21 December, 2005

Sir Tumnus Was a Universalist!

Yeah, I saw the movie. Did I like it? Why of course I did, it was a very good movie for the most part. I really thought that some of Christian imagery came across nicely. We were able to see a small taste of the gospel of Christ; maybe even enough to whet the appetite for someone to pick up their Bible and attempt to find where the imagery comes from.

The most thrilling part of the movie for me? When Aslan the lion (the Christ figure) declares, "It is finished!" after the army defeated the white witch and her posse of uglies. As a Christian this was very moving to the religious affections.

Some of the things that I did not like about the movie:
1. You never grow to love Aslan before he dies. He comes and he dies quick as that. There is no connection to him emotionally.
2. Edmund never repented after Aslan was slain for his sin. He continued to defy the authority of his brother Peter. I do not like the antinomian quality of this.
3. The prophecy of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve did not seem to be taken very seriously by anyone. It was very down-played in the movie.

The point of this look into the film has more to do with the man behind the Lion though. It has been a few years since I have read any Lewis; I had to read some for my undergraduate degree, but I do not recall picking him up since. The one book that I remember liking the most was Till We Have Faces. Maybe that is because it was not theological in nature, but was more in the discipline of Lewis- literature.

I began to investigate some of the ideas that Lewis had regarding theology since I recall at Calvin we talked about some of his EXTREME non-evangelical ideas. I began to parouse some of his material again- and just as it was before, there is a lot that evangelicals would find to be distasteful.

The point? (Again, defending myself- I really liked the movie a lot. I enjoy his Narnia series as literature, I like some of the thoughts that he has had.) But why do evangelicals love this guy so much? I honestly think that if you put his list of doctrines infront of most evangelicals they would think that he was a hell bound heathen. (I am not commenting on his eternal state.) I find it odd that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (who was very Roman Catholic) have a stronger impact on American Christianity today than almost any other thinker, philosopher, theologian today.

Below is just one of the numerous articles that are available concerning his doctrine. (Some of the others will have extensive lists from his books that talk about various topics. Those are nice as well.)


Was C.S. Lewis a Bible believer? By no means, as even Christianity Today admits. “Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration” (“C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, Dec. 2005).

Lewis believed in prayers for the dead and purgatory and confessed his sins regularly to a priest. He was given the Catholic sacrament of last rites on July 16, 1963 (C.S. Lewis: A Biography, pp. 198, 301). Lewis denied the total depravity of man and the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ. He believed in theistic evolution and rejected the Bible as the infallible Word of God. He taught that hell is a state of mind: “And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind--is, in the end, Hell” (Lewis, The Great Divorce, p. 65). D. Martin Lloyd-Jones warned that C.S. Lewis had a defective view of salvation and was an opponent of the substitutionary and penal view of the atonement (Christianity Today, Dec. 20, 1963). In a letter to the editor of Christianity Today, Feb. 28, 1964, Dr. W. Wesley Shrader, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, warned that “C.S. Lewis ... would never embrace the (literal-infallible) view of the Bible” (F.B.F. News Bulletin, March 4, 1984).

Lewis lived for 30 years with Janie Moore, a woman 25 years his senior to whom he was not married. The relationship with the married woman began when Lewis was still a student at Oxford. Moore was separated from her husband. Lewis confessed to his brother Arthur that he was in love with Mrs. Moore, the mother of one of his friends who was killed in World War I. The relationship was definitely sexual in nature. See Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, pp. 82, 94. At age 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham, an American woman who pursued a relationship with Lewis even while she was still married to another man. According to two of Lewis’s friends, Gresham’s husband divorced her on the grounds of desertion (Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper, Light on C.S. Lewis), though it also true that he, in turn, married his Joy’s cousin.

In the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken, a personal letter is reproduced on page 191 in which Lewis suggests to VanAuken that upon his next visit to England that the two of them “must have some good, long talks together and perhaps we shall both get high.”

Lewis claimed that followers of pagan religions can be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ: “But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. ... There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco edition, 2001, pp. 64, 208, 209).

Discussion Point:

-Everyone has an opinion about this, no need!


maggie said...

I didn't read your entry cause me and my family are going to see the movie tomorrow...but people are telling me I look like Tumnus.

Though I think if anyone does its gotta be scott with the fro and goatee.

But I guess theres a resemblance. haha. thanks guys.

Rachel said...

