Saturday, December 10, 2005

From the Front Row review of the enchanting, Narnia

Beautiful imagery, some great acting, amazing animation/special effects, vivid characters, and staying true to Lewis’s original tome make Narnia wonderful holiday movie entertainment… safe for the whole family.

The Score
The music of Narnia, written and conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams, was also very well done (though it didn’t rise to his magnificent score for “Kingdom of Heaven”). It isn’t Howard Shore’s stirring music of Lord of the Rings, but for the most part it suits the film with intimacy and tenderness. What is strangely missing for a release of the magnitude of Narnia, was a memorable theme melody and a signature song that really captured the movies essence. In songwriting we call it “the hook.” Most great films have associated with it an unmistakable, powerful song or songs with a theme melody woven throughout that brings the audience to a “familiar and memorable place.” Such songs usually become “classics” or “standards.” There should have been no shortage of songwriters who would have leaped at the chance, if asked, to deliver an award winning original composition and performance (i.e., Phil Collins, Elton John, Bryan Adams, Sting, Paul McCartney, Annie Lenox, Andre Bocelli to name a few). Alanis Morissette does deliver a very good vocal performance on a song called, “Wunderkind” which is only introduced while the credits are rolling. However, it doesn’t rise to what is expected for a film of this importance.

The Cast
Lucy (Georgie Henley) and the Witch (Tilda Swinton) stole any scene they were in. They were brilliant. However, Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) delievered very weak, amateurish performances at best. Liam Neeson in anyone’s book was nothing short of tremendous as the voice of Aslan.

Theology and Allegory
I appreciate good writing, literature, and the use of allegory in story to drive home a powerful message. Lewis does that here… But as good as his imagery and allegory is throughout “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” it is not the message of the biblical gospel hidden within the allegory.

As I have read through several reviews of this film by well respected Christian thinkers, bloggers, theologues and Biblicists, it’s stupefying how any one of them could think that Lewis’s allegorical story was “an atoning death, retell the story of Christ's passion and resurrection. This story of salvation history is told with theological precision and with a continuous eye on the Gospel accounts of the life and death of Jesus.” (Leland Ryken commenting on Lewis's tome. I usually appreciate Leland Ryken’s theological insights and writings very much; but his comments here seem to be based on romanticized fantasy—instead of sound biblical theology.)

Making a Deal with The Devil...
What Lewis, in classical theological terms, portrays in Narnia is called, *The Ransom Theory of the atonement. The Ransom Theory in short is: The notion that it was the devil who made the cross necessary, by Christ being offered to him as a ransom for all of lost humanity. It was a payment made to the devil, by Christ, for the salvation of mankind. This is of course is untrue according to the Scriptures.

Berkhof writes when commenting on this utter folly and specious teaching: “Christ offered Himself as a ransom to Satan, and Satan accepted the ransom without realizing that he would not be able to retain his hold on Christ because of the latter's divine power and holiness. . . Thus the souls of all men - even of those in Hades - were set free from the power of Satan.”

To illustrate: Lewis has Aslan making a deal with the Queen of Narnia (the Witch) for Edmund’s blood. Aslan meets with The Witch to strike a deal with her. The deal being: he agrees to willingly submit to the Witch’s thirst for his death by dying in Edmund’s place on the stone altar of The Witch. The Witch is portrayed as having power over Aslan by shaving his mane from his head, her demonic-like followers beating him, and then striking him dead with the thrust of her knife into his heart. She then in the aftermath of his death proceeds to mock him before his followers, by wearing the remains of his shaved mane as a cloak in battle. Within this moving allegorical picture, what is being depicted is untrue biblically. Unpacking the biblical meaning from the allegory leaves one to believe that Satan deceived Christ into making a deal for the soul of a man (in Lewis’s world Aslan dies for one mischievous, cowardly, deceived boy named Edmund. Did not the rest of Narnia need redemption?); Christ then surrendered His will to Satan in that brokered agreement; the cross was then Satan’s blind victory over the Son of God, and lastly, Satan thought he had defeated Christ on the cross as all of his hellish hosts rejoiced in seeing the Son of Man killed.

*UPDATE: (In fairness to Lewis, I haven't been able to find, yet, where Lewis wrote about the ransom theory. However, what was depicted in tome and film in LWW portrayed a ransom theory view. The confusing facts here are significant: though he may not have written on the ransom theory, he certainly gives credence to it in the LWW. What is the reality? Still investigating.)

The Ransom Theory is Unbiblical (for a few obvious reasons)
1. Satan is depicted as being equal in power to Christ. A dualistic struggle of good vs evil.

2. Satan is not subject to God's sovereignty, but has the ability as "lord of this earth" to negotiate a settlement where God is beholding to him for the souls of men.

3. God has ultimately defeated Satan by deception not by divine decree.

4. The nature of Christ is diminished; the nature of Satan is elevated; the nature of God is confused; and the nature of the cross is perverted.

Here's the Truth of It
The cross was never referred to by the Lord or any of the Apostles as a ransom paid by Christ to Satan. But they did speak about the cross as a vicarious propitiatory sacrifice, meeting the demands of the law, fulfilling all righteousness, appeasing God’s wrath, an atonement for the sins of the elect, and the expiation of guilt.

I liked the movie very much—as a movie of allegorical fiction with underpinning moral tones (don’t lie, don’t deceive, be loyal to your family, overcome evil with good, etc.) BUT, when "the gospel" behind Lewis's allegory is examined theologically, it is not the biblical view.

Enjoy the film; read your Bibles; and don't confuse the two.
From the Front Row,

PS - For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. -Leviticus 17:11

"That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3). Atonement is the cornerstone of all theology, being the "stone that the builders rejected" which has now become the cornerstone (Matt 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; quoting Paslm 118:22). The content of theology is the power in the blood. It is the hub, made indefectibly strong by Christ's resurrection, from which all the spokes of theology derive." - Paul F.M. Zahl

(For a thorough biblical explanation of the atonement see these excellent articles).


littlegal_66 said...

