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Trade Paperback
208 pages
Nov 2005
Warner Faith

The World According to Narnia: Christian Meaning in C. S. Lewis's Beloved Chronicles

by Jonathan Rogers

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Reality You Could Not Have Guessed
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


"Reality," wrote C. S. Lewis, "is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed." When Lucy comes back out of the wardrobe after her first couple of visits to Narnia, Peter and Susan disbelieve her story because it's not something they would have guessed. For Professor Kirke, the very unlikelihood of her story is one of the reasons he believes it. If she were making it up, wouldn't she have made up something more plausible? If she were going to pretend to have been in another world for several hours, wouldn't she have hidden in the wardrobe for more than a minute? Surely no one so young could have invented the idea of a world where time runs differently from time on earth.

"But do you really mean, Sir," asks Peter, "that there could be other worlds-all over the place, just round the corner-like that?"

"Nothing is more probable," answers the professor. He speaks for that other professor, Professor Lewis. Indeed, he speaks for all mere Christians. For the most fundamental tenet of the faith is that there is another world (if you can call it that) just around the corner. A chief concern of the Christian faith is how to get from this world to that one. And the means by which we get from here to there are not what you would have guessed.

In the Chronicles of Narnia, we see a fictional outworking of a thought experiment from the second chapter of Lewis's book Miracles. What if, outside the vast system we call Nature (we might also call it the Universe) there existed other Natures? Each of these Natures would be as self-contained as ours; parts would be interlocked in spacetime relationships and causal relationships, but they would have no such relationships with any part of this universe. Which is to say, under normal circumstances, no amount of travel could get you to one of those other Natures, and no action within this Nature could produce a reaction in one of those Natures. "This does not mean that there would be absolutely no relation between [different Natures]," says Lewis; "they would be related by their common derivation from a single Supernatural source. They would, in this respect, be like different stories by a single author." The true connection between any two Natures exists in the mind of the Maker, to borrow a phrase from Dorothy Sayers.

Now, if two such Natures ever did come into contact somehow, each would be supernatural to the other; Lucy is no less supernatural to Tumnus than Tumnus is to her. "But the fact of their contact would be supernatural in a more absolute sense," Lewis continues-"not as being beyond this or that Nature, but beyond any and every Nature." Whether or not Lewis believed in the existence of other Natures, he did believe in the existence of a transcendent Supernature. To step through the wardrobe is not only to see Narnia, but to get a glimpse of the mind of the Maker, which exists beyond this and all other worlds, and out of which they all derive.

In Peter Pan, Neverland is the geography of the Darling children's inner world. When Mrs. Darling peeks into her children's minds, she finds maps of Neverland. Before Peter Pan climbs in the nursery window, he already exists in the Darlings' imaginations. Narnia and the Pevensie children's relationship to it are another matter altogether. The Pevensies may enjoy rich imaginative lives, but their imaginations do not give rise to Narnia any more than they give rise to London or Professor Kirke 's house. They explore, they play hide-and-seek, they climb trees and swim and lie in the heather. But we never hear of them playing make-believe. Lewis is careful from the start not to leave the possibility that Narnia is a figment of anybody's imagination. As peculiar as it seems, the world on one side of the wardrobe is as real as the world on the other. "We take reality as it comes to us," Lewis writes: "there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we should have expected it to be like."

As if to underscore Narnia's reality, Lewis lovingly renders Tumnus's cave as a place of snug hominess. Except for the fact that he 's a faun, Tumnus might be an English householder. He sits Lucy down in front of a cozy fire and serves her just the sort of tea she might get at home. The stories he tells of Narnia-of nymphs and dryads and summer dances, of red dwarfs and treasure hunts, of the feasts of Bacchus and Silenus-are fantastic to be sure, but the familiar domesticity of his little cave is the overruling impression of Lucy's first visit.

It is Lucy, in fact, who seems the figure of myth in this scene. She is the supernatural being who is intruding on the everyday life of the faun. Tumnus was merely going about his business. And if Tumnus isn't what Lucy expected to find when she stepped through the wardrobe in the spare room, Lucy surely isn't what Tumnus was expecting to find while walking home with an armload of parcels. A book on Tumnus's shelf asks Is Man a Myth?

