Spiritual Disciplines in Narnia

The topic before us now is “spiritual disciplines” in the Narnia stories, and I have to begin by explaining the topic perhaps a little more than some of the others. Spiritual disciplines are those practices which should be practiced on a daily basis, so that they become habitual, with the result that you are prepared when the great moment of testing comes. And, if you have been reading the right kind of stories, you know that it always comes. For example, in The Magician’s Nephew, we see that Digory been given a good moral upbringing, and this was an important part of why he was able to withstand the temptation he faced. “Things like Do Not Steal were, I think, hammered into boys’ heads a good deal harder in those days than they are now” (p. 174).


Some of the spiritual disciplines we practice would be saying our prayers, Bible reading, coming to worship and the Lord’s Supper, and so on. These practices are used by God to help to shape and mold us into a certain kind of person. Although much of it looks different from our world, we learn quite a bit about this principle in the Narnia stories.


For example, we also learn about prayer in The Magician’s Nephewr. What does Fledge teach the children about prayer? “‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse (still with his mouth full). ‘But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked’” (p. 163). In other words, we don’t pray to God because He needs to be informed; we do it because we need to know that He is the source of all our blessings.


Now of course, when we are talking about spiritual disciplines, we will spend most of our time talking about The Silver Chair, because this is one of the main themese of that book. For example, how does Aslan promise to guide Jill while she is down in Narnia? “‘I will tell you, Child,’ said the Lion. ‘These are the signs by which I will guide you’” (p. 25). He impresses upon her how very important this all is. “‘But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night’” (p. 27). This language has strong echoes of what the Bible says in Deuteronomy. In that book, God’s people are told to teach their children the law of God when they rise up, when they lie down, and when they walk along the road (Dt. 6:4-9). God wants us to learn certain things by repetition.


The signs look one way, but they are helpful in quite another way. This is why Aslan tells Jill about something odd with the signs. “‘And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters . . .’” (p. 27). It is the same with the grace and wisdom that we receive through God’s means of grace here. The way God blesses us through them is not necessarily what we were “thinking about” when we were going through them. We might not “see the point” when we are reading our Bibles, or coming to the Lord’s Table. But the important thing to remember is that God sees the point, and He uses what He has promised to use when we need His grace.


But even though remembering and following the signs is very important, what goes wrong in Narnia? “‘Oh, shut up,’ said Jill impatiently. ‘It’s far worse than you think. We’ve muffed the first Sign.’ Of course Scrubb did not understand this” (p. 45). The missing of the first sign seems like an honest mistake. But things continue to slip away from them, even though Puddleglum was suspicious in the right way about Harfang. “‘. . . and that, anyway, Aslan’s signs had said nothing about staying with giants, gentle or otherwise’” (pp. 91-92). But after the Green Lady spoke to them about Harfang, what did they forget? “They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning” (pp. 92-93). And because one thing can’t leave without being replaced by something else, what effect this this have? Well, it filled their minds with Harfang. And so what did thinking about Harfang do? “. . . it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and snappy with each other and with Puddleglum” (p. 93).


And then, of course, after they were caught up in this sin, what does Puddleglum ask about? “‘Are you still sure of those signs, Pole? What’s the one we ought to be after now?’ ‘Oh, come on! Bother the signs,’ said Pole. ‘Something about someone mentioning Aslan’s name, I think. But I’m jolly well not going to give a recitation here.’ As you see, she had gotten the order wrong. That was because she had given up saying the signs over every night” (p. 101). Instead of thinking about the task that Aslan had given them to do, what filled their thoughts? “They were thinking of baths and beds and hot drinks . . .” (p. 102). We will either think about what Aslan wants us to think about, or we will think about what the Witch wants us to think about.