Thank you Mr. Shalit! ; ).

Seriously, thanks for your review. (I've been anticipating it all day). Sounds like an artist would feel like a kid in a candy store as the visual aspects are savored. I'm looking forward to viewing it soon.

So, in lieu of thumbs, how many sledgehammers are you giving it?:-)


SJ Camp said...

Since you asked:

I'd give it four out of five hammers for the movie itself--well done and a great family film.

I'd give it one hammer for theological content and accuracy in Lewis's use of allegory.


Shawn L said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ambiance-five said...


I can"t wait to see a good movie.

lol..thanks Lord!

Jeff Wright said...

Did Lewis advocate the ransom theory in any of his non-alegorical writings?

Shawn L said...

After talking to my friends they think my kids are too young. 5 and under are not recommended right???

My 5 year old wants to see it, but some kids at church said that you probably should be at least 7 or 8 years old.

Would you agree?

Bhedr said...

Yes, I watched the movie with the kids last night. I did a little role of the eyes at the hyped up elaborate set up with the queen holding her head high while Edmunds soul hung in the balance.

This is a typical Hollywood prototype found in most films anywhere from End of Days with Arnold or Exorcist or Constantine. None of these films should be watched in unedited form or should even be watched at all. I had a Christian friend recomend watching Constantine and after I pieced through it decieving myself the whole time that it was all right for a blood bought child to watch it, I told my wife I will not watch anymore of these type of movies. Narnia though mild in comparison to all the evil and violence of those still carried that same falacy that God and Satan are playing monopoly and they are trading hotels and morg. houses to get what they want to win.

Having said that Paul teaches that Jesus did give Himself a ransom and I think it would be good Steve if you were to elaborate on the context of this true teaching rather than dismiss it because it has been warped by vain philosophy.

1 Timothy 2:6 - Who gave Himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time....

James Spurgeon said...

I just can't resist playing Witch's advocate here. (smile)

My (mis?)understanding after reading the book to my children was that the Witch's claim on Edmund was based on the ancient Magic (or law) given by the King on the other side of the Sea (or whoever, I don't have the book in front of me) who represents God the Father. At any rate, I understood her claim to Edmund's soul as being nothing more than as executioner of God's holy law.

IOW - she is simply demanding justice in the case of Edmund and Aslan steps in to satisfy the demands of justice in Edmund's place. Aslan does not offer the sacrifice to Queen Jadis, he offers it to satisfy the demands of the deep magic from the beginning of time. Jadis is only executioner and, ultimately, a pawn in Aslan's wonderful plan.

Was I reading my own theology into the book?

Bhedr said...

I smell another post comming.

Jim Crigler said...

I have two disparate irons to throw into the fire:

1. Ransom theory: There is a ransom aspect to our atonement, and you can find it in Romans 3:24: "and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," i.e., redemption means to rescue someone from slavery by paying a ransom. The problem Steve has (and that I think James Spurgeon is getting at) is that it appears to Steve that the ransom is payed to the Satan figure. In reality, the ransom Christ payed was not to Satan, but back to the Father, who had set his love on us to redeem us and payed the price for us ("it was the will of the Lord to crush Him...").

2. The evangelical temptation: How much and how often are we tempted to view something coming out of Hollywood (or New York, or Colorado Springs or Lake Forrest or South Barrington, for that matter) as the Next Big Thing That Will Win The World (tm). Having followed Steve's thoughts here for a few months, I think I can confidently say that he would be completely comfortable using the Second Dynasty Outer Mongolian term for all such folderol: "Hogwash." And we all know what hogs wash themselves in. Nope, this is really a conversation starter about the atonement that will actually get us to the point of the Gospel faster than the quotes on Starbucks' cups (suspended now while they are pushing holiday cups, and if you can find a shop with Seattle's Best or Illy, the coffee is better anyhow).

2Tal said...

I enjoy reading Lewis and loved the movie myself. I wouldn't want to give Lewis any credit though regarding the atonement. Speaking of the atonement, I do hope we can debate this topic at some point in the future. Apparently not everyone who enjoy calling themselves Calvinists are in complete agreement here. They all agree that Christ died with the intention of saving only those whom he unconditionally elects (but that's about it).

Shawn L said...

James ,
Thanks, true, but you may be reading a bit of your theology into it like I was. Steve is right in the book it seems to be a spending alot of time in Aslan tricking the witch and at least confuse the issue dramatically if you are trying to read Narnia for theology.

This begs the question to what degree do we take allegory and teach and learn with our kids. I think with Pilgrim's Progress this is really good, because I can't find any problems in that book yet.

I talked to an elder at church this week and he saw the show. I asked did he notice the ransom theory and he said "yes, but the kids wouldn't notice this". This may be true, but was thinking about it.

I don't no which route to go for the future of teaching them. I want my kids to see the glory of God through different means and it starts primarily with the Word of God, but in their play as well I want to remind them of the great and glorious King. This is a tricksy issue for me as I don't want to hinder anything with the Word of God coming to my kids, but I want them to see the glory of God in creation as well in different aspects without keeping them worshiping the creation.


All Calvinists I've ever met believe in substitutionary atonement!!! However I could be wrong

Eh? I don't see any disagreement about the atonement on this from Calvinist, but more in practical theology and discernment and in what we see will be varied because we all need each other to grow and seek Christ.

However I think as bhedr(brian) and jim have pointed out the ransom is not paid to Satan, but to God the Father. Ransom theory may have some biblical aspects of it that are truly biblical, but ransom theory is not completely biblical. There is a ransom paid, but ransom theory of the atonement in the historic sense is unbiblical.

étrangère said...

