Posts Tagged ‘Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge’

Narnia Wrap-Up and Bonus Review!

August 4th, 2011

With the end of July comes the end of Carrie’s annual Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge–which means that it’s time to wrap things up.

In this year’s trip to Narnia, I have explored Shasta’s seeking and Aslan’s sovereignty in The Horse and His Boy. My thoughts of the book centered around two Scriptural passages.

The first was Paul’s Mars Hill sermon in which he speaks of the Gentiles groping for God–just as Shasta (and Lewis himself) gropes for the joy the thought of the North sparks in him. Paul says that God is truly not far from the many gropers. Aslan, as a type of Christ, was also never far from the groping pilgrims. See my complete (er, complete written) thoughts here and here.

The second passage (or, perhaps more accurately, the second story) is that of Joseph telling his brothers that what they intended for evil, God meant for good. In a sort of parallel to Joseph’s story, Shasta experiences exile at the hand of jealous men, enslavement in a foreign land, and is ultimately used to bring deliverance to his people. Just like God was at work all throughout Joseph’s story, using the evil intentions of man to accomplish His own good purposes, so Aslan is at work throughout Shasta’s story. The characters in The Horse and His Boy have many intents, most of them evil–but it is Aslan’s good plan that prevails. Read my thoughts on this parallel here.

In addition to mining The Horse and His Boy, I did read a couple of biographies of Lewis.

The first, C.S. Lewis: Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor by Lionel Adey, I dismissed in my last Nightstand post–probably long after I should have.

The second biography, The Most Reluctant Convert by David C. Downing, was as different from Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor as two books can be (thankfully!)

Let’s just say that while Adey’s only apparent goal in writing Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor was tenure, Downing’s goal in The Most Reluctant Convert was clearly to tell a story–particularly the story of Jack Lewis’s religious conversion.

Where Adey discussed Lewis’s writings apparently to hear himself speak, Downing discussed them to show patterns of thought that Lewis held to at various times in his life.

In The Most Reluctant Convert, we read of Lewis’s naive childhood Christianity, his boyhood and adolescent atheism, his later dualism, the “baptism of his imagination” through reading George MacDonald. We learn of his “reluctant” conversion to theism–and finally of his wholehearted embracing of Christ Himself.

Downing posits that Lewis’s brilliance in apologetics and as a writer of semi-allegorical Christian works comes from his experience with every rejection of Christianity–and the process by which God overcame his every objection.

This was a small, but wonderfully informative volume about Lewis’s life-focusing especially on the conversion of his mind and heart.

I highly recommend this biography.


Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
If you haven’t been by Reading to Know to check out some of the other posts from this month’s challenge, you’d best get over there! This year’s challenge page is found here–and Carrie’s concluding post (pending completion of a round up of everyone’s posts) is here.

What You Meant

July 19th, 2011

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post gives away almost EVERYTHING.*

A fellow heard the prophecy regarding how the baby Cor would one day save Archenland. Desiring the downfall of Archenland, he purposed in his heart to thwart the prophesied end.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when Cor, now known as Shasta, grew up doing menial labor in the house of an uneducated Calormene fisherman, completely unaware of Archenland and unconcerned with its fate.

But what the fellow meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. His evil action only set the stage for Aslan’s great plan–the prophesied deliverance.

A Tarkaan saw the boy working hard in the fisherman’s tent. Desiring a slave with whom he could do whatever he wished, he purposed in his heart to buy the teenaged Shasta.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when the fisherman begins to barter, selling away his “son” for a few crescents.

But what the Tarkaan meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The Tarkaan’s evil intentions only gave the impetus for Shasta to begin his flight.

A stepmother sees her step-daughter and hates her. Desiring to have away with her, she purposed in her heart to marry the girl off.

Her purposes seem to be accomplished when the engagement goes through and the girl leaves her home.

But what the stepmother meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The stepmother’s evil intentions only made a way for Aravis and Shasta to meet, and to become traveling companions.

