Fiction Isn’t Lying . . . Until It Is


booksSome Christians, apparently, don’t think it’s OK to read fiction because fiction is all about made up characters, places, and events. In other words, it’s all lies.

I had never heard that point of view until I got on the Internet, and then mostly other writers said they’d been confronted by others who chastised them for their lies. I did read a post once by someone who took that extreme position, but it was new to me.

For one thing, appealing to the definition of lie explodes that view, the key being the intention of deception. No one who writes fiction pretends their story is factual. No one who reads fiction is unaware that the story is pretend. So no one is deceiving or being deceived. So fiction isn’t lying.

In addition, authors of fiction use the pretend to make statements about reality. In all my literature classes throughout college, we analyzed stories to determine, among other things, what the author was saying, what he wanted readers to take away or to believe about humankind or the world or God. Thomas Hardy, for example, wrote stories to show that humankind is pushed and pulled by fate. On the other hand, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol which showed that a person can change his ways and isn’t locked into beliefs by chance circumstances.

Those two views which are in opposition to one another can hardly both be true. One might be truthful or they both might be false, but they both can’t be true.

It’s still probably incorrect to say that one which is not truthful is therefore a lie. I’m certain Thomas Hardy believed he was truthfully showing readers the way the world worked, but he was wrong. In his made up stories Hardy revealed his own belief system, one that replaced God with the ‘unconscious will of the Universe’ (see Wikipedia).

My question is this: ought not a Christian writer who knows the truth, reflect truth in any story he or she writes? I want to be clear: I do not think any story can tell ALL truth. For one thing, we don’t have all truth. The Bible, though complete, doesn’t show us all there is to know about God. It is our view of the world through that dark mirror I Corinthians 13 mentions. Second, ALL truth would not fit into one story, even one the size of The Grapes of Wrath or Gone With The Wind.

So what “truth” is a novelist supposed to show in his or her story?

That’s the beauty of writing. An author can open the door for readers regarding all kinds of important truths.

I’m thinking of one novel, for instance, a fantasy, in which the God of that world was worshiped by both factions in an owner/slave society. Both believe this God figure provides for them. Which brings up all kinds of interesting questions: does God provide for the wicked as well as for the victimized? Are those enslaved believing in this God in vain? Is the ruling class worshiping in hypocrisy? Is there anything similar going on in our world?

I could go on to discuss ways in which a novelist can show truth by developing their theme, but the point I want to make is this: a Christian writer, while not burdened to show all truth (an impossibility, but an attempt at such would clearly necessitate the entire plan of salvation), should show truth.

Of course it’s possible to leave out any direct reference to God and still show truth. J. R. R. Tolkien did that. He had Christ figures, but not a direct reference to God or to Jesus.

What Tolkien did not do was mislead people about those Christ figures. He did not have Gandalf decide to take the One Ring for himself. He did not have Aragon desert the forces of Gondor. The one who would sacrifice himself for the fellowship did not turn evil. The returning king did not forsake those who trusted him.

Thus, what an author chooses to show about truth is really up to him, but he must do so faithfully. He would be lying to portray God or a God figure in his world to be selfish or greedy or blood-thirsty or immoral or weak. Any of those would be a lie. A Christian who knows God must portray some truth about Him if He or a representative figure shows up in the story.

Non-Christians who turn God into an it with an unconscious will or who make Him out to be evil, as I understand Phillip Pullman did in his fantasy series, aren’t lying about God in the same way a Christian who knows the truth would be. Rather, they have rejected God and are trying to make sense of the world without Him. They are more to be pitied, though readers must beware so they see the ways their views deviate from the truth.

In short, the Christian is really the only one who can lie in fiction. We know the truth. If we purposely misrepresent God, how can that be thought of as anything but a lie?

Going Along To Get Along


I’m reposting this article from October 2013 because I needed to be reminded of these points.

bird ruffling feathersDon’t make waves. Don’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. Don’t rock the boat. Those were phrases I grew up hearing that basically said, don’t say what you want to say because you’ll upset someone.

