I was so happy to learn the other day that a movie version of C.S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair” is in the works. It’s not that I have been that impressed, however, with Hollywood’s treatment of the other Narnia movies thus far (“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Prince Caspian,” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”). Far from it! I’ve actually been quite disappointed, especially with the latter two. While the first lacked the impact of the book, it more or less conveyed its basic details. On the other hand, “Prince Caspian” was so very different from the original, it should be deemed a different story altogether. Instead of portraying a time when the reality of Narnia had become regarded as myth, it is about the supposed extinction of the old Narnians due to oppression by the ruling class. “Dawn Treader” seemed to return to a more faithful rendering of the book, but in fact the movie contradicts it. Instead of our desperate need for God to transform our lives, the movie stresses the importance of accepting who we are. In both cases, the changes to the story appeal to contemporary audiences’ way of looking at the world rather than challenging it. So I am not setting my hopes on the next film to adequately represent Lewis’s original. Still, I am happy about it because it will surely encourage children and adults to read the original and its timely message for today.
The Silver Chair – the book – vividly demonstrates how we can be cut off from reality and truth either by distraction or deception. Distraction leads to forgetting the more important things of life. Deception acts like a spell, whereby we perceive the world through a completely false lens. Distraction and deception work hand in hand to lead us down destructive paths. The antidote to both, according to Lewis, is audacious faith whereby the truth and reality we know is clung to in spite of all appearances to the contrary.
The Spell Explained
The world we live in is under a such a spell. Over and over again we are told that reality is so very different from what the Scriptures teach. You can think of God as Creator in a mythic sense, but don’t take it literally. Believing in Yeshua as the exclusive Lord and Savior is arrogant and out of step with today’s progressive worldview. Marriage has been redefined, sexuality can be whatever we want it to be, we can even choose our gender. Science and faith don’t mix. Neither do politics and religion. You can believe what you want as long as you keep it to yourself.
This spell is so powerful that even many who claim faith in Yeshua have been overcome by it. While theoretically rejecting many of the tenets of the prevailing culture, there is a great tendency to relegate biblical spirituality to the personal, private sphere. The spell is so strong that even those who appear to be passionate about their relationship to God and the Bible are themselves perpetuating this deception. We do this by narrowly defining evangelism as “telling people about Jesus,” and confirming an expectation of eternal bliss upon simple mental assent of a set of propositions. To convince people (including ourselves) that the height of biblical truth is wrapped up in a personal, private exchange with God with no implications for the rest of our lives whatsoever, except maybe to promote the same experience to others and maybe to try to stay out of trouble as much as possible, is fueling the power of the spell.
The enemies of God have no issue with your so-called faith, as long as you keep it to yourself. Keep your creedal formula as long as you don’t rock society’s boat, but don’t be surprised when the Lord returns and you discover that your ticket to heaven isn’t valid after all. You probably won’t care by then, since you have spent your whole life under the spell.
How do you know if you are under the spell? If you have grown cynical, thinking that the prevailing culture is all powerful; that there was a day when the things of God might have been more relevant to the society, but not now; that there is no point in standing for godliness within your circle of influence; if you have lost hope in your own sanctification, your marriage, your children; If you are satisfied with keeping the truth of God to yourself; that you will one day get to go to that “better place,” because you said a prayer once; thinking that there’s nothing you can do to be effectively salt and light in the world today, then you are under the spell.
You are under the spell if you no longer believe that Yeshua is building a community that is confronting the gates of hell; that you are called to disciple the nations (the propagation everywhere of everything he taught his followers); that the power of the resurrection lives in you; that God himself lives in you; that Yeshua currently possesses all authority in heaven and earth.
You are under the spell if the circumstances of life, the condition of society, or your own condition are determining for you God’s place and power in the world; that the effectiveness of the early followers or Yeshua had in their day is not possible today.
Breaking the Spell
In order to be free from the deception that is driving so many to hide away into a cloisters of personal, private spirituality, we need to do three things. First, acknowledge that Yeshua is Lord, not merely your Lord. His lordship over you is an extension of the objective truth that he is the universe’s supreme ruler, which by God’s grace you (hopefully) have submitted to. Second, his lordship is over all of life, not just the personal, spiritual realm. It includes that, but not exclusively so. Third, to disciple the nations means more than urging people to acknowledge some key things that Yeshua did. It is to call everyone everywhere to his Lordship and all that it entails, whether they submit to it or not.
The ineffectiveness of God’s people within today’s cultural climate is not due to the increase of evil, but rather to the decrease of our engagement with the society. God’s version of life is the only true reality. To think otherwise is to be under the spell of deception. The Gospel mandate calls us to confront that deception, but we need to first be free of it ourselves.