Friday, December 09, 2005

Narnia & Penal Substitution

Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 5 Live programme discussed C.S. Lewis' book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yesterday afternoon. Among the contributors was Toby Forward, Cannon of Liverpool Cathedral. Forward said that he liked the first half of the book, "a cracking good story." But he found the death of Aslan in the second half "brutal and distasteful." When pressed on why he, as a Christian found this allegory of Christ's crucifixion so abhorrent , the Cannon responded by saying that C. S. Lewis had employed a "Medieval" view of Christ's death. Toby Forward explained that Lewis was teaching penal substitution - that God cannot forgive sinners unless a sacrifice is offered. The high-ranking clergyman described this view of the cross as "unpleasant" and a part of the Christian tradition with which he does not agree.

All this is rather strange. I know of some Churches that are holding Narnia events precisely because the story teaches that Christ had to die to save sinners. To paraphrase Isaiah 53: 6, "We all, like Edmund have gone astray and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." If Christ did not have to die in place of sinners for us to be forgiven by God, then the cross becomes a meaningless gesture. It is only by the "deep magic" of Christ bearing the punishment of our sin on Calvary that sinners are put right with God. What Cannon Forward finds so objectionable is "the offence of the cross" (Galatians 5:11). It is offensive to our human pride that we are so lost in sin, that only the death of Christ can rescue us. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). A cursed Messiah may not be a pleasant thought, but in his curse, we find blessing, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:14.) If we can save ourselves by being good and doing our best without the "deep magic" of Christ's death and resurrection, then God put his Son through the agonies of the cross - for what? As Paul wrote, "if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Galatians 2:21.)
The sacrifice of Aslan on behalf of Edmund is a good picture of the death of Christ. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David stands triumphant in glory as a Lamb as though it had been slain. He has redeemed us to God by his blood! (Revelation 5:5, 6 & 9.)


daubmir said...

I think you do well in stay away from it all --- spare us, thanks.
You have been unanimously chosen as a Total Timewaster and will be terminated as soon as possible, in order to free webspace from useless trash.
Thank you for your collaboration in wasting everybody’s time!

Happy termination,
[Timewasters Terminator]

Guy Davies said...

Thanks all the same "crudecrock", but I don't go in for awards, they're a waste of time!