Saturday, October 30, 2004
Is LotR a Christian Tale?
Deuteronomy 18:10-12 “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord…”
Gandalf is called a wizard, Galadriel is called a witch, the Elves use magic, Aragorn summons the Dead, and Middle-Earth is full of demons. And the New Agers have taken Tolkien to their muddled if earnest bosoms.
Pretty open-and-shut case, isn’t it?
I'll begin my defence of The Lord of the Rings as a profoundly Christian story by means of a short synopsis of the Bible.
The Mind and Power that inhabits Eternity long ago created intelligent beings we know from Scripture as angels. One of those was Lucifer, named as one of the cherubim, possibly an archangel. Somewhere in the long history of these beings, Lucifer rebelled and was cast down to earth along with about a third of the other angels (Isa. 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-17, Rev. 12:1-17).
When it was time, God created man, another intelligent form of life, able to imagine the Divine, but physically confined to an environment of earth and air. For his own reasons, God allowed the former Lucifer – Satan – to tempt and seduce man to evil in what we think of as the Fall, as a consequence of which man is fated to die. The only way for us to escape permanent death is to turn to God for mercy, said mercy being offered to us in the person of the Son, who was born into our world as a fragile human infant.
That Christ-child was in danger of his life from his birth, hence the flight into Egypt and the Slaughter of the Innocents. But he was born to die - to die for us to buy our lives back from Death. He accepted that fate and went willingly to the cross because he wanted mankind to live even at the cost of his own life.
Then, having suffered, died, and risen, he left - left us here on this earth to continue our living and dying without his physical presence. That was the end of Act I of the story God is writing in us.
Act II is yet to come. Act II is the Second Coming. The Son, having paid with his life for mankind, will come – when it is time - to reclaim his property, his kingdom, his throne.
(That throne is not new: it is a very old one that dates back to David. See The Lost King of Israel. )
Lucifer/Satan is, and has been from the beginning, doing his best to prevent this, and destroy mankind (Matt.24:22 “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved…”) but his fate at the return of Jesus Christ is described thus (Rev. 21:1-3): “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand, And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him…”
The redeeming king has come and mankind is saved from extinction. But that Coming hasn’t happened yet: we’re still in the middle of the story. Our enemies are the fallen angels who still hold office over this earth (Eph. 6:12): For 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. Our friends are the angels who were faithful (Heb. 1:13-14): “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Our hero is the Son of God, who came once as a lamb for slaughtering and who will come again as a conquering king.
This story, from Genesis to Revelation, is precisely the story that The Lord of the Rings tells.