From Harfang, what did they see in the morning? “. . . it could not be mistaken for anything but the ruins of a gigantic city” (p. 118). And words from an old inscription spelled out the phrase “under me.” So what would have happened if they had been paying attention to the signs? “We’d have gotten down under those paving stones somehow or other. Aslan’s instructions always work; there are no exceptions. But how to do it now—that’s another matter” (p. 121).


Later, when they escaped from Harfang, and got under the old city, what was the one bright spot? “‘We’re back on the right lines. We were to go under the Ruined City, and we are under it. We’re following the instructions again’” (p. 148).


The last sign is the one sign that they get right. And notice that Aslan forgave them and helped them even though they had muffed the earlier signs. When the conditions of the last sign are met, what do they decide to do? “On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren’t going to obey them?” (p. 167). And why do they obey? What is their thinking about it? “‘You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do’” (p. 167). And this is one of the great principles involved in the spiritual disciples. God doesn’t tell us what is going to happen. He tells us what to do, and when the time comes, we know what to do.


There is a right way to understand the spiritual disciplines but, not surprisingly, there is a wrong way to approach them as well. There are unfortunately many Christians who think that God wants them to avoid certain things just to avoid them, even though God has said nothing to us about avoiding them. This kind of spiritual discipline has a name in our world—it is called pietism or legalism—it is as though Jill made up her own “signs” to repeat to herself every night. Often these made-up disciplines can be very strict, killjoy disciplines. In Prince Caspian, we see that the harsh dwarf Nikabrik has a course of life that helps him to be harsh. These are spiritual disciplines, only turned around. For example, “Nikabrik was not a smoker” (p. 80) And Lewis also makes a point of showing that Nikibrik will not dance. “Only Nikabrik stayed where he was, looking on in silence” (p. 82).


In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we see the same kind of thing with Eustace’s parents. What kind of people were they? “They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes” (p. 3). And in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, what does the Witch think about a Christmas banquet? “‘Speak, vermin!’ she said again. ‘Or do you want my dwarf to find you a tongue with his whip? What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence? Where did you get all these things?’” (p. 115).


Just because something is strict does not mean that it is biblical. In fact, if it is harsh in the way these examples illustrate, we can be sure that Aslan has nothing to do with it.


When we accept discipline, even discipline that is appropriate, there is still a way of doing it that misses the point. For example, what kind of student had Eustace been? “. . . for though he didn’t care much about any subject for its own sake, he cared a great deal about marks and would even go to people and say, ‘I got so much. What did you get?’” (p. 30). And when people like Eustace (before he was “undragoned”) grow up, they frequently find themselves in government offices, trying to discipline others. And, when they do, they still miss the point. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, how does Gumpas the governor miss the point? “They lifted it, and flung it on one side of the hall where it rolled over, scattering a cascade of letters, dossiers, inkpots, pens, sealing-wax and documents” (p. 56). He thought the point of government was to get papers from one side of his desk to the other side. But he had forgotten the reason for it all.


The New Testament teaches us that participation in the Lord’s Table and participation with the table of demons is fundamentally inconsistent. God disciplines us by calling us away from the table of sin to sit down at His table. Not surprisingly, we find that there are two kinds of tables in Narnia as well. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, what is Aslan’s Table like? “There were flagons of gold and silver and curiously-wrought glass; and the smell of the fruit and the wine blew toward them like a promise of all happiness” (p. 193).


In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, what is the Witch’s table like? What does Edmund ask for? “‘Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,’ said Edmund” (p. 36). And how did it taste? “. . . and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious” (p. 37). But even though it tasted wonderful, what did the Turkish Delight do to him? ” . . . and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive” (p. 37). What was the nature of the Turkish Delight? “. . . for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves” (p. 38).


Whenever we talk about spiritual discipline, we must never forget grace and forgiveness. That is what we are being disciplined in. In The Silver Chair, we saw that Aslan was forgiving, despite them having muffed most of the signs. But what about people who muff them all? In The Last Battle, what was odd about some of those who came in to the true Narnia through the Stable Door? “There were some queer specimens among them. Eustace even recognized one of those very Dwarfs who had helped to shoot the Horses. But he had no time to wonder about that sort of thing (and anyway it was no business of his) for a great joy put everything else out of his head” (p. 176).


