The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe & the Genius of C.S. Lewis

The Book, the Series and the Movie

 In an article posted October 3, 2005, Time magazine put forth a test for discerning if the upcoming Disney film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is "Christian" or not: whether four key sentences from the C.S. Lewis classic fantasy book by the same name are left intact. The issue? No less than the biblical doctrine of blood-bought redemption—by a Christ-figure lion character named Aslan.

The importance of such a literary litmus test is not lost on Disney. Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things, writes that Disney is "putting on a full-court press with evangelical and Catholic leaders...reminiscent of the promotion of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ" (posted October 13, 2005).  Citizen, a magazine published by James Dobson's Focus on the Family, interviewed Rick Dempsey, a Disney senior vice president: "We actually hired a man to look after the faith and family outreach.... We are going directly to church tell them that we are maintaining the integrity of the book, so hopefully they will kind of rally their congregation to support the film," said Dempsey.

So far, Christian critics seem to unanimously agree that Disney has kept its promise. Film writer Barbara Nicolosi, on her Weblog Church of the Masses ( writes, "All the lines the Christians are worrying about are in there. All the scenes you want to see are here and lovingly rendered. So everybody can relax and get ready to enjoy, and we can all take the Wonderful World of Disney back into our hearts." Critic Drew Trotter, who also directs the Center for Christian Study at the University of Virginia (, wrote firsthand of a trip to the movie's set in New Zealand. In a Christianity Today article (posted September 9, 2005) he quotes a film crew member, "No one working on the film wants to make the mistake that people will point to later as evidence that the movie didn't match up to the book. We all love the story too much; we don't want to fail." Trotter sums up, "This is the way Marina's values invade our hearts; we love the story and are shaped by it, even when we don't know all its details or realities."

The Man Behind the Wardrobe

Why all the fuss over a movie's faithfulness to its source? What inspires such loyalty to a text, almost religious in nature? Perhaps the impact of its writer is a good place to start assessing. Lewis scholar and blogger (see Weblog entry below) Dr. Bruce L. Edwards writes, "Some 55 years after the first publication of his artful children's fantasy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we may say, collectively expressing our amazement that C. S. Lewis's book sales are still roaring along, [that] 'he is not a tame author.' With the release of the movie version of the first Narnian Chronicle a month away, we know they are about to skyrocket further." Furthermore, he points out in another of our featured essays below, that to still have every one of Lewis's works in print is no less than amazing. Such is the cache of the Oxford don and reluctant convert to Christianity, Clives Staples Lewis.

However, Lewis's reputation is not confined to fantasy or children's books. In fact, his breadth and depth of reading and synthesis are only appreciated once his works of apologetics and literary criticism and even poetry are enjoyed like a fine smorgasbord. Edwards writes in C. S. Lewis and the Case for Responsible Scholarship (see below), "...Lewis is a towering scholarly figure in the world of 20th Century letters, particularly in literary criticism and history. Between 1931 and 1961, he published an astonishing number of scholarly works, countless articles, and more than five major, seminal works of influence and provocation—all the while maintaining an equally active, impressive career as an apologist, fantasy writer, and, of course, correspondent."

Yet, Lewis himself might not be comfortable with all of this attention on him. In 1998, the centenary of the birth of Lewis, Paul Burgin wrote in Demolishing Another Idol, "It is increasingly becoming the case, that more books and articles are being written about Lewis, than the amount of books and articles existing, that Lewis wrote himself. This seems to be rather ironic on two counts. The first, is that Lewis is known to have expressed his wish, that nothing was to be written and published about him in his lifetime." Admittedly adding to the "pile," Burgin warned of something sinister and that would surely have proven displeasing to Lewis himself: setting up a 'Lewisian idol.' Rather, this lion-hearted defender and gentle giant of the faith would, by all counts, point to the Lord Jesus Christ as his focus and ours. Enjoy digging deeper into the story as well as the storyteller in our Special Focus.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe


Featured Articles: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

This section will grow in coming days as film reviews and essays on this classic book become available.

What Did C. S. Lewis Mean, and Does It Matter? A Preview of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Film)
Drew Trotter, Ph.D.
Film critic and scholar Trotter traveled to the New Zealand set of the film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW). His purpose? To preview the film, see if the production would answer the question "What did Lewis mean?" and then be faithful to reproduce that--as much as film can interpret a book with such deep meaning. While there is great respect for the original book among the film's director and crew, it remains to be seen. Trotter writes, "The closer it sticks to historic Christianity and its interpretation of reality, the better it will be and the more universally accepted it will be, because Christianity is a myth that we all know and believe deep down is true."

