Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of English literature. On September 22nd, 1921, medieval scholar and Oxford professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien sat at his small, oaken desk with pen in hand and began to write “concerning Hobbits”. Sunday is the anniversary of the beginning of a literary masterpiece that continues to thrill readers around the world.
Why has Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy had such impact? Well, one reason is that Tolkien’s works contain all of the essential elements of a great story. First, there is the central premise. The peace, prosperity, beauty, and goodness of civilization are threatened and will be consumed by evil if something is not done. Then, there is the addition of strong characters such as Bilbo, Legolas, and the Dragon Smaug. Third, The Hobbit and other Tolkien works take place in a confined space or what is called a crucible – Middle Earth. There is a protagonist, a hero on a quest (Frodo/Aragorn), and an antagonist, a villain determined to stop the hero at all costs (The Dark Lord Sauron). Sixth, there is an arch in the story, that is, change is occurring in the characters over time as the cowardly become brave and the detached become involved. Finally, and most importantly, there is conflict. The combination of these essential elements, portrayed in brilliant prose, make for one great story. The genius of the author captures the heart of the reader.
It is no mere coincidence that God’s Word contains these very same essential elements of literature, for the author of the Bible is also the creator of mankind. First, the central premise of the Bible is the glory of God and the salvation of man as displayed through what theologians call “The Scarlet Thread of Redemption” that runs from Genesis to Revelation. A perfect world fell into sin, corruption, and death due to the actions of disloyal subjects. Yet, a merciful King sent His first born Son, the Prince of Peace, to the fallen earth in order that He might pay the penalty leveled against His subjects with His own life. There are strong characters such as Abraham, Moses, and Peter who struggle with their own sins as they seek to proclaim salvation to other sinners. The story of the Bible, which is our story, takes place in the confined space of God’s chosen people – Israel at first and then expanding to the Church universal at Pentecost.
The protagonist, Jesus Christ, is on a quest through the ages to rescue His chosen and beloved bride, the church, from the wrath of His Father brought upon herself by her rebellion. The Devil, the antagonist, does all in his power to thwart the rescue efforts. These two main spiritual characters are in league with a host of human characters who provide arch to the story as the cowardly farmer becomes a great general, a shepherd boy becomes a king, and an enemy of the Church becomes its chief spokesman. And, the story of God’s saving of His people includes constant conflict between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, truth and error, compromise and commitment.
The Bible has the characteristics of all great literature but it also has great differences. Tolkien never expected his readers to actually believe in his tales; God expects you to believe the Bible. Tolkien’s books offer enlightenment and entertainment but the Bible offers eternal salvation. Tolkien’s writings are fantasy. The Bible is true.
Read the Bible today and believe the story it tells. Ask God to make you part of its story by recognizing the sacrifice made by Christ for your sins. Worship the Father and fall in love with Him. What is true of J.R.R. Tolkien is truer still of God the Father. The genius of the author captures the heart of the reader.
September 21st, 2013 – Anderson Independent Mail