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Many fans are aware of that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends. Tolkien helped convert Lewis to Christianity, whereas Lewis encouraged Tolkien to expand his fictional writing; both taught at Oxford, both were interested in literature, and both wrote fictional books which propagated basic Christian themes and principles. At the same time, though, they also had serious disagreements - in particular, over the quality of Lewis' Narnia books.

 

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August 14, 2007 at 4:26 pm
(1) tracieh says:

This is interesting. I’ve always recognized Tolkien’s books were influenced by his war experiences, but never thought to consider Xian themes–which I agree must be pretty deeply buried in the text.

For one thing, Tolkein’s series adheres to a polytheistic idea of gods–in his “Valar” pantheon, which is referenced quite frequently in the “historic” notes in the back of the Lord of the Rings.

He does lean on prophesy–which is, I believe, acceptable in a fantasy series. And his Elves seem to be endowed with some supernatural powers–although the Elves themselves don’t seem to consider these things supernatural–but natural (albeit secret from the other races). In fact, in hiding some of their arts (such as special forging techniques), it appears they fear that their techniques can be learned–and are not supernatural endowments. Although “spells” seem to be included in this “nature” of Tolkien’s realm.

The wizards also appear to require the aid of the natural world to work their “magic.”

And if I recall correctly, the point of Frodo’s journey, rather than being a Christ analogy, was a message from Tolkien’s war days: That it’s the little guy who goes out to do battle and make the sacrifices that earn greatness for the leaders. However, this may have been a scholarly interpretation (based on where I heard it) and not something Tolkien himself ever put forward(?).

Meanwhile, Tolkien surely isn’t using his books as a means to try to convince people to drop all logic and reason–whereas TLTW&TW is clearly meant to stop a child’s thinking mind.

Passages that put forward the idiotic “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” false dilemma are simply embarrassing to read. And I wouldn’t want a child to absorb such nonsense presented to them as actual “logic”–since he is not presenting it as illogical in the same way Lewis Carroll presents the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

In case anyone is unfamiliar, LLorL goes something like this: If I make an outlandish claim to you, it’s either the case that I’m (1) telling the truth, (2) lying, or (3) insane.

He applies this to apologetics by saying that Jesus was either truly god, lying, or was insane. However, there are so many other options he ignores. I’m sure I’m not even considering them all when I say that (1) the gospel stories might be made up or embellished. Maybe there was no Jesus, or, if there was, maybe Jesus never made such a claim. (2) Maybe there was a Jesus, and he said some things that confused his followers, who honestly misinterpreted his statements into a claim of godhood. (3) Maybe Jesus thought he was divine–in which case, he’s as insane as any Hindu, who believes that all beings are to be considered divine.

The idea that a person believes something because they are mistaken does not make them a liar or insane. Most of us don’t use the word “insane” to apply to absolutely any level of “misguided” or “misinterpreted.”

Sorry to go overlong, but Lewis’ offers such a ridiculous brand of apologetics that it couldn’t possibly be spoofed–how could anyone make it any more ridiculous? And TLTW&TW was horrible with regard to the nonsensical content that was supposed to pass for sagely wisdom. It was like Candide’s ridiculous mentor from Voltaire, or Polonius’ rambling advice in Hamlet–except that Lewis is totally serious with it.

August 14, 2007 at 5:45 pm
(2) Ron says:

Tracie, An off topic question. Do you type, or do you use typing software? If In the 2nd case, does it work well for you? Thank you Ron

August 14, 2007 at 7:28 pm
(3) Adrian D. says:

I never considered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be meant as sagely wisdom. I thought of it as a fairy tale.

August 15, 2007 at 2:12 pm
(4) tracieh says:

Ron: I type–I’m not sure what “typing software” is?

Adrian: It is a fairytale, for sure; but it was simply a framework for Lewis to showcase his lame apologetics. I agree with his critics that the “Christ” parallel isn’t even slightly veiled–it is a mallet over the reader’s head. And his arguments are also laid out, very clearly, in the story. He just took the NT, changed the character’s names, and added his own “logic” to defend the claims he wanted to make on behalf of Xianity.

