2018: It is so goosebump inducing to read this as the sixth book, as it was in publication order, rather than to read it as the first book, which it is in Narnian chronology. The creation account, while different from the actual creation account of our world in many ways, really sings. We’re also reminded that for those who love Aslan, Aslan loves those we love who are suffering even more than we love them.
2010: Still making my way through all seven Chronicles, six down now. So many good things in this one; choked up multiple times in the last few pages.
Good stuff about Aslan’s protective, and sometimes painful, providence. Also a story of two princes: one who transitioned from a slave boy to a royal leader, the other who transformed from a royal jerk into an actual ass.
Also read in 2010. Is it okay to get this excited every time Aslan shows?
2018: I am really enjoying rereading the series, and this time through The Silver Chair I saw all sorts of grace, plus a narrative reminder to remember and rehearse the rules. They don’t always look the same down on the ground. Also, more about Aslan’s Country (when Caspian gets there) makes me long for our Lord’s Country even more.
2010: I absolutely loved this book. It wasn’t because of Puddleglum.
This is still my first time through Narnia and, though three books in the series remain, The Silver Chair has pushed the Wardrobe to the side. Maybe it’s because I’m more into Lewis’ flow after four adventures. Maybe I’m in a better position to appreciate fiction. Or maybe it was the story itself. No matter, I eagerly read this to the kids. Some nights I read two chapters (time permitting) because I wanted to know what happened next!
I blogged about remembering the signs, and I think I’ll write at least one more post. But I choked up every time I knew Aslan was coming. I got the chills writing that previous sentence. I am ready for Jesus to return, and have the “new” life like King Caspian. In the meantime, it would be okay if Christ knocked a hole in the wall of Experiment House and set in motion changes for the better.
This was my first time on the Dawn Treader, and it was as fair a journey that I imagine I would like from fiction. I do mean that to sound positive.
I enjoyed the end the best, not because it the book was finished, but because the imaginative description of the place nearest Aslan’s land made me eager for heaven, whatever (and however much better) the non-fiction version will be like.
I was sad for both Lucy and Edmund that they would never return to Narnia. I was glad that Eustace changed for the better, even though it took seeing himself as a dragon. I always get excited (for the kids, you know) when Aslan shows up.
When Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, what did that miracle do? It seems that there are at least two things. First, it enabled the party to continue. Second, it demonstrated that Jesus had divine power.
But is that it? Is the point of the miracles to reveal Jesus as God? It is certainly one of the things that happened, and it is important to acknowledge Jesus’ identity. But any given sign that Jesus did, such as turning the water into wine, is intended not merely to make us think about that one event, but to think about every time God ever does a similar natural thing.
Athanasius was the first to make this connection regarding the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis followed up on it in his essay, “Miracles.” All the miracles Jesus performed were supernatural, but they were focused demonstrations of what God is always doing naturally.
[E]very year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. (God in the Dock, 29)
It doesn’t make the miracles less significant, but it does mean we should be more in awe and giving thanks for the mundane.
The Lord’s Table is not a miracle, but as we eat the bread and the wine it is a focused, and special, opportunity to remember the death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection and the vindication of His sacrifice for sin. But this is not the only time we should think about God’s provision of bread and wine, or about His provision of a church body, or His provision of everything, and how He is building it all together.
Many things come into focus when we focus on this meal rightly.
I apparently didn’t write a review the first time I read this in July of 2009 (reading it to the kids if I remember correctly), and I only gave it 2 stars! My appreciation for fiction, and Narnia, has certainly grown. Read it this time along with our school board. A delight.
On the first day Evangel Classical School met for classes I read the following quote from C. S. Lewis during my convocation address.
If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.
I had seen that quote in a few places, most applicably on the back cover of a book about classical Christian education. I quoted it to comfort those of us with more butterflies than boldness. It’s similar to the panic a rookie teacher might feel upon opening a fresh box of dry erase markers to find that none of them came with caps; would we open a school only to squeak out a faint mark? Our circumstances, while certainly not the worst they could have been, were not favorable. We were far from bouquets of newly sharpened pencils, or even from knowing which brand of pencil sharpener would survive for more than a week. We aspired to this noble task, though having more zeal than knowledge doesn’t always work out so well. We all know more than we did then—thank God—and that includes knowing that classical Christian education is an indispensable burden. We want it even more badly now.
Since that opening of opening days I have read Lewis’ quote in its native paragraph. He used those lines in an address titled “Learning in Wartime.” You can find it for free online or in a collection of Lewis’ articles called The Weight of Glory.
In his address Lewis raised and replied to a question about the legitimacy of study—especially study of the liberal arts—while in the middle of a war. It was October, 1939, and World War II was less than two months old. From the location of Lewis’ lectern in Oxford, England, his listeners were more than academically concerned.
[Every student] must ask himself how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to Heaven or to hell to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology. If human culture can stand up to that, it can stand up to anything.
