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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable and fun, August 22, 2004
This review is from: The Silver Chair (The Chronicles of Narnia #4) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is an incredibly important book.

For some reason, this was the one Narnia book I could never get all the way through as a boy even though I was an otherwise voracious reader. I'm not really sure why. I just finished reading it to one of my own sons and he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. I wish now that I'd read it all the way through a long time ago. This is nothing less than a children's introduction to Christian spiritual warfare, in some ways far more general and comprehensive than Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" which covers the same subject for adults.

In order of authorship and according to the original ordering of the series "The Silver Chair" is number 4, coming between "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "The Horse and his Boy". Under the current numbering by the internal chronology of the narrative, it's second to last. In many ways neither ordering is really the most useful. In broad terms, the books divide thematically between allegorical (or better, fanciful) representations of salvation history, and guides to Christian living. Into the first category fall "The Magician's Nephew", "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", "Prince Caspian", and "The Last Battle". The second category has "The Horse and his Boy", "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", and "The Silver Chair". I believe this last is the most significant.

Lewis himself always denied his works were intended to be strictly allegorical, and in the case of the salvation history volumes this may well be the case. Element by element assignment from reality to story usually breaks down once you get past Aslan as Christ, and even where characters or events are not made to do double duty at different points (such as Edmund in "Lion") it's not alway possible to carry out this operation reliably. ("Applicability", as Lewis' friend J.R.R. Tolkien termed it, is another matter.) But "The Silver Chair" is far more nearly allegorical than the others, with symbolism that's crystal clear. This makes the lessons it teaches, in the context of a high fantasy adventure, all the more accessible.

It would take a long essay to explore all the lessons in this book so I'm not going to do that here, but they're not difficult to identify for an adult with a moderately thorough Christian education. Lewis packs an incredible number of subjects into this short book, everything from repentance and forgiveness to the basics of the theology of the image of God in our human nature. (Although in other works Lewis has promulgated what is, to Eastern Christian eyes, a faulty Augustinian Pneumatology, his treatment of the image here makes me think he must have been familiar with at least some Eastern Church Fathers.)

Lewis also anticipates, and armors his readers against, modern trends already evident in his time such as the despair engendered by the prevailing nihilism, extreme materialism, secular humanism, and others. He was very much spot-on in indentifying those ideas that would come to present the greatest temptations to Christian believers in the decades to follow, and this work, among others, reflects that. This means it's useful and relevant even today, over 50 years since it was written.

I now regret deeply that I never gave this book the attention it deserved when I was younger. I don't know, of course, how much of a difference it would have made, but it might have made at least some. As difficult as it is these days to be a Christian, no help can be neglected. If you're a parent of a Narnia reader, do what you can to make sure they don't skip this one. If you *are* a Narnia reader, "The Silver Chair" is worth your full attention and then some. It's a fun adventure too.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2010 6:03:36 PM PST
A. Hamilton says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011 8:00:48 PM PDT
S. Mitchell says:
I assume that behind your sarcasm, Mr. Hamilton, that you do understand that the Christian perspective on secular humanism is that it is bankrupt because the ends for which it searches are inscrutable, absent the Christian God. Just want to point that out for other readers of your comment.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2011 12:26:29 PM PDT
A. Hamilton says:
Inscrutable? As in mysterious? As in God moves in mysterious ways?

Seriously it's just a bit silly to lump humanism in with nihilism, don't you think?

What about all the people who lived and died before Christianity? Are they all in Hell because they were born at the wrong time? Or did the rules change?
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