Two questions from the Narnia front today.

Is Narnia religious? The question is obviously significant from a marketing standpoint. Today’s Washington Times write-up quotes a Disney exec and a Zondervan exec offering opposing view points.

On the one hand:
Dennis Rice, Disney’s senior vice president of publicity, hedged on whether the film reproduces the Christian character of the book. “We believe we have not made a religious movie,” he said. “It’s just a great piece of cinema that is true to a great piece of literature.”

On the other hand:
Zondervan, the evangelical imprint for publishing giant HarperCollins, is calling the film’s release one of the season’s “biggest religion stories.”

“It is the product for the fall,” spokeswoman Jana Muntsinger said. “In the Christian world, they are just salivating over this. C.S. Lewis is the evangelical gold standard.”

I offer no opinion, other than to suggest that to interpret the book as being simply “mythic” without being “religious” is to divorce the categories unnecessarily. “Myth” (or worldview) seems to be the sort of thing that is inherently religious.

(2) Is Narnia an allegory? I’ll leave the answer to Tabletalk, who points out that the resolution hinges on what Lewis meant by “allegory.” Drawing on letters Lewis wrote, Craig Williams is persuasive in his conclusion:

Lewis will say that Aslan is “like” Jesus in our world. But there is no one-to-one correlation between them. The attempt of allegory is to make this one-to-one assertion. Lewis will not take the place that would put his Aslan on equal footing with Jesus. Aslan suggests Jesus to us, but does not explain him.

(HT: Mark Daniels)

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • Matt:
    Craig Williams is the one who really began this discussion for me.

    I have often called ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ my absolute favorite works of fiction ever, “metaphorical retellings of the Gospel story.” There is some truth to that, of course. But strictly speaking, Craig is right and clearly Lewis himself didn’t see the books as allegories or as metaphors.

    Nonetheless, the themes of the Gospels–grace, sin, repentance, redemption, restoration, faith, valor, right, and wrong–are found all the way through the seven books.

    The implied picture of heaven in “The Last Battle” may be the most moving testament to what we Christians believe awaits us beyond the grave that I have ever read.

    But, of course were Lewis intending to write a straight allegory, the Narnian Chronicles wouldn’t be filled with characters and situations drawn from a variety of other sources.

    His characterization of the stories as being about what Christ might have been like in another world and in the form of a lion (the Lion of Judah?) seems the best explanation of his approach in writing them.

    I truly enjoyed meeting you and your wife at GodBlogCon. And I am extremely grateful to her for allowing me to ride along with David and Denyse to LAX.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Mark Daniels

  • At the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan, morphing from a pure white lamb into his accustomed lion-shape, informs the youths Lucy and Edmund that they won’t be returning to Narnia. They are dismayed, of course, chiefly because they fear they will never see Aslan again. But the Lion-Lamb assures the children that He is as real in their world as in Narnia, but that he goes under a different name and form. They must search for him by that name and form. As if his self-sacrificing atonement so many Narnian years ago didn’t drive the point home to readers, Aslan’s appearing on the seashore, frying fish, in the form of a lamb (an unusual combination of images from the end of John’s Gospel and his Apocalypse) suggest that Aslan’s this-world manifestation is Jesus of Nazareth. The thinly veiled allegory that runs through all of the Chronicles is here completely suppressed in favor of nigh-explicit identification of the image and Imaged.

  • Off topic question: who is Peregrine?

  • Peregrine Ward and the man, Thomas, who shares his last name, are one and the same.