- - Sunday, April 1, 2018

In “The Silver Chair,” the fifth book in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, we follow three main characters, two children named Scrubb and Jill and a Narnian friend called Puddleglum, as they venture into a dark underground world in search of Rilian the Prince of Narnia who is being held captive by none other than an evil witch.

Journeying through the deep caves of the Underworld they find the prince. He is in a dark and damp cavern, tied to a silver chair that has mysterious powers over him. He has been brainwashed to believe that the witch is his ally not his enemy, that darkness is light, and that his bondage is freedom.

As the kids and Puddleglum work to untie Rilian, the Emerald Witch returns and catches them. Standing in the darkness, barely lit by smoldering smudge pots, Jill, Scrubb and Puddleglum demand that they and the prince be let go. They want to leave the cave. They want to see the sun and feel it’s warm rays. They want to escape from the dark world of the witch’s making. They want to return to Narnia.

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Now here is what’s interesting. The witch does not respond with physical force to restrain them. She instead chooses to use the power of words and ideas. Here is how Lewis describes it.

“What is this sun that you all speak of?” [said the witch] “Do you mean anything by the word? Can you tell me what it’s like?”

“Please it your Grace,” said the Prince. “You see that lamp. It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky.”

“Hangeth from what, my lord?” asked the witch and then, while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her so, silver laughs, “You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children’s story.”

Does this argument sound familiar?

In over 20 years of working within the academy, I have found today’s colleges to be in many ways as dark and fake as the witch’s Underworld. The materialist says there is no truth beyond what you can touch, feel, taste and see. The postmodernist says there is no truth, and that’s the truth.

There are no suns, only lamps. Dreams of lions are merely religion’s wishful hopes of what cats could be. There is no Narnia. Aslan does not exist: “You have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You’ve seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it’s to be called a Lion.”

But there is a way out of this darkness. Freedom is found in the path of Puddleglum. In the midst of the witch’s lies he decided to fight back. And this is how. He got as close to what he knew to be real as he possibly could. He stepped in the fire:

“While the Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down the [witch’s] enchantment almost complete Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire [and] with his bare foot he stamped on [it] the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.”

During this Easter season, perhaps we would all do well to remember the lesson of Puddleglum. Remember that the only way to distinguish between what is false and what is fact; to know the difference between “suns and lamps” and “lions and cats” is to get as close to reality — the reality of the resurrection — as you possibly can. Yes, stepping into the “fire” — the fire of the Son — might hurt a bit, but “there is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.”

Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is the author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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