We Must Go Now. At Least I Must.

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods.  “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others.  But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy.  “You don’t mean it was?  How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?  Don’t look at me like that…oh well, I suppose I could.  Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you.  But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow?  But how?  Please, Aslan!  Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan.  “No.  Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan.  “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen?  There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan.  “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy.  “And I was so pleased at finding you again.  And I thought you’d let me stay.  And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time.  And now everything is going to be horrid.”

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan.  “But things never happen the same way twice.  It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face.  But there must have been magic in his mane.  She could feel lion-strength going into her.  Quite suddenly she sat up.

“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said.  “I’m ready now.”

“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan.  “And now all Narnia will be renewed.  But come.  We have no time to lose.”…

“Now, child” said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, “I will wait here.  Go and wake the others and tell them to follow.  If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won’t believe and making them do something they certainly won’t like.  “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.

She went to Peter first and shook him.  “Peter,” she whispered in his ear, “wake up.  Quick.  Aslan is here.  He says we’ve got to follow him at once.”

“Certainly, Lu.  Whatever you like,” said Peter unexpectedly.  This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn’t much use.

Then she tried Susan.  Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grown-up voice, “You’ve been dreaming, Lucy.  Go to sleep again.”

She tackled Edmund next.  It was very difficult to wake him, but when at least she had done it he was really awake and sat up.

“Eh?” he said in a grumpy voice.  “What are you talking about?”

She said it all over again.  This was one of the worst parts of her job, for each time she said it, it sounded less convincing.

“Aslan!” said Edmund, jumping up.  “Hurray!  Where?”

Lucy turned back to where she could see the Lion waiting, his patient eyes fixed upon her.  “There,” she said, pointing.

“Where?” asked Edmund again.

“There.  There.  Don’t you see?  Just this side of the trees.”

Edmund stared hard for a while and then said, “No.  There’s nothing there.  You’ve got dazzled and muddled with the moonlight.  One does, you know.  I thought I saw something for a moment myself.  It’s only an optical what-do-you-call-it.”

“I can see him all the time,” said Lucy.  “He’s looking straight at us.”

“Then why can’t I see him?”

“He said you mightn’t be able to.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  That’s what he said.”

“Oh, bother it all,” said Edmund.  “I do wish you wouldn’t keep on seeing things. But I suppose we’ll have to wake the others.”

When the whole party was finally awake Lucy had to tell her story for the fourth time.  The blank silence which followed it was as discouraging as anything could be.

“I can’t see anything,” said Peter after he had stared his eyes sore.  “Can you, Susan?”

“No, of course I can’t,” snapped Susan.  “Because there isn’t anything to see.  She’s been dreaming.  Do lie down and go to sleep Lucy.”

“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice, “that you will all come with me.  Because – because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan.  “Of course you can’t go off on your own.  Don’t let her, Peter.  She’s being downright naughty.”

“I’ll go with her, if she must go,” said Edmund.  “She’s been right before.”

“I know she has,” said Peter.  “And she may have been right this morning.  We certainly had no luck going down the gorge.  Still – at this hour of the night.  And why should Aslan be invisible to us?  He never used to be.  It’s not like him.  What does the D.L.F. say?”

“Oh, I say nothing at all,” answered the Dwarf.  “If you all go, of course I’ll go with you; and if your party splits up, I’ll go with the High King.  That’s my duty to him and King Caspian.  But, if you ask my private opinion, I’m a plain dwarf who doesn’t think there’s much chance of finding a road by night where you couldn’t find one by day.  And I have no use for magic lions which are talking lions and don’t talk, and friendly lions though they don’t do us any good, and whopping big lions though nobody can see them.  It’s all bilge and beanstalks as far as I can see.”

“He’s beating his paw on the ground for us to hurry,” said Lucy.  “We must go now.  At least I must.”

“You’ve no right to try to force the rest of us like that.  It’s four to one and you’re the youngest,” said Susan.

“Oh, come on,” growled Edmund.  “We’ve got to go.  There’ll be no peace till we do.”  He fully intended to back Lucy up, but he was annoyed at losing his night’s sleep and was making up for it by doing everything as sulkily as possible.

“On the march, then,” said Peter, wearily fitting his arm into his shield-strap and putting his helmet on.  At any other time he would have said something nice to Lucy, who was his favorite sister, for he know how wretched she must be feeling, and he knew that, whatever had happened, it was not her fault.  But he couldn’t help being a little annoyed with her all the same.

