The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, April 13, 2013

SCA: The Shattered Church in America

By: Thomas F. Booher

Maybe that should be the overarching name that most identifies conservative churches in America today. The SCA (Shattered Church in America) comprises Christians from various conservative denominations that would consent on paper and proudly affirm the authority of Scripture, the trinity, the full deity and humanity of Christ, and the five solas of the reformation. There may be Arminians and Calvinists and people in between. What they are all united in would be the above affirmations, even if different camps emphasized them and expressed them in slightly different ways. From the Bible belt to the burnt over district, these believers see themselves as the champions of orthodoxy, the heart and soul of American spiritual vitality. 

I think our heart has almost stopped beating. 

We have marketed Christianity. We have made church into a mirror (albeit poor one) of popular culture. We have lost most anything that is distinctly Christian, and we have turned Jesus into a soft, desperate romantic in need of affection. When we have proclaimed the gospel (which isn't often for most), we do so almost apologetically, and we do so without presenting the demands of the gospel- submission to Christ as Lord. 

I don't know what will happen to America. I have grave concerns. I also know that God is sovereign and no matter what happens, He will get glory. I take comfort in that, even if it means discomfort for me and my family. What does upset and concern me is the great number of conservative Christians that seem to be unaware of what is happening. Unaware because they don't really care. They will bend to the will of the government, you see. They haven't wanted persecution in the past when there hardly was any, so now that persecution is increasing, they will be all the quieter. They will be compliant when they tell us we can't speak out against homosexuality, when they say we cannot call abortion murder, when they say we cannot preach the gospel because it is seen as a political tool to incite a riot to buck against their system. 

America is shirking any standard of truth that comes from without, replacing it with a purely subjective standard of truth that comes from within. This will lead to some form of majority rules, of the dictatorship of the spirit of the age. I think some believers have given up and accepted this is the road America is going down. But I do not think we have yet begun to fight. 

 We have a secret weapon. It is stronger than any other. It is the sword of the Spirit. It strikes soul and spirit, not flesh and bone (Heb. 4:12). It kills to give new life, but it does not obliterate the person. It renews them. It is an ancient weapon more powerful than the one ring that rules them all, and it is the only weapon capable of saving man and thus saving America.

It is the gospel. More than the gospel, it is the whole Word of God. More than that, it is a man living full of the Word of God. It is a man full of the Spirit, freshly struck by its sword, who is being cut from all his evil and fears to think, speak, and act contra mundum. It enables one to shine the light of Christ from their entire being, not just what they say they believe on paper which is stuffed away in some filing cabinet anyways. It causes one to glow, to shine like lights of the world, because the Light of the World is shining within them.

How do we acquire that fire? We don't, if you are a true believer, you already have it. We all have the Holy Spirit, but we find ways to take spiritual drugs to douse its conviction on us. We find ways to pour water on the fire in our hearts, thinking it's a bad thing instead of a good thing. We even smother the work of the Spirit by appealing to the gospel, convincing ourselves that if we are saved we shouldn't need to feel bad about sin. After all, it's already forgiven. So what we need is to let the Spirit work, rather than try to snuff it out. My hope is that when persecution is fierce enough, the Spirit will leap in the hearts of men so that they cannot snuff it out. My fear is that many will suppress harder, some to their eternal damnation. 

So how do we pick up the pieces of our shattered churches? It starts with those who read this post, and all those who know what the Bible says. Firstly, we need to pray. If we have been, we need to pray more fervently. But what do we pray for? That God would work a miracle and save this sinking ship? I think we need to pray that God would save like He always saves- through the gospel, which is a miracle, and through men boldly proclaiming the gospel, which is a miracle too. This is how the church grew in the face of opposition near its inception in Acts 4. Peter and those with him have been preaching the gospel boldly, and have been enabled to do so because of the coming of the Spirit at pentecost, and later because they have prayed to God that they would be bold (4:29, 31). We have the Spirit. We don't need to pray for the Spirit. What we should pray for is that we would not resist the Spirit, that we would seek to live in the Spirit, to not cover but increase its convicting in our hearts. We need to go to the Word of God and read it, to hear it preached, and to preach it to ourselves, asking God that He would cut us to the heart again and again with the sharp point of the Sword of the Spirit. This is the only thing that will embolden us to stand pat in the face of opposition, of increasing persecution. 

