God: Playing by the rules?

January 11, 2006 at 11:03 pm Leave a comment

“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.

“Let us say I have forgotten it,�? answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”

“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters as deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the scepter of the Emperor-beyond-the-sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill….[U]nless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”

“It is very true,” said Aslan. “I do not deny it.”

“Oh, Aslan,” whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, “can’t we—I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?”

“Work against the Emperor’s Magic?” said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.


After seeing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Saturday night, I went back and read the book version. The above passage, from Chapter 13 of the book, fascinates me, because it tells us that the Emperor-beyond-the-sea, symbolizing God the Father, is the one who created the Deep Magic.

Since the Deep Magic symbolizes the laws of right and wrong, and of justice and its consequences, the passage implies that God made up the rules of justice Himself, then chose to abide by His own dictates.

Interestingly, the movie version of LWW leaves out this passage. It briefly mentions the Deep Magic, but there is no reference to the Emperor-beyond-the-sea anywhere, and certainly not to him creating the Deep Magic. Consequently, the movie conveys the idea that the rules of right and wrong are uncreated. There is no higher power who made the laws; they have an existence apart from anyone’s command.

To grossly oversimplify things, then, the movie moves toward the implication that God is obliged to play by rules which exist apart from his own fiat.

So, then, we have this question: Which is right, the book or the movie? Did God make up the rules, or does He have to play by the rules?

I am probably stretching the allegory farther than Lewis intended, so let me pose the same question from a different angle. Regardless of where the Deep Magic originated, the White Witch comes to Aslan in both the book and the movie and reminds him of her right to claim Edmund according to the rules of the Deep Magic. Aslan seems forced to recognize her right.

In some sense, then, the White Witch has held Aslan accountable. But is it theologically accurate to say God is accountable? To restate the original question: Is God making up the rules, or is He forced to play by them?


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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