Monday, December 12, 2005

Narnia

Here is a good review from Steve Camp (great man of God and musician).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From the Front Row
...my review of the enchanting, Narnia

Beautiful imagery, some great acting, amazing animation/special effects, vivid characters, and staying true to Lewis’s original tome make Narnia wonderful holiday movie entertainment… safe for the whole family.

The Score
The music of Narnia, written and conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams, was also very well done (though it didn’t rise to his magnificent score for “Kingdom of Heaven”). It isn’t David Shore’s stirring music of Lord of the Rings, but for the most part it suits the film with intimacy and tenderness. What is strangely missing for a release of the magnitude of Narnia, was a memorable theme melody and a signature song that really captured the movies essence. In songwriting we call it “the hook.” Most great films have associated with it an unmistakable, powerful song or songs with a theme melody woven throughout that brings the audience to a “familiar and memorable place.” Such songs usually become “classics” or “standards.” There should have been no shortage of songwriters who would have leaped at the chance, if asked, to deliver an award winning original composition and performance (i.e., Phil Collins, Elton John, Bryan Adams, Sting, Paul McCartney, Annie Lenox, Andre B! ocelli to name a few). Alanis Morissette does deliver a very good vocal performance on a song called, “Wunderkind” which is only introduced while the credits are rolling. However, it doesn’t rise to what is expected for a film of this importance.

The Cast
Lucy (Georgie Henley) and the Witch (Tilda Swinton) stole any scene they were in. They were brilliant. However, Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) delievered very weak, amateurish performances at best. Liam Neilson in anyone’s book was nothing short of tremendous as the voice of Aslan.

Theology and Allegory
I appreciate good writing, literature, and the use of allegory in story to drive home a powerful message. Lewis does that here… But as good as his imagery and allegory is throughout “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” it is not the message of the biblical gospel hidden within the allegory.

As I have read through several reviews of this film by well respected Christian thinkers, bloggers, theologues and Biblicists, it’s stupefying how any one of them could think that Lewis’s allegorical story was “an atoning death, retell the story of Christ's passion and resurrection. This story of salvation history is told with theological precision and with a continuous eye on the Gospel accounts of the life and death of Jesus.” (Leland Ryken commenting on Lewis's tome. I usually appreciate Leland Ryken’s theological insights and writings very much; but his comments here seem to be based on romanticized fantasy—instead of sound biblical theology.)

Making a Deal with The Devil...
What Lewis, in classical theological terms, portrays in Narnia is called, *The Ransom Theory of the atonement. The Ransom Theory in short is: The notion that it was the devil who made the cross necessary, by Christ being offered to him as a ransom for all of lost humanity. It was a payment made to the devil, by Christ, for the salvation of mankind. This is of course is untrue according to the Scriptures.

Berkhof writes when commenting on this utter folly and specious teaching: “Christ offered Himself as a ransom to Satan, and Satan accepted the ransom without realizing that he would not be able to retain his hold on Christ because of the latter's divine power and holiness. . . Thus the souls of all men - even of those in Hades - were set free from the power of Satan.”

To illustrate: Lewis has Aslan making a deal with the Queen of Narnia (the Witch) for Edmund’s blood. Aslan meets with The Witch to strike a deal with her. The deal being: he agrees to willingly submit to the Witch’s thirst for his death by dying in Edmund’s place on the stone altar of The Witch. The Witch is portrayed as having power over Aslan by shaving his mane from his head, her demonic-like followers beating him, and then striking him dead with the thrust of her knife into his heart. She then in the aftermath of his death proceeds to mock him before his followers, by wearing the remains of his shaved mane as a cloak in battle. Within this moving allegorical picture, what is being depicted is untrue biblically. Unpacking the biblical meaning from the allegory leaves one to believe that Satan deceived Christ into making a deal for the soul of a man (in ! Lewis’s world Aslan dies for one mischievous, cowardly, deceived boy named Edmund. Did not the rest of Narnia need redemption?); Christ then surrendered His will to Satan in that brokered agreement; the cross was then Satan’s blind victory over the Son of God, and lastly, Satan thought he had defeated Christ on the cross as all of his hellish hosts rejoiced in seeing the Son of Man killed.

*UPDATE: (In fairness to Lewis, I haven't been able to find, yet, where Lewis wrote about the ransom theory. However, what was depicted in tome and film in LWW portrayed a ransom theory view. The confusing facts here are significant: though he may not have written on the ransom theory, he certainly gives credence to it in the LWW. What is the reality? Still investigating.)

