“In a media-driven culture in which status is granted according to progressive tastes, many otherwise conservative folks are only too eager to participate in local arts groups as a hedge against being called philistines. Some take a real interest in art, even apart from the social aspects, such as the wine and Brie parties at new galleries or at symphony openings” (Robert Knight, The Age of Consent, p. 164).
“We tend to bond to all the wrong things. Picture a four-lane highway, two lanes headed to heaven and two lanes to hell. Alongside one another, a Ford and a Chevy are driving to heaven, and on the other side of the road a Ford and a Chevy are heading the other way. If the guy in the heaven-bound Ford beeps and waves at the other Ford and periodically glares at the guy in the Chevy head the same direction he is, his priorities are seriously skewed” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 196).
“When a culture’s sacrifical rituals ‘work,’ they transfer the existing rivalrous antagonisms onto one figure against whom all can unite, an act that miraculously dissolves existing tensions and replaces them with a social bond” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 88).
1. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law (Tit. 2:14; 1 Thess. 1:10; Gal. 3:13); and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin (Gal. 1:4; Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18; Rom. 6:14); from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation (Rom. 8:28; Ps. 119:71; 1 Cor. 15:54–57; Rom. 8:1); as also, in their free access to God (Rom. 5:1–2), and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child–like love and willing mind (Rom. 8:14–15; 1 John 4:18). All which were common also to believers under the law (Gal. 3:9, 14). But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected (Gal. 4:1–3, 6–7; 5:1; Acts 15:10–11); and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:14, 16; Heb. 10:19–22), and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of (John 7:38–39; 2 Cor. 3:13, 17–18).
First, it is important for us to see this section following right after the teaching on the law of God. The law of God sets the boundaries within which we may exercise our liberty. Having set this context, the Confession goes on to define what our liberty is—a very important thing to do. If we assume that we know what we mean by liberty, hidden definitions will plague our discussion.
Liberty means, first, freedom from guilt, God’s judgment, and the condemnation of moral law. It also means we are delivered from the wickedness of the world, the hatred of Satan, and the dominion of sin. We are also freed from the consequences of such things—afflictions, fear of death, the dominion of death, and Hell.
We are also freed to certain things—we are free to approach God, and free to obey Him from love and willingness, not from fear. In these respects, we are like our brothers in the Old Testament.
But our liberty is greater than theirs. We are freed from the ceremonial requirements of the law, and we have a more abundant display of God’s grace upon us than they did. Note in this that “liberty” always implies a standard, and this standard always brings with it an antithesis. This means that he who says “free from” must also assert a specified “free to.” Liberty always necessitates, therefore, an appeal to a source of law.
2. God alone is Lord of the conscience (James 4:12; Rom. 14:4), and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, in matters of faith, or worship (Acts 4:19; 5:29; 1 Cor. 7:23; Matt. 23:8–10; 2 Cor. 1:24; Matt. 15:9). So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience (Col. 2:20, 22–23; Gal. 1:10; 2:4–5; 5:1): and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also (Rom. 10:17; 14:23; Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11; John 4:22; Hos. 5:11; Rev. 13:12, 16–17; Jer. 8:9).
Because God is our Lord, He alone is Lord of the conscience. This means that, in matters of faith and worship, men cannot command us in His name when He has not spoken. Obedience to men is certainly permissible, but it is prohibited to obey men as though they had the right to bind the conscience in the same way that God does.
We are required to compare what men say with the Word of God, and may not simply assume that they must have a good biblical reason for teaching what they do. This teaching against “implicit faith” is directly aimed at a doctrine of the Roman church, which required this of those under her authority.
Thus: we are freed from men, and freed to God.
3. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life (Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:19; John 8:34; Luke 1:74–75).
The end or purpose of Christian liberty is the pursuit of holiness. Those who wave the banner of Christian liberty so that they might do whatever they want have not understood the doctrine at all. The point is not to drink or smoke or dance according to your own whims, but to do so before the Lord, with the increase of joy and holiness obvious to all.
4. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God (Matt. 12:25; 1 Pet. 2:13–14, 16; Rom. 13:1–8; Heb. 13:17). And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account (Rom. 1:32; 1 Cor. 5:1, 5, 11, 13; 2 John 10–11; 2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Tim. 6:3–5; Tit. 1:10–11, 13; 3:10; Matt 18:15–17; 1 Tim. 1:19–20; Rev. 2:2, 14–15, 20; Rev. 3:9), and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate (Deut 13:6–12; Rom. 13:3–4; 2 John 10–11; Ezra 7:23, 25–28; Rev. 17:12, 16–17; Neh. 13:15, 17, 21–22, 25, 30; 2 Ki. 23:5–6, 9, 20–21; 2 Chron. 34:33; 15;12–13, 16; Dan. 3:29; 1 Tim. 2:2; Isa. 49:23; Zech. 13:2–3).
There are limits (obviously) to civil and ecclesiastical authority, but those limits are not established by the desires of private spirits. A man may withstand them only if he has warrant from the Word of God to do so. If he does not, then he may not. There is an important two-fold division. We may not oppose lawful power, and we may not oppose lawful exercise of power. In other words, we must distinguish the two. A lawful power may require an unlawful thing. Not only does Christian liberty not mean antinomianism, it also does not mean anarchy.
According to the Confession, men may live and die as heretics and do so in peace. But if they publish such opinions as in themselves are likely to disrupt public order and obedience, or if they publish a particular doctrine in such a way as to bring about that disruption, then they may be called to give an account of themselves. If they do not heed the rebuke then they may be restrained or punished, in keeping with the nature of the offense.
Depending on the offense, the action against them may be taken by the Church, or by the magistrate, or both. The American Presbyterian Church, in a misguided moment, deleted the last phrase which says, “and by the power of the civil magistrate.” They did this at their First General Assembly in 1789. The move was misguided because they were assuming that everyone would retain a residual faith in certain basics, whether by the light of nature or by Christian consensus. They could not have foreseen, for example, the butchery of the modern abortion industry.
1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it (Gen. 1:26–27; 2:17; Rom. 2:14–15; 10:5; 5:12, 19; Gal. 3:10, 12; Eccl. 7:29; Job 28:28).
This covenant in our circles is called the “covenant of creation.” The “covenant of works” used here is fine if the terms are defined, but the phrase itself is an unhappy one. It leads people to think it carries its own definition on its face, and hence folks think of some sort of salvation by works. This leads people to assume two different ways of salvation—grace and works. But the Westminster theologians here are clearly thinking of a gracious covenant—God “endued him with power and ability to keep it.”
But there was clearly a covenant in the Garden. A covenant is a solemn bond, sovereignly administered, with attendant blessings and curses. The charge to Adam was certainly solemn, God administered it by speaking the words of it, and he promised death for disobedience and continued obedience would bring with it maintained access to the tree of life. This covenant was with Adam and all his posterity. It obligated us to entire obedience, and obligates us still. The fact that it is broken does not mean it ceases to be binding. If a man and a woman commits adultery once, this does not give them permission to continue. The fact that Adam was unfaithful does not mean we have a right to be unfaithful. Another way of expressing this is that outside of Christ we are constantly breaking covenant with God. Our rebellion is ongoing.
2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables (James 1:25; 2:8, 10–12; Rom. 13:8–9; Deut. 5:32; 10:4; Exod 24:1): the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man (Matt. 22:37–40).
The standards of morality did not change as a result of the Fall. Just as the ten commandments are summarized by the two great commandments—love God and love your neighbor—so they are summarized by the one great commandment before the Fall, which was to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
The first table of the law, the first four commandments, describe our obligations to God, and the last six describe our obligations to man. This same division is seen in the two great commandments as well, where we are told to love God and to love our neighbor..
3. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits (Heb. 9; 10:1; Gal. 4:1–3; Col. 2:17); and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties (1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 6:17; Jude 23). All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament (Col. 2:14, 16–17; Dan. 9:27; Eph. 2:15–16).
The common name for this is the moral law, but by this we do not mean that other commandments of God are not moral. In addition to this “moral” law, God gave other requirements to Israel as the immature Church. The ceremonies given to Israel were given as a prefigurement of Christ’s person and work, and as such remain a source of instruction for Christians today. Under the new testament, they do not remain binding on Christians today as ceremonies. They do remain as instruction. Various moral instructions are mixed in with them, and these moral instructions remain binding.
4. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require (Exod. 21; 22:1–29; Gen. 49:10; 1 Pet. 2:13–14; Matt. 5:17, 38–39; 1 Cor. 9:8–10).