Underneath the admonition is the kind intention to spare someone’s feelings. You don’t want someone to get upset or feel uncomfortable or confused or irate or off kilter. You want to keep people happy.

Sure, it’s a good sentiment if it isn’t taken too far. But the problem is, our western culture is, in fact, taking the concept too far. The result is, we no longer speak the truth.

Christians have fallen into this same pit. We sometimes don’t speak the truth because we don’t want to make others uncomfortable, and sometimes we hold our tongues because we don’t want to suffer the outrage from others if we say what we believe.

I understand this latter position. I had an encounter last week on another blog that put me under verbal attack. I was accused of being of questionable intelligence, falsely pious, cruel, dishonest, abusive, creating intentional harm, being snide, having an attitude that was “as Christ-like as a festering pile of donkey scat,” and more. Above all, some said people like me were the reason they didn’t want to be known as Christians.

So do I relish tangling with people who I know might well unleash such a diatribe again? Not so much. It’s easier to keep quiet, to say, I’ve been in the verbal battles in the past and I don’t need more.

I used to think such rancorous exchanges could be avoided by treating others with respect. Except, some people think you don’t respect them unless you agree with them. Some people read evil intent behind every word.

At other times I’ve had people assume they know my position on a matter simply because I’ve stated a view that’s similar to someone else on their blacklist. In this last foray, I was accused regarding my opening comment of trying to prevent others from speaking.

I did say there are voices intent to drown out the message of God’s hope and help with accusations against the true Church. This statement, I was told, constituted me telling those against abuse within the church to stop talking.

What we never got to was this: the true Church doesn’t condone abuse. Does abuse exist within the ranks of those involved in Bible-believing churches? Sadly, I’m certain it does. However, writing off all evangelical churches and all evangelicals as refusing to ask questions, to look at the truth, and to accept those who are digging behind the scenes is . . . myopic. Or filled with hubris.

How can someone extrapolate from their own experience and draw conclusions about all other evangelicals and evangelical churches of whatever denomination? As I see it, someone who reaches such a conclusion might have an unhealthy idea about himself.

So ought Christians to stand by and let people slandering the true Church and maligning God’s name do so in order to avoid confrontation?

I don’t think so.

I know people have said–I think quoting C. S. Lewis–you don’t have to defend the Bible. That’s like defending a caged lion. In reality, all you have to do is let him out and he’ll defend himself.

But when it comes to the Church–well, believers are the Church, so it seems we ought to defend Christ’s bride.

In the end, the best defense is a good offense (not a quote from Scripture, but I’m sure the principle is in there somewhere 😉 ). Peter says it’s our good deeds that will win over unbelievers, though some will only get it “in the day of visitation,” which I think means Christ’s return, or the day of judgment–in other words, not necessarily in the immediate future.

I have no doubt that good deeds speak volumes. I also know Paul said we are to speak the truth in love. It’s not loving to let someone live believing a lie. It’s also not loving to call people vile names.

So Christians, I believe, need to have a determination to speak the truth and not go along to get along, and yet to do so in a way that is different from the way non-believers engage those with whom they disagree.

Speaking the truth articulately without name calling, insinuations, snark, dismissive or condescending comments ought to mark Christians. And in the internet age, speaking clearly without rancor might be the greatest witness we can offer.

God, Sound Bites And Slogans


CS Lewis quoteAuthors are encouraged to “brand” themselves so that readers identify their name with a type of story. James Patterson, well-known for his fast-pace thrillers, says “A brand is just a connection between something and a lot of people who use or try that product.”

Some writers go so far as to develop taglines to identify their writing. One memorable tagline is Brandilyn Collins’s “Don’t forget to breathe” Seatbelt Suspense.

Then there are quotable lines such as the one above or like this one:

Christianity isn’t about being good enough; it’s about being forgiven completely.

