A very sweet cousin of mine and I were emailing recently about literature. I was recommending she read Narnia to her classroom. She had questions about that. I’ve included part of her objections and then my response, because I think her question is fairly common. I wish I had spiffed up my answer to her better (I was trying to give a brief reply), but I give it to you here. Please leave a comment and let me know what else I should have added.
As far as Narnia goes, realizing that it is a “Christian” book, how do you get past the magic involved? I would not let my students read a book which had magician or fairies (I don’t know if Narnia has fairies, [but] this is a problem in my class) if it were by any other source, so how can I justify reading this to them. I guess they are to young still to get the whole picture, but how do you explain the difference to your boys?
My response in part:
I agree that there are no such things as aliens. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them or read about them. Myths are part of our culture. I encourage schools to teach Greek myths–though some are disturbing. They are a part of our current vocabulary. You and I probably don’t prefer this (space) style though.
At the same time though, we aren’t afraid to read them stories about Winnie the Pooh or talking animals even as the very youngest of children. This doesn’t mean that we think they are real, but they are personifications of real things and real stories.
Magic is real. Very real. The Bible talks about magicians and sorcery and witchcraft. Many things God does seem “magical.” How did Christ transport that fishing boat to the other side of the sea in just the time it took to snap? There are good powers and dark powers. Street magic isn’t magic, it’s slight of hand. The big deal isn’t that it’s talked about, the deal is how it’s dealt with. Lewis…doesn’t glorify magic. The bad guys are bad. The good guys are good.
…Elementary kids need a good story, [and] I am stirred in my Christian faith by reading the [Narnia] series. But, they aren’t too young to start getting the big picture…that’s the goal even.
To teach big real lessons about bravery, love, sacrifice requires making a big deal about the antithesis. A small bad guy can be countered by a small good guy. But when a story reveals deep mischief, evil and wrong it makes the courage and valor much more beautiful and much more inspiring. We want to expose our boys to the best sorts of literature, not to amuse them, but to make them better boys…better men…for His glory.
Again, TBAP reader, please tell me in the comments what I should have added or why my answer is all wrong.
I also attached a link to this classic article from BJU Press written (I think) primarily by Guenter Salter (“If you find a dictionary with a different definition than mine. . .burn the dictionary!”) called A Biblical Approach to Objectionable Elements that is foundational to the way I think about these things.