The Chronicles of Narnia is a children's fantasy series written by C.S. Lewis in the mid-1950s. The first three books were turned into a BBC TV miniseries in the late 1980s. The same three books were later adapted as theatrical films during the first decade of the 2000s. In 2018, Netflix purchased the franchise rights to produce a Chronicles of Narnia Netflix exclusive show and plans to create their own versions. Although Narnia has always held popular worldwide appeal, it’s been particularly embraced by the Christian community. And there are good reasons for why this classic fantasy series by C.S. Lewis resonates so strongly with the Christian faith.
Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis is widely regarded as one of the most important Christian writers and theologians of the 1900s. He wrote books like Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, books which broke down theological concepts into easy-to-understand language. Lewis’s own conversion from dedicated atheism early in life meant that he was able to talk about Christianity from the same rational and spiritual perspective that had won him over. His ideas have had a profound impact on Christian thinking in the last several decades.
C.S. Lewis’s Christian philosophies definitely saturated his approach to writing The Chronicles of Narnia. Beginning with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the Narnia stories departed from Lewis’s theological writing, taking him into the world of children's fiction—and his theological background came with him.
Most people assume or categorize The Chronicles of Narnia as an allegory, which is “a symbolic representation,” according to the simplest definition given by Merriam-Webster. After all, Aslan the lion, who sacrifices himself for the sin of another, parallels Jesus' sacrifice for us (Galatians 1:4; 1 Timothy 2:6). The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe contains a scene that is like an alternate reality version of Jesus’s death and resurrection. But for a story to truly be an allegory, every element in that story must represent something else. John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, for example, is most definitely an allegory.
However, Lewis denies Narnia being an allegory. Instead, he calls it a "supposal." A supposal is defined as "something supposed" by the Merriam-Webster. (I know, that doesn't help!) In other words, it's a "what-if" scenario that Lewis asks in these stories. This is how Lewis describes it:
"...I'm not exactly 'representing' the real [Christian] story in symbols. I'm more saying, 'Suppose there were a world like Narnia, and it needed rescuing, and the Son of God (or the 'Great Emperor oversea') went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?'" —C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children
Reading The Chronicles of Narnia can actually encourage us to develop a bigger view of God because it removes familiar terminology and challenges us to look at God in the spirit of faith—not just through the lens of familiar, culturally-constructed terms. Sometimes it can help to challenge our spiritual perspectives, especially if we have been told the same phrases and words so many times that they've lost all meaning.
Beyond The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we'll find themes covering everything from the creation narrative of Genesis (in The Magician’s Nephew) to Lewis’s own take on the apocalyptic events in the book of Revelation (in The Last Battle).
The secular entertainment studios that have created movie and TV show adaptations for the Narnia books have not necessarily gone into the process with these any spiritual themes in mind. They were not focused on producing media with a "Christian" message, rather, their goal was to connect with a much broader audience. However, even in the film interpretations, many of Lewis's intended theological themes were preserved simply because they were so ingrained within the narrative.
The answer to this question is always going to be as individual as you are! Many, many believers have been encouraged by The Chronicles of Narnia. The way C.S. Lewis tells the story of Jesus from an unexpected angle provides a unique opportunity for the gospel message to hit home in a new way. The fantasy setting presents a message of grace to people who might not otherwise have had access to it.
There's a good chance that The Chronicles of Narnia could impact your own life in a similar way—especially if you go into them with an open heart. Even beyond the spiritual themes woven throughout, the Narnia series is simply a well-written series about adventure, bravery, loyalty, and love that you might legitimately enjoy. Just enjoying a good story has a place in a Christian’s life too.
That said, just like with any other piece of media, we still have the responsibility of using discernment to determine if something is in line with our own personal spiritual journey (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whenever you are reading or watching something, if you find anything that directs you away from your values or negatively impacts your faith, then it’s OK to set that thing aside (1 Thessalonians 5:19). You may even want to ask the Holy Spirit for insight beforehand, asking if whatever you want to read or watch is a good use of your time and attention (James 1:5).
Philippians 4:8 is always a good rule of thumb: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” The Chronicles of Narnia stories are full of Christ-focused loveliness and goodness. Reading stories like these may positively benefit your own spiritual growth.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a series of books written with intentional representations of Christian themes. Those themes persist even through TV and film adaptations created by secular studios simply because they were so ingrained within the narrative. The unique perspective on Jesus presented in The Chronicles of Narnia can be helpful in getting to know Him better. They are full of Christ-focused loveliness and goodness. Reading stories like these may positively benefit your own spiritual growth.
Mary is a fan of stories about grace—whether they show up in writing, music, or photography form. She's been listening to and telling those stories as a professional writer for over 10 years. Mary is the founder and editor of Rock on Purpose, where she talks about rock music centered around truth and redemptive justice.