The key to understanding a work such as The Lord of the Rings is that we cannot try to force it to be something it is not. As we talk about these books, we’re going to be looking at themes and ideas. We’re going to be thinking about how this series of books and those messages that communicates relate to our lives. We’re going to try to uncover the truth that J.R.R. Tolkien embedded in his books for us to discover. We’re going to be seeing how a Christian worldview undergirds this entire series.
We’re going to do all of these things, but we are not going to find a perfect parallel to Jesus Christ. We cannot try to think of Frodo as Jesus Christ and all of the Fellowship as the apostles. We cannot think of Aragorn as Jesus Christ as the soon and coming King and Gondor as the coming Kingdom.
I think that a gut reaction for most of us when we think about Christian literature is that we want to see how Jesus is literally portrayed. Think about most Christian fiction, which I don’t read a lot of, and there is always that moment in the story where someone has a dramatic conversion and the literal plan of salvation is spelled out word for word like a sermon.
I’m not trying to necessarily denigrate people who put that into their works, but I am trying to point out that if we try to think of The Lord of the Rings as Christian and have that type of preconceived notion of what a Christian novel ought to be in our minds, we are going to be very confused.
Therefore, let’s talk about what The Lord of the Rings actually is and what it tries to say. That’s why I am insistent on talking about the ideas and the messages that were written into the story. There is enough great content in there that we do not need to try to force additional thoughts or messages in there that really do not fit.
This is a series about good and evil. This is a series about friendship, loyalty, nobility, honor, betrayal, rejection and so much more. It is a series about truths that we see in the world around us, and it can help us shine the light on the situations we are in. By seeing how certain characters behave, we can consider our own actions and reactions. When we are upset over a certain betrayal in the plot, we might remember that time we hurt someone else in a similar way. When we read how valuable companions can be, we might value our friends more.
This is how literary apologetics often times manifests itself. You’re not going to find Christian wandering towards heaven with very obviously named pitfalls all around him. What you are going to find, however, is a story that nevertheless makes you think about ideas and about your own life. It is going to force you to want answers. You will see a universe with purpose, and it will make you consider if our own universe has purpose. You will see good triumph over evil, and you will long for that in our own universe as well.
I just want to be explicitly clear at this point that this is a Christian book, and it is a work of apologetics. However, for many people, it will not seem to fit the mold of what to expect when they see what is typically branded as Christian fiction. That’s okay, but let’s know what we are dealing with so that we can understand it appropriately.