The Gentleman Adventurer on Entertainment (Part 3)

Posted on February 10, 2010 by

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The third and final essay in the series. I expect this one to set off some interesting discussion.

A Trip into the Attic

By Richard W Rohlin

The last essay in this series established from Scripture the need for God to be the lord even of our fantasies. In this essay I want to simply look at a practical application of this biblical truth. It is not my desire here to downplay the brilliance of J.R.R Tolkien. Neither would I argue the importance of the influence of his works on popular culture or their many moral similarities with the teachings of Scripture. My desire is that the reader will prayerfully consider all I say here with a mind open to the light of Scripture. I am not trying to split hairs, nor do I want to strain at gnats while swallowing camels. But I do have a fervent desire to see all of those who claim to follow Christ assert His supremacy in every area of their lives – fictions, fantasies, and realities.

All quotes from The Silmarillion are taken from The Silmarillion, Edited by Christopher Tolkien (New York: Ballantine Publishing Group).

A Foray Into the Attic

Several years ago I, as a young boy, found a yellowed copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was in the side attic next to my sister’s room amid a multitude of Highlights magazine issues. The book had two points in its favor: it was old, and it looked different from everything else in the musty attic. I took it out and shook the dust from its pages and began to read. I later made another foray into the attic and found The Fellowship of the Ring and thus my long-lasting fascination with the world of Middle-Earth began.

A few years, movies, books, and action-figures later the Lord gave me this challenge: would my favorite hobby and pastime stand the rigorous light of Scripture? The process took time and I read several books, most in favor of the engaging world Tolkien had created. The issue came to a head when God convicted me that he deserved the lordship of my fantasies – not just my realities. This is the truth that Doug Phillips addressed in his article Harry Potter and the Lavender Brigade and was the subject of the last essay in this series.

If the deity in charge of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is not Jehovah God of the Bible, then The Lord of the Rings and all the myths and legends surrounding it are wrong. They are wrong because they exalt someone or something else to the place which God alone ought to hold. This is idolatry and idolatry is a sin regardless of the setting, be it fantasy or reality.

With this in mind I want to list three reasons, citing both Scripture and The Silmarillion which I believe prove that Eru the One – the creator figure within Tolkien’s mythology – is in fact a false God and separate from Jehovah by his nature, means, and concept.

  1. Eru is not Almighty God because God reserves creative power unto Himself

According to the book of Genesis, God Himself created all the physical universe in the space of six literal days (see Genesis 1). He did not delegate the power to anyone else. In John 1:3 and Revelation 3:14 we again see that God, specifically in the person of Jesus Christ, is responsible for the creation and subsistence of all things that exist. God personally made all of creation for His glory.

Contrast this to the workings of “Eru the One.” In the Silmarillion – the book detailing most of the myths essential to the events detailed in the Lord of the Rings – Tolkien presents Eru as a master architect or conductor who leads a chorus of lesser deities in a creative song that becomes the “plan” for the universe. Several of those lesser deities must then depart from where Eru dwells to go down into the earth and fashion it according to the “blueprint”(see pages 3, 12  of The Silmarillion).

It is also inconsistent with the nature of God as revealed in Scripture to create something imperfect from the beginning. Upon His creation of this world God was able to say that it was all “very good.” Only man’s sin marred creation and introduced pain, sickness, disease, and death.

In The Silmarillion, however, we see the world is marred from its very forming because Melkor, the chief antagonist, has a part in both the “singing” and ultimately in the forming of the earth itself. This results in everything being as good as it could be under the circumstances, but still all marred from its inception (see pages 4, 5, and 12 of The Silmarillion).

“But,” some might say, “it wasn’t Eru that introduced the error into the creation of the world!” The point here is that Eru may have been a master architect and he may have possessed all of the creative power to begin with, but he differs from Jehovah God in that he is willing to delegate that power to other, lesser beings.

Why is this such a big deal? Whoever creates gets the glory for the creation. Jesus Christ is utterly unwilling to share any of His glory with anyone else. It is this truth that brings us to the second reason that proves that Eru and Christ are in fact different beings.

2. Eru is not Almighty God because God is jealous and unwilling to share His glory

The fact that God is jealous of His glory (Exodus 20:5) and absolutely unwilling to share it with anyone else (Isaiah 42:8) is an essential part of His nature. It is what ultimately makes Jesus Christ the only way to God – God doesn’t want anyone else getting glory for salvation. It is central to the main theme of all God’s dealings with and workings among His creation – to ultimately and forever glorify Himself. This makes it entirely inconsistent with the character of the Creator of the Universe to share the glory due to Him with anyone else.