I don’t know about other writers, but I think having quotable lines, especially in fiction, would be fantastic—something like C. S. Lewis’s Aslan-isn’t-tame-but-he’s-good line. It cements a truth in our minds but also makes a story memorable.

I_Like_Ike_button,_1952All this seems to fit our contemporary culture. As far back as the nineteenth century, political campaigns used slogans. “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” for example, was the much repeated slogan in the 1840 Presidential election that helped bring the Whig Party to the presidency for the first time. With the coming of radio, then TV, and now the Internet and Twitter, we have become a society formed by sound bites.

TV commercials have raised sloganeering to a fine art! “It’s the real thing,” “Just do it,” “You’re in good hands with Allstate,” “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” “Finger lickin’ good” evoke a product name in the minds of many long after the commercials have ceased to air.

Which, of course, is the point. We want people to remember. But here’s the question. Should thoughts about God be reduced to sound bites and slogans?

They are memorable, and people are apt to quote them. If they contain truth, then that seems like a good thing. Off the top of my head, I can think of two related to Christmas: Jesus is the reason for the season and Wisemen still seek Him (I even used the latter for a title of one of my Christmas bulletin boards when I was teaching).

But here’s the trap with sound bites in declaring something about God—inevitably they say far less than what is true, but people latch onto them as if the nugget said it all.

1976_campaign_button_cFor example, Jesus is the Answer is another one of these Christian slogans. Well, yes, Jesus is the answer. But does that mean people shouldn’t work to discover how He is the answer to their particular question? Hardly, but some folks seem to think no other questions are necessary since we have the Answer.

I think the slogan might actually rob us of discovering more about Jesus—His character and plan and work that make Him the answer for me as much as for a first century Jew, an eighteenth century English slave trader, a twentieth century Auca Indian or middle-aged Dutch watchmaker.

In short, it seems to me God is too big for sound bites and slogans. Perhaps rather than campaigning for Christ, or advertising Him as if He’s a buy-now option that we’re selling, we should look into Scripture to discover deeper, more meaningful truths. We won’t come up with catchy slogans like, “It’s a God thing,” that people will repeat, but when we mediate on His word day and night, our relationship with God will grow. That’s far better than a drive-by slogan.

This article, minus some minor changes and additions, first appeared here in December 2009.

Published in: on February 16, 2016 at 7:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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In Remembrance Of Sir Christopher Lee


Saruman-christopher-lee-2509258-800-600Sunday actor Sir Christopher Lee passed away at age 93. He had the unenviable task of playing the part of the turncoat Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy. I don’t know where he stood spiritually except that he took a firm stand against the occult.

Adversaries are rarely appreciated, but we writers need them. Stories need them. They are the opponents against which our heroes must struggle, and Sir Christopher Lee played his part admirably. So in his memory, I’m re-posting, with some slight revision, an article that first appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in December 2012 under the title “Saruman or Faramir?”

Some while ago, I re-read The Two Towers, the second volume in the Lord of the Ring epic by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first half of the book is devoted to the conflict between Saruman the White, once head of the Council of wizards and Gandalf’s superior, who secretively aligned himself with the great Enemy in the East, against those who aimed to forestall the evil sweeping the land.

For years, in his leadership role, Saruman counseled patience and waiting rather than active resistance as their Enemy grew ever more powerful. Saruman acted the part of a friend, but in reality he was undermining the efforts to withstand the Great Evil.

In the second half of the book, the protagonist Frodo and his servant Sam fall into the hands of a man named Faramir, charged with patrolling the border between the Evil Lord’s stronghold and that of Gondor, the land taking the brunt of the conflict.

Faramir is rightly suspicious of these two hobbits who say they are travelers. There are no travelers here, he says, only people for the Evil Lord or against him. His inclination is to take Frodo and Sam with him back to Gondor.

At some point during Faramir’s inquisition of Frodo, Sam interrupts with these lines:

It’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.

These two characters, Saruman and Faramir, seem to me to reveal the dilemma of the Church. On one hand there are people pretending friendship, even high up in authority, considered wise, people with influence and standing who others listen to and follow. Yet all the while, they are working for the enemy.

