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Laurie and I are very much enjoying watching The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit series for a second time. Besides the adventurous, imaginative beauty of the films, what I enjoy most is the theological leanings presented. I’m sure people have authored books about the theology of Tolkien’s great work and this article will be very brief in comparison.

Three aspects of God’s kingdom and character in the films are thrilling to me.

First is the presentation of His sovereignty. Gandalf seems to represent a sovereign God. The most obvious example concerning this sovereignty is how, in the first Hobbit movie, he brought the dwarves into Bilbo’s quiet home despite Bilbo’s strong objection of wanting to do so. Despite this refusal, Gandalf proceeded to put a symbol on Bilbo’s door, and thus, on the dwarves came, pushing themselves into Bilbo’s house, taking over, and eating all his food. As an aside, this is a challenging commentary on our attachment to our comfort when the Lord is calling us to a task. I will admit that this scene made me uncomfortable. It is good, though. We need to be challenged. Another example of God’s sovereignty is Gandalf’s use of extraordinary power. He doesn’t use it often, and this speaks to us of God’s ability to rescue us, but at other times does not, despite our cries for assistance. God is sovereign and does what He pleases in His great wisdom and love. However, Gandalf’s sovereignty is imperfect. For example, when Gandalf utters the strong line, “You shall not pass,” the fiery demon Balrog falls into the abyss but whips Gandalf’s foot, taking him down, as well. This would not happen to the Lord God Almighty.

“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).1

The second theological aspect is Tolkien’s choice to use small Hobbits to be central in this world-saving adventure. All the way through the Old and New Testaments the Lord in His great wisdom chooses the unknown, weak, and lowly, those whom the world considers insignificant to accomplish His will. He ignores the great and influential so He will be glorified, not man. This is upside down in comparison to the way world attempts to accomplish things.

Third is the strong emphasis on the tremendous, unrelenting power of evil to spiritually inflict death upon us. Several kinds of murderous beasties appear that our heroes must battle. These creatures represent Satan’s fallen angels or demons, all of them hideous. I think we are all familiar with the activity of demons in Jesus’ ministry and what demons had done to a wretched man who lived among the tombs (Mark 5:1-13).

Few were able to withstand the sinful temptation of the ring of power, which represents the power of Satan, the god of this world. Our hearts are evil, as well.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

We see the effect of wholly giving oneself over to sin in the character of Gollum. He lives a terribly dark and miserable life and, in the end, dies falling into the fire of hell: the deadly price that is paid for a life of sin.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

That death not only occurs during one’s life but throughout eternity.

There is much to be gained through watching these films. May the Lord continue to deepen our knowledge of Him.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2016). Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images

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