The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 41, The Battle of Helm's Deep

After the rousing of Théoden events move rapidly, culminating in the battle of Helm's Deep where the people of Rohan defend themselves against the army of Saruman. 

From here on out, calls to arms and battles come to dominate the story. All the along, the story has been one of resistance, but now the battle is formally joined. The storm has broken. 

As I talk about in my book Reviving Old Scratch, Greg Boyd has described what he calls the "warfare worldview" of Scripture. Fleming Rutledge, with other theologians, describes the same as the "apocalyptic" vision of the Bible. This is the world of The Lord of the Rings.

A lot of liberal, progressive Christians are troubled by this, worried about any "battle" or "warfare" imagery in the faith, fearing how that can be abused. And examples of this abuse are readily available. That said, as I also observe in Reviving Old Scratch, these same liberal, progressive Christians are very willing to see social justice as a "struggle" and "fight." And that struggle and fight has its own collection of temptations toward hate and dehumanization.

Which is to say, I think the apocalyptic framework of faith is pretty hard to avoid, and everyone has to manage, believer and non-believer alike, the moral tensions inherent in any passionate moral engagement with the world. Pretending these issues don't exist just isn't an option. The key is leavening, keeping our eye on the Christological heart of Tolkien's tale. Yes, a war has begun, swords and axes are being used. Legolas and Gimli share their body counts. But readers of The Lord of the Rings know that all this swordplay cannot win the final, ultimate victory. All the physical combat is simply a delaying tactic, buying time for Frodo and Sam. Théoden comes to see this very clearly at the battle of Helm's Deep:

The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure. How shall any tower withstand such numbers and such reckless hate?

The answer is that no tower can. But two small hobbits can. That's the Christological leavening of the apocalyptic worldview, our understanding how this battle is really going to be won. How the Lion of Judah conquers as The Slaughtered Lamb. And any passionate moral engagement with the world, theistic or non-theistic, without that Christological core is destined to tip into the darkness.

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