On the other hand there are those who seem wary and suspicious, who want to interview and question, who insist on details in order to be sure which way a person is aligned, all the while delaying and perhaps discouraging those from the work they have set out to accomplish.

Either there is lax acceptance leading to betrayal, or scrupulous investigation leading to division and potentially the undermining of significant work.

Interestingly, in the last sixty or seventy years the Church has tried to utilized the equivalent of passwords to alleviate the problem: Jesus people, born again, Bible believing, Christ followers. All are designed to alert others of a person’s true beliefs so that Family members can find one another.

The reality is, Saruman ended up showing his true colors when he held Gandalf captive. And Faramir showed his true colors when he let Frodo go free. In the end, their actions, not their words, showed their allegiance.

I suspect the same is true today. Whether or not a person claims some sort of connection with Christ matters less than whether or not they actually listen to Christ, put their trust in Him, obey Him. Who is taking up their cross? Who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Who is dying to self and living to righteousness?

Handsome is as handsome does, Sam says to Faramir at one point, and the old adage is still true. Christians don’t need to talk the talk as much as live the life. Then it will be quite apparent who is Faramir and who is Saruman.

Puzzle Masquerading As Aslan


Puzzle pretending to be Aslan

The donkey Puzzle pretending to be Aslan

If you’re a fan of C. S. Lewis’s children’s fantasy, The Chronicles Of Narnia, you’re probably familiar with a line often quoted about Aslan, the Christ-like character in the world of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the four children protagonists learn from Mr. and Mrs. Beaver that Aslan, the king of Narnia, is a lion. Then this exchange:

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”

As it turns out, this description of Aslan becomes important in the last book of the series, too. In The Last Battle, a greedy ape cons a weak-minded donkey named Puzzle to wear a lion skin and pretend to be Aslan.

When the imitation Aslan, through his spokesman the ape, begins to make demands on the Narnians that are contrary to all they expected based on the old stories, they remind themselves that Aslan is not a tame lion.

But the ape and his allies, the Calormenes, soon use that same line to explain the changes they attribute to Aslan’s orders—things like conscripting dwarfs to send to Calormene to work in their mines.

When Tirian, the Narnian king, rescues a contingent of dwarfs being marched away, he finds them less than excited about helping him expose Puzzle as the false Aslan:

“Well,” said the Black Dwarf (whose name was Griffle), “I don’t know how all you chaps feel, but I feel I’ve heard as much about Aslan as I want to for the rest of my life.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” growled the other Dwarfs. “It’s all a trick, all a blooming trick. … We’ve no more use for stories about Aslan, see! Look at him! An old moke with long ears!” …

“Which of us said that was Aslan? That is the Ape’s imitation of the real Aslan. Can’t you understand?” [said Tirian.]

“And you’ve got a better imitation, I suppose!” said Griffle. “No thanks. We’ve been fooled once and we’re not going to be fooled again.”

“”I have not,” said Tirian angrily, “I serve the real Aslan.”

“Where’s he? Who’s he? Show him to us!” said several Dwarfs.

“Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?” said Tirian. “Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He’s not a tame lion.”

The moment those words were out of his mouth he realised that he had made a false move. The Dwarfs at once began repeating “not a tame lion, not a tame lion,” in jeering singsong. “That’s what the other lot kept on telling us,” said one.

What a clear picture of false teaching. Some of the Narnians believed in the re-imaged Aslan—Puzzle in disguise—and others decided to believe in neither the pretend nor the real Aslan.

The only difference I see from Lewis’s imagined description of false teaching and today’s real life version is that, instead of exploiting the not safe or tame aspect of Aslan’s character, today’s false teachers capitalize on the “but he’s good” part of God’s nature.

But God is good, so of course he wouldn’t send judgment.

But God is good so of course he wants you to be rich and healthy.

Two different lines of false teaching but from the same perversion of one aspect of God’s nature.

