I am the father of five tax exemptions. One evening, several years ago, I herded three of our five 'standard deductions' into the living room for a treasured bedtime ritual: read aloud time.
On this particular night we would witness the final stages of a fierce battle in the land of Narnia. After trouncing an army of would-be usurpers, the young prince Caspian was finally on top. He would now take his long-awaited and rightful place on the throne as King of Narnia.
Just as we began to relax into the last few pages, thinking all things spectacular were behind us, Aslan dropped a bombshell: Caspian is human after all!
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”
With those words my tax exemptions vanished before my eyes. Where once sat three monetary variables, now sat three tragic creatures of royal descent, made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor (Psalm 8).
When C.S. Lewis wrote those lines for Aslan in 1951 he was deliberately pushing back against an encroaching British secularism—a world of unbelief, a world made without God, a world of men without significant origin. Throughout his Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’ pen repeatedly strikes like lightning, scattering the darkness of unbelief and exposing the damage it visits upon God’s creatures. His characters, from boys to beasts, have more courage to tell the truth than the most brilliant minds among us today. This is why we read Lewis’ great myth in our home, to find the truth of who we are.
One of Lewis’ favorite targets throughout the Narnia drama is the secular world’s formidable powers of reduction. Reduction is the peculiar threat that unbelief levels against every human being. It is the demonic doctrine of being sized up (or down, actually) by your cash value or your biological impulses. Unbelief reduces men to creatures who merely win bread or sow wild oats. Unbelief reduces women to creatures who merely gratify men—check your television for proof (or, rather don't). Unbelief reduces children to creatures who merely serve adults or burden them. Unbelief reduces grandparents to creatures who merely burden the system.
Taken all together: unbelief reduces humans to mere mortals. C.S. Lewis protested brilliantly. “Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!" (The Magicians Nephew).
How did Lewis find his way out of such a fog? The same way all men must find their way out: through Jesus Christ. When we discover that Jesus took on our humanity at his incarnation and then recovered it for eternity through his resurrection, we can begin to see one another for who we really are: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Lewis beautifully draws out the implications of that scripture in his famous 1941 talk, The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations— these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Join the revolution, read some C.S. Lewis.