Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The wrong kind of God: Tolkein on religion in The Lord of the Rings


Tolkein's description of Sauron's God-complex is reminiscent of the aversion-against-God language found in Pullman, Dawkins etc.:
In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about "freedom," though that is naturally involved.  It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour . . . Sauron desired to be a God-King . . . If he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world.
J. R. R. Tolkein, Letters, no. 183

But that kind of bare monotheism is as far removed from Trinitarian thinking as night is from day.  The Christian God is not an oppressive tyrant in the mould of Sauron but a Being in Communion, a community of love.  Self-giving lies at the heart of the divine identity, and therefore at the heart of the universe.

1 comment:

Chris Bundy said...

What then do you do with Exodus 20:5-6? I quote Matthew Poole
Not only inward reverence is forbidden, but also all outward gestures that naturally or customarily express reverence, whether bowing down the body, as here; or bending the knee, as 1Ki_19:18; or kissing the idol, or one’s hand towards it, as Job_31:27 Hos_13:2; one gesture being by a synecdoche named for all. To them, nor before them; for to bow to them, and to bow before them, are expressions in Scripture of the same extent and use, as appears by comparing this place with Lev_26:1 2Ch_25:14; and 2Sa_7:22, with 1Ch_17:25; and Mat_4:9, with Luk_4:7. Nor serve them; or, worship them, either inwardly in thy mind, or outwardly by any sensible mean or sign of worship given to them, as incense or sacrifice, vowing to them, or swearing by them, or the like. A jealous God, i.e. impatient of any partner in thy love and worship, and full of wrath against them that give my glory to images, Isa_42:8; as jealousy is the rage of a man Pro_6:34 against the defiler of his marriage-bed. God is pleased to call and account himself the Husband of his church and people, Jer_2:2 Hos_2:19; and therefore idolatry is called adultery, Deu_31:16 Jer_3:3,10; and God’s anger against idolaters’ jealousy. The word el properly signifies the strong God, and shows God’s ability to avenge himself, as the word jealous notes his readiness and resolution to do it. Visiting, i.e. remembering, inquiring into, or punishing, (as that word is commonly used, as hath been noted before,)

the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.

Quest. How can this be just?

Answ. 1. All are born sinners, and are children of wrath, and therefore justly punishable for their own sins.

Answ. 2. He speaks not here of eternal damnation, but of temporal punishments, in which there is no shadow of injustice; as appears,

1. Because the sins of parents are oft punished in their children, even in human courts, as is manifest in traitors, which practice being acknowledged to be just, it cannot with any sense be accounted unjust in God.

2. Because such external punishments have more good than evil in them, and are in many, and may be so in others, if themselves do not hinder it, instruments of the greatest good, exercises of their virtues and graces, and means of their eternal happiness.

3. Because children are a part and the possession of their parents, and therefore it is not unjust if they suffer with them, and for them.

Answ. 3. This is to be understood with an exception of repentance, and penitent children, as appears from Eze 18 And if any such be temporally punished for their fathers’ sins, God will abundantly recompense it to them some other way. But if children tread in their fathers’ sinful steps, it is but just that they should partake of their plagues.