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December 5, 2010

Aslan Represents . . . Mohammed and Buddha?

The 'stupid' comment is from Liam Neeson, who voices the Lion in the films

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On the next-to-last page of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy wonders how they shall live in their world without meeting Aslan, the Great Lion, again. But Aslan reassures her, saying she will meet him again: "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name."

Any Christian lover of these C. S. Lewis books knows full well what that Aslan's name is here in our "real" world: It's Jesus himself. I mean, there's even a death-and-resurrection scene in one of the books in which Aslan must shed his blood to pay for the sins of another. Aslan as a Christ figure is almost as well-known a fact as, well, Jesus himself was a Christ figure in The Passion of the Christ. It's a no-brainer.

But now there's a low-brainer of a comment from actor Liam Neeson in today's London Daily Mail that already has Narnia and Lewis fans seething. Neeson, who does a fine job providing the voice of Aslan for the Narnia movies -- Dawn Treader releases worldwide later this week -- said in an interview with the Daily Mail that Aslan is also based on other religious leaders like Mohammed and Buddha.

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"Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries," said Neeson, a practicing Catholic. "That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me."

The Daily Mail then cites a couple of Lewis experts who note how "stupid" Neeson's comment was.

‘Aslan is clearly established from the very beginning of the whole cannon as being a Christ figure," said William Oddie, a former editor of The Catholic Herald and a lifelong fan of the Chronicles of Narnia. "I can’t believe that Liam Neeson is so stupid as not to know."

Walter Hooper, Lewis’s former secretary and a trustee of his estate, said the stories have "nothing whatever to do with Islam. Lewis would have simply denied that. He wrote that the 'whole Narnian story is about Christ.' Lewis could not have been clearer."

Lewis himself once wrote of Aslan's character: "He is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?'"

Meanwhile, advance reviews of the film haven't been very kind, either.

Comments

It was a dumb comment, but I can't help but think that the experts' responses weren't much better.

Matt-

I wouldn't say that Walter Hooper gave a bad expert answer.

Also, it isn't unusual for the British to use the word "stupid", it is only here in USA that we have illegitimized it's use and made calling someone stupid a profanity. My grandmother used to say "Stupid is as stupid does" and would let us know if something we did was (in her opinion) stupid.

However, Liam isn't being stupid, he's being wise as THE Serpent in the age of pluralism and an atheistic society. Lewis would laugh and shake his head that such a person played Aslan. I don't think Lewis would watch the movies. It would be too painful. However, I am glad they are made and hope it encourages another generation to read the Chronicles of Narnia and other works by C.S. Lewis.

I feel this statement was handled badly. This intolerant language is what makes the rest of the world hate Christians.

So C.S. Lewis did not mean for Aslan to be anything but his version of Jesus. Many children who love the Narnia series simply are not Christians. They may liken Aslan to a figure from their own faith, or they may not liken Aslan to anyone. Inevitably, C.S. Lewis's Narnia is a piece of literature. And we may not want to admit it, but it is very closed of us to think that C.S. Lewis may have steeped in the fact that one person said something "stupid."

If you are to spread a good word, than at least make it SOUND good.

Now, let's dissect the language that Mr. Liam Neeson used when stating this "stupid" comment.

Direct quote from article:
"Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries," said Neeson, a practicing Catholic. "That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me."

The language the writer of this article uses leads the claim that Neeson said that Aslan is BASED ON religious leaders.
He did not say anything of the sort.
He said Aslan SYMBOLIZES figures. There actually, believe it or not, is a difference between the terms.
He does not specify that C.S. Lewis meant for Aslan to symbolize these figures, either. He mentions at the end of the quote that Aslan symbolizes these figures... for him. And essentially states that, perhaps to other children, he does the same.

Are we, as Christians, so quick to attack something that we didn't take the time to accept that perhaps other people have a different, more wordly way of seeing things?

Do we want the image of HATRED smothered all over our faith simply because we attack every little thing without thought?

Come on, guys. COME ON. GROW UP.

I am offended by phrases telling me to grow up... Does this bother you? Your tone implies that those who object to this pluralistic view are stupid. Does this upset you?

In literature, where does the truth lie? Does it lie in the reader's mind?

Aslan does not symbolize whomever you wish for him to symbolize. To change the meaning of the text because you do not see it or understand it to represent Jesus is at the very least "ignorant". To be aware that the author intended for it to represent Jesus and to blatantly change that to accommodate all world views is pluralism and appalling. Perhaps one needs to GROW UP in the faith to recognize this.

It is humorous to think that Liam Neeson would play the voice of a character without researching the background. I think Liam knew exactly what kind of statement he was making, and again it was not a stupid one, but a carefully calculated one.

Reread what Aslan says to the Calormene at the end of the Last Battle. Is Lewis as "stupid" as Liam Neeson?

