Summary: For many, this is an early introduction to eschatology.
It has been years since I have read the Last Battle (probably close to 25). I know it is a book that I read several times. And it definitely influenced my eschatology (theology of the end times).
Lewis was not universally loved for this book. In fact, there are probably few books that generate more frustration from Evangelical readers than the Last Battle.
Lewis always claimed he was not writing Christian Allegory, but it is pretty hard to resist that claim when Lewis clearly is writing an eschatological story. If you write about the end of the world and where the story ends up in ‘heaven’ then you cannot complain when people treat it as a theological work about eschatology.
But I think Lewis gets far more right than wrong and the complaints say quite a bit about the problems of Evangelical eschatology. (Issues are pre-millinialism, universalism, election.)
The first and major thing he gets right is Lewis’ vision of heaven. Heaven in Narnia is actually the perfected version of Narnia. Those that are from Narnia recognize glimpses of Narnia. But it is bigger, better and in some way that they cannot quite describe, right. NT Wright I think is the modern theologian that has emphasized this theology most. Our work here on Earth matters in a way that we cannot fully understand. But we are assisting in the recreation of Earth. Our work now matters. And we will have a work to do in the recreated Earth as well.
Second, I think that Lewis is right about choice. There are those that choose to reject Aslan and Heaven. It is not just the Dwarves (that get into a sort of heaven, but do not realize it), but there is a sorting and many do not get into the new Narnia. They are sent somewhere that Lewis does not get into. I believe that Lewis (like John Stott) was an annihilationist. He believed that there is not an eternal Hell. But a temporary Hell until judgement. And after judgement those that reject Christ cease to exist For Stott at least this was not a get out of jail free card, this was a horrible punishment. But it also was not an eternal conscious punishment that many Evangelicals theologically support. I am not completely sure about annihilationism, but I do support the choice position.
The most controversial point in the Last Battle is a short segment where a Chalormean solider (enemy and roughly equivalent to muslim) is allowed into the Narnian heaven because he has served his false God well. For some this is a justification by works or Universalist position. But it is only Universalist, if you forget all those that did not get into heaven in the first place. And it is only justification by works if you think that the Chalormean got in by his own merits. Lewis seems to suggest that the Chalormean worship of Tash (a false God) was accepted by Aslan (the real God). But there was also a private conversation that we do not fully get. My own inference from this is that there is a real presentation of the gospel by Aslan and that the Chalormean (who has not actually heard the gospel before) accept it and is ushered into Heaven. Admittedly that is a generous reading. But it is the way I have chosen to read it from a very early time.
As a story, I both love this book and think it is one of the lesser Narnia books. I love it because it is in many ways the most explicitly theological book of the Narnia series. I think it is one of the lesser Narnia books because it is fairly weak on plot. The Narnian king and his best friend try hard, but do not make a lot of good decisions. And Jill and Eustace are not really big characters in the book. Although I was surprised that the ‘heaven’ parts of the book do not really come until the last quarter of the book.
The Last Battle is a must read Christian book. Everyone should read at least the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe and the Last Battle from the Chronicles of Narnia (the first and the last books). They are fundamental to really understanding the lasting impact that CS Lewis has made on the modern Christian world.
Other Bookwi.se Reviews of CS Lewis Books
- Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (Theology)
- Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis (Space Trilogy)
- Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis (Bible)
- CS Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath (biography)
- Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis (Memoir)
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by CS Lewis (Fictionalized theology)
- Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis (Fiction)
- The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis (Narnia)
- The Silver Chair by CS Lewis (Narnia)
- The Magician’s Nephew (Narnia)