There is something peculiar about the New Narnia. The landscape has changed and there is a new ruling class (the Telmarines) over all of Narnia, which is not unusual — it is the way of the world. The people themselves are basically unchanged; if we place a new Narnian human next to an old Narnian human, we would have difficulty in determining the difference.
But after a thousand years (Narnia time) since the Penvensie children left Narnia and then returned, the people of Narnia still wear the same dress, live in the same types of housing, wear helmets and chain and mail when they go to war, use swords and spears for weapons. None of these outward things have changed. That is what is so peculiar.
Generally, a civilization will have some sort of progress. Sciences will be developed; fashion will change; new methods construction and the design of architecture will change and so forth There are exceptions, of course. There are primitive tribes in the corners of the world that are still in the stone age, but these are few and far between. But none of these have changed in Narnia.
What has changed are the beliefs and the attitudes of the people. The New Narnians do not believe in talking animals as the Old Narnians did. They do not believe in lions, much less talking lions. Yet, they have fears.
They fear the woods and they fear the sea. In fact they fear these things to such a degree that they have made up legends and spooky stories intended to keep their people away from these places. They squelch any talk or discussion of Old Narnia as is witnessed by the mysterious disappearance of Caspian’s nurse and the secrecy exhibited by Dr. Cornelius. Mostly, even though they do not believe in talking lions, they fear Aslan and the legend that he came from across the sea and defeated the former Queen of Narnia. It is as if they think that if anyone of them goes to look at the sea, Aslan will show up and destroy their hold over Narnia. The Telmarines do not want to lose the power they have over the people. So the king and his followers have created fears in the people. But it could also be that somewhere, deep down inside themselves, they know the truth of Aslan and all he can do, but choose to deny it.
Gene Veith, in The Soul of Prince Caspian, explains that people basically do not change — we have much the same physical features and we especially have the same emotional and psychological make-up. We still make the same mistakes, we still make right and wrong decisions, we still have the same joys and happinesses and sorrows. But, Mr. Veith says, our core beliefs and attitudes do change and this is what C. S. Lewis was trying to get across to us in this book. Lewis is trying to tell us that we do not change in any significant manner, but our inner thoughts, beliefs and so forth do change — and from what Isee in my own experience is that these can change dramatically in a relatively short time.
This is what Lewis was trying to get across when he dressed the people of Narnia in the identical types of clothing that they had always worn. (Personally, I think it gives a romantic feeling to the story, like we are visiting some far off land with strange sounding names.) Even though our physical bodies don’t change, our attitudes and beliefs change.
When reading Prince Caspian we can consider the Pevensie children, Prince Caspian, and the humans of Old Narnia to be today’s Christians. The Telmarines may be considered to be those people living around us with a secular worldview.
Like the Telmarines, non-Christians do not want to discuss or have anything to do with religion, especially Christianity. As long as we go about our business and don’t rock the boat by bringing Jesus or God into conversation, everything is fine. But bring up the idea that this is God’s world and he is in control and you are immediately branded and discounted — sometimes even by people who call themselves Christian. We are not supposed to talk about God and salvation. It is too … unscientific.
And this seems to be one of the problems. People today rely on science and rational thinking to do the explaining of the world around them — God’s influence in the world is too “ethereal” or improbable or impossible because we can formulate experiments which explain the workings of the universe.
A second problem people have with the church is that many have been burned by the church. In some ways this is understandable. I have been burned by the church — several of them, in fact. At first, I was happy at these churches, but the more I attended and became more deeply involved, the more I started seeing inconsistencies between what was said and the actions of the people in charge. In the end I left the church and searched for another. Just to make it clear: I am not a church-hopper. If I feel offended by something someone says, I will just hold onto my beliefs and continue in that church. However, if the doctrine of the church changes and they begin to travel the wrong path, I will not stay long in that church.
Thirdly and likely the most probable is that people have just grown too accustomed to church. It doesn’t draw any excitement out of them — it has no mystery. This is one of the issues Lewis wrote about: too many of us are looking at the Gospel Story with old, familiar eyes. As I previously wrote, it’s like going to work every day using the same streets at the same time of day and we never see the new building that has been under construction for a year until we approach it from a different street or notice its grand opening.
Ultimately, whatever the reason for the disdain people hold for God, it is their doing and eventually their un-doing. It is the choice that we as humans have been given since the beginning of the world — to accept or reject God, His Son and the Holy Spirit.