The Fear of Aslan

I just wrote a little section in my dissertation on the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Fear (יִרְאָה) in this verse is certainly used often in the phrases “fear of God” or “fear of the Lord,” but it is also the common Hebrew word for dread of a possible future occurrence—the standard-issue, universal experience of emotional fear. God promised the Israelites in the wilderness, “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear (יִרְאָה) of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you” (Deut 2:25). It seems that there is a purposeful ambiguity on the part of God when He commands people to fear Him. It is hard to think that He means for us to live in active terror [I’m working on this sentence…]. But mere respect would not do as a rendering, because it leaves out key components of meaning, the components C.S. Lewis had in mind when he narrated the first time the Pevensie children ever heard of Aslan:

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. Don Johnson on November 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Mark, I love that illustration and use it regularly.

    But it reminds me of a chart in Ed Welch’s book, When People are Big and God is Small. It puts fear of God on a spectrum from Terror to Worship (as I recall). It is probably the best thing in the whole book.

    Anyway, don’t know if you had seen that, but it might be useful to you on the topic.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Mark L Ward Jr on November 11, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Thanks, Don! I will go to the library and look that one up. I’m eager to get some good insight for this section.

  3. Don Johnson on November 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I just checked my copy and the chart is on p. 97, called “The Fear of the Lord: a Continuum”. I like that description.

    Don Johnson
    Jeremiah 33.3

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