Dozens of characters, each with their own purposes. The pleasure-seeking Lasaraleen. The lust-driven Rabadash. The conquest-happy Tisroc. The favor-currying Vizier. Even Shasta and Aravis have their own selfish motivations.

Evil actors seem to drive the story to its deadly end.

But all the evil actors, however much evil they meant, had no power against the purposes of the main Actor.

Each actor is a free agent, acting according to the intents of his own heart–and it seems that every actor’s intents are evil. Even the “good” choices were often made with poor intentions: pride, self-preservation, shame. Every bad choice is fully the actor’s responsibility. He clearly chose, of the evil in his own heart, to act as he did.

Yet every evil perpetuated out of the evil in man’s heart was turned into good by the sovereign hand of Aslan.

Conversely, any good that any actor did was not out of the good in his own heart (as though he had good in his heart out of which to act), but was generally the result of the direct hand of Aslan–the Lion at their heels, driving them wherever He willed, compelling them to ride faster than they thought themselves capable of riding.

As such, no actor deserves glory for his good actions; each actor only deserves punishment for his evil.

Yet Aslan, in His mercy, withheld just punishment from many who did evil–and justly received glory for every good deed.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
~Genesis 50:20


Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Appointed Times and Places

July 7th, 2011

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post will give away quite a bit.*

While Shasta dreams of Northern lands, a Tarkahn rides up from the South on a Narnian stallion.

While Bree (the horse) talks of being a free horse among his own people, a roar out of the darkness leads him to cross paths with one of his own people–another captive horse dreaming of freedom.

When Shasta’s only wish is to avoid notice, he is taken to be the missing Prince of Archenland–and overhears the Narnian nobles’ plans to sail out of Calormen unnoticed.

When Aravis is only trying to sneak quietly out of a planned marriage to an obsequious toad, she finds herself sandwiched behind a couch, hearing the councils of the Tisroc, the Prince, and said Toad.

Time and time again, the characters of The Horse and His Boy find themselves in just the right place at just the right time.

Not that they always thought the times and places were right.

Shasta didn’t think so when he served practically as a slave in the fisherman’s hut.

Bree didn’t think so when terror of a lion caused Hwin and him to travel the same path.

Aravis didn’t think so when she came within an inch of discovery.

These were frightening experiences, exhausting experiencing–things they wish they’d never have had to go through.

But an unseen breath propelled Shasta’s boat across the sea to Arsheesh’s hut. An unseen hand guided the meetings of Shasta and the Narnian nobles, of Aravis and the Tarkheenah. An unseen hand hid them behind the couch as they overheard the Tisroc’s council.

All throughout their groping journey, it seemed as though Someone had gone on before, marking out their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.

Someone was giving life to their bodies, purpose to their movements, reason for their being.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'”
~Acts 17:26-28


Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Groping for another land

July 5th, 2011

The Horse and His Boy opens innocently enough, with the fisherman’s hut by a little creek on the sea, where a young boy named Shasta lives with an old fisherman he calls father. But our eyes, like Shasta’s, quickly move northward, to the unknown land beyond the hilled horizon.

Our hearts yearn to know this hidden place; and we are heartbroken at Arsheesh’s lack of curiosity and lack of tolerance for Shasta’s curiosity.

We, unlike Arsheesh, can identify with Shasta’s plight. We know the feeling of piddling about here, all the while thinking that something great, something better, something magnificent lies over the next hill. We feel out of place, uncomfortable. We pretend we’re not out of place, but we know deep down inside that this is not our home.

We long for the North.

Then, one day, as Arsheesh sups with an unexpected guest, Shasta overhears the story that would have him hop the nearest horse and take off for the North.

*Spoiler alert*

The man he called his father was not his father. The man he had struggled unsuccessfully to care for was little more than a slaver, and undeserving of Shasta’s affection. The fishing hut was not his home–probably Caloremen was not either. In fact, he might even be a son of the only-longed-for North.

Here, Lewis sets up in story form what he expresses elsewhere in plainer terms:

“f I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Shasta becomes outwardly what he had been inwardly all along–a wanderer, groping in the dark for something, he knows not what.

