Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Spiritual Imagination

The first movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ classic Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, comes out on December 9 and I want to wholeheartedly encourage you to see the movie, if possible on the first weekend of its release.

Ironically, as big a fan as I am of C.S. Lewis, I had never read any of the seven books in the series, the most famous of which is this first one. When a Houston Chronicle reporter called me to ask about a Sneak Peak event WHCC hosted for area church leaders, I felt so sheepish that I hadn’t read it that I quickly did so over the Thanksgiving weekend (after I watched football, of course). It is an enchanting and thoughtful tale, which is more than I can say about the Detroit Lions

Lewis, the premiere Christian apologist (explainer and defender of the Christian faith) of the 20th century, is often assumed to have undertaken the series with apologetics in mind, but as he writes in Of Other Worlds,

"Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I'd write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn't write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord."

And the story is not just for children. As Chuck Colson notes in a recent Breakpoint article, Lewis always had adults in mind as well.

“Lewis believed that a book worth reading only in childhood was not a book worth reading at all. So as the stories of Narnia formed in his mind, he began to think about how tales of fantasy and adventure could actually portray the truths of Christianity in an important new way-not only for children, but also for adults who had perhaps lost those childlike qualities that Christ said were so important for seeing the Kingdom of God…”

In Lewis’ words,
“Suppose that by casting [the Christian story] into an imaginary world, stripped of its stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make its truths for the first time appear in their real potency? I thought one could. And the inhibitions which I hoped my stories would overcome in a child's mind may exist in a grown-up's mind too, and may perhaps be overcome by the same means."

It is so easy to reduce the Christian faith to ordered beliefs and doctrines which, though essential, can easily in isolation lose sight of the Christian story upon which they are based. Lewis’ book, and this movie, can help us cultivate our spiritual imagination to more clearly see the Kingdom of God. In my opinion, that alone is worth the price of a ticket (plus a few dollars more for gummy worms).


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