#progGOD: Incarnation and the problem with Aslan

In C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories, Aslan often refers to the Pevensie children — humans from England transported to a magical other world — as “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.”

Aslan, a mighty and noble lion, is intended as the Christ figure of Lewis’ Christian allegories. Lewis makes this anviliciously obvious. Aslan sacrifices himself to save the sinner Edmund, and then rises again. Aslan’s faithful people — the talking beasts and magical creatures of Narnia — revere him as the Son of God.

But Aslan doesn’t really work as a Jesus figure. The Pevensies may be the children of Adam and Eve, but Aslan is not.

Narnia, in other words, is an allegory that lacks incarnation. And you can’t have a Christ figure without incarnation. That’s why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with those genealogies and with the Christmas narratives we recall this time of year. The Gospels cannot be good news unless God becomes a child of Adam — and a child of Abraham, and of David.

That is why the Gospel of John begins with his own more cosmic version of the Christmas story — “He was in the world … the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”

Aslan is fleshy, but his flesh is not our flesh, and he does not dwell among us. He may sort of work as a Christ figure for the other talking lions of Narnia, but not for the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve who visit that world. Nor for the humans of Archenland and Calormene (wherever they come from in that story), or for the dwarves of Narnia, or the fauns, dryads, beavers, mice, badgers, centaurs or other good folk of that world. (Lewis’ choice of a lion for Aslan also seems fraught with some Great Chain of Being baggage, which further undercuts the meaning of incarnation in his allegory.)

This is helpful, in a way. Lewis has inadvertently provided us with a kind of negative illustration of the importance of incarnation. By giving us an allegory centered on a pseudo-Jesus who is not a child of Adam, Lewis shows us how essentially important and pervasive the meaning of incarnation really is.

One place we see this in the Narnia stories is in the Stone Table sequence in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis attempts to illustrate his belief in a theory of penal substitutionary atonement, but winds up flailing a bit — deeper magic? — because all such theories of atonement only work if the person on the Stone Table or on the cross is one of us.

Or consider Aslan’s statement to the Pevensies in Prince Caspian:

“You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve”, said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content.”

Here Lewis references the theology of creation and the fall, but the theology of redemption seems absent. It has to be, because redemption is bound up with incarnation.

Humans are good, Aslan says, because God created us as good. But that creation story is not the only story or the only way in which God affirms our goodness. We have other sources of “honour” that Aslan does not acknowledge.

God has shown that humans are worthy not just through creation, but through adoption, redemption and incarnation. God made us, God chose us, God redeems us, God became one of us.

This matters.

I need to re-read the Narnia series with this in mind, to further trace how Lewis’ non-incarnate Christ figure alters the theology of the allegory. I suspect much of this also traces back to C.S. Lewis’ fascination with Plato. When “the word became flesh” gets translated into “the ideal became shadows,” then things are bound to get a bit wobbly with regard to the meaning of incarnation.

And that’s a problem in the Narnia series. An allegory of Christ without an incarnation is like … well, it’s like a world in which it is always winter, but never Christmas.

 

  • Diggory Kirke

    But Aslan isn’t an allegory of Jesus. There is no Fall in Narnia (though humans coming into Narnia from elsewhither bring their Fall with them). Aslan’s sacrifice saves Edmund and Edmund only; he is not the Redeemer of the Narnians because the Narnians remain as they were created; he is not a Saviour; because there is no Original Sin.

    Further, Lewis explicitly denied that Aslan was an allegory of Jesus; he said he /was/ Jesus, or rather how Jesus might be supposed to be in another world, with another setup. He is still the Son of God, but his job in Narnia is different from his job in our universe; he is the Steward of Narnia, not its Saviour.

    Really, what do they teach them in these schools these days.

  • Sagrav

    I still think that Aslan works as a substitute Jesus because all of the talking animals, dwarves, faeries, dryads, etc. have human minds and personalities, so they are essentially people.  If a mad scientist could somehow pull your brain out and put it into the body of a lion, you’d still be you.  You’d just be living a furry’s dream come true.  I guess in that way, Aslan is Jesus for furries.  He died for their yiffs.