When he first discovers the truth that he is not really Arsheesh’s son or a son of Calormen, his mind moves towards fantastic dreams. So he was not the fisherman’s son–then perhaps he was the son of a Tarkaan or of a god! Perhaps the Tarkaan who wished to buy Shasta would later adopt him as a son, making him great.

He wonders aloud what the Tarkaan is like, and a talking horse interrupts his reverie with an answer.

In a series of fortuitous or not so fortuitous events, what had once only been an idle dream of seeing the north became an imperative. Shasta must escape to the north, must make his way out of this place.

And so the blind man’s longings become desperate gropings.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
~Acts 17:26-27


Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Nah-nia Time: Take 3

June 25th, 2011

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeI’ve participated in Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge since it began two years ago–and I’m excited to jump on board again this year.

In year one, I read The Magician’s Nephew, mining it for “greatness”.

I came up with the following:

Last year, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and James Stewart Bell’s Inside “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. I was reading John Stott’s The Cross of Christ at the same time and found some interesting thoughts in there that I connected to Lion/Witch/Wardrobe:

Last year, I had a couple of biographies of Lewis that I didn’t finish in time for the wrap-up post, but that I did eventually get finished:

This year, I’m planning to continue on with my reading of The Chronicles with The Horse and His Boy. I also picked up a children’s picture book version of one of the Narnia tales and another biography of Lewis. (I’m not sure whether I’ll finish the biography. I’ve already started it and it’s dreadfully dull. But even if I don’t end up finishing it, I’m sure I’ll give you my thoughts!)

In addition, since I think of 2nd Chapter of Acts’ “The Roar of Love” album every time I think of the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge, I figured I’d share a couple of songs with you:

Have a great weekend–and don’t forget to drop by Carrie’s to sign up for this year’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Narnia Wrap-Up

July 30th, 2010

Chronicles of Narnia

Tomorrow is the last day of July, which means Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge is coming to a close.

Last year, I read and made notes on The Magician’s Nephew. This year, I decided to continue on with the next in the series (chronologically), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I intended to explore the Biblical/moral principles found within The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as I had with The Magician’s Nephew. Alas, I was swamped with dozens of other books, one of which I was writing notes on.

I didn’t end up having time to think or write an in-depth analysis, but I still did end up getting a chance to take a look at some of the allusions found in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe thanks to a nifty little read-along called Inside “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”.

What’s more, the book I was writing notes on (John Stott’s The Cross of Christ just happened to remind me of a couple of scenes in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so I included those scenes as part of my notes (1, 2).

And finally, I did take the time to sit down and write a post about one of the things that stuck out to me (for the first time) this time around: the question of how to evaluate the trustworthiness of a person or piece of information.

In summary, these are the posts I’ve written about Narnia over the last month:

Please take a look and leave some comments (even on the older posts)–I absolutely love it when people engage my ideas. I might even respond in the comments and go back and forth with you if you’d like (even though I haven’t yet responded to Carrie’s comment on that last post–consider that a primer for future discussion :-P).

Thanks for dropping by and don’t forget to take a look at Carrie’s conclusion page for links to other people’s comments on the Chronicles of Narnia!

Book Review: “Inside the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by James Stuart Bell and others

July 30th, 2010

View my disclosure statement for more information on how I choose books to review.

Chronicles of Narnia

When Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge rolls around in the month of July, I relish the opportunity to go back to Narnia. I don’t often give myself the luxury of re-reading books, since I’ve got a bazillion books to read in my quest to read every book in my local library. But I make an exception for C.S. Lewis and re-read one title for the challenge. I’d already read all seven of the Narnia books (since September 5 of 2006 when I began the quest), so I assumed that there was no way I could continue to make progress towards my goal while I completed the Narnia reading challenge.

But then Carrie posted a collection of books about Narnia (and a second list). I had an “Ah-hah!” moment and quickly opened my library webpage to see if they had any books about Narnia that I could read. They did.

