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by Dr. Robert Hymers

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, January 15, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“The whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true” (I John 5:19-20).

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was the number one movie of the Christmas season. Everyone is talking about the author of the story, C. S. Lewis. His picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine and U.S. News and World Report. His ideas are being discussed at length by many people today. I think you should see the video when it comes out in a few weeks. And I want to take some time this morning to tell you the reason you should see this video.

Who was C. S. Lewis? You probably know that he was the author of the book upon which the movie was based. But who was this man, and what did he believe? Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898 and died in England in 1963. C. S. Lewis spent most of his life as a teacher, first at Oxford University and then at Cambridge University, where he taught English literature. His best known scholarly work was English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (1954). But he is most remembered for writing twenty-five Christian books.

C. S. Lewis became an atheist at the age of fourteen and remained an unbeliever for many years. He slowly became persuaded in his twenties that the Christian religion is the only logical way one can understand man and the universe. He became a professing Christian at about the age of thirty. He wrote about his change from atheism to Christianity in two autobiographies, The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933) and Surprised by Joy (1955). Lewis became an Anglican, and was unsound in some of his beliefs. Yet he taught the basic message of redemption in Christ.

Millions of copies of his books have been sold. The first one I read was his The Screwtape Letters, which is a series of letters from a major demon to a lower demon who is in charge of a young man’s soul. The major demon gives the lesser one instructions on how to keep the young man from becoming a Christian. Then I read two more of his books. When I read The Screwtape Letters, about 1963, I was intrigued, and went on to read The Abolition of Man, which has been listed by the Encyclopedia Britannica as one of the Great Books of the World.

Later, when I was attending a very liberal Southern Baptist seminary, which was at that time much more liberal then than it is now, I found that the Bible-rejecting modernists who taught there strongly disliked C. S. Lewis. This made me even more interested in reading what he had to say and, so, I read his Mere Christianity and found out why the liberals hated him so much, for he gave a strong defence of orthodox Christianity in that book. I also read his essay in Christian Reflections (published posthumously in 1967) titled “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism.” In that essay he cleverly demolished modern liberal criticism of the Bible. Although he did not hold completely to the inerrancy of Scripture, he argued so convincingly against the liberalism my professors were teaching, that they literally hated this essay, and referred to it often with great scorn. For C. S. Lewis tore their arguments against the Bible to shreds. Ever since reading his essay on this subject I have considered Lewis to be a friend of orthodox Christianity, although I do not agree with him completely on some points. For instance, he taught salvation by doctrinal belief ( Mere Christianity, HarperCollins, 2001, preface, p. xv).

Now, that brings us to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which Lewis wrote in 1950, as the first of seven Narnia books for children. These stories tell of the adventures four English children experience when they go through a wardrobe and enter the land of Narnia, ruined by a wicked witch, who represents Satan, and redeemed by a lion named Aslan, who symbolizes our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m glad that my pastor told me to earn my bachelor’s degree in English at a secular university (Cal State L.A.). My studies in English literature at college helped me to understand what C. S. Lewis was doing when he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is an allegory, in some ways similar to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. An allegory is a story in which people and events have another meaning.  Allegories are written for the purpose of teaching or explaining philosophical or spiritual truths. The Disney movie removed some of the Christian theology behind Lewis’ book. For a fuller treatment of this, read Narnia Beckons, Broadman Holman, 2005. It can be ordered for $24.99 by phoning 1(800)899-6684.  

In an allegory, one thing represents another.  An allegory should not be confused with a parable given by Christ.  Lewis’ allegory goes much farther in its use of metaphors than any of Christ’s parables.  In Lewis’ allegory, a lion represents Christ, the various nymphs, centaurs, etc. represent demons and angels.  “Father Christmas” represents a good angel.  The “White Witch” represents Satan.  “Deep” power represents the sovereign power of God.  One may dislike Lewis’ use of allegorical comparisons, but it is a mistake to confuse these metaphors with an anti-Christian world view.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia is used figuratively to represent the world in its fallen state, ruined and brought to a wintry, cursed condition by sin, and dominated by an evil witch, who represents Satan. The witch’s servants represent Satan’s fallen angels, or demons. The English children, who stumble through the wardrobe into the land of Narnia, represent the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve - the fallen, sin-ruined human race. The children of Adam are redeemed by the death and resurrection of the Christ-figure, Aslan. As Joseph Hart put it,

When Jesus undertook
   To rescue ruined man,
The realms of bliss forsook
   And to relieve us ran;
He spared no pains, declined no load,
Resolved to buy us with His blood.
   (“When Jesus Undertook” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

C. S. Lewis said,

We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperCollins, 2001, page 55).

When the children are saved by his sacrificial death and resurrection, the Christ-figure, Aslan, then slays the Satan-figure, the witch, and the cold winter of Narnia comes back to life, with resurrections of those killed by the effects of sin. The kingdom of Aslan, the Christ-figure, is restored, and the children are crowned and reign with him in his kingdom. That is the basic story of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. This allegory represents in a figurative way the account of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, the ruin that came to the world by sin, the death and resurrection of Christ to redeem mankind, and the final triumph of Christ at His Second Coming. One could say with good reason that our text sums up the Scriptural teaching behind Lewis’ story.

“The whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding,that we may know him that is true” (I John 5:19-20).

This “understanding” comes to us, not by reason alone, but by a spiritual encounter with heavenly things, by becoming aware, as A. W. Tozer said, “of another world too fine for the instruments of scientific research to discover. By faith we engage that world and make it ours” (Dr. A. W. Tozer, “The Bible World is the Real World,” in Of God and Men, Christian Publications, 1960, pp. 116-118).

Lewis was right when he said, in Mere Christianity, that

It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law…it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor. When you have realized that our position is nearly desperate you will begin to understand what the Christians are talking about…the Christian religion…does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through the dismay (C. S. Lewis, Ph.D., Mere Christianity, HarperCollins, 2001 reprint, pp. 31-32).

Some of you here this morning have been going through something like the desperation and dismay of which C. S. Lewis spoke. The Bible speaks of this as the conviction of sin. If you are convinced of your sin, and are dismayed by it, I urge you to come directly to Christ. He died to pay for your sins and rose to give you eternal life. If you come to Christ, your sins will be pardoned by His death, and cleansed by His Blood. It is my prayer that you will come to Christ and be saved from sin and ruin by Him. And may God help you to do so very soon, for

“The whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true” (I John 5:19-20).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 5:12-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus Died for Sinners” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).