With the release of the blockbuster film The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis is once again drawing the world’s attention. Of course, among Christians, Lewis’s stock has never gone down. For at least half a century, his works have been inspiring the faithful and drawing the skeptical to Christianity. As I have recounted many times, his book Mere Christianity was instrumental in my own conversion.
Even many secularists have recognized the quality of Lewis’s work in such books as the Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters. All the same, not many consider him one of our culture’s major writers. But now that Lewis has come back into the limelight, people are taking a fresh look at the quiet-living Oxford professor and writer, trying to figure out just what Christians find so attractive about him.
After all, there are plenty of gifted writers out there who never earn the kind of love, loyalty, and admiration that Lewis receives from so many readers. His devout faith, brilliant use of logic, and humility are rare and precious qualities. But what really makes him so compelling is his ability to blend reason and imagination in his works. As he wrote, “For me, reason is the natural organ of truth, and imagination is the organ of understanding.” He is right. The imagination sees what the mind might take only to be as abstract truth. So Christians and non-Christians alike can appreciate both Lewis’s endlessly creative imagination, and the way he grounded even his works of fantasy in absolute truth.
This is why you do not have to be a Christian to enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia. Generations of children have loved the books whether they fully understood their religious significance or not. The movie, like the books, is for everyone. But the film, again like the book, is far richer and more meaningful if one grasps the Christian symbolism that pervades it.
Lewis never intended the Narnia books to be an evangelical tool. But he did hope that they would show children the beauty and power of Christianity in a fresh light, rather than burdening them with the stale, as he put it, “stained glass and Sunday school associations” that could inadvertently “freeze feelings.” At a time when, as the newspaper Guardian reports, “Forty-three percent of people in Britain [can’t] say what Easter celebrate[s],” the need for such fresh approaches to faith is more urgent than ever.
Whatever audiences may make of the film, we Christians have an unusual opportunity right now. The limelight is notoriously fleeting, and Lewis knew that all too well. He once wrote, “To move with the times is, of course, to go where all times go.” His refusal to “move with the times” is in part what gave his work its timeless quality.
But for the moment at least, Lewis and his work are drawing worldwide attention, which gives us Christians a great opportunity. Take your friends to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, explain the Christian message it portrays, and then give them a copy of one of Lewis’s books. A list is available on our website, or we will send you a copy if you call us (1-877-322-5527). My choice, which comes as no surprise to anyone, is Mere Christianity—it might change their lives, just as it did mine.
For further reading and information:
Today’s BreakPoint offer: With The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe coming out this month, what better time to get unsaved friends and loved ones C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity? Get a bulk supply (25 for a donation of $100, or 50 for a donation of $200)—a great ministry opportunity for churches and Bible studies! Call 1-877-322-5527.
Get a bulk supply (25 for a donation of $100, or 50 for a donation of $200)—a great ministry opportunity for churches and Bible studies! Call 1-877-322-5527.
Here is a selected bibliography of other books by C. S. Lewis from the C. S. Lewis Institute.
Gina Dalfonzo, “The Pre-Baptism of the Imagination: Narnia in a Secular Culture,” BreakPoint WorldView, November 2005.
Jay Tolson, “God’s Storyteller,” U.S. News & World Report, 12 December 2005.
Lisa Miller, “A Man and His Myths,” Newsweek, 7 November 2005.
Max Davidson, “Inklings of Immortality,” Telegraph (London), 3 December 2005.
Greg Stacy, “The Good Book: Aslan the Lion vs. the Lamb of God,” Orange County Weekly, 2-8 December 2005.
Richard N. Ostling, “It Was Faith that Made the Fantasy,” Washington Post, 3 December 2005, B09.
Dr. Anne Carson Daly, “Lewis’s Beloved Narnia,” To the Source, 22 November 2005.
Polly Toynbee, “Narnia Represents Everything That Is Most Hateful About Religion,” Guardian, 5 December 2005. An example of some secularists’ hostility toward the film and Lewis.
Gina Dalfonzo, “The Impoverished Imagination: Why Good Fantasy Must Stem from Reality,” BreakPoint WorldView, March 2004.
Adam Gopnik, “Prisoner of Narnia: How C. S. Lewis Escaped,” New Yorker, 21 November 2005. (Another article critical of C. S. Lewis.)
Erik Brady, “Is That Lion the King of Kings?” USA Today, 2 December 2005.
Colleen O’Connor, “God or Fantasy?” Denver Post, 20 November 2005.
Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.
Robin Parrish, interview with Michael Flaherty (president of Walden Media), Infuze, November 2005. (Free registration required.)
Hollywood Jesus has set up a Chronicles of Narnia blog with links to a large number of articles on the subject. Christianity Today’s website also has a special section devoted to the film. Also see resources from the C. S. Lewis Foundation.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 031121, “Three Died That Day: Reflections on November 22, 1963.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 051109, “All Things to All People: C. S. Lewis’s Case for Christ.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030812, “One Night in a Driveway: Reflections on Thirty Years of Faith.” (Colson tells how C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity helped lead to his salvation.)