Friday, February 23, 2007


Today we desperately need more leaders like William Wilberforce and the Kings and Queens of Narnia who will fight to make good laws, keep the peace, save good trees from being cut down, and encourage ordinary people who want to live and let live.
This from an article about a speech about books, movies and reading.

Now, I am admittedly no expert on William Wilberforce or the Kings and Queens of Narnia, but was their mission really to "save good trees from being cut down"? "To encourage ordinary people to live and let live"?

Does anyone think twice when this kind of stuff is said? Or is it only me?


Donald W said...

It's just you.

Greg Linscott said...


The part about trees and ordinary people is a quote from LWW. The Pevensies' reign was also marked by not forcing young fauns and satyrs to go to school. The tree comment should be understood in the context of the mythical dryads (tree spirits) employed by Lewis as charcters in his books.

Keith said...

Do you want to cut down good trees?

Yes, in context the quote refers to trees with spirits (non-human persons). However, Lewis and Tolkien really did think we should be against paving over the flora.

That doesn't mean no tree should ever be cut down or that trees are more important than humans. It does mean that man was created by God to have dominion over a garden. And, in a garden you work to keep living things alive.

It's all in Lewis, all in Lewis . . . what do they teach in these schools today?

Jon from Reidville, SC said...


I read that too. I think he may be referring to The Last Battle (Book 7 of TCON) in which the bad peeps are cutting down the trees and where in the end we find that infidels can go to heaven if they are sincere. Needless to say it is my least favorite and most theologically troubling of the series.


Keith said...

Chapter 17 of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe reads as follows:

". . . And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and younng satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live . . . And they themselves grew and changed as the years passed over them. And Peter became a tall and deep-chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent. And Susan grew into a tall and gracious woman with black hair that fell almost to her feet . . . and she was called Susan the Gentle. Edmund was a graver and quieter man than Peter, and great in council and judgement. He was called King Edmund the Just. But as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden haired, and all princes in those parts desired her to be their Queen, and her own people called her Queen Lucy the Valiant. So they lived in great joy . . . "

This is a mythopoeic picture of a rightly ordered society/culture. Such narratives are quite useful for the development of a proper Ordo Amoris.

Len S said...

Maybe next time you won't say, "huh" in ignorance. Or at least not so publically and loudly.

Ryan said...

So it has been demonstrated that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were avid environmentalists.

But what do we do then about them keeping young dwarves and satyrs from being sent to school? "Today we desperately need more leaders like the kings and queens of Narnia who will fight to make good laws, like keeping certain children out of our schools."

I guess I understand the sentiment of Abraham Piper's statement, but I am not so sure that what this nation needs is more environmentalists in politics. Though if the reference to live and let live is a subtle comment to reduce the role and power of the federal gov't I would agree to that. Just my opinion though.


Frank Sansone said...


I do not claim to be a C.S. Lewis or Narnia expert, but I would like to clarify that the "good trees" is not a reference to "healthy trees", but rather a reference to trees that are "good" as opposed to "evil".

In other words, the saving of the good trees is not an environmental issue in Narnia.

Keith said...

There are two ways to answer the comment about "keeping certain children out of our schools."

First, although Lewis was a college tutor, he was not happy with what he'd seen and experienced in the college prep schools in his time. Furthermore, he would argue (as would I, and I'm a school headmaster) that even good schools are something one should graduate from -- not stay in perpetually. Therefore, he would have used "freedom from school" as a metaphor for -- well freedom, true freedom. This viewpoint is seen at least one more time in the Chronicles as the children enter Heaven in the Last Battle. There, Lewis writes something like: "The (school) term was over, the holidays had begun." Personally, I can't wait until the school that is this life is over, and I can enter the holiday that is the next life.

