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Johne

Did Tolkien Waste His Life?

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Spoiler alert: No.
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/did-tolkien-waste-his-life

 

Quote

 

Tolkien never intended his tales of Middle-earth to be a desertion from reality, but a means of seeing beyond the confined walls of our perceptions to a much larger reality beyond. And he suffered no delusions that Middle-earth was that reality. But through the lenses of Middle-earth, Tolkien, an unashamed Christian, wanted to show us “a far-off gleam . . . of evangelium in the real world” (emphasis his, “On Fairy-stories”). His kind of fantasy was intended to help prisoners in the real world escape and go home.
 

There is a deep, profound reason why God created us to be story-makers and storytellers, and why, when “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), he frequently spoke in stories. The best make-believe stories help us better understand the real world. And in our day, such stories are needed more than ever.

 

 

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Guest Steven Hutson

I don't understand the question. JRR invented an imaginary world, not unlike a thousand others. I don't see anything here that's particularly either virtuous or vile. Just a bunch of stories, not a new gospel. 

Was he a truly a Christian? Was he saved? Not for me to say. Nor you. Either read and enjoy the books, or don't. Not my cup of tea, but to each his own.

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30 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

I don't understand the question.

 

"Does writing fiction mean we're not serving God by focusing on trivialities instead of performing ministry in Real Life™."

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Guest Steven Hutson
Posted (edited)

I live a busy and intense lifestyle. I can do with a little trivial diversion, now and then. Hard to serve God effectively, if I don't get rest and enjoyment in-between. 

Any book can be a tool to connect with an unbeliever, and start a conversation. (OK, I draw the line at porn or Satan worship.)

(I should mention also, I love it that the Potter books motivated my son to read. He read them as intended, as escapist fun, not as theology. He never imagined that he should worship at the altar of Hogwarts.)
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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Our world would be a poorer place without Tolkien's stories.  They are quoted and copied over and over, almost to the exclusion of other world building.  

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On 1/4/2019 at 4:21 PM, Steven Hutson said:

I don't understand the question. JRR invented an imaginary world, not unlike a thousand others. 

The only reason his world is not unlike a thousand others is because the others copied him! There is a profound gulf that separates the pioneers who create a whole new genre, and those who follow after. Tolkien lived in an age where poets and writers were descending into despair and destroying the very foundations of literature. He sought to rescue the old virtues of heroism, courage, honor, and self-sacrifice from the tomb in which they had been buried. His programme was a Herculean effort of creativity on a scale never before attempted. He could not directly attach his edifice to the crumbling literature of his time; he needed to create a world in its entirety.

 

As for whether any good came from it, remember that Tolkien was in a writer’s critique group with C.S. Lewis. Such intellects in one room must surely each have influenced one another.

 

Paul

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Guest Steven Hutson
1 hour ago, paulchernoch said:

The only reason his world is not unlike a thousand others is because the others copied him!


The question at hand wasn't about literary merit or originality. At least, not as Johne described it:

 

On 1/4/2019 at 1:54 PM, Johne said:

"Does writing fiction mean we're not serving God by focusing on trivialities


 

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This is a fantastic article; thank you very much Johne for the link to it!

 

To (hopefully) add to the discussion, I think at the heart of any creative art is the impetus to create the art. A painter is dumbstruck by the stars; he paints Starry Night; a bard is dumbstruck by a woman; he writes a ballad. In this sense, all art is philosophy, meaning worldview. Might I gently suggest that the relegating of art to entertainment only is to do away with the richness of the art? In the case of Tolkien, his impetus was the Great Redemption Story of which Middle Earth was a metaphor. I think the error is to see art as purely entertainment; the other error is to seek art as our staple theological diet.

 

Clarke.

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17 hours ago, Clarke said:

I think the error is to see art as purely entertainment; the other error is to seek art as our staple theological diet.

I like this statement Clarke.  I might add, that the Christian writer has the challenge "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God."  Writing taken in that sense can never be deemed insignificant or unnecessary.  We all have a responsibility to bring glory to God in our lives.  I believe Tolkein had a very real grasp of that philosophy.  And yes it should not be our foremost source of theology. 

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Guest Steven Hutson
17 hours ago, Clarke said:

I think the error is to see art as purely entertainment


If you've found a way to leverage art to heal the sick or feed the poor, I'm all ears.
 

 

17 hours ago, Clarke said:

the other error is to seek art as our staple theological diet.


Has someone done that? 

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Guest Steven Hutson
5 minutes ago, SEHatfield said:

And yes it should not be our foremost source of theology. 


I have never used a novel as a source of my theology, EVER. Am I missing something?
.

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Guest Steven Hutson

I am certainly no Tolkein-phile, but my wife is.

I shared this discussion with her. She tells me two things:

1- If JRR was a Christian, he didn't make it a big part of his public image.

2- On at least one occasion, he explicitly disclaimed any religious symbolism in his writings.

I have no opinion of my own here. I can read a book for pure enjoyment, without having to overthink it.
.

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1 hour ago, Steven Hutson said:


I have never used a novel as a source of my theology, EVER. Am I missing something?
.

I don't believe anyone said "you" did Steven, I certainly didn't ... am I missing something??

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Guest Steven Hutson
31 minutes ago, SEHatfield said:

I don't believe anyone said "you" did Steven, I certainly didn't ... am I missing something??


Understood. Hence, my question. Do people look to Tolkein to teach them theology?

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6 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:


Understood. Hence, my question. Do people look to Tolkein to teach them theology?

I think we may have strayed from the OP's intended discussion. I believe the topic and linked Tolkien article was used to aim the discussion.  

On 1/4/2019 at 4:54 PM, Johne said:

 

"Does writing fiction mean we're not serving God by focusing on trivialities instead of performing ministry in Real Life™."

Would that be accurate Johne?

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No, to answer your question, I don't think he did.  He gave us wonderful stories, that if, viewed in the right way, could be classed as Christian- they gave us a way to think differently about the world around us.

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