The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Mythological fantasy. A phenomenal adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic. In fact, I would say that this is one of the few movies that are better than the book. I was not impressed with the book, but I teared up throughout the film because of its deep magic, that is, its mythological incarnation. Lucy is adorable. One of my favorite moments is when she smiles at her shocked unbelieving siblings, now in Narnia for the first time and quips satirically, “Don’t worry, it’s just your imagination.” The Ice Queen is wickedly well performed, and Aslan was not safe, but good. What struck me in the film was its positive Medieval culture of chivalry. In this, the filmmakers were true to Lewis’ own English background, as well as his degrees in Medieval Romance. It was so refreshing to see honor, courage, and duty in fighting against evil as the means to freedom and justice. Aslan allowing Peter to kill the evil wolf with his sword is a rite of his manhood and becoming a knight of honor. Boy is that politically incorrect – and truthful. And before this event, earlier in the story, Susan had tried to get Peter NOT to fight the big bad wolves as they surrounded them, but rather to “listen to them,” because, “just because you have a sword, doesn’t make you a hero.” Does that sound like the kind of politics that is going on in this world right now as fools seek to reason with terrorists and understand them and bow to their demands rather than kill them. In one of the beautiful key moments of the film, the White Witch appeals to the Deep Magic that is “more powerful than any of us, that rules over all destinies, yours and mine,” and claims that the law demands blood for true justice. This is certainly abhorred as primitive barbarism by those in our society who would blame victims, (unless it’s racism), seek to understand evildoers (like Islamofascists), rather than render justice, and think that letting criminals go because they “feel” sorry or have been good boys in prison is somehow justice. This movie shows that the Law’s requirements are eye for eye, and eye for eye is NOT unjust or unfair, but truly the ONLY fairness, otherwise evil reigns. It is the rejection of eye for eye which is barbaric and destroys civilization because lex talionis is simply a way of saying as we do that “the punishment should fit the crime.” Lex talionis is NOT a justification of revenge, it was meant to keep sinful people from extracting too much in punishment than what was deserved. Which leads us to the Christian mythology in the film. It was not strangled. Of course, the most primary essence of Christianity is the substitutionary atonement of Christ for his people. We are forgiven not because God just waved a hand and let criminals of the universe go – that would be cruelty to the victims. Rather, Jesus took upon himself the death penalty for all believers. In this and this alone is the philosophical and theological conundrum of love and justice perfectly united. God’s Law of justice requires the penalty is paid (justice), but his love is displayed in suffering that penalty on behalf of his people (Romans 5:6-10). This is called the Law and Gospel that is required for redemption to be sufficiently communicated. Like a mirror, God’s Law shows us we are guilty of sin, criminals of the universe (Romans 3:19-20). But the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus paid that penalty to free us (Romans 6:23). As Aslan explains, “when a willing victim who committed no treachery would take the place of a traitor,” then the “Deep magic” is fulfilled, that is, the Law is fulfilled in the sacrificial atonement of Christ. Some of the most powerful analogies to the Gospel are in this film. Of course, the Stone Table of sacrifice is a pagan symbol of appeasement to the gods, just like the crucifix was a Roman pagan mode of punishment. Aslan says nothing and is shaven before killed, just like Christ said nothing and was beat and bruised before being killed (Isaiah 53:5-7), The White Witch, before killing Aslan, says mockingly, “Behold, the Great Lion,” just like Christ’s persecutors mocked him saying, “Hail, the king of the Jews.” (John 19:3) There is an earthquake when Aslan raises from the dead, just like there was one at Jesus’s tomb when he was resurrected (Matthew 28:2). Oh, and it was two girls there when Aslan raised, just as it was the women who saw Christ raised (Matthew 28:1). When Aslan kills the White Witch, he says, “It is finished,” the final words of Jesus on the cross when salvation was secured and he destroyed the power of death and the devil (John 19:30; Hebrews 2:14). Aslan breathes on the statues to bring them to life, just like Jesus breathed on his disciples to give them the Holy Spirit that raises them spiritually from the dead (John 20:22). They left the phrases, “daughters of Eve,” and “sons of Adam,” which are references to our Genesis and Original Sin (Romans 5), but also the glory of man in the image of God as children of Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26). I loved a little tidbit they put in to mock the modernist demythologizing of religion. In Narnia, the “land of myth,” Lucy looks at some books, and one of them is titled, “The Myth of Man.” What a great jab. Two tiny disappointments: They mangled the classic phrase of Aslan, “Is he safe?” “Oh no, but he is good,” into “He’s not a tame lion, but he is good.” And also they only mentioned the phrase of Narnia, “It’s always winter but never Christmas” only once. Yet it should have been a repeated phrase because of course it is symbolic of how godless man seeks to take God out of society. Anyway, Lewis and Tolkien are two of the most potent forces against modernity in making it safe to “believe” again by showing the mythology of modernity as ultimately evil and destructive. I’ll have a booklet or a book out this year if you want to read more about the idea of using mythology or pagan mythological elements in Christian storytelling. It will be called, “Word Pictures.”