Last week — just in time for Christmas shopping — the DVD version of Prince Caspian hit the stores. And whether you're a parent introducing your kids to Narnia for the first time, or whether you're looking for an excuse to recapture the magical wonder your childhood, now is a good time to dust off a printed copy of the second of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian.
While you won't find the spiritual lessons in Prince Caspian quite as obvious as those you remember from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you will find plenty of profound truths about the Christian faith—delivered in a way that only Lewis could do.
The saga of Prince Caspian unfolds in a world hundreds of years removed from the Narnia of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this age into which the Pevensie children are suddenly thrust, the evil King Miraz reigns and only a remnant of people actually believe those childish stories of Aslan, the Stone Table, and a time when animals talked.
Like Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, we enter a world of skepticism that is very much like our own. Let's just say that the best-selling books in Miraz's kingdom could easily have been titled The Aslan Delusion and Aslan Is Not Great. Like our children, young Caspian grows up in an age when most people say, "Who actually believes in Aslan nowadays?"
As in the previous stories of Narnia, a cosmic battle between good and evil continues to rage. But unlike the direct head-to-head conflict between Aslan and the White Witch, the conflict in Prince Caspian is being waged between the followers of the opposing powers. On this cosmic stage, individual faith is tested. Will Prince Caspian believe in the stories of Narnia? Will Lucy follow what she believes to be Aslan?
Here is something with which Christians today can certainly relate. It is one thing to be among the first witnesses who exult in the risen Christ. It is quite another to act out of faith when the stories of His witnesses are so many centuries removed from our world. As Jesus told doubting Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). This is our world, and this is the world of Caspian, as well.
In this tale, as much as we learn about faith and doubt, there is also much to learn about the nature of Jesus. As Leland Ryken and Marjorie Mead put in the newly released, A Reader's Guide to Caspian, what Aslan is like is the "primary theological question of Prince Caspian." And in it we find several answers that apply to our own Christian walk.
After not seeing Aslan for a long time, when the children are finally reunited, Lewis tells us that the children "felt as glad as anyone can who feels afraid, and as afraid as anyone can who feels glad."
I do not have time to share all the riches to be gleaned from reading or re-reading Prince Caspian. So whether it is for your own spiritual growth or that of your children's, or simply being prepared to talk about the deeper spiritual themes with a friend, use the DVD release of the film as a reason to return to Narnia. I promise, you will be glad you did.
A version of this commentary first aired on April 7, 2008.