In the last couple of months, I have enjoyed reading with my daughters the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. We’re now up to the 6th (and the second-last) book, The Silver Chair. What is so remarkable about The Silver Chair is that it is, in effect, a tale about how Christians can be held captive and swindled by the enemy Satan. The plot is simple enough, but in effect the human prince of Narnia, Rilian, has been taken captive by the evil witch whom Aslan had destroyed in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan has called two human beings to rescue the prince (Eustace Scrubb and Jill Poole), and they go on a quest to rescue him with a fish-like character called Puddleglum. They find the prince under the ground and surrounded by dreary, deformed-looking creatures that are like the lifeless souls of Hell. The prince seems to be in good health, but he is bound and held down onto a silver chair and has enchantments on it and makes him docile and dopey.
Rilian has been put there by the evil witch, but odd thing is that this time when she appears she is quite different to when she first appeared in Narnia. Scrubb, Poole, and Puddleglum are easier to fool because they’ve never seen her before and lack the discernment to know what she looks like (unlike the others who overthrew her before). She is also underground most of the time, whereas before she once was above-ground. Eventually Scrubb, Poole, and Puddleglum rescue the prince and destroy the enchanted chair, but then the witch enters the room. Instead of violently confronting them, she actually tries to make them all fall asleep. She makes a green mist infiltrate the room and plays softly on an instrument like a mandolin and then tries to convince them that reality is not there
“There is no Narnia” [she said] …
“No. I suppose that other world must all be a dream” [Jill said] …
“There never was any world but mine”, said the Witch.
“There never was any world but yours”, said they …
[The witch continued], “When you try to think our clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like [my] lamp. Your sun is a dream; there is nothing in that dream [about there being a sun] that was not copied from [my] lamp. [My] lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children’s story” … [to Jill] it seemed to her to be very good sense …
“There never was a sun”, said the Witch
“No. There never was a sun said the Prince, and [Puddleglum], and the children” …
[The witch continued]: “There is no Narnia, no Overland, no sky, no sun, no Aslan. And now, to bed all. And let us begin a wiser life tomorrow. But first, to bed; to sleep; deep sleep, soft pillows, sleep without foolish dreams”.
(The Silver Chair: Queen of the Underland.)
Initially, the characters try to fight the voice in their own power, but it ends up being futile. That is, until the name of Aslan is spoken by Puddleglum and their stupor is broken. Puddleglum’s rousing speech is powerful:
“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. All I can say is that … the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one … 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 when 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!”
The witch’s spell is eventially broken and she is then overthrown after becoming a serpent. No Christian reading this can escape the significant parallel with what Satan is trying to do with Christians. When he doesn’t confront and persecute, he slowly tries to rock the church to sleep. He tries to show that he defines reality, that all things are his and that God is not there. He tries to get Christians to sin with sweet-sounding lies like the witch with the mandolin, saying, ‘You were born a sinner, so you may as well act like one. You were born an addict. Stay that way. Manage it. Don’t fight hard to overcome it. Just roll over and spare yourself the trouble – after all, it’s all so hard’. Before you know it, if you fall for those lies, your bound down like Rilian, unable to move and do anything productive. In fact, you think your captor has your best interests at heart (as with Stockholm Syndrome) and you fall in love with your enchanted chair/sin.
Atheism behaves like this, with its “There is no God; there is no heaven; there is no good and evil. It’s all make-believe and only naive kids and silly old ladies believe it”. And yet, Satan can get that message into Christians too in other ways. It’s because of this that I have recently been doing a short sermon series on spiritual warfare at my church. Very frequently it’s not the heat of the outside world that will overthrow Christians (as if the evil’s “all ‘out there'”, as many believers naively think), but they’re own sin, ignorance of God, lack of passion for the things of God, and ignorance of God’s Word. Satan doesn’t need to ‘attack’ them, because he already has them bound up and anaesthetised; they’ll fall over not by a nasty push, but merely by a gentle blow. They’re so dry that all it takes is a tiny spark to burn the whole building down.
The world may be going hell-bound and dark, but Satan loves it all the more when that darkness grows and festers within the church like a fungal infection. With the church as his greatest threat, this is not accidental. Incidentally, the witch – like Satan – never identifies herself or makes clear her purpose. She asks the questions and deceives, but never is asked questions and is made to answer. The early church and apostles believed in spiritual warfare, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs”. Sadly today the church has been outwitted by Satan and is very much ignorant of his designs, which is why the spiritual lion of yesteryear has now become so worldly, care-worn, and … crusty. It needs to come back to life, have the fire of Aslan (Jesus) working powerfully through it to bring down the enemy’s strongholds (within and without) and again become a force to be reckoned with. If only the church will listen and and act, because the weapons to do it are in our hands.