To me, though, the height of irony is exactly what you point out: In order to make a story that so closely parallels the New Testament–he had to make it a “fairytale.” There certainly is a clue there for anyone who’s looking.

August 15, 2007 at 2:32 pm
(5) Adrian D. says:

I believe “typing software” would be voice recognition software, in which you speak and the software “types” them for you.

The parallels are plain enough to anyone actually looking for them. I still think to try to use the story to argue for an alleged reality would be ridiculous. One might as well try to prove a point using the “Three Little Pigs”.

August 16, 2007 at 2:07 pm
(6) tracieh says:

>I still think to try to use the story to argue for an alleged reality would be ridiculous. One might as well try to prove a point using the “Three Little Pigs”.

I agree. But I definitely think Lewis was trying to do this–since his apologetics, which he wrote out in adult format in other papers, are clearly embedded in the story.

April 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm
(7) sarah says:

I am guessing “xian” and “xiananity” in tracieh’s comments are supposed to mean Christianity, since some people say xmas instead of Christmas?

I don’t know much about the LOTR, so I will put in my thoughts on C.S.Lewis since you were talking about “how ridiculous he is”. It is not ridiculous. As a Christian, I can see plainly what he is doing with the movie “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. He is using symbolism. In the Bible, Jesus always used parallels (symbolic stories) to explain a point. That is what Lewis is doing. The Lion portrays Jesus, and in the movie, the Lion is killed by the evil side, but then rises again. I saw the movie when it first came out so I don’t remember much… But everything in the movie symbolizes the Bible, and I believe prophesy also (if I remember correctly).

April 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm
(8) Austin Cline says:

It is not ridiculous.

What was specifically called ridiculous was Lewis’ brand of apologetics. So, if it’s not ridiculous, perhaps you can explain how and why?

April 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm
(9) John Hanks says:

I thought “Mere Christianity” was the Lewis apologetics. Fiction writers usually use symbols as a crutch or to give the narrative more power. Their purpose is to evoke an entertaining or emotional response – not necessarily an intellectual one. Decoding symbols usually cheapens adulterates and cheapens them.

April 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm
(10) Gary Clark says:

Parallels?

April 29, 2008 at 2:44 pm
(11) IreneJones says:

How can a Christian who doesn’t know the difference between “parallels” and “parables” be trusted to have an argument worth reading, much less analyzing? This kind of error makes my brain hurt!

April 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm
(12) Drew says:

I think that Tolkien’s LOTR is the best work of English-language fiction ever produced.

I have never found any Christian message or undertone in it, because there is none. Tolkien himself specifically said it was a story, NOT an allegory for the Second World War. Anyone familiar with his writing knows he originally invented Middle-Earth as a place to locate his invented Elvish languages. It later became the vehicle for telling stories for his children (The Hobbit), and eventually telling stories to an adult audience (LOTR). His mythology involves a pantheon of gods, which is incompatible with monotheism. He lamented the fact that his Anglo-Saxon ancestors had no great trove of myths and gods to rival those of the Celts or Norse – so he invented one. Tolkien was probably religious in the social way that everyone was forced to be back then. He’d probably be very comfortable in today’s Britain, where the majority have no problem telling pollsters they do not believe in the Jewish war-god Yahweh.

As an atheist child, I was unaware of any religious message in Lewis’ Narnia stories. However, as an adult I find his writing poor, stilted, and forced. I have no problem reading Narnia to my children, and then discussing with them that the concept of punishing one person (Aslan) for the misdeeds of others is not only immoral, but also contrary to the civilised system of law that all nations have developed. This difference is a problem for Christians to rationalise, and is no problem of mine.

Lewis’ space travel trilogy (Perelandra et al) was just plain bad writing. His Christian apologetics are illogical, weak, and come across as rather snivelly.

