Frodo and Grace
Does God exact day-labour, light denied?
Did Frodo fail in his quest to destroy the One Ring?
Technically speaking, yes. Technically, one of his hands grasped the Ring and placed it upon the other, there at the end of his long resistance. But did he fail morally?
Perhaps this can be best answered by examining what he was up against.
The Ring is something far stronger than, say, an addiction to cocaine or alcohol. It is a force that is humanly unfathomable, the essence, the life-power of Sauron himself.
It is clear to whom Sauron can be compared in both the Old and the New Testaments. (I'm leaving Melkor out of this. Great minds think alike, so to speak, so Sauron is sufficient for my purposes.)
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!"
"Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee...thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire."
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent...he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
"And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven..."
In those ancient writings, we are also told that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." St. Paul also refers to "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." St. Peter refers to that Dark Power as "seeking whom he may devour."
And from a prophecy in the Revelation of St. John:
Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
That is Sauron. That is the Ring. Mankind and hobbit-kind are, in the end, helpless before it.
The Ring isn't an addiction to be conquered by the determination of ephemerals; rather a malignant and perilous Darkness. The only thing that is between us and that Darkness, between Frodo and the evil of the Ring is holy light - Love, incarnate in Christ.
We do have free will, yes, and we are required to learn to show our quality, to imitate Christ, but that comes into play mainly in the general course of our lives as we choose each day to follow good or evil. But there is one battle that all the free will and good intentions in the world cannot win and it is this: despite our willingness to follow good, every last one of us would in the end be claimed by the Darkness.
The most basic, primal, underlying principle of Christianity is that one thing and one thing alone can ultimately overcome the mastery of the Ring and the Dark Lord, and that is Christ. Our wills cannot do it. What matters on our part is that we desire Love as opposed to "Lucifer, son of the morning." If we desire Love truly, then the son of the morning, the Dark Lord, has no power to destroy us - because Love will step barefoot onto the razor-edge of ruin to bring us safe home.
Scripture tells us that God will not try us beyond what we can bear. And Frodo - in one sense - was not tried beyond what he could bear. Until he came to the Fire, it was within his power to resist the temptation to put on the Ring, either through his own strength or by turning to Sam for help (Sam himself being a type of Christ). He was therefore responsible for his actions.
And he fought with everything he had. He walked, staggered, crawled through the valley of the shadow of death. All the way through Mordor, his will - his desire to stave off Darkness - was what kept him plodding, one foot after another. That will held firm right up to the last moment. Then he came to the end of that hell-march and there to welcome him was the son of the morning.
One task, and nothing I could give has stayed the hand of death
Or saved free heart and breath.
I can hear the Fire sing
And my little strength is melted in surrender to the Ring.
Love watched him all the way through Mordor. "You can do this and you must do this, or I will demand a reckoning of you." Love said. Then Frodo came to the brink of utter damnation and fell, and Love said, "This is beyond your strength, what I am allowing to happen. Therefore I will not demand reckoning of you. I will save you."
In that instant, when his soul hung imperiled between life and eternal night, he became no longer responsible. The trial had become too much.
So, no, I don't think Frodo failed, not morally. Because nothing he could give could save him, only something given to him.
C. Baillie / '03
Christianity and Middle-Earth