Since I was just finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I figured that Inside “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” would be a good title to start with. Inside is a paperback novel sized book intended as a children’s read-along or study guide for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The writing style reminds me somewhat of the popular “For Dummies” series, in that unfamiliar vocabulary is defined and the authors speak directly to the reader. But even though it might be easy-to-understand, this book is definitely NOT for dummies.

Inside “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is stuffed with information about the allusions found within the iconic Narnia title. The authors take the reader through the book chapter by chapter, explaining the London air raids, Turkish delight, Father Christmas, the background on the many strange creatures found within Narnia and more. While I’m relatively well-read, I learned plenty from this book. For instance, I already knew that the wolf Maugrim’s British name was “Fenris Ulf”, but I didn’t know that he may have been modeled after the mythical Norse wolf “Fenrir”. This book describes literary allusions that I didn’t know existed–but which make perfect sense upon reading them. They’ve got me wanting to read some of the fairy tales and mythology that seem to have inspired Lewis!

Of course, some of the most evident literary and historical allusions found in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are allusions to the Bible. Bell, Pyykkonen, and Washington address these in the same way as they address the others. They explain the reference to “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.” They describe the correlations between Aslan and Jesus and between Edmund and Judas. They discuss Cair Paravel as a sort of “Promised Land” or “heaven”. The authors aren’t over the top with their Biblical references (that is, they don’t make it the emphasis at the expense of explaining other references), but they are thorough in their coverage of the Biblical allusions found in Narnia.

Some other fun features of this book (in addition to the information that it’s JAM-PACKED with) are the quizzes and call-outs that can be found at odd intervals throughout. You can take a quiz about the differences between beavers in Narnia and beavers in our world. You can read a quick “profile” of Peter (and numerous other characters) that lists his name, age, nicknames, likes and dislikes, and the gift he received from Father Christmas. There’s a logic puzzle to play and a closing “Oscars” in which you can vote for the best leading “actor” in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Kids interested in discussing Lewis’s book with their friends (or homeschooling mothers interested in assigning writing exercises to go along with their child’s reading) might enjoy the discussion questions found in the back of Inside.

All these features combine to make this a great resources for anyone (late elementary school on up) who is a lover of Narnia. Homeschooling parents (or parents looking for a project to do with their kids for next year’s “Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge”) may want to use this book as a springboard for a unit study for younger students (While the title doesn’t specifically give activity suggestions, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with some of your own–they’re practically jumping off the page in anticipation for you to do them.) All in all, this is a book every lover of Narnia (and lover of children’s literature in general) should pick up.


Rating: 5 Stars
Category: Literature Study-Guide/Read-along
Synopsis: An easy-to-understand yet in-depth look at the literary and historical allusions found in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Recommendation: This book is a definite keeper. Find it, buy it, peruse it, lend it to your older children, and find a way to share the information found within with your younger children. This is a fantastic resource.

Evaluating Trustworthiness (In Narnia)

July 28th, 2010

Chronicles of NarniaWhile re-reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge, I was struck by the theme of trustworthiness, and the question of how to determine who and what to trust.

It seems as though Peter, Susan, and Lucy instinctively know who to trust when they enter Narnia–and know which side is the right side. Edmund, on the other hand, is a skeptic–and when he does trust, he trusts the wrong side.

When all four children make their way into Narnia and discover that the faun’s home has been destroyed, they encounter a bird that appears to want to lead them. The children follow the bird, fearing nothing until Edmund whispers a word of caution to Peter.

“…Have you realized what we’re doing?”

“What?” said Peter, lowering his voice to a whisper.

“We’re following a guide we know nothing about. How do we know which side that bird is on? Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?”

The robin, of course, leads the children to the beaver, who all the children initially distrust, but eventually warm up to. All but Edmund are quickly convinced that the beaver is a good guy. And they end up being right. Mr. Beaver is a good guy. The witch was a bad guy. Lucy and Susan and Peter were right. Edmund was wrong.

But this assessment, this black and white view in which Edmund is wrong and the others are right, breaks down when we consider the faun.

Lucy trusted Tumnus implicitly, visiting him in his house after just meeting him in the woods. She trusted that he was a good guy. And he was a good guy, right?

