THE MAGIC OF NARNIA….In the weeks preceding the release of the Narnia movie, we’ve been inundated with stories about the Christian allegory at the heart of the books. For example, here’s an explanation from George Sayer, CS Lewis’s pupil, friend, and biographer:
It is possible to extract from the Narnia stories a system of theology very like the Christian….But the author almost certainly did not want his readers to notice the resemblance of the Narnian theology to the Christian story. His idea, as he once explained to me, was to make it easier for children to accept Christianity when they met it later in life. He hoped that they would be vaguely reminded of the somewhat similar stories that they had read and enjoyed years before. ?I am aiming at a sort of pre-baptism of the child?s imagination.?
Does this make any sense at all? I’m curious because I wonder if my nonreligious ways prevent me from seeing something that’s more obvious to Christians.
Here’s the thing: would a fantasy story like Narnia really make children more accepting of Christian theology when they encounter it in the future? That strikes me as nonsensical. After all, the whole point of the stories in the Bible is that they are actually true. Conversely, the whole point of Narnia is that it’s a fantasy. If children make any connection at all, wouldn’t the most likely connection be that Christ’s miracles sure seem an awful lot like Narnia’s magic, which we all know is just a made-up story?
In any case, that certainly seems to be the viewpoint of all those evangelicals who object to the magic in Harry Potter. So why is the magic of Narnia any different? Just because CS Lewis says so? Help me out here.
UPDATE: I’ve got a couple of additional remarks based on some of the themes in comments.
First of all, it’s true that most Christians don’t take the Bible literally. Still, most Christians do take the stories of Christ’s miracles, including the resurrection, literally. He really did walk on water, raise the dead, and multiply the loaves and fishes. In that sense, it still seems to me that Narnia acts more to teach children that such things are mere fantasies, not things that could happen in real life.
Second, as several people pointed out, Narnia also provides moral lessons: the victory of good over evil and the triumph of compassion and sacrifice over selfishness. Point taken. But pretty much all children’s stories do this. The comic books I read as a kid did this. Star Wars does this. Harry Potter does this. If the virtue of the Narnia stories is merely that the moral values they teach prepares kids to accept those same values later in life, then there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them at all. So why the fuss?
My own view, by the way, is that the Narnia books have no impact on acceptance of Christianity at all. But CS Lewis and many of his religious fans seem to disagree. I don’t quite understand why.