I think James is mostly right in reading the book - Jadis has a claim on Edmund not because she's an equal, but because by the way the Emperor-Over-The-Sea has decreed things in the 'deep magic': traitors belong to her. He 'gives his life as a ransom' (Mark 10 anyone?) knowing the 'magic deeper still' etc. I said 'mostly' because Lewis didn't intend the Chronicles as strict allegory so I'm not sure how much theology we to try to get out of them. Like parables, if you try to read into every detail you end up with strange thoughts at best and heresy pretty easily: they're designed to communicate a point with a slam-dunk. Lewis communicates some aspects of the gospel with a fairy story, and does so pretty well. The ransom theory is wrong, but that does not mean we should neglect the ransom which *does* take place. Jim's irons hit the nail on the head IMO.

James Spurgeon said...

Let me clarify a couple of my thoughts.

1) I could be wrong.

2) Evangelicals are taking this movie way too seriously.

3) The gospel should be proclaimed from the Book and our children should be taught theology from the same source.

4) Whatever Lewis' theology was, I can still enjoy his fiction (which I think is what the mighty sledgehammer is saying here).

5) Lewis seems to have been so confused on the atonement that we don't even know for sure that he knew what theory he was advocating here.

6) I think the book makes it clear that the Witch's claim on Edmund is based only on the Emperor over the sea's deep magic from the beginning of time - which I interpreted as God's holy law.

7) Also, from the book (but not from the movie) I sensed a trepidation on the part of the Witch (wasn't she beautifulin the movie?) to even come into the presence of Aslan, as if she greatly feared this. IOW, I didn't get a sense of dualism from the book.

8) Having said all this, I don't know why I have bothered to make two long comments about something which doesn't even really matter that much. I took my kids to see the movie. We enjoyed it. I doubt it will mess up their theology any more than Chicken Little made them believe in aliens or baseball playing chickens.

The thing that scared me most was when I learned of a church in neighboring Tyler, Texas, (and I'm sure they're not the only one) that actually rented out the theater and bought up all the tickets for a matinee showing.

Evangelicals are nuts.

Shawn L said...


Thanks and I agree with everything you have said

I think you do similarly as I do in teaching my children. I Remember your post awhile ago on teaching your children catechism after going to Sea World. This was such a benefit to our little family as well and we used it for some ideas. When we go places like Sea World or something glorious in our minds we try to incorporate that way of thinking.

My point is in the midst of what we do I think we can help our kids see the grandeur and Greatness in the Word, by after them seeing the world and the creative works of God or even a movie like this (I'm not taking mine as my wife saw it and thought they were too young and they would be scared.) then pointing them to the scriptures and helping them see the greatness of God.

I think you did this when you were at Sea World and it is a great illustration to this.

I'm not assuming you are teaching your children theology from other than the bible. Sorry I have made it sound like that. You are a person captivated by God's Word.

I'm just concerned myself to not put some overemphasis on the creation over the creator and make this as evident in my kids life.

I haven't worked this out yet fully in my head as I need to pray about this more and what it means to our family.

James Spurgeon said...

Shawn, you are very gracious. God bless you.

Everything we encounter in life is an opportunity for us to teach our children something about God and his truth as revealed to us in his word.

There are definitely things they need to be sheltered from. The environment I grew up in, however, went too far, in my opinion. It tended to just label as forbidden anything remotely questionable to the degree that there was a whole lot of enticing fruit out there and no teaching of discernment or wisdom.

I struggle for balance myself and am still not sure where it is.

But I do know that films like this are great opportunities to teach our children to think. Perhaps even explaining what is right and what is wrong with Lewis' atonement picture would be profitable.

God bless you, my brother.

R. Mansfield said...

Whenever we speak of what happened on the cross in relation to our sins, we are at the mercy of analogy...whether that is substitution or ransom or whatever. There is more than one image of Christ's death for our sins in the Bible, and the analogy or ransom is one of them: Hos 13:14, Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6.

Yes, the idea of ransom was used in LWW as it makes for good story, but the image of substitution is there quite profoundly, too.

The image of ransom is not heretical. To use it as the ONLY way to explain Jesus' death is flawed. But the Bible uses more than one image.

This is a very old debate. Let's get past it.

centuri0n said...

Steve --

I haven't seen the movie, so I can't tell you what they did with the adaptation. I can, however, tell you that there is no way that Lewis intended the sacrifice of Aslan to be an allegory of the Ransom theory. He did not advocate such a thing anywhere else.

What Aslan does is because of the Emperor's Law. And why Aslan rises again is by the Emperor's predetermined will. The law by which Edmund's life was foreit was the Emperor's law -- even if that Witch was the agent of the payment.

Consider it: Jesus called the Pharisees the sons of the Devil, who was a murderer from the beginning. Yet they were the ones who put Him to death -- God did not personally nail Jesus to the cross, but the Romans at the insistence of the High Priest did the work. Would you argue that Christ was then killed by the sons of the Devil and not for God's pre-ordained purpose? Of course not -- because Peter clears that up in Acts 2.

Aslan does as much when he explains to Lucy and Susan about the "Deeper Magic". Sure: it's not a recitation of Peter's first evangelical monologue, but it is, after all, an allegory.

LW2 is not Scripture: it is a child's story. The allegory is bound to be problematic if we expect it to cover every ancient of Scriptural wood. It is intended to point us back to Scripture, not to take the place of Scripture.

Giving this story a 1-out-of-5 for theology is like giving one of your own songs a 1-out-of-5 for full-orchestra arrangement. In the same way that none of your songs was originally written for a full orchestra to perform, LW2 is not intended to be a complete, stand-alone vehicle for "the Gospel". It is fantastic literature with Christian themes.

I like you. We have some mutual friends. I think you have made a mistake here by overstating the obvious. If Lewis intended to preach the Ransom theory here, and intended this to be pulpit-style preaching, then yes: it's a bit of a problem. But if he intended it -- as you do, with your music -- to be part of a larger pastiche of Christian art and culture, pointing back to Scripture and Christ, then to label this work as sub-par theologically creates a standard for Christian expression that I suggest almost no one has met in 2000 years.

