The Problem of Susan
“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”
It is a hard thing to read, for sure. The first thing that comes to mind is – but “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia!” Right?! Nevertheless, Susan is not there with her siblings as they enter Aslan’s Country.
Since The Last Battle’s publication, Lewis’s choice to exclude Susan from his allegorical heaven has resulted in severe criticism. A common one: “Aslan would never abandon a child like that!”
When I first read the Narnia series I shared these sentiments. I was a non-believer. I was in college. I simply would not accept this ending. Susan didn’t deserve it.
But now, as a born-again believer, I understand:
You cannot have heaven without Christ.
Susan – sadly – rejected Aslan. She forgot Narnia. She chose to “grow up”. Aslan didn’t want to abandon her. And no one – including Lewis himself – said that all hope was lost for her (“some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”). But as a young lady she rejected Narnia and Narnian things, and therefore the passage back to Narnia was closed for her.
You can’t take the world – your sin – your lipstick and nylons – with you. You have to choose – the World or Aslan’s Country. It’s that simple.
It’s no surprise that JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and countless others cannot fathom the problem of Susan. They are Susan. Just like I was Susan before. They’ve chosen the world and worldly things. They want heaven without Christ. What they don’t understand is that any heaven without Christ is actually hell. The door isn’t permanently closed though; He is ready to open it for anyone who chooses Him.
As CS Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”
I choose to believe that Susan did make it to Aslan’s Country eventually, and when she did there was great rejoicing. She just took a longer and likely more arduous path. Just as so often happens in life.