The answer sits in his living room drinking his tea. For Tumnus, Lucy is much more than a little girl who has blundered into his forest. She is the "Daughter of Eve from the land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe." He doesn't have it quite right, of course, but he does understand that she is a central figure in the mythology of Narnia.

But for all the hominess of Tumnus's cave, Narnia is enemy-occupied territory. The usurping White Witch rules in Narnia, and hers is a tyrannical rule. She has made it always winter. She is the spirit of death settled over the land. Death-white herself, she has managed to stop the life-giving cycle of the seasons whereby life springs forth from winter's pall. She has managed even to take away Christmas, that one spark of life and joy in the middle of the year's dead time. By banishing joy from the realm, she hopes to cut down all signposts leading back to her great enemy, Aslan. The least sign of joy represents a weakening of her power. Misery is the White Witch's only happiness. It's the only sign that she is still in charge.

The overthrow of the White Witch begins in Tumnus's cave, when Tumnus tearfully admits that he is the witch's agent, a hired kidnapper. Tumnus is one of those rare figures who repents of his sins before he ever realizes he has the need. His act of common decency, refusing to harm a girl who has never done him any harm, is the story's first act of rebellion against the White Witch. He lets Lucy go in the full knowledge that he may be tortured or turned to stone. This act of self-sacrifice is a faint echo of Aslan's greater sacrifice, on which the whole story hinges. By a simple but very difficult act of love, Tumnus keeps alive the hope that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve will sit on the four thrones at Cair Paravel.

When Edmund comes through the wardrobe and discovers that Lucy's "imaginary country" isn't imaginary after all, he doesn't have the good fortune of finding a friendly Narnian. He finds-or is found by-the White Witch. The White Witch knows the old lore of Narnia as well as anyone does; she certainly knows what it means to have a Son of Adam in her dominion. "This may wreck all," she mutters to herself. But she is crafty, and she is determined not to lose her grip on Narnia.

At first, Edmund is so terrified of the witch that he can't even move. Even when the White Witch drops her menacing manner and invites him into her sled with mock solicitude, Edmund obeys her out of fear, not out of any hope of real warmth or comfort underneath her mantle.

But Edmund is a boy of appetites, and it is through his belly that the witch wins him to her side. The White Witch's rule over Narnia has been defined by the removal or destruction of whatever joys and pleasures she can remove or destroy. So when she offers Edmund the seemingly simple pleasure of a hot drink on a winter's day, it is with the intention of taking all other pleasures away from him. From the time he drinks the witch's potion and eats her Turkish Delight, Edmund loses every defense that might have protected him from her. Giving himself over to his animal appetites, he becomes something less than human.

Greed and gluttony overcome all the better tendencies in Edmund, including his table manners. But the witch, who was at first very stern when Edmund didn't treat her with the courtly manners due a queen, is no longer bothered by his egregious breaches of courtesy. She is greedy, too, and she loves power more than she loves her own dignity.

Soon Edmund is so busy shoveling Turkish Delight into his mouth that it doesn't occur to him to wonder why the witch should be so interested in his brothers and sisters. The more he eats, the more he wants to eat of the enchanted confection. The hook is set. A few minutes earlier, Edmund had been terrified at the thought of being carried off on the witch's sledge. Now he begs the White Witch to carry him to her house, in hopes of getting more Turkish Delight.

The White Witch's feigned kindness has shaded over into outlandish flattery and false promises. In his singleminded greed for more Turkish Delight, Edmund has grown so foolish that the White Witch need not exercise any particular subtlety anymore. It doesn't strike Edmund as strange that she would consider this sticky, red-faced, swinishly greedy boy the "cleverest and most handsome young man I've ever met." It begins to make perfect sense to Edmund that this magnificent queen should want to adopt him as a prince and later make him king of Narnia. His sense of superiority seems to grow, in fact, the deeper he sinks into swinishness. When the White Witch asks to be introduced to Edmund's brothers and sisters in order to make them courtiers in Edmund's court, Edmund's answer is telling: "There 's nothing special about them." What began as a simple sin of appetite quickly begins to express itself in other, more spiritual sins.

