Sunday, September 25, 2011

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The Tame Lion: Domesticating Jesus

“Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?" said Tirian. "Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He’s not a tame lion.”  -- CS Lewis, from The Last Battle
Those of us who grew up loving the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis will never really warm up to the movie versions.  This is often true of book-to-movie translations, of course, but there is a certain richness to the language in the books that the movies give mere lip service to.  If your Narnian experience has been limited to movies, I strongly encourage you to read the books.  Or even better ... read them to your children!

I have very fond memories of my father reading Narnia to us as we gathered around his bed.  None of us were Christians at the time, but still I remember getting goose bumps at hearing various astonished Narnians exclaim about Aslan (the Narnian Jesus character), "He is not a tame lion!"

I knew virtually nothing of Christ at the time, so there was much in the Narnia tale that I naturally missed.  However, at least one central truth made its way into my consciousness:  whoever God was, His nature was not up to me to define.  By imprinting this vital truth deep within me early on, God prepared me to ultimately reject the false gospels and, in the fullness of time, humbly embrace the true King of Glory. 

Who is this King of Glory?  In the words of the wise Mr. and Mrs. Beaver:
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”
A crucial truth that Narnia was able to communicate to a young, unbelieving boy has faded from much of the church's postmodern theology:  Jesus is not tame.  He is not safe.  But He is good!

Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus—to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand and convert to our own purposes ... None of it works because once you domesticate Jesus he isn't there any more ... If Jesus makes you feel comfortable with your agenda, then he's not Jesus. -- Fr. Andrew Greeley

3 comments:

  1. One of my most favorite authors of all, and a friend of Lewis, Dorothy Sayers wrote this in one of her famous essays. I strongly recommend her essays which have been compiled into book form: Letters to a Diminished Church.

    The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies

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  2. And what Joy Unspeakable, and full of Glory to know that we are the children of the Father and the Brothers of the Son... Amen!!!

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