There is no land called Narnia

I was shocked, in rereading The Silver Chair for this year’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge, to realize how much I’d forgotten from this book. It’s never been one of my favorite of the series, but I’ve still read it at least a dozen times. So why had I forgotten so much?

One scene, though, that I could not at all forget, is the scene where the Lady of the Green Kirtle aka the Queen of the Underworld returns to her throne room to find Prince Rillian free from his chair and in his right mind.

She throws some powder on the fire, filling the room with a sickeningly sweet aroma. She begins thrumming a mandolin with a repetitive, mind-numbing thrum. And at last she speaks:

“Narnia?” she said. “Narnia? I have often heard your Lordship utter that name in your ravings. Dear Prince, you are very sick. There is no land called Narnia.”

The Prince, Puddleglum, Eustace, and Jill all try to counter the sweet smell, the repetitive thrumming, the queen’s patronizing derision. There is a Narnia, they say. They’ve been there. But the queen’s questioning makes clear she thinks it all a childish game, a dream. Since they describe Narnia in terms of what she knows, in terms of the Underworld, she presumes that they are only looking at her world and dreaming of something bigger and better.

Eventually, between the mind-fogging effects of the music and the odor and the scorn of the woman, all the travelers begin to relent.

“No, there never was a sun,” said the Prince, and the Marshwiggle, and the children.

In this scene, Lewis has the witch play the role of the Enlightenment scholar, who declares no need for god now that reason is king. Once upon a time, people needed to create myths of gods to explain their world – but now that we have science to explain, we need no God.

And here Lewis makes one of his most compelling arguments for the existence of God: joy. And the seemingly joyless Marshwiggle is the one to make it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said… “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder….So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones….And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

You see, science might be able to explain a lot about how this world works – but it doesn’t explain the unfulfilled longing for joy that rests in each human heart. It doesn’t explain the hunger that every experience in this world serves only to deepen. A purely naturalistic world would ultimately have us all as nihilists – since we are mere pawns of impersonal natural forces.

One must say that, if religion is a story, it is a much better story than the one naturalism tells. And if there is no heaven, at least the tale of heaven goes further to quench our forever longing than does the naturalistic story of death.

If this be a game, it’s a play-world which licks your real world hollow.

As C.S. Lewis said in prose:

“If 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.”

~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So even if there is no Narnia, I shall live like a Narnian.

I choose joy.

WiW: A quest for Joy

The Week in Words

There’s a pang in my heart, a rumbling in my gut, a nagging in my mind.

Something in my soul says this can’t be all there is.

Somewhere deep inside, I have an insatiable, unquenchable thirst.

I’m not sure exactly what it signifies–but one thing is sure.

THIS will not satisfy.

Is this what Lewis spoke of when he talks of his quest for Joy?

“Even when he first experienced Joy as a child, Lewis recognized that the feeling was not mere nostalgia or love of nature. It was a desire, then, for what? Trying to answer that became a kind of personal grail quest for Jack, a quest he would recount first in his highly autobiographical allegory, The Pilgrim’s Regress, and again in his memoir, Surprised by Joy. Both books are organized around the search for Joy, trying and setting aside many false objects of “Sweet Desire,” until one finally comes to rest in humble recognition of the true Object one has been seeking since childhood.”
~David Downing in The Most Reluctant Convert

I can identify with Lewis’s grail, his quest to capture the elusive Joy.

I think we all can.

What was Solomon’s story but a search for Joy? Spending every resource at his disposal, seeking a Joy that none of his resources could give.

Money. Fame. Women. Wisdom. Work.

The same things I try to find meaning and purpose, Joy, in.

“Solomon had the resources to do whatever he wanted, which is exactly what he did. He gorged himself on pleasure and filled himself with wine. He poured himself into great architectural projects and bought hordes of slaves…He had money, sex, power, fame, a big house, and entertainment. He was a test case for human happiness.

If the things of the world could satisfy, then Solomon should have been the happiest man to have ever lived. And yet, after standing at the pinnacle of life and surveying all that he had accomplished and accumulated, he came to one conclusion: ‘All is vanity.’

In reality, we’re not that different from Solomon. We have our vision of what would make us happy, of what would finally give us satisfaction. And so we pursue our dreams…

And you know what? Sometimes dreams come true. We get married, have children, land the new job, buy the new house. But we’re not cured of our madness. One dream replaces another, and the circle of discontentment starts all over.”

~Stephen Altrogge in The Greener Grass Conspiracy

Joy, the elusive fulfillment of my inner longing.

The flavor I taste in a thousand things, but can only satiate in One.

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of Joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
~Psalm 16:11

Don’t forget to take a look at Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”, where bloggers collect quotes they’ve read throughout the week.

WiW: On Christian Occupation

The Week in Words

On what sets Christians apart:

“‘And they’re all so–so happy in their Christianity,’ said Davy.

And I said, ‘Could it be–that happiness–what’s called “Christian joy”, do you think?’

That night I wrote in our journal: ‘The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness….Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity–and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order.'”

~Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

Christians, and Christians alone, have reason to walk in joy. For it is only we who have certainty of God’s favor, certainty of eternal life, certainty of purpose. We are called to rejoice in all things (Philippians 4:4)–and we have reason to do so.

I love the concept of Christian hedonism–and John Piper’s twist on the Westminster catechism’s answer to the question “What is the chief end of man?” Piper suggests that it should be “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”

As Christians, our joy and our occupation are one and the same–the glorification of God. Our task is to glorify Him–and glorifying Him brings us joy.

“Christian joy” is how all other occupations take on their meaning.

On what the world needs:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~Howard Thurman (HT: Semicolon)

The only way to truly come alive is to know Christ Jesus, to be crucified with Him and raised to newness of life through Him. But there is a very real sense in which people who do what energizes them are a blessing to the world, simply because they take pleasure in their work.

The thought reminds me of another quote, this one by Eric Liddell, “I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Just as Christian joy is not an end in and of itself, but a logical outcome of glorifying God, so outreach is not an end in and of itself, but a direct outcome of the Christian’s pleasure in God and awareness of God’s pleasure in him.

What this world needs is fully alive people, walking (or running) in the pleasure of the Lord.

On the virtue of wasting time:

“Drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform.”

~Carl Truman

This article was really quite insightful, talking about the value of rest. It reminded me of I Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And indeed, while the worldly man is given either to workaholism or to sloth, the Christian has reason to rejoice in both diligent work and regular rest.

Whether you’re a beer drinker or not (I’m not–stuff smells too nasty!), there’s a definite aspect in which this is true. Time “wasted” in relaxation and relationships (not in front of the tube) has purpose. God Himself rested, setting a pattern for us to follow. And God designed us to live in relationship with others.

We can glorify God as we run, as we work, as we play, as we relax with a cup/mug/glass of our beverage of choice.

We can do all things for the glory of God. And, as John Piper puts it, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.