By the time he is reunited with Lucy, Edmund is already feeling a little sick from the Turkish Delight. When he hears from his sister that the queen is really a witch, he feels even more uncomfortable. It's worth noting that Edmund does not doubt that Lucy is telling the truth about the woman he calls "the queen." Later he will pretend to doubt, of course, and the witch, by warning him about the unreliability of fauns, has given him the raw material from which to build a lie. But there in the forest, with the first wave of nausea from the Turkish Delight coming on him, Edmund knows the truth about his patron and benefactress. Nevertheless, "he still wanted to taste that Turkish Delight again more than he wanted anything else."

Back on this side of the wardrobe, it becomes apparent that Edmund is not just a glutton and a fool, but a traitor also. The narrator describes Edmund's betrayal of Lucy as "one of the nastiest things in the story." It certainly is. Lucy believes she will be vindicated at last. It never occurs to her that her brother might lie-or even have reason to lie-about their adventure. But Edmund's generalized bad temper has crystallized into premeditated spite. When he denies having been to Narnia, he breaks Lucy's heart. Like his mistress, the White Witch, Edmund takes pleasure in taking good and innocent pleasures away from others. The witch's hold on him reaches across worlds all the way to England.

When all four Pevensies make it into Narnia at last, Edmund is exposed for a liar and a traitor. It's one of many chances he has to admit his guilt and be restored to his brother and sisters. Instead, he convinces himself that he is more sinned against than sinning. "I'll pay you all out for this, you pack of stuck-up, self-satisfied prigs," he mutters- as if the others had wronged him and not the other way around.

In spite of the cold, in spite of the fact that they have no food, the Pevensies decide to stay in Narnia in hopes of helping Tumnus. Lucy feels responsible for the faun's troubles with the White Witch. The children do not realize that it was Edmund, not Lucy, who betrayed Tumnus to the witch. And yet it is Edmund who votes against trying to help: "A lot we could do," he says, "when we haven't got anything to eat!" Edmund's appetite is still keeping him from doing the right thing.

Not knowing how else to start, the children follow a robin who seems to understand human speech and seems eager to help. Robins, as Peter points out, are always good birds in the stories he has read. This is the first instance of a theme that recurs throughout the Chronicles: the children know what to do because they have read the right imaginative stories.

Edmund isn't so sure the robin means them well-or at least he claims not to be sure. He frames his reluctance as a philosophical question: how do we know what we know? The faun said the queen was bad (Edmund still insists on calling her a "queen" rather than a "witch"). But who is to say the fauns are on the right side? It's not necessarily a bad question to ask. But coming from a boy who has met the White Witch, who has experienced her wickedness firsthand, the question is mere sophistry. It is his desire for Turkish Delight, not his desire for truth or caution, that motivates Edmund. Having raised the doubt in his brother's and sisters' minds, he doesn't seek out any resolution. Instead, he immediately changes the subject from doubt to fear: "Has anyone the least idea of the way home from here?" and from fear, Edmund moves immediately to his new favorite topic, his stomach. "And no chance of dinner either." He may talk of philosophical dilemmas, but in the end, this is all about Edmund's appetite.

The Beavers' house is another sanctuary of warm domesticity in the icy world that is Narnia under the White Witch. Here the old ways of honor and hospitality and simple pleasures survive in spite of the witch's efforts. Mr. Beaver is the first person to utter the name Aslan. In the hopeful, conspiratorial tones of a resistance fighter, he whispers, "They say Aslan is on the move-perhaps has already landed." Though none of the Pevensies know who Aslan is, they know this is a name of "enormous meaning." But it's not the same meaning for all of them. For Edmund, who has already sided with Aslan's enemies, the name evokes "mysterious horror." Edmund doesn't know it yet, but Aslan means the death of everything he has come to value. Neither does he know, however, that the death of his old self means freedom to a new life.

For the other three Pevensies, the name of Aslan sounds like life in its fullness, not death: "Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer." Strength, beauty, gladness-the approaching Aslan brings abundant life to those who rejoice to see him coming.

