The United Kingdom and many other countries today have a monarchy as a form of government, a king or queen as head of state. But many don’t. The United States prides itself on democracy and liberty. Monarchies have these things too. They just unknowingly recognize human nature, “the necessity of a king.” Nations without kings worship celebrities and heroes of their own making. C. S. Lewis writes in his 1944 essay “Equality,”
Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
Men and women were created to worship, not be worshiped. They were created to serve, not rule and reign. This is their duty as created beings. A creature cannot rule itself. Neither can it find lower beings to fulfill the duties of worship and service, as hard as it tries in social hierarchies and despotism. Mankind requires someone greater and higher. Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle states this spiritual truth eloquently in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1840). He describes the nature of worship.
Worship is transcendent wonder; wonder for which there is now no limit or measure. … Worship of a Hero is transcendent admiration of a Great Man.
No nobler feeling than this of admiration for one higher than himself dwells in the breast of man. It is to this hour, and at all hours, the vivifying influence in man’s life.
Society everywhere is some representation … of a graduated Worship of Heroes—reverence and obedience done to men really great and wise.
Hero-worship … cannot cease till man himself ceases.
Yet such “hero worship” should be given to God alone, not a person or thing of our own making. Never should it be given to ourselves. We’re not the true heroes and kings in this world. The only king we should serve is Jesus Christ. Carlyle sees this truth too.
Hero-worship, heartfelt prostrate admiration, submission, burning, boundless, for a noblest godlike Form of Man—is not that the germ of Christianity itself? . . . Christianity [is] the highest instance of Hero-worship.
The tragedy is that so few people acknowledge such truths. They refuse to recognize their natures, to see themselves as they really are. People choose to believe in other gods, no god, or themselves – anyone but Jesus Christ their true king. Even in this wrong self-rule, such people are really worshiping and serving. Their true natures are still at work. The king is just self. In his classic work The Knowledge of the Holy (1961), A. W. Tozer writes,
The natural man is a sinner because and only because he challenges God’s selfhood in relation to his own. In all else he may willingly accept the sovereignty of God; in his own life he rejects it. For him, God’s dominion ends where his begins. For him, self becomes Self, and in this he unconsciously imitates Lucifer. …
So subtle is self that scarcely anyone is conscious of its presence. Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing. He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself. No matter how far down the scale of social acceptance he may slide, he is still in his own eyes a king on a throne, and no one, not even God, can take that throne from him.
Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, “I AM.” That is sin in its natural essence; yet because it is natural it appears to be good. …
To set our will against the will of God is to dethrone God and make ourselves supreme in the little kingdom of Mansoul. This is sin at its evil root.
In The Last Battle, the dwarfs embody Tozer’s words. “I don’t think we want any more kings … no more than we want any Aslans. We’re going to look after ourselves from now on and touch our caps to nobody. … We’re on our own now. No more Aslan, no more kings, no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” They also want to rule Narnia for themselves.
Walking around in darkness with just a single lamp, the Dwarfs refuse to believe in any Aslan, fake or real. They think they can light their own way and find their own path to truth, without any external help. What the prophet Isaiah says of them is true. “Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with sparks: walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled–this you shall have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment” (Isaiah 50:11, NKJV).
The Dwarfs think they have to see to believe. They even tell Shift the Ape that “seeing is believing.” Over and over they say “the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.” When the Talking Horses try to rescue Tirian, Eustace, Jill, and the Narnians faithful to Aslan, the Dwarfs shoot them all. Their reason? “We don’t want you to win any more than the other gang. You can’t take us in.” The Dwarfs have no faith in the unseen. But giving neither belief nor deference to Aslan, the King of beasts who represents Jesus Christ, is unnatural.
Such self-reign always ends in disaster. At the Stable Door, the dwarfs see the face of Aslan and turn away in horror because they can’t bear to worship their rightful king. “When some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly — it was fear and hatred” as “they suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts.” They then disappear into the shadow of Aslan and are never seen again. The dwarfs end up in dark oblivion, instead of the light of the new Narnia and Aslan’s country. What else can they expect for their selfish, atheistic unbelief?
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund isn’t much different. He wants to sit on a throne so he can boss his older brother Peter and “tame” Aslan. The White Witch tells Edmund she’ll make him a king; he can sit on a throne and eat Turkish delight all day long. But that’s the devil’s line and it never gets old. Yet this is just what our sinful nature craves. We all want to be king and queen of something, at the pinnacle of society. We want to be the smartest, the coolest, the most famous, the richest – the list goes on and on. And what food does the devil bait us with for our desires? Alcohol, drugs, sex, fame, money, and many more.
Unlike the dwarfs, however, Aslan shows Edmund grace. The boy’s disobedience stems more from the White Witch’s magic Turkish delight than perverse unbelief. So Aslan allows Edmund to be captured and thrown into prison. He eats stale bread and water, not Turkish delight. While there and on his trip to Aslan’s kingdom, Edmund sees what the White Witch is really like – someone evil and cruel who wants total control. Only after he admits some hard truths about himself, and only after he’s rescued and forgiven by the great King, does he choose Aslan the true king of Narnia. Edmund finally sees “the necessity of a king” – a good one! Through Aslan, he learns to become who the Lion has called him to be – not the “High” king but a Just king, a humble helper to Peter and a “graver and quieter man.”
We were born in sin. We can’t do what’s right all the time. Even our “good” acts are warped in selfish pride. We need someone to control us on the inside and that can’t be us! We can’t control our present and future lives either, let alone those of others. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Only Jesus does. So what must we do? In the words of Tozer,
It is only when in the gospel the soul is brought before the face of the Most Holy One without the protective shield of ignorance that the frightful moral incongruity is brought home to the conscience….
“What shall we do?” is the deep heart cry of every man who suddenly realizes that he is a usurper and sits on a stolen throne. However painful, it is precisely this acute moral consternation that produces true repentance and makes a robust Christian after the penitent has been dethroned and has found forgiveness and peace through the gospel.
If you lived in Narnia, who would you serve: Aslan, the White Witch, or yourself? Who will you be like – the Dwarfs who serve themselves and end up in eternal darkness, or Edmund who once serves the Witch but receives grace to serve Aslan?
Here and now, are you serving Jesus, the devil, or yourself? There’s one right choice and two wrong ones. Serving yourself is really serving the devil. You won’t see heaven if you do. Pray God opens your eyes to see “the necessity of a king.” Then choose Jesus Christ, King of Kings. Put him on the throne of your heart – today.
Images: Pauline Baynes / Walden Media & Disney
- Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, 1840
- C. S. Lewis, “Equality,” The Spectator, February 11, 1944
- Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, 1956
- Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 1950
- A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1961, pp 48-50