It’s the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia, which are almost-explicitly Christian fables that represent the cosmic struggle between God and the Devil – and good and evil in every human heart – in childlike ways. But almost every adult can enjoy the books as well.
I haven’t seen the movie yet – though I intend to – but already the long knives are coming out. Polly Toynbee, a columnist with the UK paper The Guardian, says that Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.
Interesting that a story about children discovering a hidden world, finding good and evil in it, and battling the evil to help save the good, is hateful. One would have thought that contemporary radical middle-eastern doctrines of hatred and murder and death for anyone who disagrees with you might be slightly more hateful than this, but obviously, one is wrong.
However, what Toynbee really hates is the notion that there is more to life than we see with our eyes. That there is a God to whom we are responsible. That He has created a standard of what is right and wrong. And that there are problems humans can’t fix. All these are Christian ideas … and Toynbee happens to be an atheist.
Most people, however, believe that sacrifice for others is a moral, good thing to do in certain circumstances. As the Bible itself says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” But Toybee disagrees:
Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?
That general sentiment is nothing new, although expressed with particular vehemence. As the apostle Paul said already in the first century: “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (“Gentiles” in this context means non-Christians.)
Of course it’s foolishness to non-Christians: if you don’t believe in God, you can’t really (at least logically) believe in sin. And if you don’t believe in sin, you don’t require salvation. Not requiring salvation, you have nothing but a sort of amused, detached contempt for a Savior.
This string of logic, however, is fairly hard to maintain while a) being intellectually honest, and b) having any sort of understanding of the wretchedness and depravity of humanity throughout the centuries, and c) knowing the results of every attempt that people have made to “fix” ourselves.
Getting back to Toynbee’s actual comment: it is precisely because we did not ask Jesus to die for us that His gift is so great, so good, so amazing. But I don’t expect her to understand that in any real sense, unless she has a personal experience with the power of God.
One more thing in her review rankles:
… here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
Christians and Christianity have never believed that might makes right. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Who fought slavery in the Western world? Christians. Which nations have women who are the least oppressed and most free? Nations that once had strong Christian roots. What nations have strong legal systems that protect the rights of the accused from parties, movements, and governments? Post-christian nations, for the most part. Who donates the most money to charities, which help those who are poor, provide for those who are needy, and generally promote the welfare of the most downtrodden people in the world? Christians (find some supporting stats here).
Who also takes the most flak from atheists, ‘intellectuals,’ politicians, social activists, and other post-modern worldlings? Christians.
But hey. We’re used to it – it’s been going on for 2000 years:
If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.
If you belonged to the world, the world would treat you with affection and would love you as its own. But because you are no longer one with the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
Remember that I told you, A servant is not superior to his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word and obeyed My teachings, they will also keep and obey yours.
But they will inflict all this suffering on you because of My name and on My account, for they do not know or understand the One Who sent Me.