The Ransom Theory is Unbiblical (for a few obvious reasons)
1. Satan is depicted as being equal in power to Christ. A dualistic struggle of good vs evil.

2. Satan is not subject to God's sovereignty, but has the ability as "lord of this earth" to negotiate a settlement where God is beholding to him for the souls of men.

3. God has ultimately defeated Satan by deception not by divine decree.

4. The nature of Christ is diminished; the nature of Satan is elevated; the nature of God is confused; and the nature of the cross is perverted.

Here's the Truth of It
The cross was never referred to by the Lord or any of the Apostles as a ransom paid by Christ to Satan. But they did speak about the cross as a vicarious propitiatory sacrifice, meeting the demands of the law, fulfilling all righteousness, appeasing God’s wrath, an atonement for the sins of the elect, and the expiation of guilt.

I liked the movie very much—as a movie of allegorical fiction with underpinning moral tones (don’t lie, don’t deceive, be loyal to your family, overcome evil with good, etc.) BUT, when "the gospel" behind Lewis's allegory is examined theologically, it is not the biblical view.

Enjoy the film; read your Bibles; and don't confuse the two.
From the Front Row,
Campi

PS - For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. -Leviticus 17:11

"That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3). Atonement is the cornerstone of all theology, being the "stone that the builders rejected" which has now become the cornerstone (Matt 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; quoting Paslm 118:22). The content of theology is the power in the blood. It is the hub, made indefectibly strong by Christ's resurrection, from which all the spokes of theology derive." - Paul F.M. Zahl

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15 comments:

Charlie Wallace said...

unfortunately, for many many years classical scholars believed in the ransom theory to Satan. If there was a ransom to be paid to anyone, it would almost have to be to God. Therefore, God pays the ransom to himself...anyway.

Rand said...

Enjoy the film; read your Bibles; and don't confuse the two."

Or better yet:

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:8-11)

Why a Christian would waste his/her time and resources to watch a vain (and most likely, wicked) fable from a man who had a defective view of the Scriptures is beyond me. I don't know Steve Camp, but I know I have ZERO time for this nonsense.

A funny observation: many "Christians have avoided and even boycotted "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings" over witchcraft and occultism. Now they are lining up to see Narnia.

I'd laugh if it weren't so sad.

My fundy 0.02$,

Reformed Centurion said...

This view of Ransom theory was very apparent in the movie, but in my personal view the movie does not rightfully portray the book. I think the movie did a very poor job of showing exactly was C.S. Lewis wrote in his book. In the movie Aslan is nothing more than a superhero that comes to help the people. The book in no way shows this. In the book Aslan is the King.

This is what the book is trying to portray. 1) The book makes very clear that Aslan is the true king of everything. 2) Aslan at all times holds more power than the Witch. 3) The Witch is not killing Aslan because of her own power, but because she has been assigned her position to carry out the Law of the Emperor that was laid down at the beginning of time. 4) The reason the death of Aslan does not stick is because he was fulfilling a Deeper Law that the Emperor wrote from before Narnia was made. 5) While the death may have been individually for Edmond the power of the Law over everyone was crushed. This is clear in the fact that the Stone Table breaks forever. 6) Aslan never loses power to the White Witch. At every moment that she is tormenting him he retains the power and authority that he has always held as king.

I realize that there is no substitute for the Bible and its Gospel, and that we should in no way be looking for one. But I do not think that Lewis' allegory is contrary to scripture.

My view is that you cannot look at both the movie and the book in the same light. The review perfectly tells the thinking of the movie. It does not perfectly tell the thinking of the book. The book may at first hold a certain resemblance to Ransom Theory, but this is not the view it holds at all.

Kevin said...

Lot of good points in the blog that I would agree with. The one item missing is was it right of Lewis to make an image of Christ in the first place. I have written a small piece on my blog.

Matador190 said...

Well, I just wanted to say this: I haven't seen the movie yet, but I love pretending I'm a centaur so it should be great.

Daniel Mann said...

As always Steve camp has hit the target on its head. I have meant Steve Camp personally three times. He is one of the most humblest persons I have meant. He has attributed much for the cause of Christ. He is buddies with James White, and John MacArthur if that tells you anything.
I heard him perform-sing,and play piano. I was brought to tears that few good men like him exist who are theologically astute,and sagaciously sound. I pray God may raise up many more like Steve.

