Lewis and the Lion
Meet 'Jack' and his mates
Imagine a cold Tuesday morning,World war II has been over for two or three years, life slowly getting back to normal, it's raining outside but inside the Pub where the friends are meeting its nice and cozy. It's not quite 'opening time' (Pubs in England at the time couldn't open for business until 12 noon and closed again at around 3 in the afternoon) but the four best friends who make up the inklings are sat in their usual corner at the Eagle and Child Pub (Most locals call it the Bird and Baby or the Bird) in Oxford discussing their latest writing endeavors, they are members of a group called THE INKLINGS.
The four there that day are
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Owen Barfield
- Charles Williams
- Clive Staples Lewis (known as C.S. Lewis to us and 'Jack' to his friends)
There were more who often attended the group, but these four would be there every week no matter what else was going on. They were the best of friends and they were also each had a strong Christian faith.
It hadn't always been like that though, especially not for Lewis. He had once been an atheist! After four years in the trenches during WW1 and seeing one of his best friends killed in action. But God wasn't finished with this man yet and after the war the confirmed atheist found himself getting a job as a lecturer in literature at the most prestigious university in England OXFORD. The oldest and most famous of any university in Britain.
Volunteering as an officer in 1917 'Jack' was sent to the front as a young Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion Somerset Light infantry and aged 19 took part in one of the bloodiest battles of the War the third battle of the Somme.
Officially a soldier had to be seventeen to enlist at the time but it wasn't unusual for boys as young as fifteen to lie about their age and join the Army (My own grandfather did this at fifteen and was wounded in the first battle of the Somme. He lived with the wounds and horror for the rest of his life). Lewis' best friend Edward Courtnay Francis "Paddy" Moore (1898–1918) was killed and Lewis himself was wounded by friendly fire (something you never forget). I imagine this had a huge impact on how Lewis saw the world. One thing many soldiers and people who've seen the horrors of war struggle with is "Where is the God of Love we read about in the Bible?"
Meet the Inklings
The chronicles of Narnia is an awesome series that has been enjoyed by children and adults alike from the moment that it was penned by the great C.S. Lewis.
I know it's also been enjoyed by adults because I didn't actually read the series until I read the stories to my own daughter about five years ago. Since then we've been totally hooked and have the well worn seven volume set as well as the movies that have been made.
My wife had the privilege of reading the books when she was a child and it was her set that we used to read, they've become a special family heirloom full of treasured memories and fun together. There is no better gift for a family than this series.
Told through the eyes of children the books were written almost in sequence with the exception that the last book written (The Magicians nephew) is actually the first in the series and explains how this magical world came into being.
The most famous of the books was the second written, "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" is the story of how four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) evacuated from London during world war 2 came to live with an eccentric professor in the countryside and how they discover Narnia, a magical land in turmoil that is ruled by an evil witch.
There they discover an ancient prophecy that 'When the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve sit on the throne of Narnia then everything shall be put right' and the also learn about a powerful Lion who has the power to make this happen, his name is Aslan and while "he's been away, but he is returning"
Lewis had been fascinated by Norse mythology since childhood and at Oxford he had the chance to really indulge his passion for it. He soon made friends among the faculty and found other like minded lecturers, three of which were to become lifelong friends and would slowly lead him back to faith.
Lewis himself says that he started to not believe in God around about the age of fifteen. Though he saw it more that he was angry at God 'for not existing'
It was mainly his friendship with J.R.R Tolkien that began his journey back to faith. Here was a man who had seen many of the things that Lewis had seen (He'd been with the Lancashire fusileers) and in some ways had seen worse but his faith had remained strong at the front. Something that resonated with Lewis and I can imagine Lewis wanting to know more about the man and his faith. Another who had a major influence was Owen Barfield 'The first and last Inkling'
The Lion the Witch and the wardrobe was actually dedicated to 'Lucy Barfield' Owen's daughter (I wonder if Lewis wanted to place her in the story as the Lucy who finds Narnia? One thing is clear and that is the influence these two men had had eternal consequences not just for Lewis but for the millions who've read his work since.
A side to Lewis that we seldom see
A famous quote or two
Two quotes come to mind when I think of Lewis.
The first is what he told us about his famous Lion 'Aslan' He's not a tame Lion you know! and that's exactly how he saw Christ the Lion Of Judah and the one whom Aslan is a picture of. There are so many similarities between the two that it's amazing and that's just how 'Jack' wanted it. So many similarities that the discerning could not fail to see them yet at the same time such a wonderful story that the Children could enjoy it for just that.
The second is what he said about Christ himself.
Lewis told us that we could never claim that Jesus was just a good moral teacher. He said that Christ made too many claims about his deity to allow that, he was one of three things
"Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord of glory"
- If he knew that he wasn't God yet made those claims then he was a liar and deceived millions, in which case not only a liar but evil with it!
- If he was genuinely deluded into thinking he was God then the greatest moral teaching that mankind has ever been given was given by a lunatic!
- If he wasn't either of the other two then he really was whom he claimed to be THE LORD OF ALL GLORY AND SAVIOR OF MANKIND
The Narnia series laid out
Read the whole series
There are seven books in the series. Here is a list of all seven
(1) The Magician's Nephew the first in the series but was the last written. Here Lewis explains how Narnia came into being, how evil crept into the world created and more importantly how the portal was opened for the later adventures
(2) The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy all come to Narnia where Edmund is tricked into working with the wicked witch. They meet many strange creatures but none as strange or powerful as Aslan 'He's not a tame Lion you know!" Aslan sets out to rescue Edmund and break the curse but at what terrible cost!
(3) The Horse and his boy To the south of Narnia is the Kingdom of Carloman, a cruel place from which a boy is escaping when he's helped by a 'Talking horse' (a common thing in Narnia but not anywhere else
(4) Prince Caspian The Children come back to Narnia where a new peril has arisen. the Narnians have almost been wiped out by the Carlomans, the children have come back as the High Kings and Queens of Narnia to place Caspian, the rightful King of Narnia on the throne, but first they need to persuade him that they are whom they claim to be and that the Narnians can work wit Caspian
(5) Voyage of the Dawn Trader Edmund and Lucy return with a rather irksome Eustace (their cousin) to help King Caspian on a vyage to the edge of their world
(6) The Silver Chair Eustace returns with a friend (Jill) to help find the heir to King Caspian who has been entrapped by a new evil and risks losing everything. It's Aslan who has called him back to help Narnia in it's time of need
(7) The Last Battle the final Battle between the Carlomans and the Narnians, once again Eustace and Jill are brought back by Aslan to help the Narnians stand against the tyranny