Grace and Propitiation in the Chronicles of Narnia

In an earlier post I wrote that Aslan died only for the sins of Edmund. That’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. I had forgotten parts of the conversation the White Witch had with Aslan. Rereading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe again last night, I came across this:

“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.
“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”
“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us?… You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill.”
“Oh,” said Mr Beaver. “So that’s how you came to imagine yourself a queen – because you were the Emperor’s hangman. I see.”
“Peace, Beaver,” said Aslan, with a very low growl.
“And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”
“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.
“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”
“It is very true,” said Aslan, “I do not deny it.” (pp.128-9)

In Narnia, the Deep Magic is a law of justice much like the old covenant law in the Bible. Just as the Biblical law was written on stone tablets, the Deep Magic was engraved on a Stone Table. Although both serve a just purpose, both are ultimately ministries of death (2 Cor 3:7). Knowing this, the Witch attempts to use the Deep Magic for her own nefarious purposes.

Like Satan in our world, the White Witch is a legalist who uses the Law to accuse and condemn men. She is a religious spirit whose desire is to control and rob people of freedom and joy. She entraps Narnians in stone and has the whole country under her wintry curse.

Now, because of Edmund’s sin, all of Narnia is in peril. The whole land is in danger of being destroyed “in fire and water.” Edmund is thus a type of First Adam:

“Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” (Rms 5:12, GNB)

The result of Adam’s sin and Edmund’s, was a death sentence for the entire world. And in both cases, propitiation, or satisfaction, demanded blood.

You know what happens next. Aslan gives his life up for Edmund satisfying the bloodthirsty demands of the Law. Edmund is spared and Narnia is saved. Happily, Aslan rises from the dead revealing a Deeper Magic:

“Oh, you’re real, you’re real! Oh Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treason was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table and Death itself would start working backwards. And now – “
“Oh yes. Now?” said Lucy, jumping up and clapping her hands.
“Oh, children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!” (p.148)

Our lives were forfeit, but God loved us so much that He sent us His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10). If the Deep Magic of Narnia represents the old covenant law which condemns, then the Deeper Magic represents the grace and goodness of God which redeems and sets men free. As you can probably guess, the Deeper Magic is better than the Deep Magic!

Grace trumps law. Just as Aslan’s sacrifice undid the Witch’s diabolical scheme, Jesus’ death and resurrection destroyed the devil’s work. This was not a contest of equals. Aslan was never in any danger of losing to the Witch. In what she thought was her moment of triumph, he was actually disarming and defeating her. The Stone Table – that vile place of execution – became a place of deliverance for the whole land. Future Narnians would come to revere the site as hallowed ground.

On the cross of Calvary, Jesus became the propitiation for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2). On the cross, the righteous demands of the law that stood against us were fully satisfied. If those demands had not been fully satisfied, Jesus would not have been raised from the dead.

Aslan Lucy Susan“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rms 4:25)

When we see the risen Jesus we can rejoice knowing that our debt has been fully paid. His resurrection testifies to our justification. For the Christian who apprehends this truth, every day is Easter Sunday.

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7 Comments on Grace and Propitiation in the Chronicles of Narnia

  1. Yemima Kezia // March 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm // Reply

    The chronicles of narnia was the first movie i favourited the most when i was still in elementary school, not knowing that it actually has the typhology of the scripture. When i found that out, i was extremely thrilled. its just amazing how God leads me to like the things thats not from this world..

  2. I love the gospel of Narnia. Some people put it down and try to criticise it like scripture but its literature with a theological thread, entertaining and highly instructive when read through a spiritual lens. It definitely helped me on my way to fully understanding God’s grace. I never tire of the Last Battle. What a tale. Who could imagine it!

  3. What a wonderful imagination CS Lewis brought to the pages of his books. My dad found a used set of the Chronicles of Narnia several years ago at our local used book store and gave them to me as a gift. To this day, they sit in a spot next to my reading chair and I reference them often. I don’t agree with all of the theological twists and turns but that isn’t the point. The word pictures he created through his literature are simply amazing.

  4. Richard Elson // September 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm // Reply

    Deeper magic and deeper justice.
    The justice measured out through the law written on stone brings condemnation and death.
    Deeper justice agrees with the accuser. . .that by one man’s sin all are lost to Satan. What the accuser didn’t see though was the other arm of the same balance of Justice. . .that by one righteous man ALL are won back to the father. Rom 5:19

    If only we would live and define our life from within this deeper justice instead defining ourselves through covenants within covenants, laws within laws which keep us as slaves.

    C.S Lewis sowed the seed to understand this relationship, religion confused the relationship through performance doctrine, control mechanisms, and inner group loyalty disguised as Unity.
    Andrew Wommack watered the seed. . . my righteousness through faith in Jesus’ righteousness.

  5. Love it! Thank you for affirming Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement.

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