Service to Tash

I know this excerpt is pretty familiar but I have been thinking about it lately and wondered if you all might have some input concerning my questions below.

From The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis:

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.

But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome.

But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.

He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.

Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?

The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore 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 it 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. Dost thou understand, Child?

I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.

Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

If this is true, what are the implications? Doesn’t it seem to suggest that belief in Jesus and in certain things about Jesus (orthodoxy) is not important in comparison to the way we live our lives (orthopraxy)? What would that mean for evangelism? Would we be right to encourage those who are following “Tash” but are living a life of service and love?

I’m asking these questions honestly and would really love to know your thoughts on the matter.


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12 Responses

  1. I think ultimately it’s the heart of the person that matters – not any particular belief.

  2. I certainly can see your perspective, and Lewis’ at least seems to be the same. However, doesn’t this seem to minimize the meaning and importance of Jesus? I am sympathetic to Lewis’ (and your) perspective, but I also think Jesus must be made more important rather than less. But I’m still thinking…not sure how it works exactly…thanks for contributing.

    Other thoughts? What do you all think? I think this is of practical importance and is not just a mental exercise. Ultimately, it’s about how to respond to non-Christians who are living the message of the gospel – but either do not know, or do not care about Jesus. I think that’s pretty important.

  3. I love Lewis, but I wouldn’t base my beliefs and my evangelism on his fiction. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him. If non-Christians are really living in loving, serving ways, we can attempt to show them how the gospel of Christ fulfills the “law” they have attempted to keep. But belief in Jesus is essential, according to all that God has said on the subject.

    Couldn’t this scene be a picture of evangelism akin to Paul’s sermon on the “unknown god”? We can try to show people how their worship and lifestyle points to the true God, but we do them a disservice if we let them think that whoever they worship is fine as long as it’s sincere enough.

  4. Regarding evangelism, I think I pretty much agree Andrea. Even Lewis seems to agree that it would be a “disservice” to tell someone Tash is equal to Aslan.

    I also agree that Jesus is the only way. But I do think there are multiple ways to interpret it. Jesus doesn’t ever say that believing in him as God, is the only way to heaven, salvation, etc.

    I’m wondering how Jesus would respond to a real life situation like what we are talking about. I’m trying to think of something in the gospels that would relate well…I’ll keep thinking…

  5. This is one of my favorite things Lewis wrote. It just seems/feels so right to me in a way I can’t fully explain. It resonates. When I read the words of Aslan I hear the heart of Jesus, of my God. Does that make sense?

    Lewis opens the possibility with this passage that a person might not come to know Jesus (in person) until after death. I don’t think you can reconcile a loving God and hell without leaving open the possibility of choice beyond this life.

    I’m certainly not for reducing the importance of Jesus. But I do think Lewis has a point here that is worth thinking about.

  6. But what about my last question Mark? If what Lewis writes is true (it also seems to me to be the heart of Jesus), then would we be right to encourage those who are following “Tash” but are living a life of service and love? Or must we tell them they are wrong and “Tash” is wrong? I’m particularly thinking of those who have no interest in Christianity but are loving others in an amazing way.

    What do you think Mark? (and the rest of you)

  7. I hope we would ask such people to teach us how to love others as they do. I would hope that we would watch, support, and encourage that love in whatever way we can. Why would we get in the way of such service?

    Surely the world has enough problems that we don’t have time to insist that those who are trying to do good either believe something or agree with some doctrinal statement. It seems to me Jesus was more concerned about action than belief. Belief inspires action. It isn’t an end in itself. I think when we see the action and don’t recognize the belief behind it, we aren’t looking hard enough (or for the right thing).

  8. Chiming in here a bit…

    I don’t think we would ever say to someone, “Your love and service are bad because they are not done in the name of Jesus.” Well, maybe some would, but that’s another whole discussion. =) I liked what Andrea said: “We can try to show people how their worship and lifestyle points to the true God…”

    I agree that Jesus is important–is central–and that we should talk about him and stress his importance, but that we should also take to heart what Jesus said in Luke, “whoever is not against you is for you.” We should never discount love and truly good service, and we shouldn’t discount Jesus, either. In other words, to answer that last question, we should encourage that person in what they are doing, but at the same time, speak the truth of Jesus IN LOVE to that person, showing them who IS love, in all fullness. Whether they acknowledge Jesus is another matter, and one that only God truly understands.

    I love this passage.

  9. If God is love, then anyone serving in love is serving God – whether they know it or not. People may not believe in God (directly), but most people do believe in love – and if they believe in love, they do believe in God! All love is of God – all love is God – God is love.

    So many of the stories Jesus told to tell of a deep truth were upside down to the way people thought – to the way we think. He was always so hip to those who looked so far removed from God, but had hard things to say to those who thought they had all the right answers. This reminds me of the sheep-and-goat story Jesus told – at the end of the story the conclusion is how so many people were blown away by those who made it into heaven. Maybe we’ll all be blown away by that one – I don’t want to be so arrogant to think I know.

    Love wins…

  10. I wonder if a careful reading of 1 John would shed some light on this issue. Lots of thought-provoking stuff there about God’s love, about knowing Jesus, and about loving others…

  11. i want to say, “right on lewis.” as, of course, he is brilliant. and this is such a wonderful way that i can value people’s effort at faith, while staying true to my own. but it still seems a bit arrogant. as if i am saying, “but MY faith and MY God is the only real, true way.” and maybe this is what i believe. actually, i think it is. but i still do not think it would be my place to say that someone’s faith, ultimately, will be redirected. that seems to cheapen their efforts. and i do not want my own efforts cheapened. i believe what i believe and i would have it no other way, right or wrong. and so i struggle.

    christopher hitchens, famous atheist, says that if he died and was confronted with his “Maker,” he would say: Imponderable Sir, I presume from some if not all of your many reputations that you might prefer honest and convinced unbelief to the hypocritical and self-interested affectation of faith or the smoking tributes of bloogy altars.

    and i think this is right. i hope so anyway. that God would honor our efforts at faith, even if they lead to unbelief, so long as they are sincere and honest. i hope that is not blasphemy.

  12. April,

    Everyone believes their way of thinking is the right way. It is not necessarily arrogant to say, “I believe reality is such and such and I would like to show you why I see it that way.” In fact you are doing exactly that, so your way is just as arrogant because you are saying it is better and other people should believe it. Right?

    We don’t act as if truth in the natural realm is negotiable. Am I arrogant for teaching my toddler to not touch the hot oven? Why would truth in the spiritual and moral realms be different? Tim Keller points out that a man who lives for money above all else will bankrupt his soul and ruin his relationships. We can see a spiritual law at work. It is not negotiable or arrogant to state it and warn people about what will happen.
    You can download Tim Keller’s talks on Absolutism and Exclusivism at Redeemer Presbyterian.


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