I have more on this, and I hope we can cover it together in the right spirit.

centuri0n said...

That's "every ancient grain of Scriptural wood". Sorry for the typo.

James Spurgeon said...


So you're saying you disagree?


SJ Camp said...


Frank, thank you for commenting here. I appreciate the work that you do for the kingdom and your blog is excellent. (If any on this blog have not visited Frank's blog, please do - you will be the richer for it).

I agree with many of your comments. Here's the tension: I like allegory and have used it in my songs too. BUT, nowhere in the Scriptures is Satan ever considered under God's predestined plan of the cross to be part of the biblical concept of "ransom." The ransom that Scripture refers to is a propitiation; "paid" to the Father on behalf of the "sins of the people" by Christ Jesus (Heb. 2:17).

Satan is not a key figure in regards to the cross at all. The only part in the "drama of the atonement" that Satan played was "to have his head crushed" - to be defeated by the death of our Lord. As John Owen would say, "the death of death in the death of Christ."

I hope I haven't overstated the concern here (but I do remain teachable on this). I know that you would agree that "in the allegory", truth still must be represented accurately. I don't think Lewis did THAT effectively. The film, his book, the story are great fun and entertainment for the whole family. I enjoyed watching it and was moved by much of it.

But if someone wanted to know what really occurred on the cross, Lewis didn't come close, even in his magical use of allegory, in communicating God's forgiveness of sin through the substitutionary death of His Son Jesus. The average nonbeliever wouldn't have a clue as to the reality of salvation from watching the movie itself. It needs a lot of explaining for that to be accomplished.

Listen, Lewis was a brilliant man, an imaginative writer and astute thinker. But he was not an expositor of biblical truth nor a theologian--and in fairness to Lewis, he never claimed to be. It would have made LWW more accurate, more dramatic, and true. (But I will agree, what Lewis gives us is much better than a Carman video on similar themes.) :-).

In the LWW there was suffering, death, and resurrection. No question. But, it was suffering and death under The Witch's hand, by The Witch's demands, and by The Witch's insistance. She was giving Aslan information as if Aslan almost looked shocked and saddened that this is how the drama was going to be played out. And the resurrection was born out of deception; The Witch "misinterpreted" the writing on the stone.

What I really found interesting was Lewis's idea of some sort of substitution when Aslan died in Edmund's place. But the strange thing was, Aslan didn't die for anyone in Narnia, but for an alien in Narnia. Aslan didn't even die for all the "aliens in Narnia" just Edmund because he was a geeky, troublesome older brother to his younger sister Lucy. The allegory is far from brilliant at this point... don't you agree?

In reality, Lewis is unclear and very eclectic in his beliefs; he is for lack of better words, a theological enigma. He's Romanist at so many junctures; Anglican on others; Arminian all the time; Darwinian on the nature and existence of man; and seldom biblical.

I do respect you greatly Frank and am a constant reader of your blog. And more than you realize, this dialogue is an answer to prayer.

Help me out here brother, where do you think I'm not connecting on this? Your insights mean much to me.

From Nash-Vegas,

centuri0n said...


I'm saying that we have to judge a thing as it is, not as we think it ought to be. It is important to advocate for truth from the perspective that what we finally say is true.

Here's what I'm thinking: one of the great works of Christian art is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. On it, we have a portrait of Adam lifting his arm passively, with no real regard for what he reaches out for -- and the bearded figure of God the Father striving to reach down to Adam with a mighty and certain reach.

In that scene, we can have an opportunity to read something about Michelangelo. If one was inclined, one might read into it that Michelangelo believed that the Father has a physical body like Adam did, and that He is simply at a greater spiritual level of development than Adam.

It's all there in the picture -- God in a physical body like Adam, God riding on angels while Adam rests on a stone. We might say that Michelangelo was a proto-Mormon given those interpretations.

The problem is that we'd be wrong. Michelangelo didn't believe any of that -- and his image of the creation of man was that God demonstrated all the power and man was naked and impotent -- something that you and I would readily agree with. What we would have done is ignore the limits of the medium and the purpose of the work and the scope of the genre to seek out an enemy in Michelangelo.

Michelangelo may or may not have had some great theological shakes -- but to accuse him of something that looks like Mormonism based on a cursory glance at this particular work is excessive.

In the same way, it's excessive to accuse Lewis of Ransom theory when it's not present in his other, more-literal works. Lewis is a popular figure, and if we fine-tooth his work I am sure we can find a lot to question and reconsider for many reasons. But to accuse him of something that's simply the result of failing to treat allegory within the limits of allegory, and failing to recognize that he's writing fantasy fiction rather than treatise, is a little strident.

It seems a little weird for me to be the one to be calling for some restraint, but here I am.

centuri0n said...

Steve --

In a nutshell, I think you are looking at some of the details and not all of the details -- including the author of the work.

Let me qualify this by saying, that I have not seen the movie. It is possible that the problem is the way Disney adapted the scene in question, and thus what you represent here is what you saw, and what you saw fell flat. I would say that is 100% possible, and likely given the kid-glove approach to the Christian message Disney has represented in the hype leading up to this movie. The only "hedge" I'd place on that bet is that I work for a manufacturer of Christian products (yes, I sell them too :-) ) who does licensed work for the Lewis trust, and those Lewises are picky about the way the Narnia properties are handled. PICKY!

Let's do this: give me 2 weeks to see the movie. I'm not going to take my 6- and 4-yr-old to a PG movie until I see it, and they should be out of pocket at their Grandparents before the Christmas holiday. I'll take the wife, and we can reconvene on this matter when I am actually informed on what happens in the movie rather than what I know is demonstrated in the book.

I don't really want this to turn into an esoteric discussion about aesthetics and literary theory. I think something can be an adequate allegory without being a plaster cast of its subject, but (as you say) I want to remain teachable.

