Narnia and the Second Commandment

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Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
OK, I'm just going to throw this out here awhile, since there is obviously going to be a lot of talk about the Narnia film in the near future. What do you think about Aslan in light of the Second Commandment, considering that he is intended to be a direct symbol of Christ?

Also, for those in particular who did not see "The Passion," yet plan to see this film, what differences in principle do you see between the two?
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I take Lewis at his word that the story is not meant to be a strict allegory but rather is a fantasy story with religious motifs.

The Passion, on the other hand, was designed to depict Christ in a realistic fashion.

To me, that is enough to treat them differently.

Vic
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Where in scripture is "strict allegory" forbidden ? Was not most of the old covenant worship "strict allegory" ? What is a parable ?
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
OK, Mark, I left out a step. I didn't say strict allegory was forbidden. I think Pilgrim's Progress is fine.

My only point was along the lines of a fortiori. If it is not even strict allegory, it certainly is not a realistic depiction.

Vic
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by victorbravo
I take Lewis at his word that the story is not meant to be a strict allegory but rather is a fantasy story with religious motifs.

The Passion, on the other hand, was designed to depict Christ in a realistic fashion.

To me, that is enough to treat them differently.

To me, a devout Christian writing a story about a Lion who is a king and gives his life for his people is a bit too obvious not to be seen as a direct representation of Christ.

Furthermore, since the second commandment applies equally to all the readers and viewers just as much as it did to Lewis himself, does his authorial intent really even have any bearing on people's own obedience to the commandment when they see Aslan and purposefully think of Christ?

Originally posted by Saiph
Where in scripture is "strict allegory" forbidden ? Was not most of the old covenant worship "strict allegory" ? What is a parable ?

The difference is that all of the Old Covenant worship, as well as all the parables in Scripture, are instituted by God, not created by man. And it is only the latter (images of God created by man) that the second commandment forbids, otherwise the Lord's Supper itself would be a violation.

Originally posted by victorbravo
I think Pilgrim's Progress is fine.

Agreed - and there are no depictions of Christ in it.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
The difference is that all of the Old Covenant worship, as well as all the parables in Scripture, are instituted by God, not created by man. And it is only the latter (images of God created by man) that the second commandment forbids, otherwise the Lord's Supper itself would be a violation.

Is not Christ represented as the Lion of Judah on the apocalypse ?
Can we not follow the example of the prophetic vision then ?

I guess I could write an allegory about a door that is a Christ figure then, because Christ said He was a door.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Q109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A109: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising,[1] counseling,[2] commanding,[3] using,[4] and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself;[5] tolerating a false religion;[6] the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever;[7] all worshipping of it,[8] or God in it or by it;[9] the making of any representation of feigned deities,[10] and all worship of them, or service belonging to them;[11] all superstitious devices,[12] corrupting the worship of God,[13] adding to it, or taking from it,[14] whether invented and taken up of ourselves,[15] or received by tradition from others,[16] though under the title of antiquity,[17] custom,[18] devotion,[19] good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever;[20] simony;[21] sacrilege;[22] all neglect,[23] contempt,[24] hindering,[25] and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.[26]

1. Num. 15:39
2. Deut. 13:6-8
3. Hosea 5:11; Micah 6:16
4. I Kings 11:33; 12:33
5. Deut. 12:30-32
6. Deut. 13:6-12; Zech. 13:2-3; Rev. 2:2, 14-15, 20, Rev. 17:12, 16-17
7. Deut. 4:15-19; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:21-23, 25
8. Dan. 3:18; Gal. 4:8
9. Exod. 32:5
10. Exod. 32:8
11. I Kings 18:26, 28; Isa. 65:11
12. Acts 17:22; Col. 2:21-23
13. Mal. 1:7-8, 14
14. Deut. 4:2
15. Psa. 106:39
16. Matt. 15:9
17. I Peter 1:18
18. Jer. 44:17
19. Isa. 65:3-5; Gal. 1:13-14
20. I Sam. 13:11-12; 15:21
21. Acts 8:18
22. Rom. 2:22; Mal. 3:8
23. Exod. 4:24-26
24. Matt. 22:5; Mal. 1:7, 13
25. Matt. 23:13

26. Acts 13:44-45; I Thess. 2:15-16
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by Saiph
The difference is that all of the Old Covenant worship, as well as all the parables in Scripture, are instituted by God, not created by man. And it is only the latter (images of God created by man) that the second commandment forbids, otherwise the Lord's Supper itself would be a violation.