Though the thread running through both is different from the one Lewis imagined, the effect is still the same—Puzzle is masquerading as Aslan.

This post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction in February 2010

Wise Men And The Seeking Thing


christmas-background-2-1408232-m“Wise men still seek Him,” the signs say. At one time I even had those words as the title of a Christmas bulletin board in my classroom. It sounds sort of profound. And Christ centered.

But here’s the thing. In my experience, it doesn’t seem like we seek God so much as God seeks us.

First, God isn’t hiding. He has purposefully and dramatically made Himself known. That’s what the first Christmas and the ensuing thirty-tree years were all about. Jesus came to show Mankind the Father.

Secondly, people seem to be more interested in dodging and ducking and hiding from God. Or flat out denying and rejecting Him. C. S. Lewis wrote of his reluctance, his fight, actually, against God. He called Him his adversary once and wrote this of his conversion: “That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” (Surprised by Joy).

It seems to me, the people who fall into the category of “seeker” are more apt to be hiders ducking behind the quest for the spiritual in order to avoid God and His claim on their lives. Scripture says clearly that anyone who truly seeks, finds.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7:7-11)

Consequently, it seems to me the seeking process isn’t some protracted, drawn out, involved study of world religions or long nights of deep meditation. Those kinds of things are hiding tactics, more likely to obfuscate than to reveal. God has told us what we need to do to find Him: look at His Son Jesus.

Jesus said to [Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

So there’s Christmas in a nutshell. When we look at Jesus come down from Heaven, we are seeing the Father: His love for the lost, His sacrificial heart, His generosity, His mercy and grace, His forgiveness, His humility, His desire for reconciliation and peace, His goodness.

Do wise men seek Him today as they once did over two thousand years ago? Those ancient magi thought they were going to find the King of the Jews, and they did. But they also found the Creator of the world, the Redeemer of Mankind, the Friend of sinners.

Whoever seeks Jesus on those terms is bound to find Him.

Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Friday – Remembering C. S. Lewis


CSLewis MemorialWhile many news outlets look back fifty years and recall President John F. Kennedy’s life and assassination, some are joining a host of book industry professionals and readers to commemorate C. S. Lewis who also died November 22, 1963.

One particularly interesting article compares Lewis, Kennedy, and a third notable man who died that day, Aldous Huxley, particularly looking at the differences in their religious beliefs: “50 years ago today, Kennedy, Huxley and Lewis followed different paths to the grave” (Desert News). Another excellent article, this one from the Religion News Service, interviews James Houston (who turned 91 yesterday), founder of the C. S. Lewis Institute, and a colleague of his at Oxford–“Why C.S. Lewis remains popular: a friend reflects.”

Over at Patheos, the Christ and Pop Culture contributors did something similar to what I did this week–they highlighted the books that meant a great deal to them. One writer chose The Problem of Pain, another A Grief Observed.

In “Why C. S. Lewis Matters Today,” agent Steve Laube commemorated Lewis with a video documentary which includes a five minute segment about “Rediscovering Christian Imagination” about which Mr. Laube says, “We in the publishing industry should have this reminder placed before us on a regular basis.”

Another significant video is that from the UK showing the ceremony held today honoring Lewis in which he was given a memorial in the Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Meanwhile, Moody Radio aired Dr. Alister McGrath, former atheist and now Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College London, talking about his research into C. S. Lewis’s life.

Another great resource is a free e-book, C.S. Lewis – A Profile in Faith, made available by the C. S. Lewis Institute.

For those who love the many quotes from Lewis’s books, one site posted an accumulation of lesser know lines from his books or articles, including a wonderful paragraph on Lewis’s thoughts on death.

Still a different site gave a rundown on his “seven lesser known books.” They opened with Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s spiritual autobiography, which happens to be on my list of favorites of his books, and follows it with Till We Have Faces, my all time favorite Lewis book. Check out the other five rated as lesser known.

As for me, I was also impacted by Lewis’s better known books–his stories. The Great Divorce was especially significant because I had been afraid of dying as a child.