Rand: I have yet made any comments to you. But I have been tracking you and I have been reading your blog. I feel you and I would get along very well in person. You have a very high view of sacred scripture, and you see things in black and white. Thats so rare these day. However, I think your a bit harsh on this movie. You have children? Steve Camp has five Children. I think it is a great opportunity for parents to be able to discuss the movie in light of holy scripture. Look at the clarity and precision that it can have to explain the true Gospel and to expose error; Teaching children how to identify worldviews, and exposed unbiblical ones. Is that not one reason among many why God even permits error to exist?

reformed centurion: I disagree with you. I read the books, seen the movie and worn the shirt. Well,not the shirt. I see no diffrence between the book and the movie. When I was a child I read this series and I came to the same conclusion all along (back than)as Steve Camp. I kept saying to myself that Aslan is a wimp, and the witch is to powerful. The story starts with the witch and most of the focus is on her. I don't find any of your points valid. Did we read the say book? Aslan is bound by the laws of Narnia the same as the witch. And Aslan did not make the laws. I have read much of C.S. Lewis's writings through the years his theology would not fit your points. He got some things right, like the truths that John Piper has pick up on. However he had some pretty bad theology as well. Did you ever read his 'Pilgrim's Regress'?

'may we chew on the meat and spit out the bones'.

Reformed Centurion said...

Dan I read the whole book in one sitting the day before I saw the movie. I remember thinking why is the witch even an issue she has no real power over anything. Her most powerful spell of winter is defeated just by the mere presence of Aslan in Narnia. When I read the book I did not find it about the witch at all. It was about the children and their relationship to the highest king of all in Aslan. And the story does not start with the witch, it starts with the children. You must also consider the whole series of books. The witch is only a character in one book of the series. I do not see how she can be considered the focus of the books if she is not even present in most of them. The only constant in all of the books is Aslan himself. And while he did not write the Deep Magic he is bound by it in that his Father the Emperor wrote it. One point that I think we would agree on is that the books never put forward the oneness of the Emperor and his Son. For all intents and purposes they might as well be two separate people.
However, as with most literature, individual interpretations will vary. I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and do not see the power of the witch. I read it and see the ultimate authority of Aslan. I am reading the whole series again, but I will read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe for the second time this week and try and accept it from your point of view. I just know that every time I read it I see Aslan as the focus of the book.

Rand said...

Hi Daniel,

I have three kids, and I will have to stand by my opposition to this foolish movie. There is soooo much error in the world... I don't believe Narnia has any "extra" merit to "teach them about biblical error".

Tell me Daniel, would you encourage a brother to go to a homosexual festival "to learn about that error"? Or would you encourage your teenage children to attend dance clubs "to learn about that error"? I'm sure you wouldn't.

The problem with taking children to watch well-presented error is, of course, that they will fall in love with the error. Which is why I thought it wise that Christian parents were keeping their children away from Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.

Finally, while I agree God does allow error, but in the passage I quoted in my previous comment, I believe it is made clear that He doesn't want His children to have anything to do with error.

Don't go to the left or to the right my friend, stay right in the middle of that Narrow Way that is in Jesus Christ, the Lord!

Daniel said...

Don't push allegory further than it was intended to be carried out. Lewis' story wasn't meant to go down to the exact details. All illustrations have flaws in them simply because they are reflections of the real thing.

That precisely is the problem with the ransom theory in the first place. These theologians pushed the "redemption" and "ransom" metaphors too far. Surprisely, Camp does the exact same thing to Lewis' story.

Daniel Mann said...

reformed centurion: perhaps you read the book to fast, if you read it in one sitting; to be able to digest it. I will admit, it has been years, since I have read the book or should I say books. Sorry when I said it started with the witch, I meant she was first, before Aslan. Perhaps Lewis mentions the children first due to the type of apologetics he uses.

As far as the focus of the witch I meant; I had only the first book in mind. In the first book there is little interaction with Aslan, so there is little relationship between them and the children. I don't recall, is the Emperor refered to as Father?

You wrote..."as with most literature, individual interpretations will vary." I hope you have not bought into what our public educational system has been pounding down our throats. That there can be more than one interpretation on any given piece of literature. In other words literature is subjective in nature not objective, and can have what ever meaning the one viewing it believes it to have. Even our dictionaries are changing the meaning of the word interpretation. An older dictionary tells us that interpretation is to find the ONE meaning and/or to understand the authors intent of his or her writing.
I say all that to ask the important question what was C.S. Lewis's intent for 'The Chronicles of Narnia'? What was his understanding of it, and purpose for it?