And thanks for keeping this in the spirit it is intended. Iron sharpens iron.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

If Narnia is presenting a false gospel ("not the biblical view") from possibly a false teacher (you did hope he repented before he died, right?), how could a Christian say "this is safe for the whole family?"

SJ Camp said...


Sounds good. I do agree that one can get too literal in the allegory and MISS the allegory altogether. I really don't think I am one of them considering my artist background...

... but I will wait till you return and see the movie--fair enough.

It will also afford me more time to look into Lewis's theology on the atonement as well. He may not have taught specifically on The Ransom Theory (you may be right) in the literal world; but the film and the book surely give way to it.

Two quick questions for you: 1. how did I rank as "fellow scum" on your blog? You're too kind. :-).

And, 2. you sell Lewis products? Frank, Frank, Frank... you really a profit! :-).


PS - Michelangelo had deeper issues than the ceiling art... don't you agree?

SJ Camp said...


-The movie is safe for the whole family (no sexual themes; minor violence; no swearing, etc.)

-LWW does not present a false gospel it just presents no gospel at all. It's only a movie. Enjoy it.

-Lewis did represent many unorthodox teachings in his very skewn theology. Enough to make one wonder... (that is, if someone's theology do count for anything.)


Shawn L said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frank Martens said...

Adam says... "If Narnia is presenting a false gospel ("not the biblical view") from possibly a false teacher (you did hope he repented before he died, right?), how could a Christian say "this is safe for the whole family?""

Since when was anything safe? :) Since when did God stick us in a world that's safe? Hmmm....

I think both Spurg (I like the shortname :) AND Steve are correct. On the one hand Christ saved us from falling into the hands of the Devil. On the other hand Christ paid ransom directly to God's demands. However, remember, it is the Devil who accuses us daily (I don't have the scripture reference, but I know it's there) which I believe is clearly shown throughout the book and movie.

Then there is the problem of Aslan covering for JUST the one child. But, if I remember right from reading the books, the impression is given that Edmond represents ALL of us.

Also isn't Narnia supposed to be taken with the view of the spiritual realm? Aren't we all aliens to the spiritual realm to some extent?

Just some thoughts.

centuri0n said...

Shawn --

Your view of idolatry is irrational and reactionary. It overlooks Phil 4, which gives us liberty to do more than mope around this physical world with our eyes averted for fear of sinning.

If you want to discuss aesthetic theory and Christian values, I'm in. Let's just not assume that idolatry only happens when a wooden plug becomes a mediator to God.

Bhedr said...

>In reality, the ransom Christ payed was not to Satan, but back to the Father, who had set his love on us to redeem us and payed the price for us ("it was the will of the Lord to crush Him...").<

Excellent and perfect context. let it be also understood that Satan alone is not the enemy. Notice the Wrath of Asland and his growl at the witch when she tried to use the laws of the magic to condemn

Ephesians shows us that we are the same Spirit of Satan in our depravity. Jesus said to judge not and you will not be judged. James says when you judge your brother you become a judge of the Law, hence the wrath of God follows. Enter what Jesus was trying to communicate When the Pharisee thanked and gave Glory to God that he was not like the publican.

You see we incur the wrath of God when we try to hold God's own law at bay and push him to judge others by his own law. I hope that point is not missed. We are essentially holding our own selves hostage and pushing God insisting like that witch did that He judge when we should be falling on our faces pleading for ransom *from* His law and into the Redeemers arms.

"You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done and I kept silent; You thought I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you.." Psalm 50:20-21

Shawn L said...


Thanks for your statements as I think I am reactionary sometimes too, I pray for God to change my heart to be a heart after Him. I shouldn't post thoughts I'm working through here on this topic that I haven't fully figured out yet. I should have clarified this stating I am definitely trying to work through the second commandment some more .

I thought it would be interesting to post on Calvin's and Luther's Debate as I have always agreed with Luther on this one.

I have no idea what I believe on this, but will think on this more.

I was just quoting pieces up my pastor's sermon this week and then 2 minutes later decided to delete it as it didn't apply to the topic at hand but more of a secondary topic.

Bhedr said...

My favorite Carman video is The Champion.

Centurion, do you have a favorite Carman video?

SJ Camp said...

I just edited this article to include this addition. It is as follows:

*UPDATE: (In fairness to Lewis, I haven't been able to find, yet, where Lewis wrote about the ransom theory. However, what was depicted in tome and film in LWW portrayed a ransom theory view. The confusing facts here are significant: though he may not have written on the ransom theory, he certainly gives credence to it in the LWW. What is the reality? Still investigating.)

Hope this helps qualify while I am still checking this out. Thanks for everyone's patience and encouragement to double check.


Denise said...

"In the LWW there was suffering, death, and resurrection. No question. But, it was suffering and death under The Witch's hand, by The Witch's demands, and by The Witch's insistance. She was giving Aslan information as if Aslan almost looked shocked and saddened that this is how the drama was going to be played out."

Sounds very close to what Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Marylin Hickey, Joyce Meyer and the whole lot of them say about Jesus having to suffer under Satan's hands in hell(and then be born again).

doggo said...

Fellow theological nitpickers, you have not yet mentioned Lewis’ representation of Adam having a wife prior to Eve by the name of Lilith (chapter 8).

“God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that He used filth and sediment instead of pure dust. From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister, sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind. Many generations later, Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat, disguised as harlots of Jerusalem'”
Yalqut Reubeni ad. Gen. II. 21; IV. 8.

What say you- he put it the LWW, he must believe it to be true.

Bhedr said...

You are a man of integrity Steve. One would feign to beg these crumbs from many other bloggers:-)

Shawn? You are anything but reactionary, perhaps he was a little reactive himself in considering you to be reactionary or methinks perhaps he may have been watching a Carman video and was feeling zealous. Nevertheless all these streams of Steve's have been very enlightening and educating. Faint not brethren. Take it from one who has blown it all to often to even think of judging.

donsands said...