Back in those days people didn’t talk about dying and preachers didn’t preach much about dying. Or Heaven. Or Hell. At best, I had a fuzzy understanding of the afterlife. Then I found The Great Divorce. I suddenly grasped the fact that the eternal is what’s real, what’s solid, and this temporal life, as James so clearly says, is just a vapor that passes away. All my previous ideas had the two reversed.

Narnia impacted me in so many ways, not the least being inspiration to write fantasy. I loved the inventiveness of the world Lewis build from his imagination, but I also loved the way he brought truth to life in those stories. I wanted to write like that!

Till We Have Faces is such a great book, showing the effects of sin and the change yielding to the Master can bring. It’s steeped in mythology, but the end is such a beautiful picture of Christ clothing the repentant believer in His robes of righteousness. Again, for me, this story brought to life the reality of the spiritual.

While I appreciate Lewis’s nonfiction, one particular book had a lasting impact. I’ve already mentioned it: Surprised by Joy. Lewis expresses better than I’ve ever heard before the longing I’ve felt when I am at peace, happy, content, sometimes a condition induced by a piece of music or a rainbow amid a bank of pink sunset clouds or . . . a list of awe-inspiring things. But behind the beauty and the glory and the joy is that one moment of longing–that the beauty and glory and joy could stay and be that way always, only deeper (or, as I’ve since learned, a longing that I might be able to go further up and further in). This is what Lewis identified and what played a big part in his becoming a Christian. For me it crystallized something about my faith.

Perhaps others have said this before, but Ravi Zacharias just tweeted what I think best encapsulates C. S. Lewis’s writing: “C.S. Lewis had the ability to take people to the front door of reason through the back door of imagination.”

I don’t think I can overstate the influence that one man, that one apologist, writer, storyteller, thinker, child of God, brother in Christ, has had on my life. May God continue to use his words to impact the next generation and the next, as long as Christ should tarry.

Remembering C. S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


The-Voyage-of-the-Dawn-Treader-coverContinuing with my tribute to C. S. Lewis, I want to share another one of my favorite scenes from Narnia. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third (by order of publication) installment of the Chronicles, begins with a memorable few lines:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and his schoolmasters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none.

The story features only Lucy and Edmund of the four Pevensie siblings. In a surprising manner they, along with Eustace, are pulled into Narnia. Eustace proves to be an insufferable companion, and through a little magic working on his own greed, he turns into a dragon. However, he doesn’t stay a dragon long, which is a good thing because he carried a deep wound on his arm that likely would have killed him.

When Edmund discovers Eustace is once again himself, Eustace relates how his change took place, a truly beautiful picture of the change God works in the life of every Christian:

Last night I was more miserable than ever. And that beastly arm-ring [the source of his wound] was hurting like anything–”

“Is that all right now?”

Eustace laughed–a different laugh from any Edmund had heard him give before–and slipped the bracelet easily off his arm. “There it is,” he said, “and anyone who likes can have it as far as I’m concerned. Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then–but, mind you–it may have been all a dream. I don’t know.”

“Go on,” said Edmund with considerable patience.

“Well, anyway I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it–if you can understand. Well, it came closer up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I know I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden–trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells—like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

“But just as I was going to put my foot into the water I looked down and saw that it was all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as it had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

“Then the lion said–but I don’t know if it spoke–You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know–if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt–and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me–I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on–and threw me into the water. I smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . .

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me–”

(pp 87-91)

Published in: on November 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm  Comments Off on Remembering C. S. Lewis – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  
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Remembering C. S. Lewis – Prince Caspian


Prince_Caspian_coverFor me, some of C. S. Lewis’s most memorable lines, images, and scenes are in his Narnia tales. I want to share one of my favorites from Prince Caspian, the perfect illustration of “trust and obey,” and more.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy return to Narnia a year after they had become kings and queens in Aslan’s world. But everything is changed. The animals no longer talk–at least most don’t–and the people have forgotten Aslan.

