Monday, July 7, 2008

Gandalf on Resisting Sin

'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'

'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.'

'But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?'

'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself... I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.'

I am struck by Gandalf's resolute insistence that even the temptation itself is too much. In our wisdom, perhaps we should all remember that it is not sinful to be tempted, but if we know ourselves well enough, we should know that even avoiding temptation is the greatest practical way to avoid sin. My biblical example of this would be Joseph running like hell when Potiphar's wife made her move on him, but Lord of the Rings is nerdier and therefore, more "hip" and "culturally relevant." Also, I've been reading it to my daughter at bedtime, so it's pretty fresh in my mind.


  1. Oh, is that what it means? Try as I might I just have never understood these forms of Christian allegory (guess the double lit. major failed me). I prefer the simpler conveyance of the gospel. Was the gospel really meant to be put into such nuanced form? I mean, it seems like one thing for God to hide Himself in parable, but when men do it I can't help but think it's not only a bad imitation but, worse, serves to obscure that which needs to be made plain so that the original obscurantist may do His mysterious work.

    What is the difference between this and creative ways evangelicals seek to convey the gospel? Is this just better because it appeals to those with pechants for stuff with intellectual linings?


  2. I don't think that Lord of the Rings is the gospel, and I don't even think it is a Christian allegory. I just think that I like the way Gandalf avoided the temptation to possess the ring, altogether.

    As far as your question as to "What is the difference between this and creative ways evangelicals seek to convey the gospel?" I assume you mean what I've written, and not simply the quote from the Book itself. If you don't like what I've written, take it or leave it. I don't care if it pleases you. I tend to enjoy reading books of all types - theology, commentary, fiction, non-fiction - and so, I also don't restrict my writings to things merely theological. I find books like this entertaining, and when I see something which I think applies to things larger, I like to say so.

    In this case, Gandalf did not leave room to wrestle with temptation, and so like Joseph, he sought to eliminate the temptation altogether. I think that is admirable and noteworthy.

    I appreciate your critical comments, and I'll keep them in mind, but if you want straight theology and gospel, read Edwards' sermons or something. This is a blog, and I like video games, books, and movies in addition to the deeper and bigger stuff.

  3. I agree with all that you've said in this post Adam. Also, I think it should be pointed out that it is rather narrowminded to limit ourselves merely to the gospel and the parables outlined therein and to act as if it is somehow pointless to allow our Christianity to influence the themes of our writing. (Which by the way, is ALL that Tolkien was doing... he was not trying to rewrite the gospel in middle earth terms). Furthermore, there's nothing wrong with using parables, analogies, example, etc.... that don't come directly from scripture. The reason jesus used parables to begin with was to aid in our understanding by appealing to something familiar and relevant. We should do this in our own lives, and I enjoy hearing your take on this particular part of The Fellowship of the Ring because the book is familiar to me and relevant to my life. Temptation is something we all struggle with, and I identify with Frodo's plight and need to be reminded from time to time that being to be tempted is not a sin, but avoiding temptation when possible is still a good thing.


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