The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 23, Appointment, Freedom, and Story

Our final post about the Council of Elrond as we reach its climax.

After Elrond sets out the course of action, to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, Frodo steps up to meet his destiny:
An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo's side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

"I will take the Ring," he said, "though I do not know the way."

Elrond raised his eyes and looked at him, and Frodo felt his heart pierced by the sudden keenness of his glace. "If I understanding aright all that I have heard," he said, "I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. Who of all the Wise could have foreseen it?...

"But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right..."
Once again, following Fleming Rutledge, we see the deep theological narrative of the story emerge, the "something else" at work. Frodo wonders at his words "as if some other will was using his small voice." And Elrond underlines the providence at work in Frodo's choice, "I think this task is appointed for you, Frodo."

Which raises a theological question about our freedom. We all know the snarly theological issues about freedom and predestination. Rutledge suggests that here, with Frodo's choice, we find a way through these thickets. The task is "appointed" for Frodo, but it's his choice to walk this path. As Elrond says, "If you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right." Both drive the moment, divine appointment and human freedom.

All this makes sense in a narrative, and in the drama of our own lives as well. There are moments where we feel God has orchestrated our lives to bring us to a particular place, person, or choice. We find ourselves, like Esther, divinely situated "for such a time as this." And like Frodo, we freely choose and consent to the predestined path. As theological axioms, freedom and destiny, none of this squares up logically, but as a story it all makes perfect sense.

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