I remember well the first time I read C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There were so many hooks that pulled me in: the magic wardrobe that served as a doorway to Narnia, the world imprisoned in winter by the White Witch, the instant thrill of hearing that “Aslan was on the move.”
But maybe the thing I best remember is the strange expectancy with which the creatures of Narnia receive the four Pevensie children. Their arrival has long been foretold, and it changes everything—not because of anything remarkable about them as individuals, but because of who they are; “sons of Adam,” and “daughters of Eve.”
It’s immediately obvious what gravity these titles carry. Narnia’s talking animals regard the four children as royalty from the moment that they stumble through the Wardrobe. And the Witch—herself a usurper to the human throne—dreads their arrival and sets out straightaway to kill or corrupt them.
Of course, it becomes clear later in the story why the arrival of four humans causes such a stir in Narnia. From the very beginning of that world, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve were appointed by the Lion, Aslan, to be rulers over his creation. And from the very beginning, humans had brought both curses and blessings upon the land.
As Aslan says in the fourth Narnia book, “Prince Caspian,” “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”
Here Lewis captures the entirety of what it means to be human in the Christian worldview. And it’s reminiscent of what mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal had to say on the same subject.
“What sort of freak then is man!” he wrote. “Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error! The glory and the refuse of the universe! Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach both.”
This paradox—that humans are both trash and treasure, rogue and royalty—is something we tackle in our new, five-part DVD study series “In His Image.” And it lies near the center of the Christian worldview, setting it apart from all other belief systems.
Think about how other worldviews answer this crucial question, “Who are we?” Secular materialism demotes humans to animal status, barely noteworthy in a universe of fellow accidents. Eastern religions like Hinduism or Oprah-style New Age philosophy go the other way—effectively giving us a promotion. We’re all divine in some form or another, and to reach God we only need to look inside ourselves.
The Judeo-Christian Scriptures alone embrace both truths. As it says in Genesis, we’re created “in the image of God.” This sets us apart from the rest of creation and means that every single human being has eternal intrinsic value. This idea, alien to the ancient pagan mind, changed the course of history forever.
But Scripture tells us another truth—that we’re fallen. The image of God within us is marred and masked, and that’s why salvation is necessary. It’s what ties the Christian worldview together and reminds us that every person—no matter how despised and flawed—is of eternal significance in God’s plan of redemption.
“There are no ordinary people,” C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Weight of Glory.” “You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Every human, he said, will eventually become an “immortal horror,” or an “everlasting splendor.”
It’s this truth that the creatures of Narnia recognized in the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. And it’s the truth we’ve got to offer our world as it answers the critical question: “Who are we?”
— by John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries