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