Old Literature: The Lion, the curse and the evangelical

“Old Literature” is an occasional series pointing to works of the past, sometimes well known, sometimes not, that have embedded in them a clear creation care message.  [Check out previous posts in the series here.] C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books are perfect subjects for this series, and have long been on my mental list.  Before I got to him, though, Dean Ohlman at Wonder of Creation blog did the job for me, with a little Isaac Watts and John Newton thrown in for good measure.  Here is his meditation on Narnia – reposted by permission:

[Peter said,] “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets (Acts 3:18-21)

We find in the term “evangelical” the implied priority of everyone who claims the name. It defines one who believes, shares, and lives by the evangel, the Greek word for “good news.” This good news, of course, is that the chosen one of God—the Messiah—came to restore the Kingdom of God and through the Holy Spirit is preparing us to be Kingdom people.  When He returns, as Peter says, the earth is going to be refreshed and restored.

C. S. Lewis wrote of this allegorically in his Narnia chronicles: “Aslan is on the move!” The loving intent of the not-tame lion, Aslan, (“the good lion by whose blood all Narnia was saved.” The Last Battle ch.3), was to defeat the dormancy and death of perpetual winter and bring back the verdancy and life of perpetual spring. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe the noble lion willingly gave up his life, like a sacrificial lamb, in order to do two things: remove the curse on the natural order and reestablish people as rulers and stewards of the kingdom of Narnia (“Narnia was never right except when a Son of Adam was King.” Prince Caspian, ch.5). Aslan then arose from the dead in order to accomplish this—using all of creation to assist him in defeating the evil witch who had held the land in her icy grip. This same picture is used in a more sophisticated manner by Lewis in his novel That Hideous Strength.

One could imagine the Narnian creatures singing the lines from Isaac Watt’s beloved Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World”:

No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest [‘nor ice afflict’] the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow [as] far as the curse is found.

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver might have read from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians:

The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. . . . The whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” (Romans 8:19-21, Phillips).

Tumnus, the faun, might then have led the creatures in the song the apostle John witnessed in a revelation from Jesus Christ: all of God’s creatures singing in praise at the consummation of history. They were celebrating the return of the Lamb (as Aslan was characterized in the end of Dawn Treader) who was slain, Jesus, now arisen as the Lion of Judah:

Blessing and honor and glory and power be given to him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for timeless ages! (Revelation 5:13, Phillips).

The actuality alluded to in Lewis’ allegory is affirmed not only by the Scriptures, but also asserted by a number of the great saints of the Christian faith. Let your imagination roam again. Think of John Wesley preaching his sermon “The General Deliverance” while standing on a hillside and proclaiming to the creatures what he told the people of his congregation about nature’s rebirth at the consummation of the age:

In that day, all the vanity to which [you] are now helplessly subject will be abolished; [you] will suffer no more, either from within or without; the days of [your] groaning are ended. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt, but all the horridness of [your] appearance, and all the deformity of [your] aspect, will vanish away, and be exchanged for [your] primeval beauty. And with [your] beauty [your] happiness will return; to which there can then be no obstruction.

As there will be nothing within, so there will be nothing without, to give [you] any uneasiness: No heat or cold, no storm or tempest, but one perennial spring. In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can create to give happiness. As a recompense for what [you] once suffered, while under the “bondage of corruption,” when God has “renewed the face of the earth,” and [your] corruptible body has put on incorruption, [you] shall enjoy happiness suited to [your] state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.

How great is the grace of God that promises everlasting blessing not only for His people but also for His other living creation. I wonder, though, how often we think of that grace in reference to the non-human world—a world that biblical writers seemed to honor far more than we do. The sweet sound of salvation’s grace that amazes us will one day draw from “all creatures here below” the same doxology we have sung for centuries: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

This post is taken from a longer article that appears on the Articles page at Wonder of Creation. You can access a PDF file of it here.   Lion, Witch and Wardrobe” screen shots by jodigreen