Susan was the worst.  “Supposing I started behaving like Lucy,” she said.  “I might threaten to stay here whether the rest of you went on or not.  I jolly well think I shall.”

“Obey the High King, your Majesty,” said Trumpkin, “and let’s be off.  If I’m not to be allowed to sleep, I’d as soon march as stand here talking.”

And so at last they got on the move.  Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan.  But she forgot them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan.  He turned and walked at a slow pace about thirty yards ahead of them.  The others had only Lucy’s directions to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well.  His big cat-like paws made no noise on the grass.

He led them to the right of the dancing trees – whether they were still dancing nobody knew, for Lucy had her eyes on the Lion and the rest had their eyes on Lucy – and nearer the edge of the gorge.  “Cobbles and kettledrums!” thought Trumpkin.  “I hope this madness isn’t going to end in a moonlight climb and broken necks.”

“Lucy,” said Susan in a very small voice.

“Yes?” said Lucy.

“I see him now.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right.”

“But I’ve been far worse than you know.  I really believed it was him – he, I mean – yesterday.  When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood.  And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up.  I mean, deep down inside.  Or I could have, if I’d let myself.  But I just wanted to get out of the woods and – and – oh, I don’t know.  And what ever am I to say to him?”

“Perhaps you won’t need to say much,” suggested Lucy. 

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Wild Inside

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”

Not Just Inside the Mind

Talking God and Dostoevsky in Vietnam
Anonymous

My friend, a recent graduate from a Hanoi university, has digested many of the French and Russian classics. Most of the former set found their way into Vietnamese during the early part of the last century, while the bulk of the latter accompanied an increasing Soviet influence, which marked the end of French occupation in 1954.

As we sat across from each other in the cafe booth, sipping an iced blend of espresso and sweetened condensed milk, he reflected on three of his favorite Western authors, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Hugo. He isn’t a believer, but I asked about the composite picture of Christianity these writers had supplied him.

Thinking, he rubbed his chin with one finger and then began, “I like Crime and Punishment because it’s a story of a madman, Raskolnikov, who becomes one of the best guys in the book at the end. And a young prostitute saw his soul and wanted to help him.”

He paused and squinted, continuing on a little quicker than before, “But God only fights inside the mind. With Tolstoy, it’s also like this, but God doesn’t have much power to influence the character of a person. For example . . . ”

He tapped the bit of glass tabletop beside his cup, scouring his mind for a name. I waited attentively and urged on his search with my fixed eyes and nodding head, excited at any mention of Dostoevsky, my favorite novelist. Once retrieved, the name filled in the empty space. “. . . Pierre, from War and Peace, dreams of many big things, like Raskolnikov, but he didn’t do anything big for anyone else. He only married Natasha. I think their faith is not as strong as Victor Hugo. In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean believes God did everything for him, and he becomes a tool of God.”

Link: Complete Blog Post

The Limits of Tolerance

The Limits of Tolerance: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at 50
Zack Boren

I believe the book’s main theme is tolerance. Racial tolerance in 1930s Alabama is the most famous example. But that’s just one application of the theme. Atticus also teaches his children that they need to tolerate racist whites—the hard-working kind (the Cunningham clan), the elderly (Mrs. Dubose), and even the lazy, indignant, dishonest types (Bob Ewell and most of his progeny). In every case, Atticus invokes the logic of the same “cracker-barrel epigram” to inculcate his strain of tolerance to his kids: You can’t really understand someone else until you “consider things from his point of view”—in other words, “climb into his skin and walk around in it.” …

After the trial of Tom Robinson, the evil Bob Ewell approaches Atticus, spits in his face, and tells the lawyer he’ll get him if it takes the rest of his life. Atticus dismisses Ewell as nothing to worry about. Even after Ewell threatens a defenseless widow and attempts to burglarize the judge’s house, Atticus still sees no threat. He ultimately fails to understand the danger posed to his children by a coward with a knife, a grudge, and a little alcohol. As a result, his children are nearly murdered. No one else is fooled by Ewell. The sheriff understands Ewell’s cowardly nature perfectly. The judge sits reading with a shotgun on his lap. With a few stinging threats, Mr. Dias runs Ewell off from threatening the widow. Even Aunt Alexandra, by no means the most prescient of characters, predicts that he will try to pay off his grudge. It is only Atticus, adrift in his world of unimpeachable lawyering, who fails to see Ewell for who he is, proclaiming in the novel’s denouement that he can’t conceive of a man who’d try to kill children. He should have seen it coming. Atticus’s attitude illustrates the limits of moral tolerance and the courage required to stand up to evil, demonstrated by Boo Radley.