Because we are being disciplined in grace, we don’t have to worry that God’s disciplines will somehow crush us. We sometimes feel that way, but this is before we have grown up into the discipline, before we have gotten used to. Discipline and more discipline actually means grace and more grace. In The Horse and His Boy, Shasta learned something very important about discipline. What do they do to you when you finish the very hard work of fourth grade? Why, they put you in fifth grade! Shasta was exhausted, and had done a very courageous thing. What was the immediate reward for his courage? “He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one” (p. 146).


And what wise directions are given him by the Hermit? “I know by my art that you will find King Lune straight ahead. But run, run: always run” (p. 146).

Partaking of Life

When the Lord established this meal, He intended for His people to proclaim His death until He comes again. And this is what we are doing. The death of Jesus is the new testament; we say this as a means of shorthand—we do not exclude the resurrection and ascension of Christ, but rather speak of the whole in terms of one of the more striking parts.

Through the death of Jesus, we come to life. Of course, more precisely, through the death of Jesus we die, and through the new life of Jesus we walk in newness of live. Strictly speaking, Jesus did not die so that we might live. He died so that we might die. He lives so that we might live.

And so the entire congregation, and not just the preacher, proclaims the death of the Lord as we partake together of this meal. But take note, this Table should not be seen as a Protestant crucifix, with Jesus perpetually dying or everlastingly dead. We partake of the living Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we partake of Christ’s death and resurrection here. We are being knit together with Him, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh.

We are being built up into a new humanity, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. He uses many means to accomplish this, but central among these means are Word and sacrament. The instrument that He gives to us to enable us to receive what He ministers to us through these various means is of course faith. Without such faith, no man can see, still less enter, the kingdom of God.

But objectively this remains the meal of that kingdom. This is the nourishment that is found there. And all who sit down at this Table are proclaiming, by that action, that they believe that Christ died, and that He rose again from the dead. They proclaim the gospel, in other words. So take care that your heart is proclaiming the same thing that your fellowship in the bread and wine is proclaiming. To do otherwise is to trifle with holy things.

Telling the Whole Christmas Story

As we continue to celebrate Advent, a central part of our task is to avoid the common idols of this time of year, and sentimentalism is chief among them. The Christmas story is told in Scripture in some detail, and as we celebrate this story, some of our lapses into idolatry can be identified by what we leave out of it. The slaying of the young boys by Herod in the region of Bethlehem is as much a part of this story as the shepherds, the star, the wise men, and the manger are. Rachel is not comforted, and Ramah weeps for her children.

In leaving this part out of the story, we have a truncated story of a Savior, but no sin. We have a knight, but no dragon. We have a rescue, but no danger. We have, in short, a false and sentimental gospel, filled with treacle.

The story of Christmas is the story of redemption. We come to the story as penitents. We are to understand the depravity of our race, and then marvel at what the angels declared and sang to members of that race. The shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night, and we should realize that this story is one that occurred in the blackness of a spiritual night as well as physical nighttime.

The Savior is born. The king is born. Herod trembles on his throne, as all Herods since that time have done. We are the people of that Savior, we rejoice that God has brought mercy and justice into the world, and we declare that all tyrants must kiss the Son, lest He be angry. This includes the tyranny of our individual sin, and extends up to the tyranny of the principalities and powers. And so we say that it is necessary to humble ourselves, bow down, cover our mouths, repent of our sins. And then we stand up, like a Christian man or woman, boy or girl, equipped by the grace of God to say merry Christmas.

No Problem Passages

“By the grace of the Lord, we must resolve to be faithful to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. From Genesis to Revelation, we must not be embarrassed by any passage of Scripture, and once we have submissively ascertained its meaning through careful and patient grammatical, historical and typological, we must seek to put it into practice the day before yesterday” (Mother Kirk, p. 16).