We not only need to do this for ourselves, but encourage our Christian friends to do likewise. It is not enough to keep this fire in our own hearts. We must seek to spread it to other believers, and to unbelievers through the proclamation of the gospel. The biggest problem I see is that many pastors in conservative Christian churches, in the SCA, are not preaching this. They are not preaching that we should cultivate a love for God by walking and living in the Spirit, likely because they are not preaching to themselves an active cultivation of a love for God by walking and living in the Spirit. If you understand the importance of living in the Spirit, you cannot fail as a pastor to preach it repeatedly, earnestly, passionately, to your congregation. We have feel good sermons from seeker sensitive churches that reflect the world and popular culture, and we have high-browed lecture sermons that tickle ears yet skillfully avoid any blows to the heart. Both are part of the problem, and for those who are reformed like I am we need to confess this and repent, starting with reformed pastors and then their congregations. 

My recovery plan for the churches in America is my recovery plan for the nation of America. The church is taking its cues from the world, but it should be the other way around. Pastors need to start preaching, then believers will start living and preaching to those they come in contact with at work, school, and so on, and then unbelievers will come into the sheep fold. What we don't need is everyone to quit their jobs and start street preaching. That would be helpful for some to do this, but what we really need is for all believers to live as salt and light in their areas of influence now- within their own hearts, within their family life, within their friends, and within the outside world that they regularly see because of their jobs, hobbies, etc. If believers did this faithfully, day in and day out, rather than hide our lights under a bushel, the world would change. Hopefully many would be converted, but if not, at least we would be less represented by the fools on television that masquerade as pastors and representations of God and more by the common, every day Christian who is seeking to live faithfully to Scripture.  

We need to go back and read Matthew 5, and we need to take it to heart. We, myself included, need to repent to God and confess that we have not been living out the beatitudes. I will close with this portion of Matthew 5, and I ask that you the reader would reflect on it and pray that God would convict you through His Spirit to be salt and light to this lost and dying world, even in the face of reviling and persecution. Only then can the shattered church in America be put back together and the lost see a more complete portrait of Christ to glorify:

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Elect According to Foreknowledge

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 1

In his first letter, Peter wrote to certain exiles as those who were elect according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Pet 1:1,2. These exiles are believers scattered in ancient Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Precisely who these saints are is somewhat difficult to answer, that is, is Peter writing to Jewish believers who were interspersed among the Gentiles, or are they believers in general, Jewish and Gentile? Good arguments can be made for both interpretations. What is striking is that Peter uses language that is similar to Paul’s in his letters to Gentiles, e.g., Ephesians. Yet, generally speaking, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, while Peter went to the Jews (Gal 2:7).
Regardless, whoever his readers were, what Peter declared to them is true for all of God’s people, and that declaration is this-- they are elect according to the foreknowledge of God.  Election refers not to a general choice by God to save some, but more precisely, election is God’s choosing certain individuals to salvation and rejecting others. This election, according to Peter, is an election according to God’s foreknowledge.
Theologians who hold that a man’s will is free such that the choice to believe is a choice they make completely on their own without any outside help will oppose any election which makes salvation a certainty. In their mind, this forces salvation upon the elect. There must be, they would argue, a reason that God made his choice to save this one rather than that one, a choice that cannot violate man’s free will. They hold that God does not want people to believe except as willing persons. God will force no one to believe in him, and therefore he grants all the freedom to believe or not believe. If, they argue, God chooses one beforehand, and that choice guarantees his becoming a child of God through faith in Christ, then he did not choose Christ freely; by decree, he is forced to believe. How is that honoring to God, they ask; is he not merely a puppet on strings that does not make his own choice but chooses only that which the puppeteer makes him choose?
Such theologians may appeal to the word foreknowledge as pointing away from that. They interpret foreknowledge to mean that God’s choice to save a sinner is based on something he knows about the sinner; God saw beforehand how the sinner would believe and on that basis, God chose the sinner unto salvation. Essentially, foreknowledge means to foresee.
This view is fraught with difficulty. It restricts God’s choice, not to reasons that are his alone, but to an influence that comes from without. It presents God as reacting to what a human being does. However, do not the scriptures present the opposite picture, that mankind ultimately does what God has determined beforehand to do, Acts 4:27, 28? Do not we love him because he first loved us, 1 John 4:19? Did the disciples choose Jesus, or did Jesus choose them, John 15:16? Paul repeatedly writes in his Ephesian letter that everything God does for the salvation of his people is according to his good pleasure, his purpose, his will, his counsel, his wisdom and prudence, Eph 1:5,8,9,11; 3:11; see also Rom 8:28; 9:11; 2 Tim 1:9. Next Sunday we will look more closely at this word, foreknowledge.