Not actually. He was a bad guy. He was in the employ of the witch. He was a kidnapper. He was the gentleman with candy inviting Lucy into his car, just as much as the witch was the lady with candy inviting Edmund into her sleigh. He couldn’t be trusted, shouldn’t have been trusted.

Lucy was only saved because the faun’s conscience, smote by his grandfather’s picture, got a hold of him and forced him to confess his crime and repent. His repentance turned out to be total–a fact that is confirmed by his letting Lucy go a second time despite the threat of imprisonment.

Yet the point remains–Tumnus was not all good, and should not have been trusted, at least at first.

And what of the witch? How could Edmund have known that she was wicked? In truth, how was Edmund’s response to her different than Lucy’s response to Tumnus? It wasn’t. Lucy entered Narnia, met someone she knew nothing about, at his food, and enjoyed the comfort he offered. She believed every word he said. Edmund did the same.

One situation turned out badly, one turned out well enough. What was the difference between the two?

Really, I’m inclined to think that the difference was sheer luck. Lucy trusted someone who intended evil towards her but repented before he carried out his evil scheme. Edmund trusted someone who intended evil towards him and who never repented of her evil plan. The rest of the children trusted the beaver–who just happened to be good.

None of these situations can be taken as a positive example of discovering whether someone or something is trustworthy.

That’s not to say, of course, that Lewis does not offer suggestions on how to determine who or what to trust. In fact, Lewis includes a little scholarly lesson on just that under disguise as the professor.

Peter and Susan go to the Professor, concerned about their sister’s preposterous tale of having entered another world.

“How do you know,” he asked, “that your sister’s story is not true?”

“Oh, but–…but Edmund said they had only been pretending.”

“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance…does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?”

“Madness, you mean?” said the Professor quite coolly. “Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad.”

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

Lewis offers three interconnected means of determining trustworthiness of a character or statement: Character, Evidence, and Logic. First, he asks what one knows of the character of the speaker–is Edmund or Lucy generally more likely to be truthful? Second, one must evaluate the evidence for or against each option–is Lucy likely to be mad? Finally, one must evaluate the evidence logically–There are only three possible explanations and having ruled out two, they must assume that the third is correct. Of course, the Professor includes another caveat “unless any further evidence turns up.” It is wise, the Professor says, to delay making conclusions and to continue to evaluate the evidence even after drawing conclusions.

This last bit of wisdom, of course, is perhaps the most useful for the Penvesies in evaluating the beings they meet in Narnia. Having no knowledge of the creatures’ characters and little information regarding how that world worked, they could have done with a bit more caution. They could have reserved judgment, not made a decision to trust until they had more evidence. That much is true of them all. Edmund, especially, could also have been more open to evaluating new evidence as it “turned up” (take, for example, how the “Queen” destroyed Tumnus’s house.)

Really, though, all four children made their decisions of what people and what information to trust based on their guts. True–Lucy, Peter, and Susan escaped virtually unscathed–but all of them could have done with a bit more logic, practically applied.

Unsatisfactory Satisfaction (Part 2)

July 7th, 2010

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 5: Satisfaction for Sin

If you haven’t read the first part yet, I recommend that you take a look. This post is a direct continuation of the previous.

2. The cross satisfied the law

This view is also suggested in the Witch’s conversation with Aslan:

“‘Fool,’ said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, ‘do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.'”
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Sin is violation of the law–and to fail to punish it would be to fail to satisfy the law. Stott gives a human example of this in the law that had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. Even though King Darius really didn’t want to throw Daniel into the den, he had no choice but to do it. Even he was not above the law he had created.

This view has some utility and some Scriptural support. The Bible makes clear that the wages of sin are death. That price had to be paid. Sin has a curse associated with it. Jesus bore that curse.

Yet this view fails in that it subjects God to the law, as though God were “caught in a technical legal muddle.” Stott quotes R.W. Dale in saying that “God’s connection with the law is ‘not a relation of subjection but of identity….In God the law is alive; it reigns on his throe, sways his sceptre, is crowned with his glory.’ For the law is the expression of his own moral being, and his moral being is always self-consistent.”

