Daily Archives: 28th January 2017

Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle

I get into all sorts of debates with believers, Pharisees and atheists on the faith forums. In one such debate, I had an atheist, using a somewhat condescending manner, insisting that Christianity is a fear-based faith and that it’s all made up. Although this gentleman was well-read, well-educated, well-travelled and very polite, he never once let up on his pressure and made no concessions whatsoever; conduct hardly conducive to a fruitful discussion! But some of his comments were really perceptive; this one in particular:

“Try to have a happier life and shrug off that evil influence of a death cult and fear of a “wrathful god”

Hmm. How odd, then, that CS Lewis’s character ‘Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle’, in his book ‘The Silver Chair’ (the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia), should come to my rescue. I will relate the story of course – not to show off my lack of debating prowess, but to let you have the insight into the subject. 😉

My reply went like this

” – oh if only they would! […shrug off that evil influence of a death cult and fear of a “wrathful god”]

“I have to tell you that there is a current trend of change amongst Christians these days – including people like me – who actually fully reject the “evil influence of the death cult and fear of a ‘wrathful god’ “, as you put so well. There are those who don’t believe it at all, not the Hell stuff, not the Wrath stuff, not the inerrancy/infallibility of the Bible and all that. I sometimes wonder if the reason people think that most Christians believe in that sort of thing, is because those who do are the most vocal!

“No doubt you could point to the references in the Bible that refer to Hell, god being a wrathful monster and so on, and say, ‘What, it says it in your holy book and you don’t believe it?’ And the answer is no, I don’t believe it. I know and agree that it says all those abominable things, but I don’t believe it. As I have said to you elsewhere in this thread, my own faith is based on personal experience of God, not based on the writings of (sometimes) deluded people from an entirely different time and culture. Some of it is good, yes, but much of it isn’t.

“Can I prove God? No. And certainly not by quoting the Bible at you as some would.

“Does God make a difference to me, in my life? I have to say yes, I think He does. That’s how it feels to me, anyway.

“Am I deluded too? Maybe. You’d have to look at my life, my work, my writings, my lifestyle, my behaviour, my personality and all that sort of thing to be able to form an opinion on that. But I would say that I am a cynical, professional medical scientist; I am a Pilot; a musician; theologian; teacher; military historian; writer; computer programmer; I’m even a world-class Diplomacy player, or at least I was once upon a time.

“I mean I’m pretty switched-on. I’m not the sort of person who is easily duped. Most people I know and work with both at work and at home would not tell you that they get the impression that I am deluded.

“But still yes, I may indeed be wrong about absolutely everything I believe – but I’m enjoying believing it and for me that’s what matters. And it matters too to people who are positively affected by seeing my faith in action – my friends and family, strangers I meet, my colleagues, people who read my blog. The effects are real even if the cause is not. I’d rather have my belief structure in all its interest, dynamism, depth and comfort, than have nothing like that in my life. It reminds me of CS Lewis’s character ‘Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle’, in his book ‘The Silver Chair’, where he says this to the ‘Lady of the Green Kirtle’, who is actually the evil Witch of the Underworld:

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.

Legendary actor Tom Baker in his role as Puddleglum in the BBC version of 'The Silver Chair'
Legendary actor Tom Baker in his role as Puddleglum in the BBC version of ‘The Silver Chair’

We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.” ”

Nothing personal to my online critic, of course, but I’d rather have my ‘Narnia’ than his nowt. 🙂

For someone like my online friend, he’s so well-read that he’s actually in a position of unrealised danger of falling into believing: it could suddenly all come together for him as a blinding light of revelation – ‘Of course!! I see it all so clearly! How could I have been so blind!’ What many unbelievers, and especially atheists, forget or maybe don’t realise is that for many Christians, they have not always been believers. Once, they were just as my online friend – interested and well-read, maybe, but lacking belief. And that belief comes to each believer in a different way, but the point is that people who once did not believe, now do. Something happened to them, something that now makes them say, ‘I once was blind, but now I see’. Something happened to convince even the most cynical that God is real and that He cares for that person. Something happened that enables a religious person, steeped in rules and tradition, to suddenly have a ‘Eureka!’ moment and nothing is ever the same again. Something continues to happen in the spirit of even the most cynical people – people like me – that continues on a daily basis to convince us, usually irrationally, that there is a reality above and beyond this one we see, hear, touch, taste and feel.

So, I will live like a Narnian; like my friend Puddleglum. Because there are things I know, things I have seen, felt, touched and heard, that convinced me – and continue to convince me – of the reality of Jesus, Father God and Holy Spirit. This is real. I’m really not making this up!

For another interesting take on Puddleglum, here’s another article by another blogger. Click the graphic below to go to the article: