I read the Last Battle – C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book – twice, but I never noticed the strong suggestion that the humans who have come to Narnia have been killed in a train crash. I found out this was the case after reading it as a casual aside in a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It seems that all the Narnia ‘children’ – barring Susan, who’s rejected Aslan’s ways – are on the same train, having met up. Conveniently, this means that they all die at the same time and appear in Narnia simultaneously, where they are in high demand for the last battle.
If Narnia is the afterlife, then the idea is this: we die because we’re needed in the afterlife. This is a very comforting idea. My Granny died soon after Ron Pop because he was lonely in the afterlife and wanted her there as well. Perhaps some heavenly band needed Ian Pop to play drums, and that’s why he died of lung cancer in his early seventies. But I don’t know what God wanted with Mark Sandman, lead singer of Morphine, so young nor my favourite theologian, John Howard Yoder, who should have been given another twenty years to amaze the world. And then why such high demand for people in the afterlife during wars and epidemics?
Well, I might respond, these people were dying anyway, and it just so happens that God manages to make good the tragedy of their death by creating a reason for it – invisibly to us who are left behind.
Okay, I could almost live with that, but I’ve got a more serious and sustained objection. I don’t believe afterlife is lived in an invisible realm running parallel to this one like Narnia. I believe that the afterlife is resurrection, that it takes place on an Earth made right. Whatever existence we might have immediately after death, it is but a shadow, a waiting for the time of our resurrection with incorruptible bodies on a new Earth.
C.S. Lewis, I’m sure, never meant me to read his eschatology too literally. But I do think that a lot of Christians see ‘heaven’ as a Narnia-like realm in its basic disconnection from Earth.