Soli deo gloria
Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2010 3:55 pm
The Messenger, September 23, 2010
Soli Deo Gloria: For
the Glory of God Alone
C. S. Lewis:
The Chronicles of Narnia
By REUBEN W. KENDALL
Special to The Messenger
Movie-goers and bookworms across the country are eagerly anticipating this Christmas season, when “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” will become the third of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books to be retold on the big screen. As the great number of Narnia fans attest, C.S. Lewis is probably better known and better loved today for his stories of fiction than for his work in apologetics or philosophy. Avid readers of Lewis will tell you that “Mere Christianity” or “The Abolition of Man” changed their lives, but “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” or “Perelandr”a captured their hearts.
The power and charm of Lewis’s story-telling should come as no surprise. Lewis, who himself claimed to be no theologian, was completely at home and comfortable in the world of fiction and fairy stories. He began writing stories about imaginary worlds when he was very young and continued to master the genre throughout his life. It is in his fiction that Lewis’s Christian beliefs come into play most naturally and freely, speaking to us with honesty, persistent humor and powerful truth.
The crystal-clear theology of “Mere Christianity” lays before us the skeleton of Christian faith, but it is in the frightful conversations of Screwtape or on the battlefields of Narnia that we see the bones come to life, where we experience what being a Christian truly means. Eustace Clarence Scrubb’s encounter with the dragon in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” drives straight to the heart, ringing truer with our own experiences than a library of books about the nature of sinfulness and repentance ever could. “Regeneration” and “conviction” are terms which may fly over our heads in Sunday school, but we understand them clearly when we look, along with Eustace, deep into our own reflections and for the first time see only a monster looking back.
Later in “… Dawn Treader”, we hold our breath when Lucy sees a ray of light pierce the looming clouds of the Island of Dreams. We, too, know what it is to have lost hope in the dark fears of life, only to hear a voice beside us in the darkness, leading the way to light and freedom.
Throughout “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” — really, in all of Lewis’s fiction — we meet characters who encounter truth and are changed by it at every turn. Indeed, it is this steady insistence that what we believe must saturate every corner of our lives that places Lewis so firmly in the Reformed tradition. C.S. Lewis stands with Reformers past and present when he insists that true Biblical Christianity is characterized not by a single act of human choice, but by a lifetime of God’s work in the heart of the believer, who is daily being changed by the power of God more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
C.S. Lewis speaks in a long tradition of men dedicated to the proper understanding of the gospel when he tells us of a Savior who actively works to redeem not only our hearts, but also our daily lives; a Savior who does not secure salvation for a human soul without also seeking out and securing that soul for Himself. And nowhere does Lewis speak these truths more joyfully and clearly than in his beloved stories.
It is little wonder that we love his stories so much. After all, God has written us into His own story — a story, as Aslan tells Lucy at the end of “… Dawn Treader,” that He will be telling us all our lives.
Editor’s note: Reuben W. Kendall is a junior Biology major at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He attends Grace Community Church (www.graceunioncity.com).