Inescapable Artistic Standards

“Until the artistic impulse is eradicated more thoroughly from human life than has so far been done, even by the best efforts of the metallic civilization of our day, we cannot get rid of the categories of good and bad or high and low in the field of art” (J. Gresham Machen, as quoted in Richard Taylor, A Return to Christian Culture, p. 22).

The Death of Scandal in the Death of Jesus

“Ultimately, it was Jesus’ public execution and not his public ministry that consummated the biblical revelation, inspired the New Testament, launched the Christian movement, and eventually led to the anthropological crisis in which we now find ourselves. As the first Christians moved beyond the Jewish cultural orbit into the wider Greco-Roman world, they found people bewildered by the idea that ht world had been saved by a young Jew condemned by his co-religionists and publicly executed as a political nuisance by the Roman authorities. There was an understandable tendency to make the gospel more intelligible to the Greek world by downplaying the crucifixion and stressing instead the teachings of Jesus” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 217).

The Politics of Fruitfulness

Introduction:

What does it mean to be pro-life across the board? We know, of course, that abortion-on-demand is a gross violation of the law of God, and we also know that biblical parents are really “into” their kids. But the question is much larger than this, and so we need to consider the politics of fruitfulness.

The Text:

“In the multitude of people is the king’s honour, but in the want of people is the destruction of a prince”

(Prov. 14:28).

Overview:

This short proverb is not really ambiguous. What is being said here? As with many proverbs, the sentiments of each half of the proverb are juxtaposed. The first half of the proverb says that a large population is a glory for a king. The second half points to the disaster that awaits a political state when there is a dearth of people. The word for destruction here means destruction—ruination.

Children of Issachar

There is a wonderful comment in 1 Chronicles of a blessing that had come to the tribe of Issachar. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do . . .” (1 Chron. 12:32). This being the case, there were no doubt lots of little kids of Issachar growing up in that same understanding.

There are numerous reasons for a message like this. First, we live in a day when genuine fruitfulness is regarded with genuine suspicion. If you tell a modern New York sophisticate that you are from Idaho and that you have five kids, he will look at you as though you need to retreat back into your cave. Second, we need to be reminded from time to time that the Bible is not a “spiritual” book. By saying this, I don’t mean that Holy Spirit didn’t inspire it; rather, I mean that the dualism that we learned from modernity, the dualism that separates realms of faith and realms of reason into separate compartments, is an unholy dualism. The Bible is authoritative over all of life, and this includes the part of life that requires you to get a van instead of a small two-door. And third, we need to think through this because we want to be like the men of Issachar. We are not looking at our Bibles clearly if we are not looking at our times clearly. This means that faithful preaching is not just exegesis.

Some Qualifications:

This is not a message on birth control considered as a private family matter. When the Scripture is silent, we want to be silent as well. Nothing said here should be taken as a legalistic intrusion into the decision-making of a biblical family. But at the same time, this principle also means that when Scripture speaks, we want to speak just as loudly. And the Bible says, in numerous places, that fruitfulness is a blessing (e.g. Gen. 9:1, 7; Lev. 26:9; Dt. 28:2-6; Ps. 127; 128). Like all blessings, it can be mismanaged—large families are not automatically happy families. But everything else being equal, a blessing remains a blessing. The point that our passage is making, however, is that such a blessing is not just a private, family blessing. Fruitfulness is a political act.

An additional qualification is this: this message is not being preached because our congregations are somehow falling short in this matter. Demographically, a given population’s replacement rate is 2.1. children per couple. If that is the average, then 1,000 people today will be 1,000 people fifty years from now, and two hundred years from now. A rate significantly below that indicates that the culture is in a death spiral. Above that, the population is growing. The United States leads the developed world with a rate that is right about 2.1. Canada is at 1.5. Germany and Austria are at 1.3. Russia and Spain bring up the rear at 1.2 children per woman. Our two congregations average about 3 children per family. So this is not what you would call a scolding sermon. Rather, we should seek to understand the significance of this blessed obedience. It is not enough to be doing what comes naturally; we should seek to understand it in the light of God’s word.