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 2

Last Sunday we noted that some interpret the word foreknowledge as foreseeing. Consider this definition: Foreknowledge is a divine attribute of God, whereby God sees all things in the present tense.[1]

  The shift is away from viewing foreknowledge as an act of God, which (next Sunday) we will see is, in fact, a divine act. To pose incorrectly foreknowledge as an attribute (characteristic) of God, removes from God the making of choices about who will believe and who will not. There is no choice. God just knows who believes because that is the way God is. God mysteriously looks into the future (or bring the future into the present) and observes it.
There are a number of problems with this definition. To say God sees all things in the present tense is to say that for God, all things (past, present, and future) occur simultaneously in the present. This is a contradiction because it amounts to saying something that has not occurred yet is occurring right now, or something that has already occurred is also occurring in the present. Because of this blatant contradiction, the author of this definition probably does not mean it in this way. What is more likely meant is that God sees all things as though they were present, even though they really are not.
But if that is so then we must ask why does God have to see anything as if it were present to know anything about it? If it is necessary for God to see something future as though it were present in order to know it, then the element of discovery has slipped in. We are now saying that it is necessary for God to see the future as present, or otherwise, he would not know what the future holds. God discovers the future by seeing it as though present.
This notion of foreknowledge again equates it with the ability to foresee and has the implicit meaning of becoming aware. To explain this, recall the frenzy of predictions leading up to the U. S. Presidential election prior to November 6, 2012. Experts studied polls, trends, voting history, preferences, and so on, and then gave us their best assessment of how everything they looked at pointed to a win for a particular candidate. In effect, they said, I foresee who is going to win. Their foresight is a discovery based on expert analysis. With respect to God, according to the definition of foreknowledge above, discovery is based simply on God’s ability to peer into what has not yet taken place and see how it plays out.
This essentially disregards God’s omniscience, i.e., God’s ability to know everything fully and comprehensively in and of himself. God does not know all things because he has the uncanny capacity to look into the future and discover, or to look at something as though it is present and become aware. God knows all things because he knows himself – his intentions, purposes, pleasures. God knows who will believe in his Son because he knows whom he has chosen to be his people, and he knows all that he is going to do to bring about their coming to faith and repentance.

The Doctrines of Grace – Elect According to Foreknowledge, Part 3

The New Testament ties election and foreknowledge together: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion...., elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father1 Peter 1:1,2; See also Romans 8:29; 11:2. The Greek word translated foreknowledge is proginosko. It is a combination of ginosko (to know) and pro (before); hence, to know beforehand.
The word ginosko (know) expresses two different types of knowledge. In the first instance it means to discern, understand, or comprehend certain facts through observation and study. But in the second usage it means to have personal, intimate, thorough, first-hand experience. It is the difference, for example, between studying a cookbook and actually preparing a meal. The cookbook informs and gives pieces of information that the mind can analyze and evaluate. The preparation of a meal involves interaction with the cookbook, the raw foods, cookware, utensils, appliances, and the senses of sight, touch, smell, and taste. The cook not only knows (first meaning) what the recipe is, he also experiences (second meaning) something of it in the actual preparation and cooking of the food.
A biblical example of the first meaning is Paul’s description in Romans 1:18-21 that all men know God (ascertain his attributes of power and deity) through the creation. The problem is they suppress that knowledge and do not acknowledge those attributes. An example of the latter meaning is Philippians 3:10 where Paul writes of his desire to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. Here, the knowledge is personal as the words power and fellowship serve to elucidate that the knowledge of Christ is not merely an acknowledgement of certain facts about Christ, but experiencing a vital, personal relationship with him.
Another vivid example of the second meaning (experience) is when a husband and wife know each other sexually, And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, Gen 4:1; See Gen 1:17,25; 1 Sam 1:19.
Knowing something or someone personally is the idea behind foreknowledge; it means that before the creation of the world, God set his love on his people to save them from their sins. God knew, or loved his people from eternity. Out of his own pleasure, and for his own reasons, God loved certain ones and chose them for salvation.
The Old Testament supports this, “the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people.... but because the LORD loves you....the LORD has...redeemed you from the house of bondage, Deut 7:6-8.
God elects those whom he foreknew, that is, he chose those whom he set his love on before he ever created a single thing.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Tulip Driven Life: A Primer on Calvinist Living

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

Hello everyone, this is Thomas F. Booher. For a while I have wanted to write a book on Christian living. I am pleased to announce that I have done so, and I will self publish it as a free e-book on Amazon before the end of summer. Over the next couple months I will be giving more information about the book, including an audio recording where I discuss some of my concerns for reformed preaching and the general lack of holy living of we the reformed. What I hope my book will shed some light on is the desperate need for our Calvinistic theology to be practically applied with intentionality in our everyday lives. The following is an introduction to the book that I have written, where I give a bit of my background and the perspective I am bringing to the table. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you will read my book and be spiritually nourished by it.    

                I grew up in a small Presbyterian church that was part of the PCA (a conservative, reformed Presbyterian denomination). We had maybe fifty people on an average Sunday, and by the time I was sixteen all my church friends my age had moved on. I guess some of them moved away with their families, others graduated college and either moved themselves, changed churches, or left church altogether, not finding it important to their everyday lives. Our church was too small to afford a youth pastor, so our youth group events weren’t all that hip like many of the other churches that were desperately trying to keep their teenagers active in church while they were going through their “rebellious” stage. I went to a Christian school that was affiliated with what was essentially a Baptist church, though they claimed no denomination. This Christian school went from K-5 through high school, and I graduated in 2008. I saw an evolution in my thirteen years there, from having to read the King James Version of the Bible in class to allowing the NKJV, from requiring modesty for the girls to becoming lax with enforcement. I remember the years before we essentially began recruiting basketball players from out of the country to play ball for our school, something that I’m pretty sure wasn’t legal. Then by my junior year they brought in several guys from the public high schools that were from my understanding either kicked out or had some falling out with the school. They weren’t morally outstanding people, but then again neither were most of the kids I went to school with. Many went there because their parents wanted them to, and some behaved like a slightly sanitized version of all the bad imagery that a sheltered homeschooler has of rowdy public schoolers, looking for sex with the hottest person they could manage, getting drunk, even doing drugs.

                I came to believe that the administration at the school must have been willfully ignorant of the increasing immorality of the students (after all many were publicizing their sins on Facebook). They wanted to think the best and present their student body in the best light as possible. When I started school there you had to profess faith in Christ to attend, but by the time I left only one of your parents had to profess faith, and now that may not even by required. The school went from being a Christian school to being a school for anyone (especially if you could play sports) that had chapel and hoped to evangelize the student body. What it did was make the weak-faithed Christian kids worldlier.

                Was my church any better? Yes, in some ways. We didn’t have a youth pastor that segregated us from the rest of the church body to create our own hormonally driven conclave. We didn’t get evangelized every Wednesday night. We didn’t use gimmicks to force people to make a decision for Christ or to rededicate their lives to Christ like my Christian school did ad nauseum. We had some understanding that salvation involved more than saying a prayer and asking Christ into your heart. Beyond that, however, there were little differences. We read from the Bible and learned some stuff, but nothing meaty, nothing distinctively reformed from the youth teachers or the pulpit for the most part.

