Friday, November 23, 2012

Finding God in the Hobbit.

 I first read the Hobbit at age 13. Neither my Mother
nor my Father had met Bilbo Baggins  as children, nor Balin or Dwalin or Gandalf. We met them together, me reading aloud. A year later we read The Fellowship of the Ring, starting in June, a time that will always be connected to Lorien, the Lady of the Golden Wood,  Legolas who can string his bow faster than sight, Aragorn and his kingly bearing, who teaches us that under his worn rangers cloak beats the heart of a King. Then we read the Two Towers, and we saw the treachery of Boromir, and the nobility of his brother Faramir. We saw Merry and Pippin, two of my favorites, as they changed from young hobbits wanting adventure to toughened warriors. We saw them enslaved by the orcs and rescued by the Ents.   Then the Return of the King, and the utter foulness of evil, and the joy of Purity, and Wholesomeness, and  Yes, I did weep when Frodo and the Elves left Middle Earth for the Far Country. I hope all readers do.


I talked about Tolkien and Middle earth for the whole summer. The next summer I was blessed to receive a copy of Gladys Hunt's book, Honey for a Teenagers Heart. Here was a woman in her eighties, writing glowingly about Middle earth, and the Truth, Beauty and Purity, Bravery, showcased there. She understood the lure of Lorien. The admiration of Legolas andhis bow shooting.  Her book made her a friend of mine.  I had not read another book that explained the love of Middle Earth so perfectly until I received a copy of Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware, from Tyndale House free for a review.  Finding God in the Hobbit is the third book in a series written by  Jim Ware, and  Kurt Bruner. Their first two books were Finding God in the Lord Of The Ring Finding God in the Land of Narnia and now  Finding God in the Hobbit.                                                           



 This book is like a Hobbit, small and full of unexpected wisdom. Jim Ware shows us things in Tolkiens books that I never would have seen.  Let us start with something Tolkien was very familiar with, something we see often in the adventures of Bilbo and Frodo, something that enriches my world here having met it there in Middle Earth.   It is the Eucatastrophe, or good catastrophe. A eucatastrophe is defined as "rather than an invasion of sorrow it is the surprise of joy bursting onto a seemingly hopeless situation, the certainty of death and destruction undone by the unexpected intrusion of life and resurrection. In a word, the Gospel." Yes, the Gospel is in Middle earth, and not because Tolkien wrote a wooden allegory, but because all good books are about the themes of this world, and this is one of the core themes. We find this theme as the Gospel in God's word, and we find this theme coming out in books by discerning men. Tolkien was a discerning man, and he knew that the Gospel came into his books. He wrote a letter to Deborah Webster in 1958, saying "I am a Christian," and this "can be deduced from my stories."  And that is what Jim Ware does. He deduces the Christian Truth in these wonderful stories. As a student of both Scripture and The Hobbit, we will find our time in Middle Earth and our time in our earth richer after seeing what Jim Ware saw.  There are problems in our world that Middle earth will help us solve.  The eagles are one of those. In the Hobbit, and in the Return of the King, when the hobbits are in danger and there is no way out by their own strength, the Eagles come flying in and carry them away. In most fantasy stories this might be the author's way of getting his heroes out of a corner he wrote them into, and we would have to enjoy the story but know that that rarely happens in life. Also, in most stories there would be a glaring contradiction, because as one of Jim's friends points out "If the eagles can fly anywhere and save the heroes, why didn't the elves just have them fly the ring to the mountain and drop it in the crack?" That at first seems unresolvable. But study resolves the question. What at first seems a slip of the author turns out to have profound truth in it. "There is a pattern to the eagle rescues that dot the pages of Middle earth history. This pattern points to a certain wonderful and startling conclusion. It suggests that we might be justified in seeing these majestic  birds as a beautiful symbol of Grace, Free and Sovereign Grace... Because Grace isn't something you can control. Like Bilbo and Frodo, you can only look up and receive it with a sigh of relief. You can only give thanks and shout Hallelujah! when it swoops down to save you out of a hopeless impasse.  To experience Grace is to be left speechless and awestruck- not wondering how you might have found a way to take advantage of it earlier on." 
 The Eagles are not ordinary eagles, they are the Eagles of Manwe, and they are controlled by the King of the earth. They are not for hire, by Elrond or anyone else. Their Master knows the Hobbit's plight, and when he wills he sends them to save. In Biblical terns the eagles can be compared to The Eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro throughout all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him." 2 Chronicles 16 verse 9. "They function as executors of the divine will, extensions of Love that defies mortal comprehension and reaches down to men and elves from a place beyond the boundaries of the world."  These Eagles also will only save when their Master commands them to, and for reasons not understood by man the eagles could not carry the ring. Frodo and Sam had to carry it for a time.


Another beauty of this book is the same thing that made Tolkien beloved of all of us. The "good liking" in his books. The love of hearth and Home, the love of pipe and supper and stories and slippers. Stephen Lawhead called Tolkiens work a Praise Hymn for the Goodness of Creation, the goodness of the physical  universe. This book celebrates that. from the Hobbits who loved the good comforts of Home to the dwarves who loved skillfully worked gems to the Elves who loved beauty and purity.  
 Read this book. Read it in one evening on a comfortable sofa in December, with a woodstove burning, and a few Christmas lights glowing. Read it and marvel at all you will be enjoying next time you read the Hobbit that you never saw before. 








This book reminded me a little of this fine book- Not a Tame Lion, by  Terry Glaspey. I got my copy for 2.99 at Christianbook.com, but they seem to have sold them out. After reading that little paper back biography of C. S Lewis which had his life story in the front and some of his thoughts on Love, Heaven, and other topics taken from his writing, my Dad vowed to read everything C. S Lewis had written.  
 





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