Overpopulation?

We have been repeatedly catechized by our secularist leaders, and have been told that we have a population crisis all right—an over population crisis. But what is over population exactly? When a given population cannot feed itself, it would be fair to say that there are too many people. But this actually means that there are too many people who are not living under the blessing of God. The sin of unbelief looks at people as consumers. But faith sees people more as producers. After all, you were born into the world with just one mouth, and with two hands. What do you have when you have a population that produces more than it consumes? Wealth. What do you have when a population consumes more than it produces? Poverty . . . and overpopulation.

One Other Thing:

When this judgment happens, when this disaster befalls a particular culture, the Lord’s hand is in it. The prophet Amos asks, “When disaster befalls a city, have not I the Lord done it?” (Amos 3.6).This particular kind of ruination is not an exception. And in the modern world, we have added a twist that will make the disaster, when it finally comes, more complete and devastating. The secular West has built up a huge entitlements state, as an unquestioned ideal, which requires a young population paying into it.

Opportunity:

Faith sees opportunity in the world that God made, and in the way God governs that world. Unbelief always sees insurmountable obstacles. Joshua and Caleb saw cities that could be conquered. The other ten spies saw cities that would be fiercely defended. And so it was to them, according to their faith.

All Who Hate Wisdom Love Death:

This is what Lady Wisdom says in the book of Proverbs (8: 15, 36). “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice . . . all they that hate me love death.” And this is precisely what we see around us. The culture that rejects biblical wisdom is the culture of death and fruitlessness. Think about this for a moment. Abortion and homosexual marriage are not just cultural sins for which there will be judgment at the Last Day. They are sins that bring their judgment with them. Seventy percent of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion. This is clearly an aspect of the judgment itself. The opposite is also true. Those who love the God of wisdom, who love Lady Wisdom, know what it is to love life.

Nobility in Narnia

What does it mean to be noble? What is false nobility? And what does it mean to fail in nobility? These are all questions that will be answered if you read the Narnia stories they way they really ought to be read. Like Shasta in The Horse and His Boy, we too often have a distorted view of nobility. “He had, you see, no idea of how noble and free-born people behave” (p. 75).


Probably the best picture of what true nobility is like is found in The Horse and His Boy. Shasta, who was brought up as a Calormene peasant, has quite a shock when he sees the nobility of the Narnian lords and ladies for the first time.



“Most of them had legs bare to the knee. Their tunics were of fine, bright, hardy colors—woodland green, or gay yellow, or fresh blue” (p. 58).


“A few were bareheaded. The swords at their sides were long and straight, not curved like Calormene scimitars” (p. 58).


And here is the important question—what did Shasta think of them?



“And instead of being grave and mysterious like most most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t. Shasta thought he’d never seen anything so lovely in his life” (p. 58).


But just a few pages before, we had learned what Calormene heroes and gods were like.



“Great statues of the gods and heroes—who are mostly impressive rather than agreeable to look at—rose on shining pedestals” (p. 56).


One of the central characteristics of true nobility in Narnia is that it is merry. For example, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, what is Lord Bern’s family like? “Bern and his gracious wife and merry daughters made them good cheer” (p. 49-50).


In The Horse and His Boy, what was the royal celebration of Archenland like?



“And the wine flowed and tales were told and jokes were cracked, and then silence was made and the King’s poet with two fiddlers stepped out into the middle of the circle. Arvaris and Cor prepared themselves to be bored, for the poetry they knew was the Calormene kind, and you know now what that was like” (p. 221).


Nobility shows in the face. Nobility affects the way the characters look. In The Silver Chair, what did the snow dancers then see? “For now they saw the Prince” (p. 224). And what did he bear on his face?



