Sunday, April 21, 2013

C.S. Lewis & (Narnian) Idolatry

Here are several articles by Berit Kjos on C.S. Lewis's (Narnian) idolatry (I do not approve of the image of the Narnia poster used on the websites, nor do I approve of the nativity idols I've seen on their website):
Blending Truth and Myth December 2005
A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds December 2005
A postmodern path to faith and salvation? December 2005
Olympic gods and C. S. Lewis February 2006
Awakening Narnia With Bacchanalian Feasts May 2008

Bayly Blog: Fr. Andrew Greely: Narnia flick Trojan Horse for Roman Catholic idolatry... (here is a link to Greely's actual article). From Greely's article:

[I]t seems to me that the evangelicals slip dangerously close to Catholic idolatry when they embrace a wondrous allegory as a summary of the biblical story. Jesus is not and never was a lion like Aslan in the film. To interpret him as a lion is to go light years beyond literal, word-for-word inerrancy. The evangelical enthusiasm about the sufferings of Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" put them one step away, it seemed to me, from importing crucifixes and Stations of the Cross into their churches. I'm afraid that their enthusiasm for both films shows just how seductive the Catholic temptation is.
Gibson's imagination is certainly Catholic, though perhaps with a certain masochistic twist. In his retelling of the Gospel in allegorical form, C.S. Lewis goes back to the miracle and morality plays of the Middle Ages, in a sense as if the Reformation never happened.

However, I think someone should warn the evangelicals that they are playing with, one should excuse the expression, fire. They are drifting into an imaginative world where the Whore of Babylon lives and dominates. They had better beware.

For more information as to Lewis's 'deficient theology' read Southern View Chapel's Think on These Things Article titled "C.S. Lewis" (September 2006 - Volume 12, Issue 8) by Gary E. Gilley here. Also, read "C.S. Lewis: A Bridge to Rome," by J. Saunders, here.

And, lest there be any confusion on what Lewis believed concerning the *Golden Lion*, notice how clear these statements are by Lewis, showing that he pictured the *Golden Lion* as Jesus:

Lewis (see here):
The whole Narnia story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself 'Supposing there really was a world like Narnia and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?' The stories are my answers. and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?' The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called "The Lion of Judah" in the Bible; (c) I'd been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work. The whole series works out like this.

The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion etc the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.
Lewis (via:

As to Aslan's other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1.) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else's fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb (see the end of the Dawn Treader). Don't you really know His name in this world. Think it over and let me know your answer.

Lewis (see:
I am sure you understand that Aslan is a divine figure, and anything remotely approaching the comic (above all anything in the Disney line) would be to me simple blasphemy.
From Hooper's work (Link; note how Lewis believes someone can love/worship God through the idol/image/figure Aslan):
Very rarely was Lewis required to defend Aslan as a 'supposal' of what the Son of God might have been like in Narnia. In 1955 a nine-year-old American boy, Laurence Krieg, became worried that he was committing idol-worship by loving Aslan more than Jesus. His mother mentioned this to Lewis, who in his reply of 6 May 1955 explained why he was not worried about the resemblance:

Laurence can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that' what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. Of course there is one thing Aslan has that Jesus has not - I mean, the body of a lion. (But remember, if there are other worlds and they need to be saved and Christ were to save them - as He would - He may really have taken all sorts of bodies in them which we don't know about.) Now if Laurence is bothered because he find the lion-body seems nicer to him than the man-body, I don't think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy's imagination works (He made it, after all) and knows that at a certain age the idea of talking and friendly animals is very attractive. So I don't think He minds if Laurence likes the Lion-body. And anyway, Laurence will find as he grows older, that feeling (liking the lion-body better) will die away of itself, without his taking any trouble about it. So he needn't bother (LTC).
It is not okay to love and worship God through any false image made to represent Him. The sufficient image of God is Christ, revealed in the Scriptures. The Golden Lion is nothing more than another idol and a rather beastly one at that.

Notice Federal Vision heretic Doug Wilson's conclusion/belief/recognition of who Lewis intended the the golden lion to be (along with Wilson's gross praise of the idolatry here):
Who then is Aslan?

        "‘Who are you?’ asked Shasta.

        ‘Myself,’ said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again, ‘Myself,’ loud and clear and gay: and then the third time, ‘Myself,’ whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it" (p. 165). This is clearly a reference to the triune nature of God. And how did Shasta feel about it? "A new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too" (p. 165).

