There are always attempts being made to water down the Christian story, and that is certainly true at Christmas time. What is meant to be the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of the world is reduced to a largely secular and jocular occasion.
But the dilution of the Gospel message has been going on for two thousand years now. The early disciples were constantly battling against false teachers, and false doctrines. Things got so bad that the Apostle Paul had to say this, in Galatians 1:6-9:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Thus it should come as no surprise that this is an ongoing, perennial struggle which all believers will have to face. We must always be on guard lest the biblical message of Jesus Christ and his work at Calvary becomes polluted, diluted or distorted.
We had a clear example of this – albeit on a less pressing scale – coming from a leading film star. Although this episode has to do with a work of fiction, rather than the Bible itself, it still provides a glaring example of how people will seek to hose down the gospel message.
Irish actor Liam Neeson, as some of you might know, provides the voice of Aslan in the film The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” which is now everywhere in cinemas. This film is taken from one of the seven volumes of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series. It is the third recent film adaptation of the highly successful book series.
But Neeson caused all sorts of commotion earlier this month when he made an incredibly silly comment. It was both politically correct and theologically correct. Neeson said this: “Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries. That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.”
Either he knows absolutely nothing about Lewis and his Narnia series, or he is taking gross liberties with the clear aim and intent of the series. Lewis himself made it quite clear that Aslan was a Christ-figure, and the whole of the series was to express basic Christian truths – not Islamic or Buddhist truths.
For example, he wrote in a letter to a lady on 29 December 1958 these words: “He is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, ‘What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?’”
Anyone who has actually read some or all of the seven volumes in the series would know of the clear Christian connections. The dying and rising again of Aslan for the sake of others in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe could not be more clear as a picture of the atoning work of Christ and his resurrection at Calvary.
Indeed, fellow English writer J.R.R. Tolkien did not like the Narnia series very much, thinking they were far too explicit in their Christian themes. Tolkien himself preferred to express his faith much more subtly in his own works, including his The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
That Neeson could get things so wrong here is quite remarkable. Aslan readily receives the worship of others in the series, as did Jesus from his followers. Any Muslim would tell you that Muhammad would consider such treatment of himself to be blasphemous.
And Buddha of course simply claimed to be an enlightened man. He insisted he was just a human, and resisted attempts to turn him into a god. Yet Neeson seems to think these other religious figures would fit right in with Aslan as well. Amazing!
One Catholic leader and lifelong fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, William Oddie, accused Neeson of “a betrayal of Lewis’s intention and a shameful distortion. Aslan is clearly established from the very beginning of the whole cannon as being a Christ figure. I can’t believe that Liam Neeson is so stupid as not to know.”
But in this same Daily Mail article Neeson is described as a “practising Roman Catholic”. One certainly has to wonder about this. Not only has he got Lewis and Aslan completely wrong, but the actor was also quite happy to take the lead role in a Hollywood hagiography of sex pervert and child molester, Alfred Kinsey, in 2004. (See my review of this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2005/01/15/kinsey-con-job/ )
How he squares his faith with portraying this sleazeball is beyond me. Had the film taken an honest look at the creep, that would have been one thing. But it simply glorified this low-life academic. Thus Neeson was at least indirectly doing the same.
So if he was happy to lend his name to such a despicable and immoral cause, then I guess we should not be surprised that he should be willing to add his name to the very long list of those who seek to water down the gospel. It happens all the time, and we will find more examples of this happening tomorrow, I am quite sure.