“That look is in the face of all true Kings of Narnia, who rule by the will of Aslan and sit at Cair Paravel on the throne of Peter the High King” (p. 225).


And this works the other way too. We see that Edmund’s treachery—disloyalty is one of the most basic ways to reject nobility—was written on his face.



“‘I didn’t like to mention it before (he being your brother and all) but the moment I set eyes on that brother of yours I said to myself, ‘Treacherous.’ He had the look of one who has been with the Witch and eaten her food’” (p. 85).


The fact is that nobility or treachery can be seen at a glance in Narnia. The same is often true here as well, but when it happens the people who see it have to be careful to keep it to themselves. They might find themselves in a lawsuit, accusing them of the discriminatory practice of “lookism.”


Nobility is honest and keeps its word. In Prince Caspian, how does Nikabrik deal with his oath? “‘Court manners, court manners,’ sneered Nikabrik” (p. 165). This shows that he was an ignoble character. A vow taken is obligatory, and cannot be dismissed as mere ceremony.


Nobility is sacrificial. In Narnia, nobility has obligations and involves things completely different than parading around with your nose in the air. We see this in how Rilian speaks the code of sacrifice for a lady. “‘Then, Madam,’ said the Prince, ‘you shall see us die fighting around you’ (p. 197). Nobility is not putting on airs. Nobility is the assumption of responsibility.


The same kind of thing happens in The Horse and His Boy. The Narnians were a chivalrous people.



“‘As to that,’ said the King, ‘I do not doubt that every one of us would sell our lives dearly in the gate and they would not come at the Queen but over our dead bodies’” (p. 70).


So nobility is closely related to this idea of sacrifice. In The Last Battle, what last message does King Tirian receive from Roonwit the centaur?



“‘I was with him in his last hour and he gave me this message to your Majesty: to remember that all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no one is too poor to buy’” (p. 103).


Where does nobility come from? In Prince Caspian, Edmund goes to issue the challenge of combat to King Miraz. He had been transformed from a small English schoolboy, and a kingly air had returned to him. What was Edmund like now? “Aslan had breathed on him at their meeting and a kind of greatness hung about him” (p. 179). This greatness is what the Bible describes as majesty (1 Chron. 29:25). How does this strike the Telmarines? Edmund was “‘a kinglier man than ever Miraz was’” (p. 179). This means that nobility—in this case a kingly majesty—is a gift of Aslan. In our world, of course, this means that it is a grace from God.


Nobility is the opposite of arrogance and pride. The older expression—noblesse oblige—captures this nicely. Rank is more a matter of responsibility than privilege. When Eustace, Lucy and Edmund come to the Dawn Treader, it is important to note that King Caspian gives up his cabin for the lady. Drinian objects to this.”‘I beseech your Majesty—’ said Drinian” (p. 25).


In contrast, the ignoble character of Eustace is revealed clearly. “‘They call him a King. I said I was a Republican but he had to ask me what that meant! He doesn’t seem to know anything at all’” (p. 31). We also see this in Eustace’s attitude toward women, where he wants men and women to be “equal” so that he doesn’t have to give anything up.



“‘C. says that’s because she’s a girl. I tried to make him see what Alberta says, that all that sort of thing is really lowering girls, but he was too dense’” (p. 31).


Like all good things in a sinful world, nobility has its counterfeits. For example, grandeur is not nobility, but it might fool you. What kind of place was Charn, according to the former Queen of it?



“‘That is the door to the dungeons,’ she would say, or ‘That passage leads to the principal torture chambers,’ or ‘This was the old banqueting hall where my great-grandfather bade seven hundred nobles to a feast and killed them all before they had drunk their fill. They had had rebellious thoughts’” (p. 61).


What kind of city had Charn been?