        The way Aslan says "Myself" three times is clearly a reference to the triune nature of God. What was Aslan like when he met him? "No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful" (p. 166). What was Aslan’s name? "Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia" (p. 166). And what came from Aslan’s footprint? "Shasta stooped and drank – a very long drink – and then dipped his face in and splashed his head. It was extremely cold, and clear as glass, and refreshed him very much" (p. 167).
Although I strongly disagree with much of C.S. Lewis's works and writings, I think some of Lewis's comments concerning idolatry and images might be of interest to some people. So, here is more of what Lewis had to say concerning idolatry.

First, observe Lewis's comments concerning crucifixes in the book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (published a year after Lewis's death; I'm not sure when letter 16 was written) :
Continuing through [Letters to] Malcolm, we find Lewis becoming more explicitly anti-Catholic when dismissing crucifixes and even contemplation of the crucifixion, saying that in doing so

Compunction, compassion, gratitude--all the fruitful emotions--are
strangled. Sheer physical horror leaves no room for them.
Nightmare. Even so, the image ought to be periodically faced. But
no one could live with it. (85)
(Source: Eric Seddon,
Letter 16
Letter 16 turns practical, examining how the theoretical discussion in Letter 15 relates to the actual practice of prayer.
* Paragraph 2, things made of wood or plaster – Lewis doesn’t use the word icon, here, but that seems to be what he means in this phrase; that is, broadly, any representational object intended as an aid to devotion, stimulating and liberating certain activities in the worshipper. A crucifix, for example, he says in An Experiment in Criticism (1961), "exists in order to direct the worshipper’s thought and affections to the Passion." It may serve that purpose better if it does not have "any excellencies, subtleties, or originalities which will fix attention upon itself. Hence devout people may, for this purpose, prefer the crudest and emptiest ikon. The emptier, the more permeable; and they want, as it were, to pass through the material image and go beyond" (pp. 17-18). A similar, briefer discussion can be found in the second paragraph of his essay "Christianity and Literature" (1938). He nowhere indicates that he used icons as part of his own spiritual practice (it is interesting, therefore, to have an icon used as cover art for the current U. S. edition of Letters to Malcolm).
(Source: Peter Schakel [Hope College Professor of English],

Also, note C.S. Lewis's letter to Lance Sieveking (written four years before Lewis died and a year before his wife, Helen Joy Davidman, died. My emphasis in bold):
But CS Lewis, according to a recently-discovered letter, would have been right pissed off by the movies. Following a 1959 BBC radio adaptation of The Magician’s Nephew - a prequel to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe - Lewis wrote a letter to producer Lance Sieveking. Although Lewis approved of the radio version of his work, he complained about any potential screen adaptations of his Narnia books. The letter, published on the Internet by Nthposition, reads:

Dear Sieveking
(Why do you ‘Dr’ me? Had we not dropped the honorifics?) As things
worked out, I wasn’t free to hear a single instalment of our serial [The Magician’s Nephew] except the first. What I did hear, I approved. I shd. be glad for the series to be given abroad. But I am absolutely opposed – adamant isn’t in it! – to a TV version. Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography. Cartoons (if only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius!) wld. be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan wld. be to me blasphemy.
All the best,
C. S. Lewis
(Source: "CS Lewis Probably Thinks The Narnia Movie Is Rubbish" by Stuart Heritage, [note: I do not approve of the image of Aslan at the website])

Finally notice Lewis's comments in his book A Grief Observed, which was written after the death of his wife. Below is a quote from Paul Burgin's article "Demolishing Another Idol" (note: I don't consider some of the "great Christians of the twentieth century" listed in Burgin's article as Christians; e.g. Pope John XXIII), which includes the relevant text from Lewis's book A Grief Observed:
Lewis himself went through this problem [the "Lewisian idol" as the author calls it] in 'A Grief Observed', although it is more of a heartfelt and painful experience, as it is a book in which describes his coming to terms with the death of his wife. As one can see from the forthcoming quotation, Lewis's own struggles with idolising was a painful experience. Perhaps it is wrong to make the comparison here, as it is more personal and heartfelt. But I believe we can learn from it:

"I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H. [Helen], not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.

"Images, I must suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures or statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images-sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers. All reality is iconoclastic."
"For Protestants, all religious images and all conceptions of the Deity that can be apprehended by human senses are problematic. The problem was captured in verse by C. S. Lewis, who wrote a poem he called A Footnote to All Prayer:

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate."