April 30, 2008 at 2:45 am
(13) Zack says:

In the Bible, Jesus always used parallels (symbolic stories) to explain a point. Comment by sarah — April 22, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

Jesus told parables to disguise his meaning from the general public, not to make his meaning more clear. That’s why he’s always explaining privately to his apostles what his parables meant.

April 30, 2008 at 8:47 am
(14) K. Anonymous says:

I am a fan of C.S. Lewis’s books, and the man in general, I am also an atheist. I ask that all critics of him make sure that what offends them are indeed his own words and not those of theists who have twisted what he said. His work has been hijacked by those who wish to use his credibility for their own twisted ends. They are the ones responsible for the supposed apologetics and anti-atheist sentiment of Lewis, not the man himself. In none of Lewis’s books does he imply a hatred of any denomination. Though he does use some christian symbolism, he does not preach of hell and brimstone for others, or anything of the like.

I ask that all who would criticise him to take a good look at the man himself, and not what others say he believed. If Lewis were alive today, I’m sure he’d be appaled at what people claim he stood for.

April 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm
(15) GeckoRoamin says:

>>As a Christian, I can see plainly what he is doing with the movie

Lewis has been dead for over 40 years. He had nothing to do with the recent Disney movie.

>>I saw the movie when it first came out so I don’t remember much…

Then perhaps you should try reading the book.

April 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm
(16) Pearl Ostroff says:

Lewis may not have had “hatred for any (Christian) denomination” but he certainly displays distain and perhaps even hatred for Arabs and Muslims. His treatment for the people of that world is not very nice, although he does allow for exceptions. He is also not very nice to Susan. The last book is so obviously Christian that even though I do reread the others, I will not reread that one.

May 1, 2008 at 2:42 pm
(17) K. Anonymous says:

To Pearl Ostroff

‘but he certainly displays distain and perhaps even hatred for Arabs and Muslims.’

Can you tell me what distain he shows for them?

‘He is also not very nice to Susan.’

What on earth are you talking about? You mean there is a character which is portrayed in an unfavourable light becuase said character acts unfavourably? Can you name any fiction book (other than those for the very young) which does not do such a thing? Can you explain to me exactly what you are criticising here?

‘The last book is so obviously Christian that even though I do reread the others, I will not reread that one.’

In what sense do you mean it is christian? In the sense that it has some christian reference? What’s so terrible about that? Whilst it may be true that Lewis’s morality was closely linked to his christianity that doesn’t in any way smerge it. The fact that there are bad christians doesn’t mean all christians and all things made by christians are bad. Its a shame (for you) that your believe that this is so prevents you from enjoying an excellent book, which ‘The Last Battle’ truly is.

May 12, 2008 at 12:38 pm
(18) sarah says:

oh geez why did I ever even comment….

Sorry for using parellels when I meant parables. Wrong word. At least everybody understood what I meant.

Okay, what I meant about the movie was not that he made it. What I meant was the story. I worded the sentence wrong. And yes, I do want to read the books, but I don’t have them yet.

No, he doesn’t put right in the story that it is Christian. But the story goes along with it, and he was a Christian. He could have meant it to be a Christian story, and he could have meant it to be a story with a good moral. Nevertheless, it fits right in with the Bible, so it just seems to me he was trying to make a point.

Jesus told parables to disguise his meaning from the general public, not to make his meaning more clear. That’s why he’s always explaining privately to his apostles what his parables meant.

Comment by Zack

He wasn’t trying to disguise his meaning. He was using common situations to explain spiritual things, and he wanted the people to think. If the people truly wanted to understand, they could, because God would open their minds (so to say). The reason many people didn’t get it was because they tried to apply it to their own knowledge and to figure it out on their own. That’s the problem with humans. We think we have a scientific answer for everything.

In none of Lewis’s books does he imply a hatred of any denomination. Though he does use some christian symbolism, he does not preach of hell and brimstone for others, or anything of the like.

