Dr. Paul Cedar is the Chair/Chief Executive Officer of the Mission America Coalition. Prior, he served as the President of the Evangelical Free Church of America and lead pastor in a number of Evangelical churches. Dr. Cedar is the author of eight books.
Aslan, Lewis & the Great Conversation
The release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader offers Christians significant opportunities to invite others to attend the movie with them, then use that shared experience to carry on frank conversations concerning the important spiritual issues of life – and even eternal life.
For example, one such discussion that may be appealing to many would be a conversation relating to the author of the Narnia series, C.S. Lewis. He was a brilliant and prolific scholar who was an avowed and articulate atheist until the age of 33. He then experienced a dramatic spiritual conversion and became a highly committed follower of Jesus Christ.
This guide is meant to give you ideas for conversation starters with friends and family. It’s important to note that, like politics, discussions of religion and faith are highly personal, and emotions can sometimes run high. Enter such conversations with an open mind and empathetic ear. And as Christians, it’s always crucial for us to remember that while we’re called to proclaim the Good News of our faith, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change hearts. Most importantly, be a good listener – and be a good friend.
It’s my hope that these ripe areas for dialogue will eventually lead your discussion down the wonderfully winding path to the Great Conversation. Have fun!
I. C.S. Lewis:
C.S. Lewis was a brilliant author, professor and intellectual. He taught at Oxford University from 1925 to 1954 and then taught at Cambridge University from 1954 until his death in l963. An atheist from an early age, he became a dedicated Christian when he was 33 years of age. His conversion had a profound effect on his work. His wartime radio broadcasts focusing on Christianity brought him high acclaim. He devoted much of the remainder of his life writing about his faith in Jesus Christ. Among his most highly recognized writings, the seven books of the Narnia series are among the best known including The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. More than one hundred million copies of his books have been published over the years.
Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien. Both were high-profile professors in the English faculty of Oxford University. They were also known for their involvement in the Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings.” Lewis died one week before his 65th birthday on the same day that John Kennedy was assassinated.
- Do you think coming to belief in something unknowable and unseen like God is made easier or more difficult for academics such as Lewis?
- Based on the Narnia tales, it’s clear Lewis believed in Good and Evil. Do you believe there is a higher power of Good? Of Evil?
- Lewis became an outspoken convert to Christianity as an adult. When you hear the word, “conversion” what thoughts does that evoke for you?
2. The Dawn Treader
A. The Enticement of Gold: When Prince Caspian, Edmund and Lucy arrive at Goldwater Island, they quickly discover a pool. Anything who makes contact with the water immediately turns to gold. This is very enticing to Edmund who states, “Whoever has access to this pool could be the most powerful person in the world.” Lucy responds, “What in the world are you talking about?” To which Edmond replies, “Lucy, we would be so rich no one could ever tell us what to do.”
- With sweepstakes, lotteries and Las Vegas, do you think this mindset permeates our culture?
- The Bible speaks about this enticement of riches in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Do you agree or disagree?
- Jesus addressed this challenge in His Sermon on the Mount when He said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) But is it possible? There’s even a term, “prosperity gospel” that’s part of the Christian lexicon. Do you think churches sometimes serve money over God?
B. Other Temptations: Life is filled with temptations. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is filled with such examples as well. One of the most poignant is the encounter that Edmund had with the White Witch. She appealed to him by promising that he could become a king. She concludes by saying, “Be my King . . . Edmund, Give in! Just give in.” That temptation of power and authority comes to all of us in various ways.
- What are some things you are tempted by? Food? Money? Sex? Revenge? Power? Appearances?
- Is giving into temptation wrong? Is it ever right?
- If you knew for certain that there was no God, how would you change the way you live? Would you give in to certain temptations? What if you knew for certain there was a God – would that change how you live?
C. Spiritual Conversion: This is one of the most important themes of this story. Eustace was the young cousin of Edmund and Lucy. He is a spoiled, obnoxious, negative and constantly complaining boy. He did not want to be on the Dawn Treader and criticized everyone and everything. He wanted to go home. After the ship had been in a vicious storm for several days, it finally emerged from the storm and arrived at a mountainous island.
While the crew worked at repairing the ship, Eustace slipped away to explore the island. He came upon a cave. Suddenly a dragon came slowly out of the cave and died. Eustace could not resist the temptation to explore the cave. Much to his surprise and delight, he found a great treasure of gold and other valuables. He fell asleep and then awoke to find that something terrible had happened to him. He had become a dragon. Within this context, Lewis writes, “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greed, dragonish thoughts in his heart, Eustace had become a dragon himself.” This led to a series of adventures which conclude near the end of the film with a major transformation of Eustace spiritually and physically. The nasty, negative, selfish boy becomes a positive, loving, relational, caring, thankful young man. He is soundly converted. He became a new person.
- What did Eustace learn that allowed him to become “un-dragoned?” Why wasn’t he able to un-dragon himself?
- Do you know of anyone who has “converted?” Did it make them a better or worse person? In what ways?
- The Bible teaches us about Christian conversion in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ ,he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come!” In your experience with the people you know who have converted, is that true?
3. Aslan: The Christ Figure
Aslan, the wonderful, loving, powerful lion in the Chronicles of Narnia is central to this story. Edmond and Lucy have already been rescued by him in the earlier books of the series. He has established a deep, loving relationship with them. And, when faced with danger and temptation, he appears to them again with counsel and comfort.
Many people see Jesus in the character of Aslan. For Christians, Jesus, comforts, heals, transforms and leads in many ways reminiscent to Aslan. One of the last lines of the film is Aslan encouraging Lucy to “learn to know me by another name.”
- Are the comparisons of Aslan to Jesus accurate? Are the two similar?
- Were you moved in the film by Aslan? When he appeared on screen, did it impact you in any way?
What if Aslan was real? Would you be compelled to follow him?