The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 1, J.R.R. Tolkien and Fleming Rutledge

I'm in the middle of writing a book right now. The working title is "Enchanting Faith." It's a book about recovering the enchantment of the Christian faith in our secular, post-Christian, disenchanted world.

In the book I have a chapter using J.R.R. Tolkien's famous essay "On Fairy-Stories" to talk about enchantment. There's also a lot in the book about recovering a sacramental ontology, and Tolkien's work is a great resource for that as well.

So in writing the book I pondered using The Lord of the Rings to make and illustrate some of my points and arguments. But I eventually decided against this. For a few reasons. First, using The Lord of the Rings to make spiritual observations has been done to death. Please, please read this hilarious Babylon Bee spoof about pastors overusing The Lord of the Rings illustrations. A second reason is simply that not everyone likes fantasy, and I expect many potential readers won't have either read the books or seen the movies.

And yet, there's so much great material in The Lord of the Rings that would have been good for the book. Hmmm...I wonder where I could share some of that material?

In addition, though I eventually decided otherwise, during my early explorations about about using Tolkien for my book, I read Fleming Rutledge's The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings. Over the last two years, ever since reading her book about the crucifixion, I've become a huge Fleming Rutledge fan. And I found her book about The Lord of the Rings totally fascinating. I thought I had a good grasp of the Christian themes of the book, but Rutledge pointed out so much more that I'd missed. So much so, I spent last year re-reading The Lord of the Rings, keeping an eye out for the themes uncovered by Rutledge.

And so, in pondering what to do on Fridays during 2020, I'm going to spend some time sharing insights from J.R.R. Tolkien and Fleming Rutledge. I don't know if I can squeeze a whole 52 week's worth of material from The Lord of the Rings. I'll just share until its time to do something else.

Again, I know there's been a lot written about the Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings. But if you stay with me on Fridays, I think Fleming Rutledge will surprise you, that we'll see some new things in the book and get to talk a lot about theology. As Rutledge writes in the Introduction to The Battle for Middle-earth, a glimpse of what's to come on Fridays:
This treatment of Tolkien's great story is about God first of all. Then it is about (in no particular order) Providence, history, demonic forces, archangels, bondage and liberation, justice and mercy, failure and restoration, friendship and sacrifice, sanctification and glorification, divine election and human freedom.
[Picture note: I selected the picture above as these were the covers of the paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings I read in high school during in the early 80s. Those covers are pretty nostalgic for me.]

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