    This stuff is all magic, and as such there are no real rules governing it.  If a god wants to be an animal instead of a human as part of its scheme to remove a magical sin-stain from our magical souls, then it can.  If you are a being that can rewrite the rules of reality for your own amusement, you can turn yourself into a meth addicted bonobo poet for all the difference it makes.  It might even make for an amusing religious text.  “The Gospel According to Koko”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    There are theological difficulties with Aslan but not the fact that he’s not human. (Really, Fred how speciesist of you!)

    As noted there is no specific ‘fall’ for the talking animals of Narnia for whom, as Aslan makes clear, the world was made (“It is not a kingdom for men,” as I seem to recall him saying, “though it is a kingdom for a man to be ruler of.”) And yet they do have sin and some of them are found wanting at the last judgement and pass from Aslan’s sight and into the eternal darkness. Which makes one wonder what the sacrifice at the Stone Table was in aid of….

    Still, I cannot agree that a Talking Lion is not ‘one of us’ nor part of our moral brotherhood and may be in need of saving as much as the next sapient.

    Or not which is the argument Lewis presented in OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET.

  • Diggory Kirke

    TL:DR, Aslan *is* Jesus but *not* Christ.

  • http://www.jasonknox.weebly.com jasonknox

     Here’s one of the Lewis quotes where he denies writing Narnia as an allegory:

    “If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?” This is not allegory at all. So in Perelandra. This also works out a supposition . . . Allegory and such supposals differ because they mix the real and the unreal in different ways.”

    We might say that the Narnia stories are parables, but you’re right they are not allegory. “Parable merely says to the reader, “this is like this” while allegory says to the reader “this is this.”

  • Liralen

    This reminds me, you might enjoy the movie Ink. The Christian allegories are stunningly beautiful.

  • Becca Stareyes

    If I recall my childhood Narnia obsession, it’s implied that all humans in Narnia come from Earth folks who wandered into Narnia.  The first king and queen were from England (when the Professor was a boy, and near Narnia’s creation).  Caspian’s people were also from Earth originally.  I’d assume that other humans were various sorts of people from Earth who wandered in and settled.

    As folks mention upthread, I’d say there’s a larger problem than that Aslan is a lion.  Well, a bunch, actually, some Fred mentions.

    Talking animals and various fantasy creatures seem morally equivalent to humans — so a lion could easily be ‘one of us’ as much as a human could.  However, Aslan affirms that it’s better for an outsider (a human) to run the country as a matter of faith — which seems to suggest that humans are above intelligent animals/centaurs/fauns/etc. without any reason besides ‘God says so’.  You could argue easily that Caspian X was a good compromise king in that he was human, but respected the non-humans of Narnia, so could bring together the country after generations of humans oppressing non-humans.  Peter et al. were considered the heros of the kingdom after defeating the White Witch, but a lot of that was Aslan’s (and Santa’s) intervention that gave them the tools and the ability to rally the Narnians.  

    As others noted, while Aslan seems to be physically a lion, he doesn’t seem to have lived a Talking Lion’s life. At best, you could say he was post-crucifixion/risen Jesus, who took on leonine form to help create and steer Narnia.  Which raises the question of whether Narnia as its own world, rather than some kind of reflection on ours, exists.  (Seems a bit of a cheat to my fantasy writer’s heart to make Narnia so bound to ours and not vice versa.  Like Narnia is but a shadow of our world.) 

    Also, if I recall, the idea was that the Stone Table was to break some old Narnian rule of ‘an eye for an eye’ — if Peter didn’t turn over Edmund to the Witch, some kind of karmic backlash would hit him for harboring a criminal.  If an innocent — Aslan — volunteered instead, that was apparently enough to rewrite the universe and also restore the sacrifice to life.  

    Which doesn’t really work with Aslan as creator figure in later books*, and seems like a pale sacrifice when Aslan knows what he’s doing and the results.  I’ve seen some argue that Jesus was human enough that he could still fear death and pain and feel uncertain about ‘is this really going to work’, but Lewis doesn’t seem to portray Aslan as that at all.  

    * I guess it gets back to the question is ‘why does God need the crucifixion of Jesus to rewrite the rules so folks who follow him can go to heaven when he’s God the Creator’.  

