Over the last several months, I’ve been reading The Chronicles of Narnia with my oldest daughter (which has been awesome). Among the many fascinating elements of the series is a character who appears in the final book, The Last Battle.
Shift is an ape, “the cleverest, ugliest, most wrinkled Ape you can imagine,” as CS Lewis puts it. Shift is a swindler, a con-artist who dresses his “friend” Puzzle (a donkey) in a discarded lion-skin in order to pose as a false Aslan and gain glory for himself. Interestingly, as the story goes, he becomes increasingly insistent that he’s a man, not an ape; he dons ill-fitting clothing and a crumpled crown that make him look far more silly than serious. Nevertheless, he insists, “I’m a man!”
Could there be a better picture of the false teacher?
Like the conniving ape, the false teacher insists that what he (or she) teaches is the right, true word of the Lord, regardless of how much it conflicts with His previously revealed character and commands. They “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1); “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (Jude 4); and their talk is full of “irreverent babble” which leads people into “more and more ungodliness, and their talk [spreads] like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16-17).
They are like the “prophets” of Jeremiah’s day, of whom God said, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer. 14:14).
Still, the ape insists he’s a man.
When we first started reading about Shift, Abigail stopped me after a few paragraphs, looked me right in the eye and said, “He’s a bad guy.” She recognizes his lie, and so should we. An ape—even a clever, talking one—is not a man, no matter how much he insists otherwise. His fruit reveals the truth.