The Eschatology of Turkish Delight

 C.S. Lewis narrates the psychology of self-deception in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He presents an ambiguous anthropology that is distinctly non-Augustinian, where deviance and wickedness are divorced from inherent evil:

“You mustn’t think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually wanted his brother and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter out for calling him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn’t want her to be particularly nice to them […] but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn’t do anything very bad to them.”

Recall the reason Edmund so dearly wanted Turkish Delight: sugar and chocolate were rationed during World War II. The Edmund character practices a diminution of volitional cognizance, i.e. “willed awareness.” In other words, Edmund engages in a set of internal-discursive practices that deactivate the anagogic image of volition to conformity (cf. Rom. 8:29).

Edmund chooses the temporally fleeting instead of the eternally significant. But what does this mean?

The fact that the object of Edmund’s affection is a material rarity illustrates human frailty in the face of temptation to pleasure — it is the tragic apotheosis of preference over and against self-denial. I believe, though, Lewis intends for a much more precise, Biblical connexion. Now, the Edmund-Judas parallel is evident, but a fascinating question for further research must be the eschatological implication of Edmund’s decision to betray his brother and sisters, and Aslan’s subsequent responses in the single text — as a unit, negating a wider, “Narnian,” eschatology.

Lewis’ only significant contribution regarding character development in the text is the “conversion” of Edmund. If the text is only vaguely allegorical, Edmund’s traitorous act still extends beyond “betrayal” as a topos. If the Edmund-Judas parallel is indeed significant, then the conversion of Edmund is suggestive of a grander eschatological narrative of redemption that includes Judas. Lewis’ explicit crowning of Edmund isn’t rooted in the gospel accounts, but may be a reference to the crown-imagery in the Book of Revelation.

On the other hand, sources aren’t required to argue that historical Protestant evangelical theology (in the non-Barthian sense) saw Judas as an archetype for the damned. With the post-Wesleyan destabilization of perseverance/assurance, the lens through which one can view Judas — in this heritage — is as one who gave up his salvation, one who rejected the spirit that was given to him, and one who trampled upon the grace that was his free gift after he tasted the goodness of God (cf. Heb. 6:4–6).In the Reformed tradition, however, Calvin’s classical analysis of Judas as a “son of destruction” (cf. ESV vs. AV “perdition”) is a particular configuration of John 6:70–71 and the office of apostle as framed in the Book of Acts.

The impatient reader of his commentaries would assume that Calvin sees Jesus’ “choosing” of the remaining eleven disciples in electio and his “choosing” Judas as reprobatio. However, Calvin’s text interprets Jesus’ choosing as an election to the office of apostle, not as a salvific issue. Jesus’ claim, “And yet one of you is a devil,” which is subsequently interpreted by John, “He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him,” (ESV) though, is indeed a salvific proclamation, for Calvin. For him, John 17:12 was authoritative: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (ESV) Calvin employs grammatical argumentation to argue that this lostness is of a predestinarian typology.

But for Lewis, Edmund is victorious by virtue of Aslan’s declaration. Edmund is by no means predestined to damnation simply by virtue of the text’s ending, as a unit. Aslan sees Edmund as a frustrated potentiality but treats him through his (Aslan’s) own perceived righteousness and sacrifice that was to be on the Stone Table. Ergo, if we are to draw character parallels, Judas is not (and cannot be) in hell because he was not damned, ever. His suicide in the field does not negate his status as a Christian. Judas made a poor decision that was reflective of the failure of the anagogic image of volition to conformity. Perhaps Judas’ Turkish Delight was greed; even only for “thirty pieces of silver.” These are only some rough thoughts, I imagine I’ll have more to say about this in the future. Of course, this argument falls apart if Lewis only meant for a topical allusion to the Edmund-Judas betrayal topos.

As an aside, the financial aspect of the betrayal of Jesus is said to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, namely Zech. 11:12–14: “Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” (ESV) — cf. Matthew 26:14–16: “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.” (ESV)

(Header image source)

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