Second, young dwarfs and young satyrs are not human children. And, Lewis is pointing out that the way for a creature to glorify God is to be what it was meant to be. He is also mocking and criticizing modernity's idolatry of standardization and blind faith in education. It may be appropriate for human children to be required to attend (a good) school, what God has ordained for them may require it. However, it is not appropriate for dwarfs and satyrs to have the same requirement because they weren't made for the same things. A pitcher glorifies God by holding water. A boy, by splashing and drinking water.

Regarding environmentalism: You really must define your terms. If by environmentalism you mean the view that humans are disposable while "the earth" or "the environment" is divine. Then Lewis would have none of it. However, if you mean that the flora and fauna of our world should be cared for by wise stewards, that Christians should not be carelessly and foolishly rushing to pave over the earth or wipe out species of animals in the name of "progress", then he'd be all for it.

Frank is right that "good" is a moral not a medical term in the passage under discussion. Nevertheless, I would say that understood in Lewis's categories (as opposed to talk radio's) the saving of the trees in Narnia is both a moral and an environmental issue.

Larry said...

Thanks for commenting, one and all. It was helpful to clarify.

My point was primarily about Wilberforce (since Narnia was a mythical creation of dubious value, to me anyway ... It's a decent story, and at best a questionable theology and philosophy, again, to me ... ). Was this really the thrust of Wilberforce's life?

If there is a mythical point here drawing on Lewis, how valuable is it? Was Lewis even correct on that point?

I have been criticized before for considering Lewis to be somewhat mediocre in his contribution to theology. Some of what I have read has been decent; some has been less than decent.

Larry said...

To Donald W, If you are correct that it is only me who thinks twice about this, then we are indeed in bad shape.

To Len, I am not sure what your comment exactly means. Well, I am fairly sure you meant it as a slam of some sort. Which raises the question, Do you really think people should not think and ask questions about stuff about which they are not experts on?

My point in bringing this up was to elicit a response of the type that was put forward. Since Lewis is not a big hero of mine, I was unaware of the reference and it made me think twice about it, wondering exactly what was meant.

I am sorry that is problemmatic for you.

Keith said...

As far as the thrust of Wilberforce's life . . . Yes, it was to make good laws and help establish a rightly ordered nation/kingdom.

Did Beltz make his point in the most rhetorically elegant way by juxtaposing Wilberforce and the Pevensies the way he did? Probably not. Of course, his company is making both the Wilberforce and the Narnia movies, so he probably so juxtaposed for more reasons than simple clarity.

As far as Lewis and Theology . . . Lewis really should not be viewed as trying to make a contribution to Theology. He tried to communicate established Anglican Theology to common people. And, he tried to write good stories that flowed out of a Christian worldview. His Narnia stories were not intended to be allegorical Theology books. They were intended to be good stories that caused the reader to love the lovely and hate the hateful.

Larry said...

Thanks, Keith. Very helpful. Perhaps the connection with him making both movies is the reason he brought them up.

I agree, from what little I know, that Wilberforce was about making good laws and a rightly ordered nation. I was unfamiliar with the Narnia comment and that is what my "Huh?" was about. It has been so long since I read Narnia. And it didn't seem consistent with the focus on Wilberforce and slavery.

I wonder about your comment about Lewis and Theology. Wasn't Mere Christianity, God in teh Dock, the Problem of Pain, and the like contributions to theology? Perhaps your thought was only of TCON. Or perhaps not.

I always though Lewis was more of a philosopher and literary critic than a theologian, and didn't always mix them well. And as I understand it, he has some pretty serious deficiencies in his theology.

But alas, perhaps that is for another day.

Thanks again.

Keith said...

You're welcome.

I was thinking of all of Lewis's works, not just TCON. And, Lewis certainly did write on theological topics. However, by his own admission, he was not trying to CONTRIBUTE anything new to the discipline of THEOLOGY itself. He was just trying to COMMUNICATE/EXPLAIN established theological understandings to people who had never heard it or were forgetting it.

Your problems with Lewis may be due to disagreements you have with mainstream Anglican Theology, or in errors that Lewis inadvertantly introduced to theology, or in a breakdown of communication/understanding between you and Lewis.

See you another day.