I enjoyed the fine discussion so far.
Haven't seen the movie as yet. My 6 year old grandson enjoyed it very much. His father had prepared him by reading the book to him over the past couple months. I was very blessed to see Joshua my grandson so excited about all the characters and the story. His favorite character was Aslan and the beaver. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie so I will be able to enjoy conversing with Josh.
Funny, I asked my daughter if she thought the gospel was evedent in the story, and she said yes, and my son-in-law said no way, funny.
Gal. 6:14.

Mark Kodak said...

Everyone who claims Lewis believed the so-called ransom theory is dead wrong.
Everyone is reading way too much into a simple childrens story. The redemptive scheme presented in Narnia is one in which the Emperor (i.e. God) has instituted a penal code wherein a traiterous transgression essentially transfers the life of the perpetrator over to the Witch. Big deal. What did Paul mean when he mentioned delivering someone over to Satan ? Did not Christ say that the unbelieving jews were of their father, the devil ? Aslan clearly points to a truth beyond the temporal idea of ransom to the witch being queen of Narnia when the stone tablet breaks. In other words, the eternal Emperor was using the witch to fulfill the plan. What law was appealed to for crucifying Christ over Barrabas I wonder ? This ransom idea is similar to the devil offering all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus at the temptation. Were they really his to give ? In what sense ? Yes and no. Like many truths in the Bible, it is multi-perspectival. Lewis was a professor of literature, not a theologian. Lets be realistic and stop witch hunting for his bad theology.

SJ Camp said...

Mark Kodak:

No one is witch hunting here Mark. Theology and truth are very important when it comes to professing Christians saying that their work is about Christ. Lewis's claims need scrutinizing.

What surprised about your comment was the flippancy with which you made your points. Lewis's theology was so scattered and undefined that the LWW is just an overflow of it. BUT, IMHO, it will continue to influence millions around the world as to what redemption through Christ means.

His imagery sometimes hits the mark, other times is unbiblical and confusing.

"Delivered over to Satan" is a phrase that Paul uses in regards to church discipline. IOW, it means to put someone outside of the fellowship and protection of the church for the buffeting of their soul with the hope of producing repentance from their sin.

Surely you're not trying to suggest that Edmund was receiving church discipline by The Witch asking for his blood are you?

Lewis represents in his imagery somethings that need examination. He was a brilliant storyteller and writer. No question. BUT, was what he was saying true--and I mean true when measured against the Word of God?

We all must be willing students under the Word's instruction. I have been wonderfully instructed by others on this blog; have rewritten some articles and have made corrections as the light of Scripture was brought to bear on some of my own writings. I thank the Lord that folks on this blog "cut me no slack" when it comes to cutting straight the Word of God. I am better for their exhortations, rebukes and loving encouragement.

Lewis's work, if it is biblical, can stand the test that careful examination and scrutiny affords. However, as a Christian writer claiming that his works represent the Lord and His redemptive plan for man, there is much at stake if he didn't get it right.

I appreciate your comments...
Grace and peace,

Mark Kodak said...

Steve, my comment was meant to draw out the concept of satanic authority (Paul, Satan, discipline). Job reveals that the angel of light himself is granted a certain authority, although tethered by God's sovereignty, over providential events in the world. The witch, by my reading, seems to have a similar authority, for a time, and it is used by the one who wrote the deep magic, for his own purposes. It was the defeat of the witch by the deep magic that was part of the plan the whole time. The idea that Aslan would "play along" with the witch's insistence upon a blodd debt being made to her is not so unbiblical. Because, like the book of Job, the curtain is pulled back and we see what is really happening behind the stage.

My flippancy is warranted I think. How fair is it to judge a man's theology by a children's story ?

I am compiling a list of excerpts from Lewis's writings in chronological order to show how his ideas changed over time, but in spite of that, remained well within the liminal margins of orthodoxy. He was not as reformed as Owen or Calvin, but I do not think we should expect that much from him to begin with. Most of the claims for his heretical ideas seem to me to be taken out of context.

centuri0n said...

To answer the question posed, re: Carman videos, I invoke my constitutional right not to answer on the grounds that it will earn me many enemies here.

I happen to know a person who was in one of Carman's videos, and she thinks very highly of him and his lifetime of ministry. My wife is an OG Carman fan.

That's all I'm going to say.

Hessel-Man said...



Steve Camp wrote a song with Carman once, didn't you Steve? Back in '85 or '86 if memory serves. Showed up on one of Carman's albums and one of Steve's, though I can't remember the names of either album or the song. Nuts - I guess I'm better at remembering trivia than actual content.

littlegal_66 said...

This is great thread; it compels me to keep clicking back to it! Very interesting dialogue, here.

Also, Mark said: "I am compiling a list of excerpts from Lewis's writings in chronological order to show how his ideas changed over time, but in spite of that, remained well within the liminal margins of orthodoxy."

I would be interested in reading your compilation, mark, and I am also looking forward to centurion's comments once he views the film, as well as learning what sledgehammer is able to uncover in regards to Lewis' view on the atonement.

P.S. hessel-man: "Revive Us, O Lord." (That was w-a-a-y before the 107. How does Carman's name keep popping up in this thread, anyway, LOL?) : )

Shawn L said...


Carmen is getting silly nowadays.

Check out his site, it's very funny but sad at very much the same time. If you give money to his ministry you can get a trophy. I'm not making this up.

He has trophy's you can get and the bigger ones are for contributing more.

Basically for the group of believers who want their rewards now for contributing to a ministry rather than in heaven. It's so funny but then in the next minute I'm very sad to see this.

littlegal_66 said...

While the trio I referenced above are in the process of researching and reporting, I thought I would offer an excerpt from a "Plugged in Online" review of Narnia, complete with the reviewer's proof texts. ("Plugged In" is FOTF's Magazine dedicated to"shining the light on the world of popular entertainment)."