What makes you think a Christian book (in general) would show hatred for any denomination? Not all Christians preach “hell fire and brimstone”. I don’t agree with Christians that go around shoving the Bible down your throat and saying “you’re going to hell if you don’t repent!” I’ll be the first to tell you that if somebody started preaching at me like that, I would be a little freaked out and not want to be around them. That’s probably how most people feel.

I don’t know what the whole controversy over Narnia is. To me, it’s a good book with a good moral, and seems to be about the Bible.
I don’t know all of the “intelligent” words to use, so I’m explaining what I believe as best as I can. After all, I’m only 15. I’m simply trying to say what I believe and it seems that everybody else has to jump down my throat because I have a Christian view of it. Why is it that people always have a problem with Christian things? Why can’t Narnia simply be as it is? Whether it’s really intended to be Christian or just has Christian morals in it?

The fact that there are bad christians doesn’t mean all christians and all things made by christians are bad.

I’m wondering what you mean by that statement.
But there are “bad” Christians. I know somebody that I really think is a Christian, but she does things that anybody any moral value knows is wrong. A child knows better. I’m not always a good example either. I can be very impatient and too proud for my own good, but all I can do is ask God to help me and learn from my mistakes. We’re all human, after all, and humans aren’t perfect.

December 28, 2008 at 12:12 am
(19) MJ says:

Comment by Tracieh:
“Meanwhile, Tolkien surely isn’t using his books as a means to try to convince people to drop all logic and reason–whereas TLTW&TW is clearly meant to stop a child’s thinking mind.
“Passages that put forward the idiotic “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” false dilemma are simply embarrassing to read. And I wouldn’t want a child to absorb such nonsense presented to them as actual “logic”–since he is not presenting it as illogical in the same way Lewis Carroll presents the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
In case anyone is unfamiliar, LLorL goes something like this: If I make an outlandish claim to you, it’s either the case that I’m (1) telling the truth, (2) lying, or (3) insane.
“He applies this to apologetics by saying that Jesus was either truly god, lying, or was insane. However, there are so many other options he ignores. I’m sure I’m not even considering them all when I say that (1) the gospel stories might be made up or embellished. Maybe there was no Jesus, or, if there was, maybe Jesus never made such a claim. (2) Maybe there was a Jesus, and he said some things that confused his followers, who honestly misinterpreted his statements into a claim of godhood. (3) Maybe Jesus thought he was divine–in which case, he’s as insane as any Hindu, who believes that all beings are to be considered divine.”

Whoa, how does The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe stop a child’s thinking mind? By being allegorical? Allegory tends to stimulate, rather than deaden thinking. And most kids, unless they are familiar with what the Bible teaches about Christ, miss the symbolism anyway. What this book does do is provide valuable lessons on honesty, hope, good triumphing over evil, forgiveness, and redemption (in addition to a few hours of blissful reading). The “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” reasoning was never put forth in any of CS Lewis’ children’s books.

And regarding the logic (or supposed lack thereof) of Lord,Liar,or Lunatic, the LLorL argument assumes that you already believe Jesus existed: it argues against Christ having been merely a great moral teacher and nothing more (or less). So, if “there never was a Jesus” (1), then there never was this great moral teacher. If (2) he did exist and his disciples intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented what he said, then what’s your basis for saying he was a great teacher? If his claims and some incidents in his life were misrepresented, his teachings may have been too. To say the records are correct where his teachings are concerned but incorrect elsewhere is to admit that you are taking a piece of writing and deciding which part is true and which part isn’t based on your personal beliefs and opinions (since hard facts aren’t available to disprove any part of these records ). And if, after all, it boils down to what You feel is true or not, why even bother with logic?
As to (3): For Christ, if he was human and only human, to believe he was divine would definitely qualify him as insane. Christ wasn’t claiming to be a god, he claimed to be GOD, The God, YAHWEH. One has to be more than simply misguided to think of oneself as the Creator and Lord of the entire universe. He would have to be a “lunatic on the level with a man who says he’s a poached egg”, as Lewis (brilliantly) put it.

