In response to the invigorating inspiration I’m feeling after drinking deeply of Narnia and C.S. Lewis throughout the Desiring God Conference this past week, I’ve decided to focus on his fantastical work of fiction, The Chronicles of Narnia for a few days.
May you breath deep of Narnian air this week 🙂
Though The Magician’s Nephew is in the Narnian mythology is filled with wonderful images and fantastical stories the most astounding theological encounter in this book occurs when the reader watches Aslan create Narnia. This scene begins in the end of chapter 8 and comes to completion at the end of chapter 9. The scene is breathtaking to read,
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing…it seemed to come from all directions at once…Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful Digory could hardly bear it.
After this scene those present looked above them and saw the blackness filled with stars, and each of them were singing as well. But the voice of the stars grew fainter as the voice of the one singing drew near. Wind came rushing, the blackness of the sky turned to grey, hills began to stand up around them, the sky changed to pink and then to a brilliant gold, and as soon as the voice swelled to the mightiest sound it could produce the sun rose over the hills. And from the sun’s light they all could see the source of the singing, a large, golden lion standing in the middle of the valley. At this moment we read that two distinct reactions occurred from seeing the lion. Some of the party present there loved this singing so much they could remain before it for an eternity listening to its pleasure. Others present, the Witch and Uncle Andrew, could barely stand to be before it, and seemed as if all they wanted to do is run and hide in a hole in the ground to get away from it. The song began to change after this and the lion began walking toward the party standing there. With each step the singing lion took with its large paws trees and mountains and animals and rivers and flowers and all sorts of lovely things were bursting forth into existence, until finally, all was created. Narnia had been created by the voice of the lion. Aslan stood in the center of a circle created by the all the animals he had just made, and he said to them, “Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”
This scene is clearly theological and clearly very Biblically based and therefore helpful to anyone reading it. We see that this is the creation story, this is Genesis 1 for Narnia, and just as Narnia came into being by the voice of the powerful lion, so too, the earth, the universe, and all they contain came into being by the voice of God Almighty (Genesis 1:1-2). Aslan’s voice described here shows itself to be strong and to be powerful, almost in Psalm 29 like fashion when the voice of the Lord is so powerful that it can snap the cedars of Lebanon in two as if they were twigs. Lewis clearly gives an ex nihilocreation, a creation out of nothing that can only be done by God and no one else. “While Greek philosophy sought the explanation of the world in a dualism; which involves the eternity of matter, or in a process of emanation, which makes the world the outward manifestation of God, the Christian Church from the very beginning taught the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and as a free act of God.”This free act of God is later defined by Berkhof as “the act of God whereby He, according to His sovereign will and for His own glory, in the beginning brought forth the whole visible and invisible universe, without the use of pre-existent material, and thus gave it an existence, distinct from His own and yet always dependent on Him.”
Thus we see that this creation account is very Biblical, because creation is taking place before their eyes out of the mouth of Aslan. Lewis probably had in mind here the truth that creation was accomplished, not by the Father alone, but through the Word of God (John 1:1), by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. The Father would be represented by Aslan Himself, the Word of God is evident in this Narnian story with creation coming into being by the singing “voice” of Aslan, whereas the Spirit of God is evidently present in the rushing wind (the Hebrew word for Spirit is present in Gen. 1, and can also be translated as wind or breath) at the time of the act of creation. This is a Biblical creation account clearly depicting the ex nihilo creation which is distinct from and dependent on God for its existence, it clearly shows this as a free act of God, which shows His strength over the devil’s (the Witch hated that Aslan’s power was older and stronger than hers), by the Word of God, and by the Spirit of God. If we were to be sticklers and want this to be a completely Biblical creation account we would now search for evidence of Aslan creating Narnia for His own glory. And though this element is not explicit perhaps it is implicit within the narrative itself. All creatures come to Aslan and obey His voice after there made don’t they? Whether or not this element is clearly stated, all present within the story know who received, and who still should receive, the glory for creating Narnia – Aslan. Thus, Lewis wonderfully displays the full Biblical, and therefore helpful not hurtful, account of creation here in the Magician’s Nephew.