                Fast forward to my first year after high school graduation. I am at a public university, in part because I had vowed never to attend a Christian college due to all the phoniness, legalism, and washed cleanness of the fundamentalistic colleges like Bob Jones University, Clearwater Christian College, or Liberty University that would opine to us students at select chapel services. I was a Christian, and after going through some personal relationship struggles my junior year, I found repentance afresh and the joy of my salvation. I go to a public university as an English major, minoring in journalism and hoping to become a writer of some sort. I also wanted to find believers to fellowship with while I am in a largely unchristian environment.

The only thing they have is the Baptist Student Union, so I shrug and check it out the first week I am there. I decide I would like to lead a Bible study, or at least get involved with one. I ask the Campus minister about this, and he refers me to a student named Lars who heads up the Bible studies. The first question he asks me is what denominational background I have. When I tell him PCA, he lightens up a bit and then says, “Oh, I like Presbyterians. So, you are reformed then?”

Reformed? What did that mean? I knew the word vaguely, somehow connected to my Presbyterian church, somehow connected to things my Dad would say from his days in seminary at Westminster in Philadelphia.

“…Yes… yes I am,” I responded, no doubt sounding as if I doubted my own assertion. Either he didn’t notice my doubt or pretended not too, because he continued on with how the Bible studies went. Long story short, they did Bible studies in pairs, and they needed a pair for one guy, who was also reformed, whatever that meant. In fact, it turns out that all the Bible study leaders were reformed, either reformed Baptists or Presbyterians.

                As I talked with Lars I realized he was a solid guy, and somehow the conversation turned toward Christian music. I already hated most contemporary Christian music, particularly DC Talk and Toby Mac. Their song “Jesus Freak” bugged me to no end. I thought the message was wrong, the lyrics were shallow, and they, like most Christian music artists, had little talent. Lars felt the same way about much contemporary Christian music. This excited me since virtually all my Christian friends from school lapped up this kind of music like chocolate ice cream. Then Lars said something that would change my life forever:

                “You know, you would like a pastor named Paul Washer. You should check him out.”

                For those of you who know Paul Washer, I can tell you I heard his shocking youth message, and you will know the rest of the story. Everything he said condemned all that I hated from the Christian school I attended. The flu shot evangelism they practiced on us, the pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, free will theology, the smug haughtiness covered with feigned humility. But what convicted me personally was Washer’s presentation of the gospel. It was new. I was saved, and I knew Christ saved me, but the details I had all wrong. My fuzzy mind somehow believed that I could both be saved totally by God’s grace and yet be saved because of my choosing to repent and trust in Christ of my own free will. Washer read from Matthew 7 and showed that a true believer will bear fruit, and that we will bear fruit as believers because it is God working in us that makes us willing to have faith in Christ.

If He didn’t chose me to believe in Him, I never would have.

My world was rocked. I was reduced to tears. My Savior and my Lord loved me from the foundations of the earth, not because of me, but because of His sovereign grace, His redeeming love. He melted my heart of stone. I never would have chosen Him, would have burned in hell forever, if He didn’t choose to pay for my sins on the cross and apply that redemption to me through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit which changed my will and gave me saving faith as a gift (see Eph. 2:8-10).
            I had just become a Calvinist and didn’t even know it.

          I am coming up on my fifth year as a Calvinist, of being a champion of the doctrines of grace, espoused by the famous TULIP acronym- total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. This book isn’t for those unfamiliar with TULIP. This is for those who, like me, were saved from broad evangelicalism that taught a semi-pelagian view of salvation, that taught we could choose Christ by our own willpower, and live for Him by our own willpower and only needed an assist from the Holy Spirit and the example of Christ. This book is for those who know they were dead in trespasses and sins, but God raised to newness of life by His work alone, and not ours. This book is for those who are convinced that the new birth precedes faith, and indeed precipitates faith. This book is especially for those of us who would likely be lumped with the young, restless, and reformed resurgence of Calvinism, who are in their 20’s and 30’s, and likely weren’t born into a reformed family. This book is for those who want to live their newfound faith out loud, with deep roots despite the theological differences even amongst us Calvinists. It is time we apply our Calvinism consistently to our everyday lives and grow into mature reformers.  If that is your desire, this book is for you.     