December 28, 2008 at 8:02 am
(20) Austin Cline says:

the LLorL argument assumes that you already believe Jesus existed

It also assumes that everything we think we know about Jesus is historically accurate.

If (2) he did exist and his disciples intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented what he said, then what’s your basis for saying he was a great teacher?

Easy: eliminate all of the supernatural elements, including claims to divinity, and you’re left with someone who made some valid ethical points. Ever read the Jefferson Bible?

If his claims and some incidents in his life were misrepresented, his teachings may have been too.

True, but if the teachings are valid they can stand on their own and still be useful, regardless of who first started them. It’s legitimate to talk about “the teachings of X” as shorthand or “the teachings which are commonly ascribed to X, even if some are from a different source and even if some are misunderstood.”

March 17, 2009 at 2:03 am
(21) Feyisayo Anjorin says:

J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis are examples of what christian writers should strive to attain.Being a christain does not exclude one from excellence. In fact, it’s every reason to be outstanding.
Also, dont expect people of the secular world to make efforts to read a work called Christain fiction.It’s like calling a church a gathering of saints in the sight of a sinful world(Even though it is). It is good for chrsitain to writes works of fiction that has a chrsiatin theme, but appeals to everyone. how do one achieve that? Read Tolstoy, C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien.

April 6, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(22) Lone_Wolf says:

Why is it so rediculas that Jesus Isn’t the son of God? how can 1 man change so much if he’s an insane rambaling insane madman that makes no sense???

July 2, 2009 at 5:38 pm
(23) Benjamin Geiger says:

I have to agree with the general sentiment: the Chronicles of Narnia were in no way nuanced about their parallels to the NT. If you’re at all familiar with the NT (specifically the Gospels), you’ll recognize the plot.

That said, even as an atheist/ex-theist, I thoroughly enjoyed the Narnia books.

“Mere Christianity”, on the other hand, was a steaming pile. I tried to play “count the logical fallacies”, but I kept losing track. “LLorL”, as another commenter put it, isn’t the most egregious logical fallacy in the book. My favorite is the hypocrisy of simultaneously berating atheists who “put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack”, while simultaneously doing the same for atheism:

“If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist, I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.”

I did like “The Screwtape Letters”, though. It’s even more heavyhanded than the Narnia series, but that’s to be expected, given the material. “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” is better than the entire rest of the series combined. (PS: If you can, get the audiobook narrated by John Cleese. It’s worth it.)

July 2, 2009 at 11:50 pm
(24) Eric (4tunate1) says:

To all those of you debating whether or not TLTW&TW contains C.S. Lewis’ “liar, lord, or lunatic” false trilemma or something similar, you should pay attention to what Professor Kirk tells the children. Specifically, when Lucy claims to have visited Narnia and the other children do not believer her, the professor uses virtually the same reasoning to Peter and Susan. “She is either mad, lying, or telling the truth”

July 3, 2009 at 3:57 am
(25) Eric (4tunate1) says:

By the way, I would like to recommend reading Laura Miller’s book, A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia”. She does a very good job of deconstructing many of the negative aspects of his work, but still manages to find many things worthwhile in the books.

May 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm
(26) P Smith says:

I never read either, despite the number of books I read as a teen (over 1200). Tolkien’s prose was heavier and duller than HP Lovecraft. And I put down Lewis’ crap after seeing the nonsense of “arslan” being dead on one page and alive a few pages later. “Arschloch” is more like it, an apt description of Lewis. Michael Moorcock’s fiction made for better argument about philiosophy and morality than either of the two being discussed.

As for the religious split between them, why be surprised it turned into derision, name calling and avoidance? When religions and sects compete for the “unholy trinity” (money, power and sex), they will always disparage those who are reducing their own cult’s share.

.

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