God gave Israel particular judicial laws. A particular command at a particular time does not necessarily extend to others. The fact that God commanded Israel to invade Canaan does not require us to invade Canaan. At the same time, the fact that God was the one speaking these commands should make us take note. We are required to reason by analogy, and extend the general equity of the law to our situations. For example, God required a parapet around the roofs of houses, and a man was guilty of culpable negligence if someone fell off his roof when a parapet was not there. We do not spend time on our roofs, as they did, and so the requirement as such does not apply to us. But the general equity does bind us, and we are required to put a deck rail around a second story deck.
This should remind us of the vast difference between “top down” approaches to civil law (Justinian), and “historical, linear” approaches to civil law, i.e. common law. In many cases, people are afraid of theonomy because they assume it to be the former and not the latter. But the theonomic system is a case law system, a common law system. King Alfred established common law among us by applying the law of Deuteronomy to his people—but he did not just apply the standards, he also applied the method.
5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof (Rom. 13:8–10; Eph. 6:2; 1 John 2:3–4, 7–8); and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it (James 2:10–11). Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation (Matt. 5:17–19; James 2:8; Rom. 3:31).
The moral law, and the moral aspects of all other laws, is perpetually binding on all men, Christian and non-Christian alike. We are bound by the moral law proper: we must love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We are bound by the moral law when it is mixed in with ceremonial requirements: we must keep the festival of Passover by ridding ourselves of the yeast of malice and wickedness. We are bound by those aspects of the moral law visible in the particular judicial requirements given to Israel: we must not allow women in combat because it is not right to boil a kid in the mother goat’s milk.
We are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). This means that sin shall not be our master. Being under grace does not mean that we now “get” to sin; it means we have been liberated from it, with the definition of sin remaining what it has been through all ages—lawlessness.
6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 2:16; 3:13; 4:4–5; Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:1); yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly (Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Ps. 119:4–6; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:14, 16, 18–23); discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives (Rom. 7:7; 3:20); so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin (James 1:23–25; Rom. 7:9, 14, 24), together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience (Gal. 3:24; Rom. 7:24–25; 8:3–4). It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin (James 2:11; Ps. 119:101, 104, 128): and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law (Ezra 9:13–14; Ps. 89:30–34). The promises of it, in like manner, shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof (Lev. 26:1–14; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:2–3; Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5; Ps. 19:11): although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works (Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10). So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and detereth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace (Rom. 6:12, 14; 1 Pet. 3:8–12; Ps. 34:12–16; Heb. 12:28–29).
We come now to one of the three legitimate uses of the law, which is different thing entirely from the three types of law. The first use discussed here is the help the law provides to the regenerate, informing and teaching him. (The other two uses are restraint of the godless, and evangelistic.) But first, in the minds of the godly, we must consider how the law is not to be used. The law is not, and cannot be, a ladder by which men climb to heaven. It is not a means of justification, or sanctification. It is a standard of righteousness, not a means to righteousness. With this clear, how may a gracious believer use the law?
First, it teaches the believer what God’s will is. Secondly, it teaches the believer how many sinful pollutions remain in him, which need to be attended to by the grace of God. This drives them to a greater understanding of the need for Christ, just as it does with a non-believer who is being drawn into the kingdom. Third, it helps the godly to understand what their sins deserve—and not just the fact that their sins are sinful. In short, they are helped to see the magnitude of sin. Conversely, they see the fruitfulness of obedience in the promises of the law. We do not claim the promises of the law as though we had kept the covenant of works in Adam, but we claim them by faith as our portion under the covenant of grace, given in the second Adam.
In all this, we cannot say that if a man obeys the law that he is somehow, in Paul’s sense “under the law,” and not under grace. Legalism is not to be confounded with obedience. If obedience is legalism, then disobedience must be obedience.
7. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it (Gal. 3:21); the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done (Ezek. 36:27; Heb. 8:10; Jer. 31:33).
Do we set aside the law in all this emphasis on grace? Not at all; rather we uphold the law.
I have learned far more in Narnia than I can ever begin to explain, and so all I am going to try to do here is give you a small taste of some of the more important lessons I learned there. I hope that readers of these small sketches will be able to do what I have done, and read these books over and over for the rest of their lives. Each reading offers additional wisdom, but the wisdom is never simplistic—rather it is richly textured, reflecting the many different sources of Lewis’ insight.