There will be images [in the human mind] derived from pictures of [God] as he appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer – perhaps quite savage and puerile – images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located – up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it – to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him.
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1961; Touchstone Books, 1996), 29-30.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dr. Albert Mohler & The Second Commandment

This link has some helpful notes about Mohler's sermon: The sermon can be downloaded on Mohler's Sermons & Speeches archive here. Below is part of my transcription from part of Mohler's presentation:
We must be very careful that the visual never eclipse the verbal. We must be very careful not to allow things of visual beauty to become the objects of our worship, because they lie. They lie, because they cannot represent the infinite beauty of God. We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is a lie and, as a lie, it robs Him of His Glory. The worship of icons -- just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. It is not true that the means of connecting with God is through the mediation on the visual. It simply is not true. But it is true that even as we are to avoid icons, we do have an icon. It is true that there is one icon that is the object and focus of our worship — the means of our worship, indeed, and that is the icon that is Jesus Christ. "He[...]", as we read from Colossians Chapter one, is "[...]is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him" And thus Christ is in the Second Commandment; and thus Christ fulfills the Second Commandment, because He, the image of the invisible God, is the icon whom we ponder. But even as that icon, He is not a visual image for us. He is so much more than that. And thus this commandment is also for us; lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry, we preach Christ crucified, we point to Christ in His glory, we preach the cross, we teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ, and we use words. Paul says that these things, including all the Law, the Torah, all the writings of the Old Testament are given to us for our good, so that by reading them we may be instructed and encouraged.
These notes on Mohler's sermon on the Third Commandment are also helpful (note: Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 42:8 and Isaiah 48:11):

Also, read Mohler's article "You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears:" Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age, Part 3", which points out why Christian apologetic confronts error concerning idolatry. From the article:
Sixth, a Christian apologetic confronts error. [Acts 17:29] In this sense, the apologetic task and the polemical task are related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: “We ought not to think” false thoughts about God.
False theologies abound in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God–the so-called Gaia Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment.
The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice, and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”
Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.

*Update 10/12/09: Jason Smathers provided a selection from Mohler's new book here. Thankfully, Mohler reiterates his stance against purported images of Christ! I'm very thankful for Mohler's comments in his book; he is very clear that he is against purported images of Christ. Below is the selection provided by Smathers:
The following is an except from the end of chapter two which sums up Dr. Mohler's conclusion.
We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is an invention, and as an invention, it robs Him of His glory. The worship of icons is just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. God does not command or authorize the use of images in order to understand and worship Him. As a matter of fact, God condemns images and leaves no doubt concerning the matter.

Jesus Christ is not a visual image for us---He is so much more than that. And thus this commandment is also for us lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry. We preach Christ crucified. We point to Christ in His glory. We preach the cross. We teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ. And we use words.

The second commandment is a clear condemnation of idols and images. We are not to use our creativity in order to fabricate an idol or to worship an image.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

An Exposition of Romans 1:24-27 by Dr. François Turretini (Francis Turretin)

Whether sin can be the punishment of sin. We affirm.
Proof that sin is the punishment of sin, [...] from Rom. 1:24-27 where God, as a punishment of the idolatry of the Gentiles, is said to have given them up to foul lusts and to a reprobate mind (dia touto paredōken autous ho Theos): "for this cause" (viz., on account of idolatry spoken of in v. 25) "God gave them up unto vile affections . . . receiving in themselves that recompense (antimisthian) of their error which was meet." Thus I infer: this change of the natural use of their bodies into vile lust against nature is a just recompense (antimisthia) for the idolatrous change of the glory of God into the glory of the creature and of the truth of God into a lie; this is sin and at the same time the punishment of their sin. Now this "impurity" (akatharsia) and "shamelessness" (aschēmosynē) (foul sin) is called the "recompense" (antimisthia) of the preceding wickedness. Similar to this is the other passage where God is said "to have sent them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:11, 12*). For what God inflicts upon men because they have not received the love of the truth (that not believing the truth they might be condemned) must be penal. Nor can it be said that such sins are called punishment by a metonymy of the cause because they are deserving of greater punishment (as Arminius wishes). It is one thing to deserve a new punishment; quite another to be itself punishment and the just recompense of crime (which is here said of the crimes of the Gentiles).
It is not absurd that of one and the same thing there should be contrary differences, if they are contrary and diverse relations according to which both can be predicated of it in different relations (kat' allo kai allo) (as man can be called mortal and immortal in different respects). The same action can be called both praiseworthy and just on the part of God decreeing it for punishment and so be blamed and unjust on the part of man committing it as sin. The horrible lusts of the Gentiles were just with respect God inasmuch as he gave over the nations to them as a just recompense (antimisthian) of preceding sins. Hence it is added that it "behooved them" to suffer it. Yet they were unjust with respect to the Gentiles. Hence they are said to have done "those things which are not convenient" (ta mē kathēkonta).
—Dr. François Turretini, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 653-655