Follow the Leader, Even When He’s Invisible: Discipleship in Prince Caspian (Theology through the Eyes of Fiction)

theology through the eyes of fictionI sometimes wonder how I would have responded if Jesus had walked up near my fishing boat and said “Follow me.” Our willingness to follow anyone is mostly dependent on who we believe them to be and whether or not they are worth following. When it comes to Jesus, the depth of our commitment, the strength of our courage, and the sincerity of our love depend upon our view of Jesus.

The way in which various views of Jesus affect our thinking and willingness to follow is illustrated well in C.S. Lewis’ novel, Prince Caspian. In the characters of Lucy, Edmund, Peter, Susan, and Trumpkin, Lewis presents five different positions or stages in discipleship.

Lucy is the first to see Aslan and she doesn’t doubt herself at all. When she tells the others, Susan asks where she thinks she saw him. Lucy responds, “Don’t talk like a grown-up. I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.” Lucy possesses a child-like faith, unwavering in her commitment and resolved to follow no matter the cost. She also seems to see Aslan because she is seeking him; she expects him to show up. Edmund is the next to see Aslan. Although he doesn’t initially see Aslan, he trusts Lucy and is willing to follow her on her testimony. Peter also does not see, and he is open to the possibility of Aslan. But Peter lacks the faith of Lucy and Edmund. Although Aslan’s appearance is possible, Peter needs visual evidence. Without seeing, he trusts his “reason” and goes a different way. Susan’s attitude is the worst of the four children. Susan is skeptical, unbelieving, rude, and in a hurry to “grow up.” She not only doesn’t believe Lucy, she is mean to her. Later in the novel, Susan’s heart is revealed at a deeper level. It turns out her skepticism and rudeness are a way of suppressing the truth—she “knew” Aslan was there, but she didn’t want to believe (see “You can’t handle the Truth” for Susan’s failure in this way in The Last Battle). Finally Trumpkin the dwarf has bought into the lie that Aslan is a myth, a story told to make Narnians feel hopeful. Although he is the last to see Aslan, he is moved immediately to a much stronger faith than Susan, and perhaps even more than Peter.

As I read Prince Caspian, I am struck by its parallels to the gospel of John. Lucy, like John, is the disciple whom Jesus/Aslan loved. They are both eyewitnesses and deeply committed to the Lord. Peter is like Thomas—unless I see I will not believe. Jesus’ words to Thomas, “You believe because you see. But blessed are those who do not see yet believe,” are likewise an accurate summary of Edmund. Susan is like the Pharisees who suppress what they know to be true; they are aggressive, rude, and skeptical toward Jesus and his followers, just as Susan is to Lucy. Finally, Trumpkin represents the Gentiles whose eyes are opened and respond in faith.

Who are we? We are called, like Edmund, to be those who believe though we do not yet see. But I fear too often we pray and live like Peter and Susan, doubting the presence of Jesus and trusting our own reason to help us succeed.

 

Feature Image: Photo by Jonas Tebbe on Unsplash

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