One of the great lessons I learned in Narnia had to do with the meaning of true authority. C.S. Lewis has a great deal to say on this subject—on using authority the wrong way, using it the right way, and submitting to authority in the right way.
Let’s begin with the different ways that authority can be false. The Narnia books contain many different characters who try to abuse authority, but they only represent different ways to be grasping and selfish.
One of the obvious examples is Miraz, a usurper. For example, in Prince Caspian, what did Miraz do at the beginning of his rule? “When he first began to rule, he did not even pretend to be the King: he called himself Lord Protector” (PC, p. 59). Lewis is making a comment here about English politics in the 17th century—Oliver Cromwell, after he replaced Charles I in the rule of England, called himself the Lord Protector.
Then there is a denial of true authority in trivial, silly ways. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we see this kind of abdication of genuine authority. What did Eustace call his parents? “He didn’t call his Father and Mother ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’, but Harold and Alberta” (DT, p. 3). Just as it is wrong to grasp after authority that is not yours, so it is wrong to throw away authority that has been bestowed upon you. This is what the Scrubbs do.
There is a kind of imperious mentality that thinks that their rule must always be without constraint. In The Magician’s Nephew, we see that Jadis and Uncle Andrew both believe that they are “above the rules.” Both of them thought they had a high and lonely destiny.
“‘I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny’” (MN, p. 68).
And how was Jadis different from Uncle Andrew when she said this? In all that mattered, she was not really different at all.
“Digory suddenly remembered that Uncle Andrew had used exactly the same words. But they sounded much grander when Queen Jadis said them; perhaps because Uncle Andrew was not seven feet tall and dazzlingly beautiful” (MN, p. 68).
There is another kind of wrong authority, a greasy kind of manipulative authority. In The Horse and His Boy, we find out what kind of man Aravis ran away from. Lasaraleen said, “‘My husband says he is beginning to be one of the greatest men in Calormen” (HHB, p. 100). But when we meet him, we discover that he is a craven, crawling flatterer. He is willing to abase himself in the presence of the Tisroc, but he is doing this so that he can have that same kind of power over others when he is away from the Tisroc.
There is another kind of sneaky, manipulative authority. Aptly named, the ape Shift manipulates the simple donkey Puzzle to get his way. How does Shift manipulate Puzzle?
“‘Really, Puzzle,’ said Shift, ‘I didn’t think you’d ever say a thing like that. I didn’t think it of you, really.’ ‘Why, what have I said wrong?’ said the Ass, speaking in rather a humble voice, for he saw that Shift was very deeply offended” (LB, p. 4).
Shift turns the Golden Rule around. “‘Why don’t you treat me as I treat you?’” (LB, p. 9). But then when Shift actually gets into power, what happens? “The Ape was of course Shift himself, but he looked ten times uglier than when he lived by Caldron Pool, for he was now dressed up” (LB, p. 32). And how does he use his position? “‘Now attend to me. I want—I mean Aslan wants—some more nuts’” (LB, p. 33). He used his position of authority to get something for himself, and not to serve others.
There is also the denial of legitimate authority in order to hold that authority for yourself autonomously. We see this in the behavior of the dwarfs in The Last Battle. How do the Dwarfs react to their liberation? “‘We’re going to look after ourselves from now on and touch our caps to nobody. See?’” (LB, p. 83). What is their rallying cry now? “‘The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs’” (LB, p. 83). Instead of submitting themselves in gratitude, they insist upon governing themselves.
All these examples show the problems that happen when authority is twisted. There are many different ways to get it wrong. But true authority is sacrificial and giving, and is embodied perfectly by Aslan himself. Aslan sets the pattern for all authority in these books, and it is the pattern of self-sacrifice and giving. This is the basis of all true authority. Even though it takes many different forms, it is recognizably the same kind of self-giving authority.
The Witch does not understand this kind of authority at all. What does the Witch think of Aslan coming to fulfill his agreement with her? “‘The fool!’ she cried. ‘The fool has come. Bind him fast’” (LWW, p. 151). But what was the Witch’s mistake? “‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know’” (LWW, p. 163). She did not know that the first will be last, and the last first. She did not understand the Deeper Magic of true sacrificial authority.
Because of this, we sometimes think we can never be sure if we are misunderstanding true authority also, just as the witch misunderstood it. And we sometimes think that sacrificial authority is not really authoritative at all—but it is the foundation of true authority. This is why Aslan is good, but not really safe. “‘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’” (LWW, p. 80).
