The following article reviews both Radio play versions of The Last Battle. “RT” indicates the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre version, and “BBC” the British Radio 4 version.
The previous reviews in the Narnia Nostalgia series have compared and contrasted the RT and BBC versions of the radio plays, considering their relative production quality and how they compare to the C S Lewis books from which they were adapted. The comments made in those reviews generally apply to The Last Battle, so instead of a detailed commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the plays, this article will concentrate on one particular scene that is included in both plays.
The Last Battle deals with Narnian Eschatology—a twenty-five cent word theologians toss around which just means teachings about “last things.” Christian Eschatology deals with the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of a new heaven and new earth. Narnia Eschatology deals with the end of Narnia as the Pevencies and other characters had known it, and the beginning of a new Narnia—what Lewis called the “real” Narnia, of which the old Narnia was only a picture.
As the old Narnia comes to an end, we meet the Calormene, Emeth, who has had an encounter with Aslan. He had been a faithful follower of the Calormen god Tash (so he believes), and after finding himself in the “pleasant country” inside the Stable, expects to meet him. Instead, he meets Aslan, who speaks words to him which have perplexed many Christians who have read the book.
Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. …if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. [Chapter 15]
Some have thought that Lewis was teaching Univeralism—that all roads lead to the same destination. The context of the passage and the book as a whole indicate otherwise. Contrary to what the Ape and others were trying to teach, there is no Tashlan – Aslan and Tash are not the same. Throughout the book the differences – and the separateness – of Aslan and Tash are emphasized over and over. The atrocities done in the name of Aslan through the deviousness of the Ape are the result of Narnians believing lies instead of trusting their instincts that Aslan would not require such things as the destruction of the dryad’s forest.
In our search for truth, it must be remembered that the words we use are not nearly as important as the meaning we attach to them. Through the ages there have been people who have done horrific things in the name of Christ. But C S Lewis would say that they actually were serving demons. And there are many who have done works of honor and charity in (what many Christians would consider) demonic names who are much nearer the truth than many who claim the name of Christ.
This concludes the Narnia Nostalgia series. In the coming months leading up to the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie on December 10, reviews are being planned for the following books about The Chronicles of Narnia: The Hidden Story of Narnia by Will Vaus, newly published by Winged Lion Press; and the three books in the Inside Narnia series by Devin Brown – Inside Narnia (2005), Inside Prince Caspian (2008), and Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (due out in October).