For all that we can learn from the book about godly tolerance, To Kill a Mockingbird warns the church to beware tolerating evil…

Many people read To Kill A Mockingbird as the story of a Christ-figure who suffered unjust oppression because of his moral stand. But tolerance can go too far. The book is really about the ultimate failure of a good man to stand up to evil because he underestimated evil.

Link: Complete Blog Post

The Limits of Coercion

Why Johnny Can’t Preach
T. David Gordon

[Another] alternative to real Christian proclamation is what would have been called the “Social Gospel” in the early twentieth century, but what is more likely to be called the “Culture Wars” today.  In each case, the Christian pulpit is devoted to commenting on what’s wrong with our particular culture, and what ought to be done to improve it, either by individuals or (worse) by the coercive powers of government.  Since again, the sociocultural and sociopsychological function of religion for many people is analogous to the function it had for the Pharisee (who thought himself righteous and despised others), there will always be a warm welcome for such preaching.  Many people love to live in their imagined and self-made world of good guys and bad guys, to be reminded that there are good people and bad people and that they are among the good…

What’s wrong with our culture and every culture, and all human culture since Genesis 3, is that all of us (not some of us) in Adam have revolted against the reign of God, and that each of us (not some of us) prefers his own will to the will of God.  Worse, we are utterly incapable, in and of ourselves, of changing.  The government cannot change us or rescue us from our revolt; education cannot enlighten our darkened minds; not even the church can deliver us from our darkened understanding that considers our own way better than God’s way; and surely coercive human governments cannot cure souls.  Only the God-man, the last Adam, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice and present intercession at the right hand of God, can rescue any of us from our revolt.  So the one inadmissible thing to a culture warrior (that cultural change is out of our hands) is the basic subtext of everything the Bible teaches…

The culture warrior refuses to acknowledge that true and significant cultural change can happen only when the individual members of the culture have forsaken their own self-centeredness, and have revolted against their revolt against God.  Worse, the culture warrior assumes that coerced change in behavior is desirable – that if we can pass a law that outlaws sin, this will somehow make people and culture better (when, in fact, we just become more devious and learn how to evade detection, adding deception to our other sins).  Culture warriors are not content with the two legitimate ways in which humans may exert influence on the behavior of others: through reasoned discourse and the power of example.  The power of example is too costly and too slow, and besides, we don’t wish to be around unbelievers much anyway.  And reasoned discourse is beyond the capacity of most of us today; most could never explain convincingly to another why one behavioral choice is wiser than another.  So we resort to coercion: using the coercive power of the government to enforce external compliance to the ways of God…

If theocracy didn’t work in Israel, where God divinely instituted it, why do people insist on believing it will work in places where God manifestly has not instituted it?

Feeling Sorry for Someone Else

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Then she raised her wand.  “Oh, don’t, don’t, please don’t,” shouted Edmund, but even while he was shouting she had waved her wand and instantly where the merry party had been there were only statues of creatures (one with its stone fork fixed forever halfway to its stone mouth) seated round a stone table on which there were stone plates and a stone plum pudding.

“As for you,” said the Witch, giving Edmund a stunning blow on the face as she remounted the sledge, “let that teach you to ask favor for spies and traitors.  Drive on!”  And Edmund for the first time in this story felt sorry for someone besides himself.

‘Course He Isn’t Safe

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.  “Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea.  Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan.  “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the king, I tell you.”

Mirrors vs. Pictures

Why Johnny Can’t Preach
T. David Gordon

Culturally, then, we are no longer careful, close readers of texts, sacred or secular.  We scan for information, but we do not appreciate literary craftsmanship.  Exposition is therefore virtually a lost art.  We don’t really read texts to enter the world of the author and perceive reality through his vantage point; we read texts to see how they confirm what we already believe about reality.  Texts are mirrors that reflect ourselves; they are not pictures that are appreciated in themselves.  This explains, in part, the phenomenon that many Christians will read their Bibles daily for fifty years, and not have one opinion that changes in the entire fifty-year span.

A Child’s Heart and a Grown-Up’s Head

[Christ] wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.  He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim … If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you that you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.

– C.S. Lewis