The Narnians cannot deliver themselves from the White Witch. Their only hope is Aslan, and Aslan is on the move. Not surprisingly, it is Edmund who wonders if the White Witch can turn Aslan into stone. Mr. Beaver laughs at the na?vet? of the question: "The White Witch won't be able to look Aslan in the face, much less turn him to stone." The conflict between Aslan and the White Witch isn't a dualistic conflict between "two equal and independent powers." Aslan is the source and origin of all that there is. It is in Aslan that all things, including the White Witch, "live and move and have [their] being" (Acts 17:28 NIV). She may seem invincible from the Narnians' perspective, but she has no real hope of overpowering Aslan. Twisted and perverse as she is, everything she has twisted and perverted is something she owes to Aslan. Lewis's description of Satan's rebellion against God applies equally to the White Witch's rebellion against Aslan: "It is like the scent of a flower trying to destroy the flower."

Susan is always cautious, and when she learns that Aslan is a lion, she is understandably hesitant. "Is heó quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion." Aslan, of course, isn't safe, and anyone who doesn't experience fear in his presence is "either braver than most or else just silly." Aslan is not a tame lion, as Mr. Beaver says later in the story. But a tame lion isn't what the Narnians or the Pevensies want or need. Aslan isn't safe, but he 's good. He invades Narnia with a terrifying, wild, and powerful goodness. He is somehow perfectly selfconsistent and yet altogether unpredictable. Aslan's unpredictability- his ability to love in ways that nobody could have guessed-will soon save the rebellious Edmund and all of Narnia.

In Miracles Lewis writes, "The slaves of the senses, after the first bait, are starved by their masters."7 This truth is obvious enough to Edmund after he has trekked all the way to the White Witch's house and gotten only bread and water for his troubles. But he begins starving well before he gets to the witch's house. The memory of the Turkish Delight makes it impossible for him to enjoy the solid pleasures of the Beavers' meal. He can't enjoy the conversation either, convinced as he is that the others are snubbing him. The truth is, he can't enjoy anything anymore. He's an addict; he can think of nothing but his next fix of Turkish Delight. As the demon Screwtape says, "An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula."

One of the surprising things about Edmund's journey is how much hardship he is willing to endure in order to damn himself. Virtue may be hard, but in this case it takes a perverse kind of self-discipline for Edmund to stay on the path of destruction. In the middle of a snowstorm, without a coat, he presses on instead of going back to the warmth and safety of the Beavers' house. He keeps himself going by mind games mostly. He imagines the improvements he will make to Narnia's infrastructure when he becomes king. He tells himself, in spite of his better judgment, that the witch has been good to him and is probably the rightful queen of Narnia anyway. He warms himself by stoking a growing hatred of Peter.

Arriving at the White Witch's house, Edmund feels the terror of the place. But he keeps going, telling himself it's too late to turn back now. His redoubled terror at the sight of the lion in the witch's courtyard is Edmund's last restraining impulse before he hands himself over to ruin. The stone lion reminds Edmund of whom he is really sinning against when he throws in his lot with the White Witch. But he doesn't avail himself of this last chance to turn back. When Edmund realizes that the lion is stone rather than flesh, he mistakes his relief for bravery. He bucks up his courage by telling himself that the statue is probably Aslan himself, defeated by the White Witch and her petrifying wand. "Pooh!" he says. "Who's afraid of Aslan?" What began as simple gluttony has now become blasphemy. Edmund pencils in a mustache and spectacles on the stone lion and jeers in its face: "Yah! Silly old Aslan! How do you like being a stone? You thought yourself mighty fine, didn't you?" And with that, Edmund steps the rest of the way into the White Witch's trap.

As that expert tempter Screwtape tells his nephew Wormwood, "The creatures are always accusing one another of wanting 'to eat the cake and have it'; but thanks to our labors, they are more often in the predicament of paying for the cake and not eating it." Edmund has paid dearly for another bite of Turkish Delight. He has paid with his soul. But he won't be getting any more Turkish Delight from the White Witch. She is in the business of destroying pleasures, not handing them out. Now that she has Edmund in her clutches, she withholds even her false kindnesses and her empty promises. She wouldn't even give Edmund so much as bread and water if she didn't need to keep him alive a little while longer.