Is not Christ represented as the Lion of Judah on the apocalypse ?
Can we not follow the example of the prophetic vision then ?

He is indeed - but that gives us no more right to depict Him as a lion in a different setting or in a visual way than the Bible's description of Christ as a human on a cross gives us a right to depict Him as a human on a cross in a visual way or in another setting than the one redemptive Cross at Golgotha.

Originally posted by Saiph
I guess I could write an allegory about a door that is a Christ figure then, because Christ said He was a door.

See the first part of this post. If your allegory goes any further in the "door" description than Scripture, or depicts the Door in any setting Scripture does not, then the depiction is your own creation and not God's. Likewise, Lewis does not simply reword the Bible's description of Christ as the Lion of Judah, but depicts Christ as another lion, with another name, saying and doing things Scripture never tells us he said.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Chris,

We have discussed this issue before, so I won't repeat my position except to ditto Vic. However, I was curious if you would apply the Second Commandment issue to Paradise Lost or The Matrix as well as other portrayals in the arts (literary or visual) of Messianic characters by Christians or non-Christians. In other words, moving beyond Aslan, what do you think of Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost or Neo or other such famous characters from the arts?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Chris,

We have discussed this issue before, so I won't repeat my position except to ditto Vic. However, I was curious if you would apply the Second Commandment issue to Paradise Lost or The Matrix as well as other portrayals in the arts (literary or visual) of Messianic characters by Christians or non-Christians. In other words, moving beyond Aslan, what do you think of Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost or Neo or other such famous characters from the arts?

:handshake:
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Chris,

We have discussed this issue before, so I won't repeat my position except to ditto Vic. However, I was curious if you would apply the Second Commandment issue to Paradise Lost or The Matrix as well as other portrayals in the arts (literary or visual) of Messianic characters by Christians or non-Christians. In other words, moving beyond Aslan, what do you think of Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost or Neo or other such famous characters from the arts?

I have not read Paradise Lost, but regarding Neo, surely not any kind of story regarding a hero type character who saves the people is automatically a representation of Christ? Or was it because the Neo character died in the climax of the story?
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Chris,

We have discussed this issue before, so I won't repeat my position except to ditto Vic. However, I was curious if you would apply the Second Commandment issue to Paradise Lost or The Matrix as well as other portrayals in the arts (literary or visual) of Messianic characters by Christians or non-Christians. In other words, moving beyond Aslan, what do you think of Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost or Neo or other such famous characters from the arts?

Could you give me a link to where it was discussed before?

I have not seen "Paradise Lost." For "The Matrix," any character in a story that saves people by means of sacrifice (e.g., the endless number of war films we have) is not automatically a Christ-figure. Given that, Lewis' parallel to Christ with Aslan is, as I mentioned above, just slightly more obvious than an attempt to liken the Wachowski Brothers' story with a symbolic Christ.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
OK, I'm just going to throw this out here awhile, since there is obviously going to be a lot of talk about the Narnia film in the near future. What do you think about Aslan in light of the Second Commandment, considering that he is intended to be a direct symbol of Christ?

The second commandment seems to address idolatrous worship. The fictional character (Aslan) is allegorical. C.S. Lewis' intent was not to have this character worshipped. Aslan represented a messianic theme in the storyline. I view it as nothing more than that.

[Edited on 12-1-2005 by BaptistInCrisis]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Chris,

We have discussed this issue before, so I won't repeat my position except to ditto Vic. However, I was curious if you would apply the Second Commandment issue to Paradise Lost or The Matrix as well as other portrayals in the arts (literary or visual) of Messianic characters by Christians or non-Christians. In other words, moving beyond Aslan, what do you think of Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost or Neo or other such famous characters from the arts?

Could you give me a link to where it was discussed before?

I have not seen "Paradise Lost." For "The Matrix," any character in a story that saves people by means of sacrifice (e.g., the endless number of war films we have) is not automatically a Christ-figure. Given that, Lewis' parallel to Christ with Aslan is, as I mentioned above, just slightly more obvious than an attempt to liken the Wachowski Brothers' story with a symbolic Christ.

Chris,

I am having trouble finding our previous discussion (although I found another thread which raises the same issue) but it was on the question of whether CS Lewis' portrayal of Aslan was allegorical or not and to what extent Christ was meant to be portrayed in that character and if so how the Second Commandment would apply. I'm mega sleep-deprived at the moment, so I'm not sure my search terms aren't the right one to use or if we discussed this on an entertainment thread that got deleted, but I do recall the discussion.