3. The cross satisfied God’s honour and justice.

This view is likely to hold great appeal to Piper fans. It suggests that our sin is a dishonoring of God’s name, taking away the honor that is due Him, and that “God upholds nothing more justly than he doth the honour of his own dignity.”

Quoting Anselm (an early proponent of this view):

“Man the sinner owes to God, on account of sin, what he cannot repay, and unless he repays it he cannot be saved….There is no one who can make this satisfaction except God himself…But no one ought to make it except man; otherwise man does not make satisfaction….It is necessary that one who is God-man should make it.”
~from The Cross of Christ

C.S. Lewis takes a similar tack to explain the necessity of the Incarnation in Mere Christianity.

The reformers took on this view and the former, claiming that Christ’s death provided a double satisfaction: of God’s law and of God’s justice.

Again, this view has utility and Biblical support–but it has the same flaw as the second view. It suggests that somehow God is subservient to justice.

While the first view (discussed yesterday) was mostly wrong, these two views are mostly right. Yet none of the models that have been mentioned so far are satisfactory to Stott (or to me as Stott leads me along.) They’re missing something, some vital element.

What is satisfied at the cross if not the devil?
What is satisfied at the cross if not the law?
What is satisfied at the cross if not God’s honor and justice?

I’m getting long again, so this chapter will spill into another day. I promise you, though–only ONE more day! :-)

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)

Unsatisfactory satisfaction (Part 1)

July 6th, 2010

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 5: Satisfaction for Sin

Satisfaction is a frankly theological term–and one it is hard to come to grips with. Stott writes:

“How, people ask, can we possibly believe that God needed some kind of ‘satisfaction’ before he was prepared to forgive, and that Jesus Christ provided it by enduring as our ‘substitute’ the punishment we sinners deserved? Are not such notions unworthy of the God of the biblical revelation, a hangover from primitive superstitions, indeed frankly immoral?”
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Merriam-Webster’s entry for satisfaction gives me little satisfaction.

Satisfaction
1 a : the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sin b : reparation for sin that meets the demands of divine justice
2 a : fulfillment of a need or want b : the quality or state of being satisfied : contentment c : a source or means of enjoyment : gratification
3 a : compensation for a loss or injury : atonement, restitution b : the discharge of a legal obligation or claim c : vindication
4 : convinced assurance or certainty

Okay, so it mentions a theological meaning–but still, this seems difficult. Who’s doing the satisfying? Who or what is being satisfied? This definition doesn’t really cut it.

Stott describes four historical and contemporary views on satisfaction.

1. The cross satisfied the devil’s demands

This view suggests that humans, having sold themselves into slavery to the devil, are satan’s property, and can only be ransomed (bought back) if the devil’s conditions are met. I find a bit of this view in C.S. Lewis’ description of Aslan’s conversation with the White Witch regarding Edmund:

“‘Tell you?’ said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. ‘…You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and the for every treachery I have a right to a kill.’

‘And so,’ continued the witch, ‘that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.’

‘Come and take it then,’ said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.

‘Fool,’ said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, ‘do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.’

‘It is very true,’ said Aslan, ‘I do not deny it.'”
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Here the Witch (the devil) stakes her claim on the lives of all traitors (sinners). Aslan (God) does not deny it. Instead, he dies in the traitor’s place to satisfy the witch’s demand for blood while satisfying his own love for Edmund the traitor.

There is certainly appeal to this view. It lets the devil be the “bad guy”, the one responsible for the particularly grotesque display that is the cross.

Yet there is a profound problem with this view as well. It gives the devil too much power. It gives him power over even God Himself. It makes God subject to satan’s demands.

No, the satisfaction obtained at the cross was not a satisfaction of the devil’s demands.

Since I’m getting a bit long-winded here and still have three more views to discuss, I’ll be stretching this chapter into a couple of posts. Check back tomorrow for the rest.

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge
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