The sign

“Once and for all,” said the prisoner, “I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you -”

“Oh!” cried the three travellers as though they had been hurt. “It’s the sign,” said Puddleglum. “It was the words of the sign,” said Scrubb more cautiously. [1]

–from the Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis

Jill and Eustace–boarding school outcasts–find themselves on an adventure in another world.  The prominent land of the world is Narnia, and Aslan the lion is its protector (and creator of the world itself!).  Aslan has called the children to Narnia to charge them with the task of finding a lost prince and returning him to the Narnian kingdom.

All they must do to be successful on their journey is remember the signs.  The signs are mysterious instructions Aslan gives for the children’s journey.  The signs don’t make always make sense to them and the children rarely stop to think about them.

Most of the journey is a terrible bungling of the signs.  Through doubting, criticizing, and forgetting the signs, the children fall into danger after danger.

Now at last they have come to the last sign–the very last–and they have the chance to do right by it.

But herein lies the biggest problem they have yet faced.

The fourth sign:

“Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”

Up until this moment in the adventure, none of the three were worried about following the fourth sign.  Up until that moment, the fourth sign seemed easy.  After all, it was the way to identify the lost prince and complete their mission.

Up until this moment.

But now that the children and their guide, Puddleglum, are miles below the earth in caverns of darkness, now that the requirements of the sign is met by a frightening lunatic who is bound to a chair so that he won’t go on a murdering rampage. . now following the sign doesn’t seem so easy.

“Oh, what are we to do?” said Jill. . . [3]

This is the moment of truth.  All the other signs they bungled because they weren’t paying attention or didn’t understand.  But now they fully understand what they are to do–honor the sign, and set the lunatic free . . or fail the sign and stay safe.

But how do they know that Aslan meant for the sign to come to them this way?  How do they know that this isn’t a mistake?  What if Aslan hadn’t known that this lunatic would say the words of the sign?  How do they know that it’s really the sign and not the words of the sign?

“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.

“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.

“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.

“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.” [4]

Puddleglum understood something the two children didn’t.  The sign and the words of the sign were the same.  Inseparable.  And irrevocable.

Either the words stood, or they fell.  If they weren’t true now, then they never would be.

The words could not be dismissed, edited, or reinterpreted.  Either Aslan knew what he was talking about or he didn’t.

They decide to follow Aslan.  They break the bonds of the lunatic, and discover he is actually in his right mind, and he is the lost prince of Narnia.  But they had no way of knowing it before they obeyed; they had to obey and risk all to find out whether or not they were right.

Even though they’d had no way of knowing what would happen, they did have reason to believe in the sign.  All the other signs had held true.  And they knew Aslan was the overseeing ruler of Narnia who had more knowledge of the world than anyone else possibly could.  They had reason to trust him, but it was still faith that cut the bonds of the underground prisoner who could have murdered them all.

C.S. Lewis knew what he was writing about.  We are bombarded with philosophies that try to distinguish between the sign and the words of the sign.  

Things like, “But God didn’t mean for me to obey Him in this special situation . .” or “This is a cultural passage and doesn’t apply me” or “But God didn’t realize about . . when He said that.”

Either God is right or He is not.  Let us not pretend there is some in-between ground.  Either His Word is true, and we should obey every instruction He gives us, or His Word is false, and we should disregard everything He says.  But let us not try to be like Scrubb and fool ourselves with nice-sounding philosophies that really result in disobedience.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NLT)

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Check out: What I Learned in Narnia: True Authority is Obedient

[1] From chapter 11

[2] From chapter 2

[3] From chapter 11

[4] From chapter 11

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