  • Tofu_Killer

    If there was no Fall in Narnia, why is there suffering? 

     I always thought Lewis was a little sloppy in not answering that more explicitly. The importation of evil works for the Sons of Adam/Daughters of Eve crowd, but the animals are supposed to be free of sin, yet they suffer horribly under the Witch and in the later books.

    This has been one of those questions that sticks with me, and every time I think I have an answer it falls through on some point of Augustinian theodicy or other.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Interestingly enough, the question of Incarnation & Pre-Adamic (& post-Christ) civilizations are dealt with by Lewis much more interestingly in the first two books of his Space Trilogy.

  • Michael Pullmann

    There’s also the problem with how Aslan *doesn’t* save Susan because she stops kissing his ass.

  • Andrew_Ryans_Caddy

    When I was a kid, I was steeped enough in a confluence of Christ narratives and fantasy novels that I honest to god loved Narnia for being a cool story about magic stuff, and the religious stuff flew right over my head.  I was a uniquely dense child. 

  • rm

    It would have been cool if Jesus had been one of the talking mice. That would be closer to the Bible story.

  • french engineer

    I might be an atheist, but let me, for the sake of the argument, take a theist point of view and disagree with you here.

    You are too restrictive in defining “us”.

    It is said god made humanity inHis image, but unless you ascribe to the “beardy man in the sky” god (and I do not think you do), then being built inthe image of God does not refer to our bodies, our flesh, but to our souls and minds. It refers to the difference between us and animals, as seen by the ones who wrote the Bible and did not know how smart some animals could be. It refers to sentience.

    What does it mean in regards to Narnia? In Narnia, te talking animals are sentient. they are, for all intents and purposes, in the image of God, too. So having God incarnated as an animal, a talking animal, is no big deal.

    I kind of suspect this post is bait on your part, though, given the running theme of inclusiveness on this blog.

    Now, on the Narnia series as a whole, I am afraid I came to it as an adult, and I did not care a lot for it. I found the tone of the books condescending (I know the target audience was supposed to be children, but I don’t think I’d have liked the tone even as a kid) and the religious imagery annoying and hamfisted. Of particular infamy is the whole “if Aslan does not exist, then I’d rather pretend he does than live in a world where he does not” passage, and the dragon = sin allegory  which I found both forced and misreperesentative of the whole idea. Moreover, in the last book, I kinda identified more with the dwarves than the heroes – but I suppose that was to be expected.

    On the whole, I found the “dark materials” series, which is kind of the opposite of the narnia books, much better written. While being conscious a lot of that is probably bias.

  • redsixwing

    See, I think Aslan doesn’t work as a Christ allegory because he’s not present in times of need, he’s not all-loving by any stretch of the imagination (see above re:Susan) and he comes across as arbitrary and cruel.

    Capering merrily in the forest while a war is going on, his people are dying, and he could end it with a roar is merely the first example that comes to mind. Making jokes about a wounded Mouse’s tail when he bloody well has his own tail, presumably knows how important they are for balance, and could restore Reepicheep’s with a word is another.

    Ana Mardoll has done some excellent teardowns of Why Aslan Is A Big Jerk.

    That is why I can’t accept him as a Christ allegory, though he appears to have been set up as one.

  • galactica_actual

    (Full disclosure: I love the Chronicles of Narnia. I have since I was a nine-year-old Southern Baptist, and I still do as a thirty-year-old atheist.)

    I always thought that the Fall of Narnia was implied in the Magician’s Nephew when Digory and Polly bring Jadis (who later becomes the White Witch) to Narnia. Aslan says that he’ll see to it that the worst of the evil that she’ll bring to Narnia falls upon himself. To me, it always seemed pretty clear that since Aslan appeared as a Talking Beast who created Talking Beasts, he was a recognizable as an incarnation of a native Narnian to the native Narnians, and that his death on the Stone Table was a redemption for all of Narnia itself.I don’t think that C.S. Lewis meant for Aslan to be an exact analogue of Jesus Christ, because I don’t think Narnia is supposed to be Animal Farm- not every character represents something or someone in our world. The fact that Narnia is a pantheistic world with river gods, wood nymphs, and the Calormene Tash pretty much rules out Christian monotheism, but I think the fact that we recognize Aslan as a Christ-like figure in the Chronicles shows that Lewis was pretty successful in getting his message through.