Lewis argued from the greater to the lesser. He showed that Christians believe that death is always only one step away and that Heaven or hell await. A war reminds us of our upcoming death but it does nothing to increase the chance of our death. We have always been going to die.
The vital question is not whether learning in wartime is defensible but whether learning during any of our time on earth is. If teachers can, if teachers should, sow seed in the scholastic field with eternal reward or eternal punishment on the other side of the fence, then teaching and learning is appropriate when nations fight over a portion of the field.
Lewis observed that God gave men an appetite for knowledge and beauty. Want of security has never stopped the search, otherwise “the search would never have begun.” Instead,
[Men] propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.
God didn’t make tastes and give men tongues to make them feel guilty for not caring about eternity. He made tastes for tongues so that we would eat and drink what “God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” The apostle Paul figured that Christians would go to dinner parties, sometimes dinner parties thrown by pagans. He didn’t instruct the Christians what to say, he told them what to put on their plate. If there’s a way to hunger for barbecue “to the glory of God,” then certainly there’s a God-honoring way to hunger for knowledge.
Lewis concluded that, not only is the pursuit of knowledge before Heaven and hell permitted, it is mandatory. God doesn’t concede study to us, He commands it. God gifts some to study more deeply but He calls every image-bearer to study devotionally. That is, our reading of both of God’s books—the world and the Bible—should increase our devotion to God. English homework and ethical holiness don’t compete against each other, they inform and activate one another.
The Lord’s commission requires us to make more than converts who profess faith. We are to make disciples who practice faith, here and now, on earth. “Disciple” is not even a good English word. It is a Latin word sounded out for English. The Latin word is discipulus which means student, learner. It’s exactly what the Greek word mathetes means in Matthew 28.
Jesus said, “Teach [disciples] to observe all that I have commanded you.” God made us to be, then saved us to be, then train others to be certain kinds of persons. He created and redeemed us to live a certain way. It is to live—whether thinking, talking, reading, writing, painting, working, playing, buying, selling, mowing, weeding, cooking, cleaning—in such a way that acknowledges Jesus is Lord. This is our confession, something we say. It is also our obsession, something we embody.
Jesus created all things. “Without Him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of His power.” He delights to keep gravity pulling and goats skipping and planets spinning. All true science is the Lord’s; insects and volcanoes and circus animals. He rules over every nation, “having determined allowed periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” and presidents and trending political hashtags on Twitter. Languages? He is the Word. Numbers and physics and formulas, musical notes and Picardy thirds, logic and literature are all from Him and through Him and to Him.
Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
We cannot imagine anything lawful that cannot be studied and appreciated and used for His lordship. Imagination itself ought to be sanctified and put to His service. So Lewis said,
[H]uman culture is [not] an inexcusable frivolity on the part of creatures loaded with such awful responsibilities as we.
Everything we do that is done “as to the Lord” is received by the Lord.
None of the above requires a school per se, but this life of discipleship is not different from classical Christian enculturation. We received a way of life under Christ’s lordship and we seek to pass that on. There is a way to talk to adults that pleases Christ, a way to dress, a way to respond when someone kicks a soccer ball in your face, a way to listen and match pitch with the person standing next to you. A school like ECS promotes such a culture.
But the circumstances are not favorable. It used to be that the government legislated the height of the drinking fountain outside the bathrooms, now the government claims authority over who can go into each bathroom. The government, though, is not the biggest problem. Fear and distraction within the church trump all that is outside. Christians have forgotten the cost of discipleship. Christians have dared anyone to make them think, or read, or pay, or die. Troubling things have happened in the shire, not while we were off fighting wizards and orcs and evil, but while we were watching Netflix.
Friends of ECS, you have given us your evening. A team of servants have worked to give you a feast of tastes and sounds and sights. And yet all of us must give up much more. We must give up our lives and “get down to our work.” Hannibal wanted to beat Rome so badly he took elephants over the Alps in winter. The cause of Christ is greater than that of Carthage, and more difficult.
We work “while the conditions are still unfavourable.” We play soccer during recess on a parking lot, but we are thankful that it’s not on a gravel driveway (like we used to). Our part time teachers do not teach for the money, which is good, because we only have baby carrots to dangle in front of them. Many families want this enculturation for their kids but cannot afford it. We have not turned anyone away for financial reasons yet, but we would like for that to always be true.
We have more things to be thankful for than to complain about. God has already grown great fruit in such a young and tiny orchard. Favorable conditions may never come, but we ask some of you to join us, some others to come further up and further in, and some to be encouraged that “in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.”
Eat, drink, laugh, learn, and give heartily as for the Lord and not for men even without favorable conditions.
These are the notes from my talk for the ECS Fundraising Feast at the beginning of May.
Where the old [way of education] initiated, the new merely ‘conditions’. The old dealt with its pupils as grown birds deal with young birds when they teach them to fly; the new deals with them more as the poultry–keeper deals with young birds–making them thus or thus for purposes of which the birds know nothing. In a word, the old was a kind of propagation–men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.
For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
—C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.