Not surprisingly, you'll learn how blind we are if we don't see the parallels between Narnia and the Gospel. Here goes:

"A primer on Narnian allegory: Aslan serves the Emperor Beyond the Sea (God the Father) and yet is also creator of Narnia (compare Colossians 1:16). Even though Aslan clearly has power over the White Witch, he chooses to work through human beings to accomplish his will to free Narnia. And he offers his own innocent blood to pay for Edmund's sin (Romans 5:8). His "Gethsemane" is a forest glade. His "disciples" are Susan and Lucy. As he is led to the Stone Table to be killed, he is mocked and humiliated by the White Witch's evil cohort yet does not protest or fight back (read Isaiah 53:4-7 and the gospel accounts of Christ's scourging and crucifixion). Most important, he rises from the dead and the atonement is complete (Colossians 1:13-14). Aslan tells Edmund's siblings not to bring up their brother's betrayal again: "What's done is done," he explains (Psalm 103:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Hebrews 10:17). As he presents Edmund to the court at the castle Cair Paravel, he calls him "Edmund the Just" (see Romans 5:19)."

And if you're a glutton for punishment, read more of the review here:

Shawn L said...

Here's how to get your Trophy from Carmen by giving money to him today.

thelittlefields said...

I know I'm late in commenting and it might already be said, but Lewis never meant for this story to be a full allegory. Its more his idea of what Christ would look like in another world. Its mostly a fanciful story told by a Christian, not an allegory of the gospel. Surely, such a great storyteller as Lewis would do a better job of allegory if that was his aim.

The story is much better enjoyed if the audience/reader simply appreciates the story for what it is--a story. AND if they can appreciate the Christian overtones and using them as a teachable moments rather than assigning a label to every character. The story wont stand up as an allegory. and should not be treated as such.

Mark Kodak said...

Thank you littlegal_66.

From the site you posted.

"Also, it should be noted that the White Witch is a usurper and pretender to the throne who has temporary control of Narnia until Aslan returns (Ephesians 2:2)."

The cross, appeared from all external accounts, to be Satan's victory no doubt. But, the usurper was hoodwinked. Similar to what I see Aslan doing by making the witch believe she had some sense of power. I will post the chronology of Lewis's beliefs on my blog hopefully soon. With the holidays, I may not finish it as fast as I could.

SJ Camp said...

Here is a quote from Lewis himself about Narnia--

In an oft-quoted letter to a fifth-grade class in Maryland, Lewis wrote, "You are mistaken when you think that everything in the books 'represents' something in this world. Things do that in The Pilgrim's Progress but . . . I did not say to myself, 'Let us represent Jesus as He really is in our world by a Lion in Narnia': I said, 'Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen.'" -- World Magazine, December 5, 2005

Very enlightening...

I spoke to a friend of mine earlier today who is quite knowledgeable about Lewis and Narnia and he told me that C.S. never meant LWW to be an allegory at all but a simple fairy-tale... an analogy if you please. IOW, Lewis was never meaning to communicate the biblical story of redemption by using 'allegory'; but to write a fairy-tale for children about a Lion who is gentle, but strong; a protector, but kind; one who is the king, but yet a friend; will let a child tug at its mane, but will roar at The Witch; and who will even give his life for you, but is stronger than death.

Apparently, this was Lewis's 'picture' for children about Christ through Aslan. It was not meant to communicate the gospel, or theological beliefs, doctrinal convictions or biblical essentials about salvation; but something in a fairy tale about the character of Jesus.

Interesting, isn't it? (My friend is supposed to provide me some documentation supporting the above claims.)

He did reassure me that my last sentence in this post did get it right: "Enjoy the movie, read your Bibles and don't confuse the two."

Peeling the onion,

littlegal_66 said...

I hope the facetiousness of my previous comment, "Not surprisingly, you'll learn how blind we are if we don't see the parallels between Narnia and the Gospel," was NOT lost within that post! : )

I think the quote from "World Magazine" must be the same quote I referred to when posting to your original article (on Lewis' theology). I'd actually never read it in its full context. Thank you.

(If everyone will excuse me, I've posted far too much this afternoon--I have an unfinished art project beckoning, and I also need to finish up my "Incarnation Day" shopping). ; )


centuri0n said...

Steve --

I think your last comment here nails it as far as LW2 and Lewis goes.

I stopped by today to say that if you want to read (and thereafter rate) C.S. Lewis' theology of the cross, you can pick up Mere Christianity and read the chapter "The Pefect Penitant".

It is, as they say, a mixed bag -- but it doesn't even brush on the Ransom theory. The transaction -- such as Lewis describes it -- is strictly on man's behalf by Christ to the Father. As you read it, you can see where Colson and other ecumenicists get their basic ideas about whether something more than superficial theology matters.

Now, if you want to give that chapter one or two stars out of five for theology, you have plenty of ammo to do so. After that, I have to go and straigten out the muddle about baptism on my blog ...



p.s. -- still going to see the movie. Will stop back when I have a formed opinion. :)

SJ Camp said...


You are correct here. What the book and the film depicted was a ransom theory view. But taking it as a fairy-tale for children with just over arching kidlike themes not in the context of true allegory but only in storytelling analogy... helps me not "telescope in" on too much theological scrutiny. IOW, it works through that lens. If we take it as allegory, it fails the biblical litmus test.

Appreciate your words... THe baptism debate you have going is good. Isn't it good to be "immersed" in the truth and not just "sprinkled" with it?

Grace and peace,

Bhedr said...

Fear not Closet Carman fans! .........? I don't know if I'm going to walk that plank either, but I will comfort those who do.

SJ Camp said...

Here is more very helpful material from a dear friend of mine:

-When Lewis rejected the idea that his stories were allegory, it was, in many ways (aside from his letters to children), a way of addressing these types of expectations. Lewis himself didn’t write a summa and was a literature prof, not a systematics professor. Definite room needs to be given. The only writer I know of that was consistent in every detail is the Holy Spirit.