  • Jim Roberts

    It doesn’t really matter what Lewis intended it to be, it matters what he wrote and how it’s interpreted – and if you interpret the story as an allegory, it fails. That really should make you happy since that mean’s you’re most probably right.

  • Tricksterson

    Not that unique.  It flew over my head too.

  • Carstonio

    I wouldn’t even describe Aslan as a Christ allegory because I didn’t detect much of a philosophical or theological message. His fate was simply a copy of the Passion, much like Superman Returns. Except I had the nagging suspicion that Lewis intended the Aslan version to be an introduction to Jesus alliegance, which is not the same as Christianity.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or it might simply be that Susan’s siblings misunderstand: Susan is not in heaven because Susan, unlike her family, is NOT DEAD. The bit about the nylons and lipstick is an unrelated complaint about Susan, and it remains unrelated no matter how much the others want to blame Susan’s discovery that fashion and parties exist in England as well as Narnia for Susan’s absence from heaven.

    Go on, tell me Susan wasn’t the diplomat of the four. Or tell me the job requirements of a diplomat don’t include hosting or attending fancy parties while dressed up to show off. She is doing the same damn thing in England that she was in Narnia, it’s just lower stakes in England, and while her siblings could see its value in Narnia, in England it gets them nothing so they can’t see why she wastes her time.

    Even though I bet what she’s doing is what today would be called networking, which she will eventually leverage into an excellent career in which she does things she learned in Narnia in service of Britain–and no way would she get this career if she let on that she’s got mental health issues, which is the obvious conclusion for an uninformed onlooker to draw on the discovery that she believes she actually spent fifteen years in a magical land and came back the same time and age as when she left, and she finds it easier to maintain the pretense in public if she never lets it drop in private.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Don’t feel bad. I didn’t really grasp the parallels myself until I was older. When you’re about 10 years old, Narnia tends to be just great fun because it’s an imaginary land.

    That said, once I saw the parallels they were practically the size of the ACME anvil that Wile E. Coyote always manages to drop on his foot. I mean, Lewis basically ripped off the unjust-death-and-resurrection straight from the Bible story about Jesus’s death and resurrection.

  • TheRealAaron

    The importation of evil works for the Sons of Adam/Daughters of Eve crowd, but the animals are supposed to be free of sin, yet they suffer horribly under the Witch and in the later books.
    I don’t think personal sin is necessary to experience suffering. Clearly, Jesus suffered even though He didn’t sin. But we might argue that was because He was human and willingly took suffering upon Himself.

    A more interesting case is animals on earth. Did Michael Vick’s dogs sin? I’d say no, because they’re just dogs. They don’t have the moral capacity to sin or not sin. Rather, they suffered because a sinful* human inflicted suffering upon them.

    * Not to jump on Vick in particular. All have sinned and fallen short, ya know.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Point taken and appreciated.
    I suppose that the distinction must be that terrestrial animals, by tradition, are soulless and have no agency*.
    Lewis though brings his animals into heaven (REEPACHEEP!), even going so far as to make a distinction between the dumb and talking animals in who can be saved.

    * Exception: All dogs go to heaven, so the hit on Vicks is valid.

  • Ross Thompson

    A more interesting case is animals on earth. Did Michael Vick’s dogs sin? I’d say no, because they’re just dogs. They don’t have the moral capacity to sin or not sin. Rather, they suffered because a sinful* human inflicted suffering upon them.

    What about animals that slowly burn in a forest fire, started by lightning? Did they suffer because they sinned? Or because the forest or the lightning was sinful? Or because there’s no link between sin and suffering?

  • MikeJ

    I can’t have been the only person who picked the first book up without any knowledge of who C.S. Lewis was, or that Aslan was supposed to be some sort of Christ figure.  I got to the part where he came back and thought, “That was kind of a weak plot twist.  He’s just back, no explanation at all.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    IIRC the Catholic Catechism specifically says that the resemblence between God and his Creation, Man, lies chiefly in the soul.