Edmund may be in a trap, but Aslan is on the move. Kept out of Narnia for a hundred years, Father Christmas comes again to spread the merriment that the White Witch had banished. The witch manages to end the "gluttony, waste, and self-indulgence" of one Christmas party, but it is clear that she is fighting a losing battle. Her grip on Narnia is slipping. The winter, too, is losing its grip. New spring life is bursting out all over. The silence of the snowbound countryside gives way to the splash and bubble of moving water and the happy chirp of birdsong. The pallor of winter dissolves into the verdure and brightness of spring. "This is no thaw," says the witch's dwarf. "This is Spring . . . this is Aslan's doing."

"People who have never been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time." It is a hard idea to get one 's mind around. But throughout the Chronicles of Narnia, when people come face-to-face with Aslan for the first time, they typically feel simultaneous joy and fear. It is worth noting that until recently awesome and awful meant the same thing. The old hymn says, "How sweet and awful is the place / With Christ within the doors." In the King James Version, the psalmist offers up praise that seems jarring to modern ears: "How terrible art thou in thy works!" (66:3). Solomon meant it when he said "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7).

When the Pevensies and the Beavers first see Aslan, they don't know what to do or say. The very sight of him is overwhelming. At last Peter steps forward to offer his services to the One who surely needs no help. The Pevensies have come to play their part in a drama they do not yet understand. But one of them is missing. It will take two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve to fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel and end the reign of the White Witch. Edmund's treachery has jeopardized the future happiness of all Narnia. In Aslan Lucy sees One who can help what seems an impossible situation. "Please, Aslan," she asks, "can anything be done to save Edmund?" "All shall be done," Aslan answers. "But it may be harder than you think." Alongside the strength and peace on the Great Lion's face, Lucy thinks she sees a flash of sadness.

Edmund's physical rescue from the White Witch is achieved easily enough. But the White Witch has a claim on Edmund that is much stronger than the ropes by which she had bound him. Edmund is a traitor. And the Deep Magic-the very magic that holds Narnia together-requires that every traitor be handed over to the White Witch. She is, as Mr. Beaver puts it, "the Emperor's hangman." The Deep Magic is the Moral Law. It goes deeper than the statutes and legislation of a creaturely code of law, though all good laws derive from it. Its inexorable penalties do not ultimately depend on any creature for their enforcement. "There is nothing indulgent about the law," Lewis argues in Mere Christianity. "It is hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing, and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do." The Deep Magic is a good thing, established by Aslan's father, the Emperor, not by the witch. She is working the system, so to speak, to her own advantage, but it is not her system any more than Narnia is her country.

The White Witch has Edmund dead to rights, and it appears there is little Aslan can do about it. Though Aslan has strength enough to enforce his will on the White Witch, he cannot work against the Deep Magic. He cannot deny the truth of the White Witch's claim: "Unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water." The laws are Aslan's laws and his father's. He has bound himself to them.

Aslan has a plan to snatch victory out of what appears to be certain defeat. And it is not what anyone-least of all the White Witch-would have guessed. Without blood there is no remission of sins. The White Witch is entitled to blood for Edmund's crimes, and blood she will have. She will have Aslan's. The Deep Magic will be fulfilled.

When Aslan first strides up to the Stone Table where the sacrifice is to be made, the White Witch and all her horrible mob of followers are struck with fear. This is still Aslan, after all, and he can spring upon his enemies and destroy them all anytime he wants. But he doesn't. He submits himself to their jeering abuse. The White Witch, no doubt, is amazed at the success of her plan. She had hoped only to prevent the four thrones at Cair Paravel from being filled. Now she will see her invincible enemy dead. She can kill the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve at her leisure.

"The fool has come," the witch crows. In his generosity, in his eagerness to save Edmund, the Lion appears to have made a grave strategic error. This sort of selfsacrifice must appear to be the very height of foolishness to those who know nothing of love. "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Cor. 1:18). It never occurs to the witch that she is the one who has walked into a trap.