In any case, I think I was arguing that he clearly did not intend to represent Christ directly with the character of Aslan. This article sets forth Lewis' views on allegory and what he was trying to do with the Narnia stories. I think it is not enough to show that the author was Christian and the character is somewhat Christ-like in order to prove that the Second Commandment is being violated. I think a much stronger case could be made that Christ as portrayed in Paradise Lost (John Milton's epic poem) violates the Second Commandment by putting words in his mouth that are not found in Scripture (this is done all the time in poems and songs). The character of Neo, to my mind, is not any different principially from that of Aslan. Neo is clearly a Messianic figure who is resurrected on the way to Zion and is intended to be a Christ-like character. But there are lots of Messianic characters in the arts, and I think the threshold for violating the Second Commandment requires a much more clear and direct connection than simply a lion who has certain characteristics that correspond to the story of Christ. Christ-like and direct representations of Christ are not the same thing to my mind.

A passion play meets that threshold and violates the Second Commandment. Although the viewer of the play would be seeing an actor, the actor is intending to portray Christ. Lewis makes it clear that he is not intending to portray Christ through Aslan. The argument that authorial intent does not matter I think it faulty. When a character is fictional and ambiguous anyone can overlay their interpretation of the character and call it a violation of the Second Commandment. Then it becomes a matter of whose interpretation of the character is correct. Given that this is a work of art that we are discussing, I think interpretations are really subjective and no one interpretation can bind the conscience of another to the point of declaring someone who sees the movie to be in sin. Mel Gibson's movie is a different matter altogether. There is no ambiguity about what is intended there. Anyhow, that's how I see it.

To be clear, I do think that one can legitimately critique the theology underlying Narnia or the Matrix stories (I have done so myself in other threads). I am not saying that art is morally neutral or that theology isn't involved in the stories. I am just focusing on the narrow issue of whether the Second Commandment prohibits the portrayal of Alsan and such characters in writing or visually, and I don't think such characters fall within the scope of the Second Commandment.
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
If you do a search for "Aslan", only a small number of threads come up. From that you can pick the few that apply to this discussion.
 

Jie-Huli

Puritan Board Freshman
It is interesting that Mr. Lewis himself opposed making a movie of his books, and said he would find a "human/pantomime" version of the lion to be "blasphemy". I wonder if he considered it a violation of the second commandment? I suppose not, if he could countenance cartoons . . . it is interesting, still.

By the way, I have not read these books and know little about them, I am just sharing a news article I thought interesting and somewhat relevant. The following quotes were taken from a letter he wrote in 1959.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4481756.stm

Lewis said he was "absolutely opposed" to a live TV version.

"Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare," he wrote.

"Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) would be another matter."

He added that he would find a "human, pantomime" version of Aslan the lion to be "blasphemy".
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by Jie-Huli
It is interesting that Mr. Lewis himself opposed making a movie of his books, and said he would find a "human/pantomime" version of the lion to be "blasphemy". I wonder if he considered it a violation of the second commandment? I suppose not, if he could countenance cartoons . . . it is interesting, still.

By the way, I have not read these books and know little about them, I am just sharing a news article I thought interesting and somewhat relevant. The following quotes were taken from a letter he wrote in 1959.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4481756.stm

Lewis said he was "absolutely opposed" to a live TV version.

"Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare," he wrote.

"Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) would be another matter."

He added that he would find a "human, pantomime" version of Aslan the lion to be "blasphemy".

Yes, I quoted that article previously here. It would be interesting to clarify what he meant by "human, pantomime" version of Aslan being "blasphemy." But I think it clear from other writings by Lewis (already cited) that he did not mean for Aslan to be construed as a direct representation of Christ. He was intended as a fictional character. That there is symbolism in Aslan there can be no doubt. But it is also possible to read too much into a character. Whether the Narnia stories are allegorical or not is a matter of debate. What Aslan represents and on how many levels is also a matter of debate. But I think ultimately it must be judged as a work of art (for that I would recommend applying the principles put forth by Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible) and not under the scope of the Second Commandment which I think deals with direct -- albeit more or less Biblical -- representations of the Godhead.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
I do not think Lewis meant blasphemy to God, but blasphemy to the art of literature containing anthropomorphic animals.

Has anyone read the book "Vere Homo" by Jeffery Meyer ?
 