Not surprisingly, Aslan’s faithful servants, like Aslan himself, are sacrificial and giving, just as he is, and in the exercise of their authority they are very humble. For example, think about Aslan’s test of whether Caspian had the right kind of kingly character. “‘Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan, ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’ ‘I—I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I’m only a kid.’ ‘Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not’” (PC, p. 206). Those who would possess authority in the name of Aslan must not be full of themselves.
And when Cor is just learning that he is to be king of Archenland, he doesn’t like the idea at all. And shouldn’t a king be able to do whatever he wants? The answer is no.
“‘Tis no question what thou wantest’” (HHB, p. 222).
“‘The King’s under the law, for it’s the law makes him a king. Hast no more power to start away from they crown than any sentry from his post’” (HHB, p. 223).
King Lune explains very clearly to his son what it means to be a king.
“‘For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land’” (HHB, p.223).
Authority flows to those who take responsibility. This is the kind of authority a righteous king has. He does not set himself up as a boss so that he can blame others. Rather, he sets himself in a position where he can take responsibility for what is happening—for good or bad—and in this way authority flows to him. When men seek to find someone else to blame when something goes wrong, authority flees from them.
Another way of saying this is that true authority doesn’t boss; true authority is obedient. And the more obedient someone is (to those in lawful authority over him), the more that someone grows in his own authority.
My favorite example of this is Trumpkin the Dwarf. What does Trumpkin think about the Old Narnians calling for help with the Horn? He thinks that such tactics “‘. . . are all eggs in moonshine’” (PC, p. 96). And when they decide to do it, and as a result Doctor Cornelius says that they must send messengers to at least two other places in case the promised help decides to come there, what does Trumpkin think about this? “‘The first result of all this foolery is not to bring us help but to lose us two fighters’” (PC, p. 97).
But then, how does Trumpkin demonsrate his true loyalty? When the decision is made, by Caspian, the one in authority, Trumpkin is as committed as anyone there to faithful obedience.
“‘But I thought you didn’t believe in the Horn, Trumpkin,’ said Caspian. ‘No more I do, your Majesty. But what’s that got to do with it? I might as well die on a wild goose chase as die here. You are my King. I know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. You’ve had my advice, and now it’s the time for orders’” (PC, p. 98).
But this does not make Trumpkin into a blind cult member, or a brainless foot soldier in some dictator’s army. His loyalty has set and very defined limits, and this is very important. What are some suggested allies for the Old Narnians? “‘There’s an Ogre or two and a Hag that we could introduce you to, up there’” (PC, p. 76). And what does Trumpkin think about that? When someone observes that they would forfeit Aslan’s favor if they were to take such allies, Trumpkin shows us exactly how we should react to such compromises. “‘Oh Aslan!’ said Trumpkin, cheerily but contemptuously. ‘What matters much more is that you wouldn’t have me’” (PC, p. 77).
In other words, Trumpkin knows that he is under authority when it comes to practical decision-making. Caspian is the king, and he must decide when, where, and how they will fight the enemy. Someone has to decide such things, and Trumpkin will give his advice, but he knows that the decision is not his to make. But if it goes beyond strategy and tactics and becomes a matter of whether they should join up with wicked ogres and hags, that would be a decision that is not Caspian’s to make. And if he tried it, Trumpkin would head on down the road. Trumpkin knows that authority is genuine, requiring obedience, and that it is also limited, requiring limits to that obedience.
This kind of heart provides a simple way to make decisions. For another example, in The Silver Chair, where do Eustace’s loyalties lie? “‘And what I want to say is this, that I’m the King’s man; and if this parliament of owls is any sort of plot against the King, I’m having nothing to do with it’” (SC, p. 54).
George MacDonald, one of C.S. Lewis’s heroes, once said that obedience is the great opener of eyes. And that is what we see exhibited in many ways in Narnia. Plain, simple, honest obedience to plain, simple honest authority. We can see how this obedience works. In The Silver Chair, what does the Knight say while he is bound in the chair?
“‘By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you—’Oh!’ said the three travelers as though they had been hurt. ‘It’s the sign,’ said Puddleglum. ‘It was the words of the sign,’ said Scrubb more cautiously. ‘Oh, what are we to do?’ said Jill” (SC, p. 166).
So 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?” (SC, p. 167).
And what is their thinking about it?