Monday, April 8, 2013

Christ Figures and Aslan

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

This post first appeared here.

In response to my article On Fantasy Christ Figures, I was asked what I thought about Aslan, the great Lion in C S Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series. It is a good question. In answer, let me begin by a statement from the original article,

“Everything that Christ did was revelatory of the Father. His body language, facial expressions, speech, choice of words, etc. was all revelatory.”

I believe that postulation to be true. Even as Christ walked amongst us before his resurrection and subsequent session at the right hand of the Father, Christ was The Revelation of God – the final revelation, as Hebrews 1:1,2 implies. His followers, in particular, the Twelve, not only witnessed what he did, but they bore witness to him.

I may observe what one does from a distance, even on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. It could be a co-worker, a celebrity, my pastor, a teacher. In a case like one of these, I may achieve some sense of what the person is like, inwardly, but it would be negligible; I have little intimate understanding of his character. I haven’t seen him close up; I haven’t been witness to how he reacts in a particularly bad, or good, set of circumstances. I am not his close, intimate friend that would permit to witness him under such conditions. Hence, in those situations, I see neither his facial expressions nor body language, nor hear the words that come out of his mouth, nor their inflection and tone, all of which convey information about the person. This information is not merely about what he is capable or incapable of being from a purely physical or intellectual perspective. More importantly, it reveals something about the character and heart. Certainly, we cannot know a man as he knows himself, but that man cannot help but reveal something about himself when we see him as he interacts with this world and its situations, and especially as he interacts with us.

That is what Christ did. He did not stand aloof from his disciples. He was in their midst such that John reminded his readers that he (and the other disciples) not only saw him, but they touched him. They witnessed not only what Christ did and what he said to the multitudes, but what he said and did within their little circle. In that intimate circle, Christ, in every aspect of his humanness, revealed the Father to them. He never spoke, facially expressed, postured, or intoned in such a manner that gave a false witness to the Father. Whether he wept or laughed, spoke softly or cried out, touched gently or gripped harshly, ignored or paid the closest of attention, whatever he did, he was revealing something about the Father. And only because it was he who behaved and spoke in that manner was there assurance of no falsehood – Christ was the Truth, the Word, and as such he declared (John 1:18) the Father with complete accuracy. He who saw Christ, saw the Father (John 14:9).

My contention is that if there is one who portrays Christ in our fantasy story, there is the danger that we may make the figure say something or behave in a certain manner, whose bearing may communicate to the reader something about God that is not completely accurate, possibly even blasphemous.

The danger of this happening increases the more the Christ figure coincides in identity with the Christ of the New Testament. Notable examples in film are Ben Hur and Passion of the Christ. In the former, Christ is on the fringe and never seen face to face. In fact, he is quite mute. In the latter, one virtually stands (and sits) next to the Messiah where, to me, his troubled, frustrated countenance appears as moody and depressing as my mean-spirited uncle’s, even at the best of times.

This is where I think there is a difference between Lewis’s Aslan and the Christ figure of some other novels. In stories in which the Christ figure is a human being, we have a figure who is an image-bearer of God and therefore capable of saying something accurately about God. The danger, his image-bearing provides the potential to say something false about God.

Animals were not made in God’s image, and as such, are not able to reflect God’s attributes. They reveal his existence and deity in much the same way all of creation does by its very existence, design, and purpose (Romans 1:20).

I am not contending that because Aslan was an animal, he was incapable of faulty revelation. In our world, a lion does not have the equipment to do so, but in the world of Narnia, the animals themselves take on some of the image-bearing attributes of men. In fact, there is often, if not always, no difference. Because of that, Aslan carries the risk that all Christ-figures bear. On the other hand, the fact that Aslan is animal, the reader is less likely to see in Aslan a parallel identity with Christ. The words that he speaks, his growling that signals anger, or a low purring growl that indicates approval or contentment are not viewed in the same way as the speech and mood of a human figure. Nevertheless, there is still the danger.

