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The Narnia series was written by a Christian named C.S. Lewis who also wrote books that argued for Christianity. The Narnia series is supposed to contain Christian themes, which might be there for someone looking for them, but especially in the movies it just seems like a kids' story.

J.R.R. Tolkien, a friend of C.S. Lewis who wrote The Lord of the Rings, was also a Christian, although he apparently claimed that the books were not religious. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Middle-earth)

There are a couple questions that need to be addressed about these, especially considering their popularity:

  1. Should these books/movies be avoided on the basis that the authors were Christians? If so, what about everything else written by authors who are part of other religions?

  2. Is it a content issue? At face value the Narnia books and movies don't seem to directly say anything about Christianity, even if the author did intend it. And Tolkien apparently did not intend Lord of the Rings to be religious at all, although some say it contains Christian themes (which seems like a stretch to me). Where should we draw the line?

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  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/37767/170
    – msh210
    Jan 30, 2023 at 6:31
  • Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/127343
    – Fred
    Jan 30, 2023 at 7:07
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    I think C.S. Lewis meant the books to be an allegory for Christian themes to teach kids, so they're worse than other fantasy novels.
    – N.T.
    Jan 30, 2023 at 9:14
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    This is a hard one to answer because it really depends on personal circumstances. Ideally don't read anything other than Torah! That's the inescapable theme of Chazal. However, exceptions are sometimes made and it should be a question directed at your LOR. Note: when it comes to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, certainly there are heavy, deliberate Christian themes of "dying for sins" etc.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 30, 2023 at 10:13
  • Lewis beats you over the head with Christian themes, and is often quite didactic. Tolkien's personal philosophy was strongly informed by his Catholicism, and that does show up in the work, but the influence is more subtle.
    – TRiG
    Feb 1, 2023 at 11:41

2 Answers 2

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Most of the sources I have found address reading books or listening to music by non-Jews. Films are a different issue, because they can often be more immodest than the books they were based on. I don't know whether films could necessarily be compared to books, even if they are modest (one concern that comes to mind are the more powerful impressions they leave, as opposed to books, because they play with more of your senses). So I'll be addressing the books:

Should these books/movies be avoided on the basis that the authors were Christians? If so, what about everything else written by authors who are part of other religions?

I have not seen anyone suggest that books should be avoided simply on the basis that their authors were Christian, or any other sort of non-Jew.

Rabbi Shmuel Ariel wrote regarding reading books written by non-Jews (my translation):

"...[we have not found in halacha any prohibition of reading] all books written by non-Jews, from a fear that ideas related to idolatry and heresy may be mixed in. It is prohibited to read books that contradict emunah, but it is not prohibited to read a book written by a someone who is not a believing Jew..."

I recommend reading his full teshuva if you are able (it's in Hebrew).

Rabbi Ilay Ofran also wrote similarly that as long as the material was proper (modest), then it would be allowed. Not reading something written by a non-Jew simply because the author is not Jewish may be regarded as potentially racist.

Is it a content issue? At face value the Narnia books and movies don't seem to directly say anything about Christianity, even if the author did intend it. And Tolkien apparently did not intend Lord of the Rings to be religious at all, although some say it contains Christian themes (which seems like a stretch to me). Where should we draw the line?

Yes-- to a certain extent:

Rabbi Gil Student made a post on the subject of reading the Chronicles of Narnia. He argued that though Narnia is heavily-laden with Christian themes, it is not obvious unless you are very familiar with these themes and/or have the issue pointed out to you (I humbly agree, from my own experience, which is similar to that of Rabbi Student). Therefore, reading these books does not qualify as studying Christian theology.
However:

"Regardless of the halakhic details — meaning, even if you can find ways around the possible issues discussed above — my rabbi and I agree that reading these books and seeing these movies are certainly not recommended. Stay away from other religions in your entertainment needs. There’s plenty of other ways to relax and enjoy yourself without having to partake in subtle Christian allegories."

Rabbi Shai Piron was asked about Sci-Fi/fantasy novels and films both in general, and as an example Lord of the Rings was mentioned. He answered in general terms and I think his point is important. Here's a translation of the Q&A:

"Q. For a while now I've been hearing various opinions on the subject of reading Sci-Fi novels and watching their films (if there are such)
The main issue is regarding books that feature magic and sorcery such the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the Harry Potter book series.
My question, is whether those that say it is not permissible to read these books have a halachic basis?
And as one who really enjoys reading these sorts of books-
Is it allowed? What's the problem with that? And why exactly does this problem exist?

A. B"h
Hello,
If you regard these books as reflecting reality, it is certainly not allowed. There is a great danger of idolatry and I do not see any way to permit such a thing. But if you simply enjoy stretching your imagination via these books, from the powerful descriptions and the ability to create films with so many special effects - there is no prohibition."

Rabbi Ariel further noted in his answer some general points regarding judging what material could be read and what couldn't:

  • Novels or history books where idolatrous practices are mentioned in passing, as things that simply occurred, and not in a manner intended to glorify these books are not prohibited.
  • The same is true regarding books that borrow quotes from idolatrous works. If it is presented as something someone said and not intended to glorify it, then it is not prohibited.
  • This is even more true when the author himself does not believe in these things.

An example that comes to mind, particularly of the third point, are the Cosmere novels by Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson himself is a Mormon, but his books often present various fictional idolatrous religions and cults. Setting aside whether his novels have Mormon themes, it is clear that he himself does not believe in any of the religions he made up.

To sum up their points, in general - these books are not prohibited. However, one should take care to see how the material is presented and what you, the reader, are taking away from the book.

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    Exemplary answer. If we aren't teaching people to distinguish between truth and falsehood, good and bad, then what are we doing? We have worse problems... The ability to distinguish is in our neshama, and should be the bedrock of chinuch. A strong argument can be made about books with immodesty though as that's a different question
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 31, 2023 at 16:55
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While I am not one with semicha, able to give to give a halachic decision, I do recall hearing about Rav Aharon Lichtenstein being an expert on Milton's "Paradise Lost"

To quote an article on the OU site (link here) "As is well known, Rav Aharon was a proponent of studying literature, because as he once wrote, “the humanities deepen our understanding of man: his nature, functions and duties.” When I was studying Paradise Lost in college, Rav Aharon said to me, “I envy you, because you can read Milton now for the first time.”"

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    Are the works in the OP considered "literature" as used here?
    – Double AA
    Jan 30, 2023 at 19:34
  • Why make use of chachmas chitzonius to understand man better when there are so many Torah sources that already help us in this regard? So much of literature has znus, letzanus, ideas that are against the Torah, and generally not Jewish. Even in regards to entertainment there could be a question but to actually study them in a way that one involves the use of one's seichal for klipa is hard to understand
    – Dude
    Jan 30, 2023 at 23:33
  • I think what qualifies as 'literature' changes over time.
    – Just Me
    Feb 1, 2023 at 7:08
  • We also regularly use chachmas chitzonius to understand humans better. Psychology is a prime example. As is all the medical sciences that prolong our life, and phsyical sciences that allow us to record a shiur, and provide us with clean drinking water. The Torah may be the source (although even that is inaccurate, as Hashem is THE source), or more like guideposts, but it is left up to us to implement, develop, and grow.
    – Just Me
    Feb 1, 2023 at 7:17
  • This is part of the reason many more chareidi people do not really hold of him.
    – N.T.
    Feb 16, 2023 at 12:14

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