1. You never grow to love Aslan before he dies. He comes and he dies quick as that. There is no connection to him emotionally.
I didn't notice this because I already had grown to love Aslan from the books.
2. Edmund never repented after Aslan was slain for his sin. He continued to defy the authority of his brother Peter. I do not like the antinomian quality of this.
I thought Edmund repented when he had that conversation with Aslan before Aslan was slain. Did I miss something?
3. The prophecy of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve did not seem to be taken very seriously by anyone. It was very down-played in the movie.
The only people I noticed that didn't take the prophecy seriously were the children themselves.

Maybe I need to see this movie again... :D

Mark said...

The movie was good, as far as adaptions go. You're quite right about Aslan, though, he wasn't as well-established as he should've been.

Lewis is somewhat overrated, yeah, but he still has some good works. Some of his work is bad, such as his emphasis on "Tao" in "The Abolition of Man", but other works can be quite good. ("Narnia", "The Abolition of Man".) He's worth reading, I think, albeit carefully.

As for Catholic writers, I'll take Chesterton over Lewis any day of the week. And Tolkein may have been Catholic, but LOTR is still by far one of the better books out there.

Nate said...

I thought that the Beavers were quite jokey about the prophecy. Maybe not.

Edmund and Aslan discussed his sacrifice for Ed's sin. That does not mean that he turned from it...only that he was willing to allow someone else to pay the price for it.

When we are converted it is without works. Repentance is not necessary for salvation...but repentance is a FRUIT of salvation. When Ed was in battle he remained defiant. If there were no fruits of the sacrifice...did Aslan die in vain?

PS: I still liked the movie.
And what do you think of Lewis as a theologian?

Mark said...

As a theologian, he's OK. I've read a couple of his theological tomes, and generally have found him to be a good writer who can make really make a strong point. He certainly had his flaws, though I can't say as I'm an expert on his private life. (Though I love how the CT article starts off suggesting that the mere fact that he smoked a pipe and drank beer put him outside the orthodox fold.)

I disagree reg. the prophecy in the movie - the beavers were turned into comedic characters, yes, but they and all others took the prophecy seriously. If anything, the prophecy was over-emphasized at Aslan's expense. (i.e. the "hope the children brought" driving winter out instead of Aslan returning.) That notwithstanding, it was a very good movie.

Manda said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'll reserve my comment about that, but I was struck by what you said about this movie and LOTR being of great influence. I was reading on another blog recently about the power you can have if you will but grab somebody's imagination. Too true. Case in point: How many children are doing their darndest to be good right now because they believe that the omnipotent Santa is watching? And another: After watching 'The Matrix', I've heard several people wondering out loud if it's really true - especially when they have a deja vu.

shawn said...

You know I have never read the books - course I never read anything as a kid, cept comics.

I'll watch it, and prolly love it.

I was reading Newsweek about Lewis, and found this to be interesting - and telling of his theological presuppositions.

When approached by some animator who wanted to animate and release a cartoon version of Narnia, he said that Aslan was a divine figure and so he could never allow for them to create him who was divine... odd eh?

shawn said...

I find it odd that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (who was very Roman Catholic) have a stronger impact on American Christianity today than almost any other thinker, philosopher, theologian today.

Well when you consider the "influence" they are having, how different is it really from:

-fighting to keep a 10 commandments monument in a building while in the courtroom of the same building they legislate for the pluralistic laws of men, hating the very consequences of the 10 commandments

-fighting to keep prayer in the public schools but sending Christian children into the classes of Anti-Christian Humanism

-fighting to stop abortion, and leaving birth control up to a "personal choice"

-fighting to keep Christ in Christmas amonsgt other pluralistic religious holidays, which He hates, and closing the doors on the most delightful day of the week - The LORD's Day

-fighting for the social gospel, while being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation

I could go on, but you get the point. In the end you got Christianity living in the world and being influenced by it.

It's baptized worldliness, it's blind leading blind and they keep sowing their seedling - producing more weeds in the Kingdom than strong healthy vibrant zealous wheat.

Oh where are our influentual Reformers today? How long oh LORD?

Beth said...

I find the information in that article hard to believe. i read his non-fiction theological works and he is very much a Christian. Sure he's not Reformed. SO what! HE is still Bibically sound. Mere Christianity should be on everyone's must read list.

Notliberal said...

If all of this is true about this Lewis person, why are we as Christians all a flutter over this stupid movie? Why are Christians running around pretending like Hollywood has seen the light or something?

I don't like the cigarettes or the beer but for goodness sakes that alone is meaningless. If he's shacking up with some woman, believes in papal nonsense and has various heretical theological positions then everything he wrote is suspect. To call this movie a Christian movie, as some are doing, is downright absurd.