Robin

Puritan Board Junior
Well, here is an e-mail I received from Rick Warren about the movie:

Dear Saddleback Family,

We've been getting ready for months for the opening of the movie "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," next week. This movie gives us a perfect opportunity as we start the Christmas season to focus on and to tell about the love of Jesus. It's based on the book by C.S. Lewis, one of the great Christian communicators of the 20th century, who used a Lion and four children in a world called Narnia to show the difference that Jesus can make in all our lives.

Here are the three things we've prepared for you with the release of this movie:

1. Pastor Doug Fields will begin a two week sermon series based on the movie this weekend (Dec. 3 & 4). We'll look at how the pictures in the movie point to needs we all have in common, and God's answers to those needs. Your friends will have seen or heard about the movie, so this is a perfect series to invite them to!

2. A three week Bible study curriculum for our small groups, taught by Pastor Tom Holladay, will be available on the patio beginning this weekend. The group study looks at the clear parallels to the Bible in the movie. You can start the study before or after you see the movie, it will work either way.

3. We're going to see the movie together as a church in special pre-release screenings on Thursday December 8th. We've booked 20,000 tickets for that night! I did this because I wanted you to be able to see the movie together in a theater filled with your Saddleback family and friends. I also did this because we need to show up in numbers as a church and support Hollywood making movies with spiritual themes. In fact, we've already had newspaper, radio and TV doing stories on Saddleback's support of this kind of movie.

If you don't have your tickets yet, there are still some left. And I'm thrilled to announce that as of today we've worked out a way for you to get your tickets online! Go to http://saddlebackfamily.com/home/events/eventsearch.asp?str=narnia and you'll see a list of the theaters and times that are still open for Thursday December 8th. Make a night of it with your small group and go to the movie and then out for dinner. Or go to the theater in Newport and then visit Roger's Gardens.

Again, the place to go to get tickets online is http://saddlebackfamily.com/home/events/eventsearch.asp?str=narnia. We've already sold out a number of theaters and times, so go online quickly to be sure to have a ticket.

This is going to be fun! Don't miss out on these great opportunities for yourself, your family, your small group and your friends!

Pastor Rick

:detective:
Robin
 

Robin

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
OK, I'm just going to throw this out here awhile, since there is obviously going to be a lot of talk about the Narnia film in the near future. What do you think about Aslan in light of the Second Commandment, considering that he is intended to be a direct symbol of Christ?

Also, for those in particular who did not see "The Passion," yet plan to see this film, what differences in principle do you see between the two?

Similar dangers apply....inaccurate concepts about God's character promoted. This is a stumbling block to evangelism.

Does anyone here realize that Lewis' writings are hugely popular with Mormons and Roman Catholics? Unfortunately, Lewis' inconsistent theology is being exploited.

(Personally, he stands as a much beloved author, to me.) One has to read lots of CS Lewis to actually understand his theology well enough to learn he embraced a saving faith. Folks don't want to read or think much, these days, though.

r.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Typology is not idolatry unless you worship it.

You all know by now my view on the 2nd commandment. However, with Aslan, the bronze serpent, a lamb, a staff, an ark, etc., those typological figures that house concepts are not what the second commandment forbids. I have no problem with Aslan as much as I have no problem with Noah's ark, or the bronze serpent.
 

crhoades

Puritan Board Graduate
Please take this as sarcastic humor not necessarily a viewpoint:

You gotta wonder if the Israelites bought stuffed calves to give to their kids back in the day...{saw a stuffed lion with a LW&W tag on it at the local bookstore the other day}
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by C. Matthew McMahon
Typology is not idolatry unless you worship it.

You all know by now my view on the 2nd commandment. However, with Aslan, the bronze serpent, a lamb, a staff, an ark, etc., those typological figures that house concepts are not what the second commandment forbids. I have no problem with Aslan as much as I have no problem with Noah's ark, or the bronze serpent.

:ditto:
 

pduggan

Puritan Board Freshman
I wonder how Lewis can maintain that throughout the novels, Aslan is not just Jesus Christ under another guise.

I understood the series to be a thought experiment along the lines of what would the incarnation and redemption be like in a world where there was an alternate 'story-book' world of talking animals.

When at the end of Dawn Treader, Aslan shows up in the form of a lamb, and when Aslan talks about how you can find your way into his kingdom from "all the worlds" and tells the kids they need to get to know him better as he is in their own world, that says to me that the character, the "person" of Aslan, is in fact to be identified with Christ.

The Christ of the alternate world of the thought experiment, but no less the same person. This would all be blasphemous if Lewis were claiming that, in fact, Jesus was also Aslan, but in the literary world of the imagination, he is making no such claim.
 
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