Eventually, with the help of a Dwarf named Trumpkin, they realize that hundreds of years, perhaps a thousand, have passed during their earth year. To put things to rights, they aim to join up with Prince Caspian who believes in the old stories.

To reach him, they must cross a river which is now in a deep gorge. They are discussing how to navigate around this obstacle, then this:

“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.

“Where? What?” asked everyone.

“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.

“Do you really mean–” began Peter.

“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.

“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.”

“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.

“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you wanted to go. And he wanted us to go where he was–up there.”

“How do you know that was what he wanted?” asked Edmund.

“He–I–I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”

The others all looked at each other in puzzled silence.

“Her Majesty may well have seen a lion,” put in Trumpkin. “There ae lions in these woods, I’ve been told. But it needn’t have been a friendly and talking lion any mor than the ear was a friendly and talking bear.”

“Oh, don’t be so stupid,” said Lucy. “Do you think I don’t know Aslan when I see him?

Eventually the five of them take a vote and choose to make their way downstream. After a hard march they encounter an enemy force and turn back. They camp, but during the night, Lucy hears someone call her name. She gets up and makes her way to a clearing where she finds Aslan.

“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.”

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy,”you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke.

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie her for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so–”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I–I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that . . . oh, well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right–somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh, dear,” said Lucy.”

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me–what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me,” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

After Aslan reassures her and fills her with his lion-strength, she says she’s ready and goes to wake up the others. They’re all very sleepy and don’t believe her because they can’t see Aslan themselves.

[Susan said], “She’s been dreaming. Do lie down and go to sleep, Lucy.”

“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice,”that you will all come with me. Because–because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan. “Of course you can’t go off on your own. Don’t let her, Peter. She’s being downright naughty.”

“I’ll go with her, if she must go,” said Edmund. She’s been right before.”

“I know she has,” said Peter. “And she may have been right this morning. We certainly had no luck going down the gorge. Still–at this hour of the night. And why should Aslan be invisible to us? He never used to be. It’s not like him.”

At last, despite all the objections, they set off, with Susan complaining the whole time.

Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan. But she forgot them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan. He turned and walked at a slow pace about thirty yards ahead of them. The others had only Lucy’s directions to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well. His big cat-like paws made no noise on the grass . . .

For a long way Aslan went along the top of the precipices. Then they came to a place where some little trees grew right on the edge. He turned and disappeared among them. Lucy held her breath, for it looked as if he had plunged over the cliff; but she was too busy keeping him in sight to stop and think about this. She quickened her pace and was soon among the trees herself. Looking down, she could see a steep and narrow path going slantwise down into the gorge between rocks, and Aslan descending it. He turned and looked at her with his happy eyes. Lucy clapped her hands and began to scramble down after him. From behind her she heard the voices of the others shouting, “Hi! Lucy! Look out, for goodness’ sake. You’re right on the edge of the gorge. Come back–” and then, a moment later Edmund’s voice saying, “No, she’s right. There is a way down.”

Published in: on November 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm  Comments Off on Remembering C. S. Lewis – Prince Caspian  
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Remembering C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters


lewis_Screwtape_Letters_coverThis year marks the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death. He, like President John F. Kennedy and author Aldous Huxley, died November 22, 1963. As part of the tribute (over at Spec Faith I’ve already written this post and this commemorating his life and writing) to this man who has influenced so many Christian writers, I thought it appropriate to let his writing speak for him.

So here is a flavor of The Screwtape Letters, one of my favorites of C. S. Lewis’s fiction.

My Dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the daily press, radio, television and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous–that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awaken the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real.”

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh, that abominable advantage of the Enemy’s) you don’t realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the Metropolitan Library. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact, much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,” the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,” he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberration of mere logic.” He is now safe in Our Father’s house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to the processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch or see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life.” But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is “the results of modern investigation.” Do remember, Wormwood, you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle,
SCREWTAPE

(pp 21-23, The Screwtape Letters)

Published in: on November 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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