    And for me the ‘Dark Materials’ series got on my tits for the number of theological/philosophical points it fumbled and the forced unhappy ending.

  • Lori

    Capering merrily in the forest while a war is going on, his people are dying, and he could end it with a roar is merely the first example that comes to mind.

    Making jokes about a wounded Mouse’s tail when he bloody well has his own tail, presumably knows how important they are for balance, and could restore Reepicheep’s with a word is another.   

    Um, how does this disqualify Aslan as an allegory for Christ?

  • flat

    Well Fred just explained what I always found difficult about Aslan: he is not an incarnation Of the people of Narnia.

    He is just a big lion.

  • AnonymousSam

    The film by Jamin Winans? Very fond of it. Pity it’s no longer available on Hulu (or at least for free accounts) or I’d link it. Yes, though, definitely worth seeking out. Also SPIN, another of their short productions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP59tQf_njc

  • lowtechcyclist

    Aslan is fleshy, but his flesh is not our flesh, and he does not dwell among us.

    ISTM that the “he does not dwell among us” part is the real reason why Aslan is not a viable Christ allegory.  Aslan doesn’t dwell among the Narnians; he is only an occasional visitor.  He does not participate in the joys and pains of being one of the talking beasts of Narnia, even though he has the body of one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.rosenbaum.35 Sara Rosenbaum

    this is going to be the nerdiest thing I ever posted on the internet, but here goes.

    Fred, no offense, but you’re a white guy. If you think that a Talking Lion can only be Jesus for Talking Lions, you’re noticing the same problem that non-white-guys have with our world’s Jesus. Aslan might experience what it is to suffer as a lion, but does he know what it’s like to suffer as a faun? Jesus may have suffered, but he never knew the pain of childbirth. Or of insititutionalized racism.* So this problem isn’t something that distinguishes Aslan from Jesus, it’s a problem they share.

    *Yes, Jesus was a member of a colonized people, but but that’s not the same thing.

    CS’s thing about Aslan not as an allegory, but as an actual a/u incarnation of the Christian God has always fascinated me. I suppose that you could, in the world of the books, as easily establish a Church of Aslan on earth as you could a Christian Church in Narnia, and they would be equivalent, or in communion with each other, like the Eastern Rite and Rome.

    But CS’s insistance on the “reality” of his invention strikes me as a piece with JRR Tolkien’s conceit that not only were his Middle Earth fictions not invented by him, but that they were *translated from the original languages* into English *and other invented languages bearing the same relation to English* as the original languages of the source text. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westron#Westron_renderings_in_Tolkien.27s_literature) ie, as kind of a semi-adolescent pose that allows them each to escape any implications of the fiction reflecting on the author.

  • Daughter

     It is said god made humanity in His image, but unless you ascribe to the
    “beardy man in the sky” god (and I do not think you do), then being
    built inthe image of God does not refer to our bodies, our flesh, but to
    our souls and minds. It refers to the difference between us and
    animals, as seen by the ones who wrote the Bible and did not know how
    smart some animals could be. It refers to sentience.

    True, which is why Aslan can represent Christ. But the incarnation is the opposite of this process: a sentient soul takes on a body, takes on flesh and therefore “is tempted in every way just as we are – yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Because that is not true of Aslan, and therefore he can’t represent Jesus.