Much of what Lewis writes as fairy tale or "analogy"--which is I think his word--is not about matching up what happened in this world one to one with what happens in Narnia. It is more of a "what if" scenario. What if Christ was incarnated in Narnia? What could happen.

It is also much like poetry. As my literature prof always said, good writing “shows,” it doesn’t “tell.”

Take for example the definition of a train: "A series of connected railroad cars pulled or pushed by one or more locomotives."

Now take a description of a train by Emily Dickinson.

I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step

Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare

To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill

And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop - docile and omnipotent
At its own stable door

The first is more precise, the latter far more beautiful—a difference that I think many systematicians fail to understand and appreciate with Narnia.

Lastly, I recently heard a definition of a myth or fairy tale as being this: “Something we do not believe, but we do understand.” I think that is how I would approach Narnia.-

Hope this helps a bit more in this discussion...

PS - To my "friends" at Boars Head Tavern... Jump on in here boys, the iron sharpening the iron is good.

Mark Kodak said...

Allegories and typologies do not need to be air-tight to be valid. Consider the serpent on the pole in the wilderness. They looked upon the iconic representation of the creature that poisioned them and were healed. We look at Christ on the cross, and it is not God that poisioned us (except in the ultimate supralapsarian sense through secondary means) nor is it man qua man, but rather, human nature being crucified having taken our sin upon himself. Take the analogy further than the symbol was intended and you verge into idolatry, which is what the Israelites actually did. They worshipped the sign and missed what it typified. That is why the old testament is said to be full of "shadows".

I will not post anymore regarding this since we can disagree amicably concerning Lewis. I really do not need to exculpate him from the many specious adumbrations being published all over cyberspace concerning his orthodoxy. I can nitpick through much more stalwart theologians than him and find plenty to castigate with my reformed opinion just as easily. I will rest in Augustine's maxim of unity in the essentials, which I think Clive certainly believed doctrinally.

Jenney said...

I haven't seen the flick, but I've read the whole series with my children and what bothers me more than the "ransom theory" (which bothers me considerably) are these points:

What saves Edmund isn't the death & resurrection of *Aslan* himself, it could be anyone innocent of treachery: "She (the witch) would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead...Death would start working backward" LWW, p.179 Lucy, Peter, the Beaver, the Fawn, anyone who'd remained loyal to Aslan could have done the same work of atonement. But only Christ could save us, only the eternal Son, only the perfect Sacrificial Lamb. The others in LWW aren't like us because we all require a sacrifice to be "Non-traitors" but they didn't. THe sacrifice was only for Ed, but if the rest are innocent, not needing it, then couldn't they have done it as well as Aslan? They are in a sort of inbetween place. Not like real life: we're *all* Edmunds!

Furthermore, Susan and Lucy talk after the "resurrection" and realize Edmund doesn't know what Aslan did to save him. They decide not to tell Ed because it would upset him too much. (LWW p.197) So much for a Biblical allegory: since when is a sinner saved without having even a hint of the sacrifice made to atone for his life, much less faith in it.

Also, it is clear that Edmund is sorry and that his sorrow is why Aslan bought his life. Christ's atonement for us is not based on our repentance, but the other way 'round. Yet Aslan did not die for Edmund while he was yet in his sin. He bargained with the queen after Edmund made it clear he was not on her side anymore. Had Ed stayed with the queen and said "Shine you, ya big dumb kitty!" there would have been no atonement made because in Narnia, it all depends on one's decision for Aslan. The atonement is a trifling thing.

As for the pastor who said "kids wouldn't pick up on that ransom theory bit" my six year old, upon reading the book herself, asked "did Jesus die because he had to buy us from Satan?" She picked up on that right off.

The story is alright, though the theology only gets worse later on (anyone recall "whatever you sincerely did for Tash, you did for Me"?), and I don't think it is a great story for children because there is too much falsehood mixed with the truth. It requires quite a bit of discernment to avoid the muddle.

I'd rather my kids view it without *any* gospel ideas in mind so we can just call it secular and not try to distort the gospel to make it fit. There are some things we can use for family conversation, but I'm with littlegal--it's just a story. Let's leave it as one instead of trying to make it a doctrinal tome.

Lisa @Me and My House said...

OK, I haven't seen the movie, but I do have a question that stems from all I've heard about it. My question to the whole movie and books, and any Biblical basis in it, is does it or not contain Biblically forbidden witchcraft? Is witchcraft and "magic" just on the side of evil and shown to be evil, or is it an accepted part of both sides?

James Spurgeon said...

Lisa, it's worse than that. It also contains biblically forbidden lying, pride, deception, hatred, slander, and even murder.

Please take that into consideration.

Lisa @Me and My House said...

I did not mean that glibbly. I mean, is evil shown as good, acceptable, without consequence?

James Spurgeon said...


Sorry. I couldn't resist. (smile)

Yes, IMO, there is a clear line drawn between good and evil and consequences for actions are shown.

Denise said...

Check out "Mere Christianity" if you want a clear view of what Lewish held theologically.

Denise said...

Can we portray Christ for children apart from any theology?

Jeff Wright said...

I think that the atonement imagery in TLTW&TW is closer to the substitutionary view than the movie makes it appear.

You can read more about why here if you like:

That isn't attempted spam, just don't feel like typing everything else that I already typed on my blog.

snymo said...

It is true that Ransom was the philogist hero in the Space Trilogy, but ransom theology is not present in C.S. Lewis writings. You can only make the case for ransom theology in LWW if you take Lewis' work as allegory. Although much of Lewis' scholarly work concentrated on the Middle Ages and especially the use of allegory, the Chronicles are NOT to be considered allegorical in nature. The Chronicles contain many Christian themes, and Lewis wrote them wondering what it would be like if Jesus was incarnated on another planet. Though mistaken as allegory, Lewis himself did say they are certainly not allegory. (Sources:,

Alexia Tessier said...

Great review!!!
Narnia is an awesome movie
Movie Fifty shades