I want to digress slightly to address something that is not wholly related to the discussion, but does lead to a point that allows us to draw some conclusions.

The single event in The Chronicles of Narnia that is most tell-tale of Aslan as a Christ figure, is his ignominious sacrificial death for the despicable Edmund, and his subsequent resurrection. The scene at the Table is distanced from the close-up, intimate details of a face-to-face encounter. But the event and Aslan’s behavior through it, does make a statement about the kind of love that gives itself up in a supreme sacrifice for one who does not deserve it. In that, we have an illustration of the meaning of “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” I see little, if anything in the Table scene, which fails to communicate that well and accurately. But then we get to the resurrection, and there, I think, is a problem. Aslan explains the meaning of why he was able to come back to life:

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know... if she could have looked a littler further back... she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that 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 backward.” (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, page 163, Scholastic, 1995)

Here, we have the words of Aslan himself (we can say we have Aslanic revelation), explaining his resurrection in terms of a deeper magic which worked on the principle that only a willing victim who had committed no treachery, qualified to be raised from the dead. The reference to magic does not bother me as I take it to refer to a profound entity above and beyond what is found in the natural world - whose existence, in fact, is from Aslan’s father, the Emperor Over the Sea. The deep and deeper magic in the world of Narnia, is what supernatural (the biblical concept) is in our world. What does bother me is that the principle on which Aslan’s resurrection was based; “a willing victim who has committed no treachery” is not completely accurate. Granted, in that principle one may see parallels to the sinlessness of Christ and as such, his perfect, spotless (sinless) sacrifice. But Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient not merely because he was sinless. If an angel became incarnate and died as a sacrifice (as the Jehovah’s Witness believes) he would have satisfied that criteria as well. But the sacrifice of an incarnate angel would not meet the demand of justice from an infinitely holy God, against whom disobedience is an infinite offense. Such requires one who is capable of paying an infinite debt, and only God himself can pay such a debt. If Christ had not satisfied the justice of God for the sins of his people, he would not have risen from the dead; and he could not have satisfied the just demands of God unless he was God himself. This point does not come out in Aslan’s explanation of his resurrection, and only by remembering that Aslan is the son of the Emperor Over the Seas, the creator of the Deep and Deeper magic, could such a point be implicitly made.

To get back to our discussion, the explanation of Aslan’s resurrection and its flaws does show for us that Aslan is not the perfect Christ figure, that is, he is not, in every aspect of his character an identity with the New Testament Christ. This fact, and the question of image-bearing, probably makes Aslan a safe figure, one whose likelihood to persuasively say something false about God is rather small.

In my estimation, the problem with a fantasy Christ figure turns on whether or not the figure is a human being. Presently, I would be loathe to include a Christ figure in any of my stories portrayed by a man. In fact, I would be very hesitant to include anything, man or animal, whose role is by design such a figure. The risk is too great that my character might be unchrist-like, not intentionally, but inadvertently.

I read almost half of the novel, The Shack, by William Paul Young, a bestseller. I once sat in a hospital waiting room across from one who was avidly devouring its pages. I could not finish it. Its depiction of a Trinity was so human and trite that the three musketeers, “One for all and all for one,” could have done the job better. It was blasphemous. The laid back Dude, Jesus, is so banal and misrepresentative of the Second Person of the Trinity (the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who judges and makes war in righteousness, Rev 19:11; who in flaming fire will take vengeance on his and our enemies, 2 Thess 1:6-10; who stands before the throne of God as a Lamb, slain, Rev 5:6; before whom multitudes upon multitudes cry out in praise and adoration, Rev 5:8-13; before whom the most intimate and holy angels fall down and worship, Rev 5:14), that he is horrendously blasphemous. To say everything that ought to be said about that scandalous book would take another article, and my muster to finish reading it. I don’t think I can do that.