'll I'll see again and purchase on DVD.)

The secular left shows an extreme hypocrisy and "intolerance" in their statements. Par for the course. Some where in the www. I saw someone comment that with them, "It's always winter and never Christmas." And that's what they'd like to force on the rest of us. Or should I say: "Ram down our throats" or some such knee-jerk cliche used by the other side.

First of all, thanks to the interesting quiz on Narnia. Man, was I ever convicted!

Second, I enjoyed the movie. My review is on www.mrdawntreader.com.

Third, Lewis' wonderful gift to humanity was the cultivation of imagination. Imagination is what helps give stickiness to truth. Read this quote from Lewis. Ponder it.

In Selected Literary Essays, Bluspels and Flalanspheres: A Semantic Nightmare, C.S. Lewis writes this about our imagination:

It must not be supposed that I am in any sense putting forward the imagination as the organ of truth. We are not talking of truth, but of meaning: meaning which is the antecedent condition both of truth and falsehood, whose antithesis is not error but nonsense. I am a rationalist. For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition. It is, I confess, undeniable that such a view indirectly implies a kind of truth or rightness in the imagination itself. (Qtd. in “Lewis, Tolkien, and Myth, Part I.”)

Imagination gives truth its stickiness, but it is not a substitute for truth.

Truth is what corresponds to reality. If our interpretation of who Christ is, does not correspond to who Christ really is, then our interpretation is not true.

What Lewis does, however, is enrich our imaginations with a fresh look at redemption. We experience feelings about redemption by observing Aslan, who is blameless, willingly exchange places with a worthless worm like Edmund. We then experience the joy and exultation of seeing Aslan resurrected in his glory.

Our imagination is more fertile than ever to receive the truth of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Kids who have met Aslan in Narnia have an 'aha!' moment when they meet Christ in scripture.

That is the power of Lewis' apologetic work ... even more so than his brilliant defense of the faith against naturalism.
"We all wrestle with "truth" through language, and language will never have a direct relationship with an external reality."

This simply does not stand to reason. If it never has a direct relationship to reality, then the claim itself (about language) is not real. Truth is a relation between language and reality. If language matches reality, then it is true. If not, it is false.

The language "Christ rose bodily from the dead" either matches reality, or it doesn't. The reality of that language does not change for each person. The meaning, however, does.

The fact that "Christ rose bodily from the dead" may mean nothing to you (I am not making that claim, btw). It means everything to me. Meaning is how we internalize truth. Some, obviously, choose not to internalize it.

I think the power of imagination, allegory and metaphor, is that it deepens impact and enriches meaning.

I like your statement about allegories giving birth to new meanings through shifting perspective. That is rich.
Layman said…
I admit to having a hard time seeing Christ as a student at Loyola Law School.

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