In contrast, Eru the One seems perfectly content to delegate his powers to lesser beings than he and send them to essentially run the world and preside over it. Some of them – namely Varda, or Elbereth – are even called upon by the elves in times of trouble. These lesser deities are referred to by the elves as the “Valar” and by the race of men as “gods” (see The Silmarillion, pages 15-21). Scripture makes no room for a plethora of deities, be they lesser or principle.

Many will raise the objection here that the Valar are in fact angelic beings, not lesser deities. This reasoning is faulty for a number of reasons. First, Tolkien never intended them to be anything other than a pantheon of gods. In a letter written by Tolkien included in The Silmarillion Tolkien states of the Valar:

“On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course, meant to provide beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the “gods” of higher mythology, which can be accepted – well, we shall say badly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity” (see The Silmarillion, page xvii).

The real issue here is that God’s whole plan from the beginning has always been about glory. It has always been about showing how great and glorious His Son is (Philippians 2:10) because when God the Son is glorified it all tends back to the glory of God the Father. Eru, however, does not seem to care much about glory and is willing to pass it off to lesser deities – call them what you will – who in their turn receive lordship over creation.

What about those instances in Scripture (Revelation 7, for instance) that show angels being given control over specific parts of creation? The difference is that those are temporary assignments given to fulfill a specific judgment or purpose of God tending towards His own magnification and glory. The Valar, however, have actual and specific alloted positions of lordship over different elements of creation.

3. Eru is not almighty God because Tolkien never intended for him to be so

It is possible to argue with some credibility about the nature of the creation of Arda and whether or not the Valar really actually created anything. And in the strictest sense they did not create ex nihilo, though they certainly formed the world according to the original “blueprint” (see pages xvii, 12). One may also argue that the Valar are in fact angelic beings and not deities; though if so they are unlike any angelic beings as we find them in Scripture.

But the most confirming proof of Eru’s not being God is simply this: Tolkien didn’t intend him to be. It is useless to look for allegory where there is none. In stating his intent when he began to form his mythological world, Tolkien said that he had a love for “…myth, (not allegory!)” He shied from anything “explicitly” containing the “Christian religion.” Tolkien felt the explicit portrayal of Christianity in a fantasy setting to be “fatal” (see page xiv, The Silmarillion).

If someone desires to defend Tolkien’s works, that is between himself and God. But let him at least be honest about the matter. Tolkien did not intend The Lord of the Rings or anything else in his mythology to be anything other than a world unto itself. Eru is not Jehovah God and was never intended to be. The Valar, if one wants to call them angelic powers, are the angelic powers of Eru and not of God.

So what?

“Alright,” you say. “So Eru isn’t Jehovah. Why does it matter?” The point is this: God desires to be the god of and get the glory from fantasy realms as well as reality. Therefore, if Eru is not God, then he is a false God. If  Tolkien’s mythology does not give its praise and glory and honor unto the God of the Bible, then it erects an idol god and seeks to escape the laws of God by putting that idol God in a fantasy setting.

The last essay in this series really covered the severity of that fact, so I won’t repeat myself. Instead I want to once again turn to Scripture and see how God really feels about His people trying to serve Him while giving of themselves (their time, money, etc.) to idol gods or to the things (such as movies and books) of those idol gods.

I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

–         1 Corinthians 10:15-22

Appendix: Objections

But What About The Lord of the Rings? Does it all really have to be related?

Saying you can embrace The Lord of the Rings without having to accept all the necessary myths leading up to it is like saying you can embrace Star Wars while ignoring the Force. This is willfully ignoring the facts and ultimately fools no-one but yourself. The world of The Lord of the Rings necessarily depends on all the other myths surrounding it to explain the origin of characters like Sauron and Gandalf and where they derive their power. Otherwise, Gandalf is just a wizard, which in and of itself raises serious objections.

Gandalf: Type of Christ?

According to The Silmarillion, Gandalf is actually Olorin, a Maiar (like a Valar, but lesser). As a spirit, he cannot actually die and thus was not really resurrected. The similarities between Gandalf and Christ can be inferred, to be sure, but were not intentional on Tolkien’s part. Regardless, it wouldn’t change the basic fact that the world of Tolkien’s mythology by its very nature establishes an idol god.

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