The Gospel According to The Lord of the Rings: Week 21, Evil and Theodicy

During the Council of Elrond, the conversation wades into theological waters regarding the origins of evil.

Debating what to do with the Ring, use it against Sauron or destroy it, Elrond states that the Ring can never be safely used. Eventually it will corrupt its owner. Elrond says:
...the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.
Christianity creates the problem of evil with its stubborn insistence that the created order was primordially good, graced, and blessed. Some have called this the doctrine of "Original Blessing."

The doctrine of Original Blessing is breathtakingly beautiful. It's such a wonderful confession. The primordial being, nature, and existence of all things is good.

But with that beautiful confession we create "the problem of evil." But as I've written about before, beyond the beauty of Original Blessing, the problem of evil has two other big upsides.

First, the "problem" confesses that evil is contingent and therefore defeatable.

Second, since evil is contingent, we can become attached to the world and healthily embrace dissatisfaction with the pain of the status quo, since life isn't meant to be this way. We resist stoicism and resignation in all its forms, Western and Eastern, in the face of evil. It's okay to get attached to this world, even in its pain and dissatisfactions. Love is that very attachment. It hurts like hell, but it's healthy. All this adds up to a call to action in the face of evil.

Again, as I've shared before, these are the three great "wins" of the Christian position on evil. Original blessing. Evil is defeatable. We're called to attachment and action, not resignation. And yet, to confess these three beautiful things is to create "the problem": How did evil come into being? How does it persist?

All that to say, The Lord of the Rings presents us with the Christian worldview regarding evil. Nothing was evil in the beginning, not even Sauron. But then there was a fall. In Tolkien's world, Morgoth was the original Lucifer figure who fell from original blessing. Sauron also follows this path. These are the metaphysical events that create the arena of moral action in The Lord of the Rings. And that's we and the Fellowship inherit, no explanations, but a suite of metaphysical confessions that create an arena of moral action. This is what the Christian perspective on evil gifts us. A call to action.

As I share in Reviving Old Scratch, the only theodicy available to us is resistance. That's what's going on with Rivendell, Gondor, and the Fellowship of the Ring. Resistance.

That's the drama of The Lord of the Rings, the drama of the Christian theodicy.

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