I had two things I was really hoping for when I went to see the Chronicles of Narnia release last night. I hoped the movie would be accurate to the book, and I hoped that Aslan had a great roar. I wasn't disappointed.
With my teaching series at the church this month coinciding with the release of the movie, I've had a few different questions come my way. One of the more common seems to be "What's the difference between the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter?"
Good question. Here are some of my thoughts.
Disclaimer: I haven't personally read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies. My thoughts here are more reflective of the Chronicles of Narnia.
Spoiler Warning: if you haven't read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or seen the movie, consider yourself warne and read at your own risk!
In comparing Harry Potter with Narnia I'd ask myself three questions.
How is evil portrayed?
I don't think the Harry Potter stories are dangerous because they deal with evil or witchraft any more than I think the Chronicles of Narnia are dangerous for dealing with the subject of evil. The question for me is how evil is portrayed. The fact is that evil is a reality. Everyday that we wake up we face it. In an ideal world we wouldn't. That's why God told Adam and Eve not to touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He didn't want them to know the realities of evil. But with hearts that seem bent on testing what God said they did touch it, and so do we. The result is that the world is tainted.
What good does it do any of us to pretend evil doesn't exist? The danger as I see it is to pretend that evil is good. Glorifying witchraft is the problem. Trying to sanctify evil is the mistake. Any story that portrays witchraft or evil as fun, cool, or productive is not depicting reality.
In my opinion the Chronicles of Narnia gets this right. Witchcraft and spells are portrayed as evil, just watch the White Witch. Is there any reasonable way to walk away thinking this woman is on the right side? Evil is portrayed as destructive, just watch Edmund. Does the story give any reason to believe that his allegiance to the witch or indulgence in her Turkish Delight was a good decision. And finally, evil is defeated. Just watch Aslan. At the end of the climactic battle scene, who's on top of whom?
What's the story inside the story?
Every good piece of fiction is based in reality. Call it historical fiction if you want, but a good story that captures our hearts is always getting after something bigger than just a man made story. It is a piece of fiction, but it points to something real.
In the case of the Chronicles of Narnia, the story inside the story is the greatest story ever told. You don't have to be a Bible scholar to see the parallels. I could pick out anyone of several dozen metaphors, but let's just take perhaps the most obvious, Aslan.
He serves the Emperor beyond the sea but is also the creator of Narnia. Check out Colossians 1.16. He offers his own life, the life of someone who had done no wrong, to pay the legal penalty for Edmund's betrayal. Check out Romans 5.8. As he's led to his death he's mocked by his enemies yet refuses to fight back or speak in his defense. Check out Isaiah 53. When death doesn't work he comes back to the battle and puts his enemies in their place. When he presents Edmund to the rest of Narnia at the end, he presents the former traitor as "Edmund the Just." Check out half the New Testament!
We could talk about Turkish Delight and temptation, or God's design for man to rule creation, or the awful curse of sin and the joy there will be when it is finally lifted and all the snow melts! Even the door of the wardrobe itself is reminiscent of the claim that Jesus made to be THE Door that leads to a life that is really life, full of adventure, mission and victory.
Jesus liked to tell simple stories to illustrate a greater story. That's what CS Lewis has done. And when wondering about another book featuring evil or witchraft, I'd make sure to find out what metaphors or agendas are lying below the surface.
What's the author's worldview?
Words don't exist in a vacuum. Words don't stand on their own unless you're playing taboo. When put together in sentences and paragraphs they depend on context. And context is defined by the author.
When you read a post on my blog, you're not just reading a disconnected thought, no matter how unbiased I might try to be. You're reading thoughts that have come through the filter of my mind which means they've been shaped by my experiences, my values, and my worldview.
I honestly don't know the personal value system of JK Rowling. But I am familiar with CS Lewis. If you haven't read any of his books, reserve your judgment of the Chronicles of Narnia until you do. After his conversion from atheism he became one of the most influential Christian apologists in the history of the church. Read Mere Christianity, or The Great Divorce, or The Problem with Pain, or The Screwtape Letters. The guy lived and breathed Jesus Christ. HIs faith was real. His value system was biblical and well thought out. And when you read his stories you catch a little of him.
We should remember that Aslan is not Jesus, Narnia is not the earth, and we are not kids. But I would venture to guess that my perception of Jesus is not Him either. None of us will know Him as He really is until we stand before Him without a veil blocking our view. Aslan is not the perfect picture of Jesus because Jesus is too great for any one picture to capture. That's why the Bible presents dozens of metaphors to describe Him to us. A Lion is one of them. So even though Aslan is not the real thing, he is a fresh picture of a part of Christ that is real, with the potential of making our own picture of Christ a little more like the real thing.
During some research this week I came across a great story. A mother wrote a letter to CS Lewis after the release of the Chronicles of Narnia books. Her little boy came to her in tears, upset because he was afraid that he loved Aslan more than he loved Jesus. In his reply CS Lewis said this to the boy (I'm paraphrasing).
The reason you love Aslan so much is because he did something that Jesus did for you that was just difficult for you to see. Now that you see it, everytime you love Aslan, you love Jesus.
By the way, I bet Narnia is a little closer to what earth is really like then what we usually let on. Most days we forget about the war that's waging. And it seems to me that Jesus had his own thoughts on you and I becoming more like little children.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?