Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.
That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.
Poor Liam Neeson. He can't win. He probably feels like he has to distance himself from the narrow, Christian message of The Chronicles of Narnia by recreating Aslan for himself in a more palatable, relativistic form to avoid upsetting the culture at large. And why not, if all that matters is what a text means to us, rather than what the author intended that text to mean?
But now he has upset Narnia fans, and with good reason. Neeson's image of Aslan as the god (or leader) of many different religions is quite explicitly argued against in The Last Battle when the Calormenes wrongly claim that Aslan and Tash (their god) are the same god, calling him "Tashlan."
I saw one person argue that Neeson is somewhat accurate because at the end of the book, Emeth, a Calormene, "recognizes Aslan as the Calormene god he'd been serving all along." But that isn't quite correct. Emeth doesn't discover that Aslan is Tash—the Calormene god he'd been serving; he discovers he wasn't serving the Calormene god at all, but he was instead serving Aslan, a very different god. While this is a message of inclusivism* that I don't endorse, it's still quite different from saying that Aslan was both of those gods, as Emeth discovered:
[Aslan said,] Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me...[Emeth replied,] Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook…and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him.**
Mohammed did not pay the ransom for another person's sins. Neither did Buddha. Aslan, on the other hand, did this very thing, and this is meant to represent Jesus, plain and simple.
*You must be logged in to the STR website in order to view this issue of Solid Ground on the subject of inclusivism--the view that you need not explicitly know and trust in Christ in order to be saved by Christ.
**A big reason why I disagree with this inclusivist message is because no service or goodness deserves a reward of salvation from Jesus. Often when people are troubled by the fact that people who have not heard of Jesus will not be saved, they are acting on the hidden assumption that some people are good enough (have truly sought God enough, or have done enough good) that, in order to be fair, God would bring them to heaven, even if they did not know and submit themselves to Jesus' mercy and forgiveness. But this is not the picture the Bible paints of our inability to come to God on our own, our hopeless state without Christ, and our need to hear of Christ to be saved (i.e., we must be called by God to be saved, and hearing the Gospel is the only means by which God calls people to Himself).