Nate said...


I am not arguing "from a Reformed" point of view...Lewis is anything but Reformed.

I am saying run of the mill- Calvary undenom, Mars Hill, Sunshine, etc. evangelicalism...you know the main line stuff. Why do they stomach him so much with all of these doctrines that they would oppoose full force as being anti-christian?

Just for thought and comment...

Rachel said...

I thought of the beavers as being very serious about the prophecy. I think that Mark said it very well.

Sin does not necessarily leave us instantaneously when we are converted and repent. It seemed to me that Edmund's outlook changed, but he still struggled with listening to Peter. Especially when he saw the witch headed for Peter. The old Edmund would not have cared. I will need to read the book again to refresh my memory on what happened when Edmund was brought back.

I have not read many of Lewis's works, so I don't know how he is as a theologian.

TM said...

I think one of the problems is that Christians are not paying attention to what Lewis said about himself. In the beginning of Mere Christianity he says distinctly, I am not a theologian. But many, many, Christans say things like he is their "favorite theologian."
Clive was a literature man. He was trained as such, had gifts for it (tremendous gifts at that), but he did not understand the Bible in a sufficent way.
Was he a Christian? He claimed to be, and as Christians we take one another at our testimony unless their life demonstrates otherwise. His life seemed to demonstrate otherwise, but his eternal resting place is in the Lord's hands.
His theology is deficent, and at times he leads Christians astray, that must be understood clearly and reckoned with. But he was a brillant literay author.
I pray the Lord blesses His work, and keeps people from the error in it.

Penumbra said...

Didn't Lewis die of cancer? Immoderate consumption of cigarettes, perhaps?

And he drank BEER!!

People actually pay MONEY to see this movie??!!

Anonymous said...

I too enjoyed the movie. My biggest complaint was that Aslan felt neutered throughout it. Little to no fear or reverence towards him at all. In this version he was just a safe and loving lion.

Smokin and Drinking Reformer said...

Okay, so the beer and the smoking is not that big of a deal to us reformed people...but c'mon, the doctrine is enough to make evangelicals take a stance on this, isn't it?

I also agree with Lloyd, Aslan was a grandfatherly thing in the movie. As a film, Simba's dad in Lion King was more honorable and worthy of respect.

edwardseanist said...

If you have ever read through to the last battle you will be extremely let down by Lewis' theology. You will find that Lewis believed in a sort of Universalism.

At the end if the book Aslan welcomes the Calormene servant of Tash into his kingdom. But you are stuck with this question as you are reading, "How in the world did he get there? He did not even believe in Aslan?" Then Aslan explains how the Calormene made it into the kingdom:

"He [Aslan] answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me...Therefore if anyone swear by Tash and keep his oath for oath's sake, it is by me that hw has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I that reward him."

So let me get this strait. In Lewis's theology one is justified by believing in and swearing an oath to any diety? Whether that god is the enemy of Aslan or not?

But I still enjoyed the movie and the books. Maybe someday we will be blessed with a Reformed writer that could write a good page turner.

Mark said...

"The Last Battle" is by far the worst of the Narnia books, not only for its quasi-universalism but also for its bleak eschatology. It's too bad Lewis ended the series that way, it puts a damper on what is otherwise a fine series of books.

Regarding Edmund and repentance - they added the whole "Edmund must obey Peter" thing to the movie, but I thought it worked out well. Edmund went from being a brat to respectfully disagreeing, and his stubbornness in wanting to help his brother proved helpful. Rachel is quite right reg. repentance - sanctification is by no means instant, as we all know far too well.

Ellie said...

I wonder if Lewis was smoking more than cigars!! If he was not clear about the Bibles' infallibility, confused about the clear salvation message.I can only hope that he has not discovered first hand that Hells heat is more than a state of mind...

Ignorance or lack of knowledge continues to be a huge tool for satan.Lewis has been promoted as a christian author and clearly his beliefs and life practices were questionable.

I consider myself to be one of many evangelocials who is lacking in knowledge and seeking more information.Some evangelocials are not searching and are believing what they hear or that which tradition haas passed down.Here in lies the great danger,when an author has some good or sound ideas but some core ideas are unsound, knowledgeable persons are not at risk but there are many who are at risk and this is what your touching on Nate, the ignorance of the masses who do not know any better!!!!

My mom encouraged my reading of his books.He was promoted as a inspiring Christian author.