Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: The Last Battle

The Last Battle. C.S. Lewis. 1956. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the last days of Narnia, far up to the west beyond Lantern Waste and close beside the great waterfall, there lived an Ape.

Premise/plot: All worlds must come to an end, even Narnia. The Last Battle brings readers to the end not only to the between-world adventures to Narnia experienced by a handful of children but to Narnia itself. It begins with a deception Shift, an ape, manipulates Puzzle, a donkey, into wearing a lion's skin on his back and pretending to be Aslan. Soon, Narnia has been turned topsy-turvy, and King Tirian and Jewel are among the last few skeptics--or last true believers. It's not a matter of can Narnia be saved--it can't, it won't be. It's a matter of what's worth living and dying for… It's a matter of what you do with the time you have left… It's a matter of knowing that there's something more, something greater yet to come.

My thoughts: I have VERY strong opinions about this novel.

Strengths in The Last Battle:

1) It stresses DISCERNMENT. There's a great line early on that I think is key to understanding all:
No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
You have to KNOW the truth, be familiar with the truth, have the truth impact and inform you in your daily life IF you want to be able to distinguish--discern--between the truth and a lie. It's more important to study the truth, to have the truth be your home and guide, than to study all the hundreds or thousands of different lies that have permeated society since the birth of Christ. If you don't know the truth, you can fall for anything--whether that 'anything' is close to the truth or very, very far from the truth. The truth is knowable. The truth is not relative.
Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That's why there can never be any quarrel between them. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
2) The Bible is a blessing when one holds it as the Word of God, the Revelation of God Himself to His people. Aslan left no written word behind, and, the oral history left behind, well, it kept things just fuzzy enough to be confusing. Yet how many today are "fuzzy" in spite of having the Word of God within reach. The Bible is the Word of God; it has authority.
"But, Sire, how could Aslan be commanding such dreadful things?" "He is not a tame lion," said Tirian. "How should we know what he would do?" C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Throughout the book, HE'S NOT A TAME LION is the mantra of everyone--true friend of Narnia or enemy. In the same way, don't Christians use "God works in mysterious ways…" or "God is doing a new thing…" as a way to leap into whatever teaching they want. Yes, God's ways are not our ways, and, we can't get the intellectual better of God. But God is knowable. He has revealed Himself to us in His word. He has told us all we need to know--more than we can fully comprehend in one lifetime--in this Word. We know, for example, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We know that God is faithful, good, merciful, loving and compassionate, forgiving, just, wise. We know that God cannot and will not act contrary to Himself.

3) The Christian life is all warfare. No easy-going, easy-living, happy-happy-best-life-now nonsense. Suffering. Hard Times. Persecution. CONFLICT. God promises peace in the midst of this--comfort through this.
We must go on and take the adventure that comes to us. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Some ridicule the idea that there is a devil, that there are demons, that there really are spiritual battles to be fought. But. The Bible takes this doctrine, this teaching, seriously, and so should we.
"It seems then," said the Unicorn, "that there is a real Tash, after all." "Yes," said the Dwarf. "And this fool of an Ape, who didn't believe in Tash, will get more than he bargained for! He called for Tash: Tash has come."

People shouldn't call for demons unless they really mean what they say." C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies' plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

4) Heaven is better than we could ever hope to imagine… I do think Lewis treats death properly. It is not the END but the beginning.
I've a feeling we've got to the country where everything is allowed. C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!
But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

5) Apologetics will only take you so far…
"Which one of us said that was Aslan? That is the Ape's imitation of the real Aslan. Can't you understand?" "And you've got a better imitation, I suppose!" said Griffle. "No thanks. We've been fooled once and we're not going to be fooled again." C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
Weaknesses of The Last Battle

I acknowledge that the Chronicles of Narnia is a fantasy series, the work of one author, C.S. Lewis, and, that while an allegory can't be taken absolutely, positively seriously as a theological work. BUT. Lewis' theology is seriously messed-up in this one.

1) He seems to be teaching that you can "fall away" and "lose" your salvation, that you can stop being a "friend of Narnia." Susan no longer believes in Narnia, that Narnia is a real place that they visited, a place where she reigned as Queen. That great love for Aslan she once had--remember how she and Lucy were with him in the first book--vanished without a trace and it seems Aslan's future plans don't include Queen Susan anymore.

2) He seems to be teaching that God's call--God's seeking of the lost--is resistible. That there are people whom God just cannot reach no matter how hard he tries, no matter how much he wants to. Here's the thing. If the Bible is truth, which I believe it is, the parallel is THAT WE'RE ALL DWARFS. WE'RE ALL "THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS." WE'RE ALL BLIND AND DEAF.
"Aslan," said Lucy through her tears, "could you--will you--do something for these poor Dwarfs?" "Dearest," said Aslan, "I ail show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do."
"You see," said Aslan. "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."
But God *is* sovereign in salvation. God *does* open our blind eyes and deaf ears; He does enable us to see and hear. From first to last, God is sovereign.

3) This next offense is the worst of the lot. Lewis introduces the character of Emeth to readers, and, with Emeth comes a LOT of bad theology. He's a Tarkann who has served Tash all of his days--his whole life from start to finish. He has loved Tash; abhorred Aslan. Until he enters the stable, and, sees this divine glory. I'm surprised other Christians don't catch HOW bad this allegorical-theology is:

Essentially, though you though you were really worshipping and serving Tash, because your works were good it was as if you were really serving Aslan all along. Your works were so good, your belief so sincere, that everything has been credited to you as if you were loving, worshipping, serving Aslan. If your works had been bad, no matter if you proclaimed to believe in Aslan, you were really worshipping and serving Tash.
But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou has done to Tash, I account as service done to me. ~ C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
We are not saved by works--by our own works, anyway. One could argue that we are saved by Christ's work imputed to us. But we are not saved by ANY "good works" we do. Our list of "good works" would be very, very, very short indeed--apart from Christ, or with the me + Christ philosophy. Heaven is not EARNED. Not even slightly.

We are not saved by the sincerity or passion of our belief. It is the OBJECT of our faith that saves. Not my faith in faith. Not my passionate, well-intentioned sincerity or emotional state. Definitely not having faith in faith. It is Christ that saves. You can sincerely, whole-heartedly believe something that is false.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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