“He’ll be coming and going,” he had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down. … He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 1
Much has been written through the years on the theology of C.S. Lewis, especially as revealed in his fictional world of Narnia. His Lion, Aslan, is Lewis’ attempt to show through narrative the simultaneous dread and virtue of Christ.
But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn’t know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly. 2
“Good and terrible at the same time.” Neither tyrant nor vassal. Neither despot nor pawn. He is Lord. That is the best picture of Christ and of the God he reveals to us. As Walter Brueggemann states concerning the divine name revealed in Exodus 3:14-22:
As much as any other text, this text struggles to articulate the identity of YHWH and recognizes the complexity, hiddenness, and inscrutability of that name before which “every knee shall bow” (Isaiah 45:23). … The God who dispatches Moses remains undeciphered and undomesticated. [footnote]Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Theology: An Introduction (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008), 29.
Not like a tame lion at all. God will not be driven or pushed into our categorical boxes or into whispy constructions we have built to contain Him. He will not be comprehended. We must learn to hear His voice as it is, a roar that shakes creation.
After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. (Job 37:4)
They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. (Hosea 11:10)
The LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel. (Joel 3:16)
And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.” (Amos 1:2)
Does this description of God unsettle us? Yes, it does, and it should. As Mr. Lewis and Mr. Beaver remind us:
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 3
Neither YHWH of Israel nor the Lion-Christ who roars his good news are to be understood as tamed or controlled. We trust the Lion because He is good and because He is God, not because He is safe.
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 4