According to C.S Lewis himself he wrote "at first there wasn't even anything Christian". that is not until the ideal of Aslan poped into his head. C.S Lewis makes clear that he didn't write the Narnian Chronicles as a biblical allegory. He wrote here what's called a supposal not an allegory. C.S Lewis (Jack). He prefered to be called. Jack wrote in a letter to a fifth grader in May 1954 "You are mistaken when you think everything in the books 'represents something in this world. Things do that in The Pilgrim's Progress but I'm not writing in that way." He goes on to say that Aslan isn't an allegory of Jesus Christ.In a letter to a gal named Mrs.Hook he writes "Aslan 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 choose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all." One more quote "I don't say.'let us represent Christ as Aslan.'I say, Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there."

Allegory and supposal are not identical devices, allegory deals with what is real, the ideals, concepts are being expressed are true, but the characters are make-believe. Supposal on the other hand is that the fictional character becomes "real" within the imaginary world , taking on a life of its own and adapting to the make-believe world. There you have it Jacks intent.

People are funny, last Saturday night after my friends and I walked out of the movie one friend asked me or commented 'I wonder if the four children prepresents the four gospels.' I said OH PLEASE! This friend tends to read into lots of movie's books and literacture. I have observed alot of people do.

However I think Steve Camp is still right on to compare it to sacred scripture. 'Test all things and hold onto that which is good'

Rand: No, I would not encourage my brother to go to a homosexual festival. No, I would not encourage my teenage child (if I had one) to attend dance clubs. Though I recently went to a barn dance and it was fun, I am not baptist anymore so I can dance. Sorry just a little joke.

I knew you would respond in such manner, and questions. When God tells us not to have anything to do with vain speculations and errors and so forth does He not mean that we are not to be deceived by them, not that we should be ignorant of them? If some day I am blessed to have a wife and chidren believe me they will be informed, they will be able to disern opposing worldviews. Do you simply tell your chidren to stay away from opposing views, without helping them to identify opposing views? Not long ago parents simply told their chidren what to believe, and not why. I came from that kind of up bringing, I was told to just believe but not why I should believe, and just stay away from certain activities. What happens to chidren when they grow up and try to make it in the big bad ugly world with little or no undertanding of how to identify any of the opposing worldviews? How do you know that C.S. Lewis's books or movie is no good if your not aware of what it is? Hearsay?
Having your chidren read, lets say, Parmenides, Socrates, plato and the philosophy of Kant to understand various views in light of sacred scripture, is alot diffrent than permitting them to go to dance clubs and homosexual festivals. Do you think?

Thank you though for your exhortation to stay on the narrow way. I sure will, by God's amazing grace.

Sorry Julianne I just can't seem to write very short comments. I need to post more on my blog, and answer ron back.
Thank you

Reformed Centurion said...

Dan

I would like to direct you to the link for the blog this review originally appeared. My view of the book is not out of the ordinary. The comments there do a much better job of presenting both sides of the arguments.

I read the story again late Tuesday night and tried to accept it from your point of view. I came away still thinking the same thing I always thought. I truly tried to see your points, and yet the words of the book kept directing me back to my original feelings.

Daniel Mann said...

Brian S: neither are liberal views out of the ordinary (common) of reading the bible. They are a dime a dozen.

Go ahead and interpret as you wish. I guess it won't hurt anything. But it would be nice to interpret as C.S Lewis would of wanted you too.

God-speed

Reformed Centurion said...

Dan I don't seem to understand. If C.S. Lewis did not intend for the books to be an allegory then how can you blame the books for not having a proper theology. It seems that to make a point you say the books were never meant to have any resemblance to scripture, and then you assail the same stories on their lack of biblical truths. But on to relevant things.

You may have misunderstood my argument. I never put forward the view that the books should be taken as gospel. I merely disagree with the review of the movie that seems to show that the movie and the book are the same. I think that the books should NEVER be taken as a replacement or strait forward interpretation for the gospel. I do however believe the way I interpret them in no way offers credence to the issue that the book puts forward unbiblical views such as a belief in Ransom Theory.

stephen said...

How do you know how C.S. Lewis would have wanted him to interpret him, eh? Do you know him? Does he call you at home?

Reformed Centurion said...

Also I did not intend to say that all interpretations are acceptable of literature. It is just that individual personalities may emphasize different aspects of the same book. This can obviously happen in that we both read the same book and yet our interpretations of the same words differ greatly.

And just so you know. When I say literature I am not including the Bible in that definition. I am speaking of non-God inspired works.