“‘It is silent now. But I have stood here when the whole air was full of the noises of Charn; the trampling of feet, the creaking of wheels, the cracking of the whips and the groaning of slaves, the thunder of chariots, and the sacrificial drums beating in the temples’” (p. 65).


And what was the difference between Jadis in Charn and Jadis in London?



“In Charn, she had been alarming enough. In London, she was terrifying” (pp. 74-75).


But this grandeur is more impressive than it is truly noble.



“But even her height was nothing compared with her beauty, her fierceness, and her wildness. She looked ten times more alive than most of the people one meets in London” (p. 75.)


Doing something on a grand scale is not the same thing as nobility. It is what might be called the “special effects” view of nobility, but it is mere spectacle. If the explosions are big enough, we think it is a good movie. If the stadium is large enough, we think the athletes are great. If there are enough lasers and dry ice, we think the band knows how to play. But nobility is a qualitative thing, not a quantitative thing at all.


One of the strange things about the Christian faith is that we learn that we have duties to our enemies, even if they are enemies we are trying to kill. As Emeth put it, “‘Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?’” (p. 184). For example, in Prince Caspian, what did Peter let Miraz do? When Miraz fell during their duel, he stepped back to let him rise. “‘Need he be as gentlemanly as that? I suppose he must’” (p. 194). And after the victory, how were the Telmarine prisoners handled? “. . . firmly but without taunts or blows . . .” (p. 210).


In The Last Battle, what evil thing do the Dwarfs do? Well, they start shooting the horses, and this causes Eustace to lose it. And how does Tirian instruct Eustace? It is a great lesson in nobility.



“It was the Dwarfs who were shooting and—for a moment Jill could hardly believe her eyes—they were shooting the Horses . . . ‘Little Swine,’ shrieked Eustace, dancing in his rage. ‘Dirty, filthy, treacherous little brutes.’ . . . ‘And peace, Eustace. Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl. No warrior scolds. Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language’” (pp. 138-139).


How you fight is very important. What happens when the king finds out that Talking Horses were enslaved? “Next moment both the Calormenes lay dead, the one beheaded by Tirian’s sword and the other gored through the heart by Jewel’s horn” (p. 27).


But then, how does Tirian’s conscience strike him? “‘But to leap on them unawares—without defying them—while they were unarmed—faugh! We are two murderers, Jewel. I am dishonored forever’” (p. 30).


The importance of this lesson is one of the reasons Emeth hated the mission into Narnia.



“‘. . . and to work by lies and trickery, then my joy departed from me. And most of all when I found we must wait upon a Monkey, and when it began to be said that Tash and Aslan were one, then the world became dark in my eyes’” (p. 185).


Nobility is fundamentally a question of character, or substance. But it necessarily works its way out into our manners, the way we behave toward one another in the “little things.” In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, why does Reepicheep not fight Eustace? “‘To the convenience of a lady,’ said Reepicheep, ‘even a question of honor must give way – at least for the moment’” (p. 17). And how are Eustace, Edmund and Lucy and Reepicheep honored when they depart for the edge of the world? “The Dawn Treader flew all her flags and hung out her shields to honor their departure” (p. 241). In The Horse and His Boy, how does Aravis meet Cor? “‘The Prince bowed, and a very clumsy bow for a Prince it was. Aravis curtsied in the Calormene style (which is not like ours) and did it very well because, of course, she had been taught how” (p. 203). In Narnia, manners are a way of showing honor to others. In Calormene, manners (at least some of them) were a means of requiring people to dishonor themselves for your sake. “And of course it is only before royalties that people walk backward” (p. 105).


In short, this means that true nobility is a way of showing love; it is a demeanor that loves to give. False nobility is self-seeking. Because false nobility has been so rampant in our world, many people (even good people) have reacted against the very idea of nobility. We still need it, but in the modern world we are unable to find it anywhere. And so, I would suggest that one of the better places to look for it is in Narnia. And when you have found it, you may certainly bring it back—like Digory did with the apple that Aslan gave him.