WWLD? What would Lewis do?

What would Lewis do about the debate over the overtness of his Christian message in Narnia? Would he approve of the film version of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?”

It all started when I quoted CS Lewis in a letter written to a young woman named Anne, in which Lewis quite explicitly explained the meaning of Narnia.

Almost immediately after posting the piece I received an e-mail from a CW reader saying, “In all my reading of Lewis’ literature, both fiction and non-fiction, I have never read anything by Prof. Lewis that sounds anything like what was apparently in this letter. This of course does not in any way mean it was not written, but it is difficult to completely accept as it flies in the face of everything that has been said concerning these books both from Lewis’ and his friends, which included Prof. Tolkien, since they were first written.”

Given his doubts I called Kim Gilnett, who has spent years leading the restoration efforts at The Kilns, to ask for corroboration of the quote’s reliability.

Kim laughed and reported he had just gotten off the phone with Walter Hooper, who among other documents had quoted this specific one to Kim on that very phone call! Hooper was Lewis’ assistant when he died and has been responsible for archiving Lewis’ written legacy ever since. Kim confirmed the reliability of the quote and mentioned another.

On June 3 1953 Lewis wrote 11 year-old Hila who asked regarding the identity of Aslan. Lewis replied, “As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there ever 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 “Dawn Treader”). Don’t you really know His name in this world. Think it over and let me know your answer.

Another controversy surrounds whether or not Lewis would approve of the movie version of Narnia, since he had been quite concerned about TV versions. His stepson, Douglas Gresham, told me of Lewis concern about Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.” Nevertheless in recent years Gresham has pushed for the adaptation to film because he believes technological advancements now make it possible to match imagination with visualization in non-distracting ways. Gresham also stayed on the project to assure the Christian elements would not be mishandled and according to all reports, they are handled beautifully. Alan Jacobs makes the case that for these and other reasons, Lewis would have approved of this film adaptation.

The Guardian released a five star review after the premiere at Royal Albert Hall.

One final note, Lewis’ legacy is preserved in an odd series of circumstances. He died the day Aldous Huxley died and JFK was assassinated. And Narnia is opening in the US on the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.

That an unkempt Oxford don would be remembered among these 20th century’s luminaries is amazing and it is because he served God and us so well in using his extraordinary intellectual, spiritual and creative gifts for God’s glory.

May we each do as Lewis did, bring our loaves and fishes to God and ask Him to multiply them!

And that is what Lewis would do.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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