“‘You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do’” (SC, p. 167).
Throughout the Narnia stories, we see the nature of true authority, again and again. True authority is not that which never has to submit; true authority is obedient, and in that submission it grows into the kind of authority that Aslan — who obeyed the deepest magic — had.
42. Against Christianity/Leithart/just great
43. Lewis Agonistes/Markos/really good
We live in fatherless times. The symptoms are marked, and they are everywhere. In some ways, we have adjusted to it, and in others, we in the conservative Christian world have overreacted to this vacuum by trying to manufacture our own solutions to the problem, which invariably make it worse.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”
When John the Baptist was asked directly if he was Elijah, he said that he was not (John 1:21). And yet the question was a reasonable one. He was a prophet, like Elijah, and he dressed in the same way that Elijah did (2 Kings 1:8; Matt. 3:4). And yet, Jesus, when He was asked this same question, replied that John the Baptist was Elijah (Matt. 17:10-12; Mk. 9:11-13; Matt. 11:14). The question was asked because of this prophecy—when Elijah came, it would be just prior to the great and dreadful day of the Lord. In other words, Malachi says that Elijah would come as a forerunner to the Messiah, which is precisely the role assigned to John the Baptist in the New Testament. What would be the role of this Elijah? His task would be to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest God come and smite the earth with a curse.
The Message of John:
It is interesting that the New Testament explicitly connects John to this prophecy, but it does not explicitly talk about this particular consequence of John’s ministry. But we know that this is what happened. So how did John bring this about? What did he preach? His was a baptism of repentance. His message was a message of repentance. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2).
His message is a corporate message. He is not only the forerunner of the Messiah, but he is excercising this office by declaring the approach of a kingdom. He is declaring this to the nation of Israel. The prophecy of Malachi said that the alternative to hearing Elijah’s message would be that the earth would be struck with a curse. The relevant command of God (the fifth commandment) says that it is a command with a promise, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Dt. 5:16). The New Testament citation of this expands the promise—that “thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3). All of which is to say that this is not just another message on “the family.” This is actually a message about the politics of Christendom.
The Problem of Isolation:
Our temptation is to take passages like this one and give them a radical and individualized meaning. If you personally love Jesus, then you personally will have your children’s hearts turned toward you, and you will be turned toward your children. This great eschatological announcement, the turning point in all human history, turns out to be all about you and your white bread family values. This is entirely inadequate, and we will see that the Scriptures are actually explicit on this point.
Seek First the Kingdom:
You cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, as the fellow said. But as another fellow observed, it is amazing how many eggs you can break without ever making a decent omelet. Keep this in mind as we consider the following. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Jesus is here talking about food and clothing (all family issues), but does He ever talk about the family directly? Well, yes. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-35).
Remember that John said to repent because a kingdom was about to arrive. And what will be the result of John’s ministry? The hearts of the fathers will be turned, remember? So how do we harmonize this with the radical demands of Jesus that we have just been considering? That which is surrendered in death before God is always raised to life in God. This is true everywhere, but is especially true of the family. It is mentioned by Malachi as one of the principle fruits of John’s ministry.
Corporate and Individual:
Remember the eggs and omelets. If you are an idolater—which means that your citizenship is primarily in some earthly kingdom or other—then you are not seeking first the kingdom. You have not heard John’s words about the arriving kingdom. But we are not told to repent of behavior that is personally destructive because “you need to get your life together.” You do need to get your life together, but not because Jesus is a 12-step program. We are told to repent because His kingdom is near. And so if you live your life without reference to that kingdom, regardless of how conservative and traditional your family values might be, you are only breaking eggs and not making omelets. God is the one who establishes our corporate citizenship, and He has told us how to enter into it.
A Great Kingdom:
The consequences of John’s ministry are described by Malachi, and this description is obviously the work of the Spirit of God. The hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children. The hearts of the children will be turned to the fathers.
We do not try to build strong families in order to build a strong kingdom for God. He has established an invincible kingdom, and when we seek this kingdom first, all these other things are added to us. The fact that these other things have not been added to us, the fact that we live in fatherless times, reveals our attitudes toward God the Father. Father hunger is one of the chief symptoms of our idolatry. It is the basis for our political follies. It accounts for the growth of the paternalistic state. But the solution is not to schedule numerous family retreats. The solution is to announce, preach, and declare that that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of God, and of His Christ.