C.S. Lewis for Children
Professor Terry Mattingly
Was World War I veteran and Oxford don C.S. Lewis good with children? He didn't think so. That would surprise the millions of children being introduced (and reintroduced) to him now through Disney's film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This, the crown jewel of his seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia, shows a facility with childhood fantasy and childlikeness that set Lewis apart, certainly from his colleauges in philosophy, apologetics and literary criticism. Mattingly offers perspective from Lewis's own stepson, Douglas Gresham.

Featured Articles: The Man "Behind" the Wardrobe

The beloved Chronicles of Narnia series of fantasy books have endeared millions to C.S. Lewis. Likewise, his consistently accessible yet unassailable and sophisticated works in Christian apologetics have spawned an entire field of study. However, Lewis is just as well reputed among literary critices for his adroit forcefulness in that field, but is little known for it popularly.

The centenary of Lewis's birth in 1998 produced and evinced a multitude of books and essays on the brilliant Oxford don. We resample some of them here. Mixed in are some newer items, all timeless in their relevance—like his own work.

Not a Tame Author
Dr. Bruce L. Edwards
C.S. Lewis expert Edwards defends the famous author and Christian apologist in light of recent charges that he was simultaneously too modernist and romanticist. He explains why someone whose heyday was one-half century ago is not only still as popular as can be, but truly relevant as well. From his blog (Weblog) on Lewis.

A Man for All Time: C.S. Lewis: Speaking to Our Culture Today
Interview with Dr. Peter Kreeft
Philosopher Peter Kreeft brings his considerable wit and wisdom to bear on a discussion with Vision magazine about C.S. Lewis and the applicability and genius of his work for today, as well as his own time. The interview ranges farther, into the reason intellectuals resist faith, apologetics in a politically correct milieu and the importance of reading Lewis.

Review: Comparing Two Giants of Apologetics: C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer
Dr. Douglas Groothuis
Philosophy professor and Christian apologist Dr. Groothuis reviews a book comparing two great 20th century apologists who greatly affected him and many others. Though he differs sharply with Burson and Walls on such key doctrines as Scriptural inerrancy and free will, he recommends this work as a tool for apologists and, I would add, those seeking understanding of the Christianity Lewis and Schaeffer deemed so rational and satisfying.

C. S. Lewis: Public Christian and Scholar
Dr. Bruce L. Edwards
Written as if to the scholar mainly, this essay does not forget the lay learner--he or she who would understand, even emulate, Lewis, whose point of view was: if the pursuit of knowledge had waited on security, it would have never begun. This ethos derived from Lewis' highly integrated faith in Christ as revealed in the Bible--that is, one's views must reflect one's worldview, and that in a public, as well as a private way.

C. S. Lewis Among the Postmodernists
David C. Downing
Lewis scholar and English professor Downing examines C.S. Lewis's uncanny ability to balance between unwarranted epistemological certitude regarding texts and "self-canceling denials" of anti-foundationalism. How? Downing concludes this is due to Lewis's "characteristic fusion of metaphysical affirmation and epistemological humility."

Books In Review: C.S. Lewis: Memories and Reflections
Gilbert Meilaender
Meilaender reviews Lawlor's first-hand recollections of his association with C. S. Lewis, who served first as his tutor then as a lifelong inspiration. "This book not only offers memories of Lewis; it also reflects upon and evaluates much of Lewis’ literary output," writes Meilaender.

Part I: When Worldviews Collide: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on God, life, pain and death
Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
A comparison of the thoughts and viewpoints of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud. Dr. Armand Nicholi examines the worldviews of Lewis and Freud, and in particular their ideas concerning life, pain and death. These ideas grow out of each thinker's own thoughts and experiences of faith and God or lack thereof. Part one of two.

Part II: When Worldviews Collide: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud: a comparison of their thoughts and viewpoints on God, life, pain and death
Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Nicholi concludes his analysis and comparison of the worldviews of Freud and Lewis by writing of their thoughts on death and life. These ideas grow out of each thinker's own thoughts and experiences of faith and God or lack thereof. Nicholi has done much original work in his research on the two personalities. Part two of two.

The Unfundamental C. S. Lewis: Key Components of Lewis's View of Scripture
Duncan Sprague, Mars Hill Review
Perhaps no single author has been as widely embraced by such divergent groups and denominations as C.S. Lewis. In this well-researched study, Duncan Sprague identifies Lewis's scriptural view and defines the way Lewis embraces the liberal view of Scripture while distancing himself from a Fundamentalist view of the Bible.