The hags who bind Aslan shriek with triumph (and relief ) when the Great Lion makes no resistance. The more the Great Lion submits, the more his enemies convince themselves that they have somehow defeated him. This is the same Lion who terrifies even his friends. A single roar would lay the whole mob flat. Yet, "like a lamb that is led to slaughter, / And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, / So He did not open his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). It is not the cords that keep Aslan on the Stone Table. It is not the muzzle that keeps him from swallowing his enemies whole. It is his terrible love. His humiliations are all part of the plan. And the witch's mob still hasn't guessed it. Before she kills the Lion, the witch cannot help gloating: "And now who has won?" That question will be answered soon enough.

As Lewis argues in Miracles, one combatant's masterstroke may be "the very means by which the superior combatant defeats him. Every good general, every good chess-player, takes what is precisely the strong point of his opponent's plan and makes it the pivot of his own plan." Death is the White Witch's weapon of choice. Surely the death of Aslan would mean irreversible victory. But after Aslan's death, the pivot turns and the White Witch's plan comes thundering down around her.

The Stone Table cracks. The Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time has been fulfilled. It has been superseded by a Deeper Magic. The White Witch could see back only as far as Narnia's creation. But before that, when there were only stillness and darkness, there was the Deeper Magic from which the Deep Magic-the Moral Law- grew. Within that Deeper Magic is another incantation, one the witch had no way of knowing: "When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." Aslan has come to bring new life to Narnia. He has come bearing springtime. Now death will be overturned in earnest.

When Edmund ran afoul of the Deep Magic, he let himself into a vicious circle from which he had no way of escape. Lewis summarizes the dilemma that every sinner, Edmund included, faces: "Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly." Putting it another way, he writes, "But the same badness which makes us need [repentance] makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us?" The help Aslan offers to Edmund is to break into his vicious circle and serve as what Lewis called the "perfect penitent."

For Edmund to die for his own sins is only to bring the balance back up to zero. When a perfect substitute-one with no sins of his own to die for-dies for the sins of another, it changes the whole economy. The Deeper Magic of love and self-sacrifice reverses the death that had been the wages of sin. " 'Tis mystery all." The death and resurrection of Aslan don't fully explain the Christian doctrine of the atonement, in large part because Lewis never claimed to understand the mechanics of the atonement himself. But it does give us a stirring picture of what it means that the atonement does work. The awe of coming face-to-face with the terrible beauty of Aslan gives way to the even deeper awe that such a being would subject himself to such humiliation for the sake of one who has openly rebelled against him. Even the angels long to look into such things.

Death works backward after Aslan's resurrection. Aslan opens Narnia not just to new life, but to abundant life of joy and honest pleasures. One of Aslan's first acts after coming back to life is a game of chase with Susan and Lucy; "and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind." When Aslan invades the White Witch's house, the stone-cold whiteness of the place yields to the colors and textures and movement of Nature 's bounty: "glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds. . . . And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter."

Aslan's happy army finishes off the enemy in short order, rescuing Peter and Edmund and their small band of fighters. Freed from the witch's clutches, Edmund fights as fiercely and as bravely as anyone. He is his own man again, his old self. He can look his brother and sisters in the face again.

The Pevensies take their place at Cair Paravel. They are the Kings and Queens of Narnia. This is their part in the drama of Narnia. This is what Aslan brought them here to do. But Aslan slips away. "He 'll be coming and going," says Mr. Beaver. "It's quite all right. He 'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He 's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion."

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Or to say it another way, the real things are the things you would have never guessed. "Consider how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life," says Lewis. That is to say, consider where babies come from. It is "a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would have never guessed." Is it any surprise, then, that the new life in Christ is acquired by a process you would have never guessed?

The God who is "terrible in his ways"-the God whose presence in a vision caused the prophet Isaiah to fall out in a dead swoon-is the same God who submitted himself to a humiliating death for the love of sinners like us. The Immortal died. The King of Heaven and Earth became poor for our sakes. The Lion of Judah sat as silent as a sheep before his shearers.

No, there 's nothing predictable-or safe, for that matter- about the God of the Bible. But God is good. And in the end, omnipotence turns out to be the same thing as infinite love. Who would have guessed it?

Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Rogers