Well at least Neeson twice clarified that that's what Aslan represented to HIM. He didn't say that's what Lewis intended.

Clearly Lewis intended Aslan to be symbolic or allegoric of Christ. But there is such a thing as "reader response". Neeson may see echoes of Buddha in Aslan, and they may very well be there. I'm sure there are echoes of Christ in many religious figures, as what all people are really seeking is the original Christ from whom they've been distracted by pathetic imitations.

I knew someone once - a Xtn artist - who did this painting of all these trees and such with a sunlight coming down on them thru some clouds, etc. I asked the person what it was about and she told me that it was about God and the light of the world and such... and I was like "Ohhhh... Ok."

Look - if something is not the actual Gospel message itself, then its going to be something for which you will be always able to see some other non-Gospel things as well if you want to. This is a risk you take with art. I read the Chronicles in the 5-6th grade and was not a Xtn then. Who knows what sorts of things I saw in there.

Neeson, a practicing RC as it says up there, is probably coming from a background of Vatican II/Rahnerism which TMK, teaches about such things as "anonymous Christians" and also that you can find truth in all religions, but yet Xtnty is fullest expression of it. Something like that... So if this is his background, then it makes sense why he would say what he said, only that he is adding a qualifier - "for me" - which you cannot argue with.

Neeson is a great actor who makes a lot of movies of substance. I think we need to cut him some slack rather than have a knee jerk reaction and pelt him with some racas.

A. Raj has a point too - when I first the Narnia Chronicles in gr. 2, I had no idea it was about Christ until my mom told me.

Since this news came out, Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media, the company making the Narnia films, has himself made a statement. He pretty much said that audiences should disregard what actors have to say. He even said that Neeson clearly didn't attend a theology school.

So, it appears the company putting Narnia out is trying to distance the film from Neeson's comments. I'm sure Flaherty realizes that Christians helped to make The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe a big success, so he doesn't want to alienate Christians from going to Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Smart move, but it's not getting nearly as much press as the original story.

In a postmodern society, we are surprised at people projecting reinterpretations irrespective of authorial intent? Neeson surely knows/knew. He simply doesn't/didn't care.

What does Neeson's comment mean 'for me'? How can I interpret Neeson's Aslan (I mean the one in Liam Neeson's head)? We are ultimately defined in life by who Jesus is in our lives.
Neeson's comment might mean that he just doesn't see..... yet. Seekers are blinded, and then they see. There was St Paul (read Acts 22:3-14), who persecuted the Church until God blinded him and then gave him real sight to understand that Jesus had died for him. SO I will pray for Liam Neeson to see. God is not finished with Liam Neeson yet.
However, maybe Neeson is not really a seeker.... yet. His comment might be a career position, to insulate his $ 'box office' status and remain lucrative for non-Christian audiences and producers. Kind of like the rich Pharisee in Matthew 19: 21-26. Maybe Neeson is like Mohammed who studied, but Jesus did not fit into his political plan. Mohammed did not resolve the sin of man.
Islam is still about trying to be good enough. DO you think you are??? God doesn't. (Romans 3:23 But how about reading at least verses 1-27).

Is Neeson like Buddha, who never said he got it. just that he and we needed to seek? No one knows where Buddha is now. In any case, Buddha never paid off his own or anyone else's sin. Never claimed to. He did not rise from the dead to announce conquest and mercy and eternal Hope. Maybe Buddha found Jesus, and is with Him and is appalled at his own followers not following enough to see that they are sinners and that their sins are all paid for, because the creator God would not drop the ball on loving His creation. . Buddha might have, at last, become a Christian. (Whom have I offended here? but read Romans 1:5-21).

Who is Liam Neeson? He is a man who. like us all, has forgiveness and a relationship with the loving God through Jesus.... IF he will accept that love through faith. Neeson is a man, who even if he has that faith, stumbles and says stupid things... yet is forgiven again. I said a stupid thing just yesterday. Though I do not see my stupid thing as being as stupid as Neeson's stupid thing. I am forgiven.

I am defined, not by who Liam Neeson is to himself or to God, much less to me. I am defined by what I allow Jesus to be in MY life. If I get the allegory in the Chronicles of Narnia, That is fine.
If nothing else, I hope this post has opened up a few Bibles. If Liam Neeson opens his, he will see Aslan all over the place. If Neeson really read the lives of Buddha or of Mohammed.... If he read the Koran, he would NOT see Aslan therein. But if he opens the Scriptures, he will meet Aslan face to face, in the ultimate relationship. Maybe Liam Neeson is like so many, who get their Jesus and their Buddha and their Mohammed in PC approved packages. Only Jesus offers John 3:16.
Let's be open to the seekers that they may be open to the Gospel. But let's not be so 'open minded' that our brains fall out. Let's focus on the name by which we can be saved. Act 4:8-(especially)12.

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