What’s in a name?

The basic title of the blog comes from a combination of Narnia and Church history.

In his fourth book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, Lewis presents us with an odd looking supporting hero, Puddleglum the marshwiggle. Now physically I have more in common with a dwarf of Tolkien’s making…shorter and stocky with a largish nose and long beard…and therefore look nothing like the tall, lanky, beardless, frog footed creature of Narnia. But I have been told by a psychological evaluation that I have a “depressive personality,” though I never thought of it that way. Also my wife has asked me on more than one occasion to just encourage her “a little” because often the things I find “very encouraging” seem a bit depressive for others. So, the part of the description that says, “His expression was solemn…and you could see at once that he took a serious view of life,” may be more applicable than I care to admit. I do have a Pudlleglumish tendency to instinctively expect the worst and then try to put a positive light on it…not always successfully enough to cheer those around me.

The “contra mundum” part of the name comes from “Athanasius contra mundum,” (Athanasius against the world) which is the phrase referencing the stand that St. Athanasius took for the orthodox view of Christ against Arian heretics, imperial powers, and Christian accommodationists (those orthodox believers and leaders who did not wish to cause trouble by demanding commitment to the fullness of the reality of who Christ is). His stand got him exiled multiple times, even by “Christian” emperors.

For my purposes here, it also points to the oft neglected concept from scripture that we cannot nurture “friendship with the world” that is “enmity with God” (James 4:4). Among Christian intellectuals it seems that the drive in recent decades has been to secure a “seat at the table” so we can commend Christ to the culture, but in so doing we seem to be more and more prone to compromise…slowly lulled into comfortable collusion with lies like the proverbial frog in the kettle. We have forgotten the reality that Christ is not merely an option to be offered in the marketplace of ideas. He is Lord of the whole world who places a demand on us that we take up our cross and promises us that we will be hated. To be contra mundum in the current academic setting is to live in the spirit of Psalm 84:10, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

As for the “One foot in the fire” tagline…it comes from the action of Puddleglum in Lewis’s novel Prince Caspian, an action that all of us Christian frogs in our American kettle desperately need to copy.

In Prince Caspian, two children from our world named Eustace and Jill are aided by the marshwiggle in a quest assigned to them by Aslan, the great Lion, to find the lost Prince of Narnia. The Prince had been under the enchantment of a witch who was secretly tunneling beneath the surface to set the rightful Narnian ruler on his own thrown…as her puppet. At the pertinent point in the story, the rescuers have released Prince Rilian from his enchantment. But just as they are preparing to leave the underground world of the witch, she discovers them and begins to weave a new enchantment over the whole company. To do this, she throws a powder into the fire that fills the room with a sweet, heavy fragrance that induces a sort of stupor. And that is when Puddleglum performs his heroic act that is the inspiration for my tagline:

The Prince and the two children were standing with their heads hung down, their cheeks flushed, their eyes half closed; the strength all gone from them; the enchantment almost complete. But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn’t hurt him quite as much as it would hurt a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and coldblooded like a duck’s. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth. And three things happened at once.

First, the sweet heavy smell grew very much less. For though the whole fire had not been put out, a good bit of it had, and what remained smelled very largely of burnt Marshwiggle, which is not at all an enchanting smell. This instantly made everyone’s brain far clearer. The Prince and the children held up their heads again and opened their eyes.

Secondly, the Witch, in a loud, terrible voice, utterly different from all the sweet tones she had been using up till now, called out, “What are you doing? Dare to touch my fire again, mud-filth, and I’ll turn the blood to fire inside your veins.”

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.

C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (Chapter 12)

In this blog, some of what I have to say may indeed be “not an all an enchanting smell;” it may stink of burnt marshwiggle. But I am determined to get out of the pot in which so many Christian intellectuals are slowly being brought to a boil and write those cold, hard truths that will hopefully stamp out some of the deluding flames that have contributed to the enchantment of our elite class and awaken our leaders to the dangers we face as a church.