Why Christians should avoid Chronicles of Narnia
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, "Isn't it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let us negotiate the matter."
Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, "I want a fur coat." "Good," said the bear, "that is a negotiable question. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise."
They sat down to negotiate, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat.
I feel like with Chronicles of Narnia, Satan is acting like the bear in this story. Christians want to fill their children's minds with biblical truths. Satan wants to fill their minds with witchcraft. So he offers us a deal: a story with magic, yet filled with biblical symbolism. However, just as in this story, I believe the only real winner is the devil. The biblical symbolism is "swallowed up," in a sense, inside the "fur coat" of witchcraft.
Chronicles of Narnia was written by a professing Christian, and a very influential one at that. Readers and parents assume that Lewis made sure to separate the good from the evil to avoid confusing children, whereas Harry Potter, for instance, does not make this distinction. Lewis also places biblical symbolism in his books, and so many parents believe it to be basically harmless for children to read.
However, we must be cautious. The fact that Lewis was a famous apologist for Christianity should not give him license to write stories we allow our children to read without carefully examining them. I think Chronicles of Narnia is much more dangerous than we realize, and I would like to give five reasons I feel this way:
- Lewis had a "lust" for the occult
- Lewis mixes good and evil
- Lewis believed heresy
- Narnia is a "stepping stone" to Harry Potter
- Narnia fills children's minds with magic
1: Lewis had a "lust" for the occult
First, I believe Christians should avoid Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis, by his own admission, had a "lust" or a "disease" which was the desire for the occult, quoted in this blog post:
And that started in me something with which, on and off, I have had plenty of trouble since--the desire for the preternatural, simply as such, the passion for the Occult. Not everyone has this disease; those who have will know what I mean. I once tried to describe it in a novel. It is a spiritual lust; and like the lust of the body it has the fatal power of making everything else in the world seem uninteresting while it lasts.
This should be a major red flag. I know Satan tempts everyone in different ways, but if Lewis really had this "lust" for the occult and magic, what was he thinking by writing children's books that get their excitement from these very elements? Isn't he concerned that his love and "lust" for these dark elements could be contagious to his readers? If Lewis is an effective writer (and I believe he is), then his fascination with these dark things of magic will come through to his readers quite powerfully.
2: Lewis mixes good and evil
When I was a child, my mother taught me how to give a dog a pill of medicine. We would wrap the nasty-tasting medicine pill, such as a heartworm pill, inside cheese, and the dog would gladly eat it. However, Satan likes to use this principle in an evil way: he puts a poison pill inside the cheese. He uses this tactic frequently in the church because he knows his raw poison would not be generally accepted. So he wraps his poison pill, like witchcraft, inside something seemingly good, like biblical symbolism, hoping the church will eat it whole.
How are good and evil mixed in Narnia? In a sense, the story has two "threads": one is biblical symbolism, and the other is magic. They are interwoven in such a way that they cannot be separated, like threads in a sweater. Try to remove one, and it starts to unravel. Such is the ingenious deception of Narnia; intellectuals love it for Lewis's intelligence; theologians love it for the clever biblical symbolism; and children and adults love it for the magic and fantasy. This is how good and evil are mixed.
3: Lewis believed heresy
Third, I believe Christians should avoid Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis believed heresy. I am a bit surprised at the relative lack of scrutiny that Lewis gets in his doctrine. But putting aside our preconceived notions of Lewis, read a few things that he wrote and see what you think:
There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.1
I had some ado to prevent Joy and myself from relapsing into Paganism in Attica! At Daphni it was hard not to pray to Apollo the Healer. But somehow one didn’t feel it would have been very wrong...2
But I notice that Our Lord, while stressing the terror of hell with unsparing severity usually emphasises the idea not of duration but of finality. Consignment to the destroying fire is usually treated as the end of the story—not as the beginning of a new story. That the lost soul is eternally fixed in its diabolical attitude we cannot doubt: but whether this eternal fixity implies endless duration—or duration at all—we cannot say.3
In Lewis's work The Great Divorce, he also casts doubt on the literal physical nature of a biblical hell, making it out to be simply a drab, grey town. One of the characters says:
They lead you to expect red fire and devils . . ., but when you get there it’s just like any other town...4
And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind—is, in the end, Hell.5
In short, Lewis embraced grave heresies about hell, salvation, and paganism. Jesus told His disciples: "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." Lewis certainly had serious doctrinal leaven in his life, and we can expect it to have permeated everything he has written.
4: Narnia is a "stepping stone" to Harry Potter
Fourth, I believe Christians should avoid Chronicles of Narnia because it is a "stepping stone" to Harry Potter. To go from rejecting all magic to embracing something like Harry Potter would be quite a leap. It would be like trying to jump across a wide creek. So Satan has provided a "stepping stone," a sort of halfway point, between the two sides: something containing biblical symbolism wrapped in witchcraft. Instead of one large leap, people can make two smaller jumps and feel better about their decisions. But the distance of both jumps combined yields the same net result. Rather than reduce the amount of evil by providing a halfway point, I believe it has actually increased the amount of evil by enabling more people to cross over who otherwise would have been too nervous if there were no stepping stone at all.
You may say, "But a stepping stone goes both ways; it can also lead those who are interested in magic to discovering Christianity through the biblical symbolism used by Lewis." I think such an argument is as dangerous as the church's employment of Jezebel (Revelation 2:20), the false prophets' attempt to mix faith and works in the doctrine of salvation (Galatians 5:4), or king Saul's attempt to hear from God through the witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:7). Uncleanness mixed with cleanness yields uncleanness (Haggai 2:12), and so we cannot disobey God and try to win the world by something that is "half sinful." The moral stepping stone is always a satanic technique. The Bible never portrays it as a godly one.
5: Narnia fills children's minds with magic
Finally, Narnia fills children's minds with magic. You may say, "But the magic in these books does not compare with 'real' magic." That is an unsafe position, however. That's like saying it's okay to leave a box of matches within reach of small children, because after all, it's not as dangerous as a blowtorch. Or, it's okay to leave a blowtorch within reach of small children because it's not as dangerous as C-4. It would be foolish to use this logic when it comes to fire, and we should not use it when it comes to magic.
Those are five reasons I believe Christians should avoid Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis admitted himself that he had a "lust" for the occult, so he really should not be writing books that make magic seem exciting to children. He mixes good with evil, wrapping biblical symbolism in witchcraft. He believed serious heresies about salvation, paganism, and hell. His books are like "stepping stones" to more openly dark things such as Harry Potter. And finally, it fills children's minds with witchcraft. Yes, most in the church think it's okay; but pray about this matter individually with Jesus Christ. We must guard the church from bad philosophies from without and from within. We must maintain our guard if we desire to keep our hearts.
Lewis, Mere Christianity, referenced in http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/006/narnia-trouble.htm, accessed 2018 April: "There are many editions of the book, and page numbering varies. This quotation comes from Book IV, Chapter 10, “Nice People or New Men,” the fourth paragraph." ↩
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/006/narnia-trouble.htm, accessed 2018 April ↩
"C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. London and Glasgow: Collins, 1940, p114–115; emphasis in original", referenced in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilationism, accessed 2018 April ↩
Lewis, The Great Divorce, Chapter 7, Paragraph 14; referenced in http://www.cslewis.com/heaven-and-hell-as-idea-and-image-in-c-s-lewis/, accessed 2018 April ↩
Lewis, The Great Divorce, referenced in http://www.hjkeen.net/halqn/grtdvrce.htm, accessed 2018 April ↩