  • Aiwhelan

    He’s sounding more and more like Dumbledore, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    True, Aslan may be seen as a Christ figure for Narnia, and yet he can also be seen basically as the spiritual ruler/protector of Narnia, without all the theology. Yes CS Lewis is a Christian, but he didn’t start out to write a Xian allegory, he simply started out writing a story to pull together the images in his head, such as the faun walking in the snow, the Witch with her sleigh, the golden lion. It was and still is a wonderful tale full of fantasy and adventure, the Xian message just came because that’s the way Lewis saw the world. That is, Lewis wrote the story first, not the symbolism.
    For the opposite kind of Xian tale where the story is secondary, check out Hurdard’s “Hind’s Feet On High Places”, you’ll see the difference straight off.
    Pullman’s “Dark Materials” falls perilously close to the same trap; he seems to have written it less as a story in itself than as a rebuttal to the Narnia books, and it shows. Anyone hooked by the images and intrigue in the beginning of “The Golden Compass”, the strange girl, the armored bears, is going to be let down by the end of “The Amber Spyglass”, where the final confrontation between Good and Evil seems to quietly fade out in favor of long thoughts on the nature of God and Science. Whereas Lewis wrote stories, Pullman is anxious to persuade his ideas. It all depends what you’re looking for.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    The problem I have with the Aslan allegory, that I noticed when I saw the movie (I don’t remember if it happens quite this way in the book, but it’s certainly less pronounced): Jesus, in his story, speaks the words “It is finished”, just as he is about to die to martyr himself for the good of the whole world. Aslan, in his story, speaks the words “It is finished” just as he has finished murdering a woman with his teeth

    There’s some other problems I have here but I think in some sense they all flow from that one

  • EllieMurasaki

    Could you elaborate on that, please? Because while I can see that they’re different situations that don’t parallel real well…Jadis, or people acting on her orders, killed a whole bunch of people who’d never done any harm to her, ending with the war against the army of Aslan and the Pevensies and beginning with the whole of Charn. I am not seeing killing her as inherently problematic, which your use of the word ‘murder’ implies you do. (Aslan killing her, instead of one of our young heroes, or someone who’d been suffering through always-winter-and-never-growing-season-let-alone-harvest, that’s got problems, but killing her in itself, no.)

  • Michele Cox

    (The human-shaped people in Narnia come from our world, by a variety of means.)

    If Aslan’s being flesh-but-not-our-flesh, which I gather means “not shaped like us,” not shaped either like the fauns or dryads or beavers or dwarves or all the various and variously-shaped people in Narnia is an issue — if being subject to death is not itself enough — what does that say about the incarnation of Jesus, made flesh as a man, a Jew, a carpenter — with all the specificity that comes with that?  Are we back to the early heresies that ended up suggesting that human women are saved by Mary’s submission to God’s will, and not by Jesus’ redemption on the cross?  Exactly how “like us” does the incarnation need to be, to be efficacious?

    I can see various arguments for Aslan as being or failing to be an effective allegorical expression of the Incarnate Word; but “he’s not shaped like the people he is redeeming” seems … inadequate.

  • redsixwing

     It depends on how one sees Christ, I suppose.

    That sort of behavior would disqualify Aslan from being a working allegory for the omnipresent/omnipotent/omniscient being of perfect good and love common to pop theology, but not necessarily for the Jesus of a closer reading.

    Thinking about it a bit closer, Reepicheep and his tail -do- make a pretty sharp parallel to this story.

    I was raised with the “omni/omni/omni being of perfect good and love” definition, so I tend to default to it, and I posted without thinking that one all the way through. I shall amend: Aslan makes a rotten allegory for that Jesus, but a pretty good one for the one I can see by paying more attention to the text.

    @facebook-597411714:disqus wrote:
    So this problem isn’t something that distinguishes Aslan from Jesus, it’s a problem they share.

    YES. This.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Jesus may have suffered, but he never knew the pain of [...] insititutionalized racism. [..] Yes, Jesus was a member of a colonized people, but but that’s not the same thing.

    Were you motivated to expand on the salient differences, I’d be interested.

  • Steve Morrison

    As I see it, the real problem with Aslan is that he wasn’t “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, except briefly when he was sacrificed in Edmund’s place. When in Narnia at all, he was always in control of things wherever he went; he didn’t truly walk the earth with the Narnians.
    BTW, a document was found in Lewis’s papers which gives some answers about how and when the Narnian countries were settled; googling “Narnia timeline” will turn up several copies of it.

  • Tofu_Killer

     But Aslan WAS despised and rejected; during the age of the Witch. The later stories (not the Magician and his Nephew obviously), those post-Stone Table, are roughly the same as the post-Crucifixion events of this world.

    Also, are you arguing that Jesus wasn’t in control of the events surrounding his life?

  • arcseconds

    As I see it, the real problem with Aslan is that he wasn’t “despised and
    rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, except
    briefly when he was sacrificed in Edmund’s place. When in Narnia at all,
    he was always in control of things wherever he went; he didn’t truly
    walk the earth with the Narnians.

    Yup, I was going to make the very same point! Also to mention he’s a Lion without a Past.  There’s no suggestion he grew up in a pride at some point.

    Surely, Fred being both an evangelical and a sci-fi geek has thought about the religious aspects of meeting alien life-forms.  If Aslan’s being a lion disqualifies him from being a saviour for hairless bipedal apes, then presumably Jesus can’t serve as a saviour for the spider-people of Betelgeuse=5.  Do they have to get their own saviour? 

  • http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~teneyck/ Ross TenEyck

    I’ll quibble (along with others) about the use of the word allegory for Narnia.  Aslan isn’t meant as a symbolic representation of Jesus (as would be true in an allegory) — Aslan is meant to be Jesus as Jesus might appear in a different world.  The sacrifice on the Stone Table is similar to the Crucifixion not because one is meant as a symbol for the other, but because that (in Lewis’ mind) is what Jesus does.

    I would also argue with you that Lewis is presenting penal substitutionary atonement.  I think instead he’s presenting a variant of Christus Victor that was at one time widely-held – in this case, the belief that Satan owned the souls of sinners by right, but God made a bargain with Satan to trade the soul of Christ for the souls of everyone else.  When Jesus rose from the dead, Satan lost his soul too.  Anselm developed his theory of atonement in part in reaction against this belief; he objected to it partly because it implied that Satan had “rights” that God had to respect, and partly because it makes God out to be a cheater.

  • Ben English

     I think the problem here is trying to fit Aslan as a direct allegory. There are numerous problems with that, but the same is true of any fictional character commonly held up as a Christ archetype.

    Superman? He’s no incarnate god, his birth was not an epiphany for the Creator. Harry Potter? Same thing. He may have given his life out of the love of his friends, but he had no connection to God, and seemed to be an agnostic at most. Doctor Who? A man who has killed millions of beings through his actions or inaction, who is deeply flawed and vengeful when provoked?

    Yet they also have all lain down their lives (and rose again) for people they loved. Superman is the closest thing to omnibenevolent a flawed human can be, Harry Potter had vast riches from his father yet called a poor boy and a mudblood his best friends. The Doctor is constnatly amazed–constnatly having little epiphanies–about human beings who amaze him despite his 1200 years.

    So yeah, Aslan isn’t a complete allegory for Christ, but I don’t think that he needs to be. He’s an image, a type, and the vision of one man who had a relatively narrow focus in his theology. He’s still a much better portrait of Jesus than anything Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins could come up with.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    How might I go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ, as you present the concept here, from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified?

  • fraser

     I didn’t pick it up either.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Doctor Who? A man who has killed millions of beings through his actions or inaction, who is deeply flawed and vengeful when provoked?

    Wait, that might actually make him a *better* analogy.
    Okay, I’ll stop snarking.

    How might I go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ, as you present the concept here, from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified?

    Presumably, a complete allegory would exemplify and represent *all* the characteristics of Christ?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Presumably, a complete allegory would exemplify and represent *all* the characteristics of Christ?

    Yes, I agree that that would be a reliable way of distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ from complete allegories for Christ.

    What I was curious about, though, was how I might go about distinguishing incomplete allegories for Christ from fictional characters who happen to exemplify certain admirable traits that Christ also exemplified.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  • Darkrose

    “Or it might simply be that Susan’s siblings misunderstand: Susan is not in heaven because Susan, unlike her family, is NOT DEAD.”

    You know…I never thought of it that way. I like that interpretation a lot.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Just to make things clear, Lewis explicitly stated that Susan survived the train wreck, and could eventually find her way to narnia-heaven.
    Quote: “The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in
    this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there’s plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan’s country in the end… in her own way”
    –From Lewis’ Letters to Children, 22 January 1957, to Martin

  • Makabit

    Wait, isn’t it the other way around? He is Christ, but not Jesus?

    TOO COMPLICATED! No wonder Maimonides thought all of y’all were idolaters.

    ;)


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