Monday, September 25, 2006

The Silent Message

“Before and since Tolkien’s death there have been numerous articles and books on the meaning of his fiction. Kilby records Tolkien’s favourable reaction to an essay sent to him from Australia, concerned with the themes of kingship, priesthood and prophecy in The Lord of the Rings. He endorsed the spirit of the essay in finding Christian meaning in his work, even though, as he remarked, it displayed the tendency of such scholarly analysis to suggest that it was a conscious schema for him as he wrote. He didn’t deliberately try to insert Christian meaning into his work—a point over which he disagreed with C.S. Lewis, in whose fantasy he felt the Christianity was too explicit.” ~ Colin Duriez; The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook
The way we view the world, our underlying philosophy of life, shapes everything that we do. I use Tolkien’s creation The Lord of the Rings a lot to provide metaphors or illustrations for Christian truth. The reality is that his works were not intended to be a work in theology; they are first and foremost a story. Yet what we find in The Lord of the Rings is how our world-view influences the work that we do. Tolkien did not consciously insert Christian meaning into his stories, but it shows up, and it affects the way we look at the world.

This is why it is so deadly to approach the stories that we read, the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, and the movies that we watch with an uncritical eye. Whether or not the makers of these things intend to send a message there is always a message in what they create. We have to be constantly aware of the messages the world subtlety sends through them. I believe our world view, even for a Christian, is powerfully shaped through the stories that we like.

It happens so subtly that we often don’t recognize it. We begin to see the world in much of the same way the author sees the world. If the author paints a dark and foreboding picture of the world, then we develop this very negative view of life. If an author paints a bright and cheery picture of the world then we might begin to develop an unrealistic optimistic view of the condition of the world. Stories have a very big impact on the way we look at the world.

If that is the case then how can we, as Christians, maintain a God-oriented view of life? We do not allow the creations of this world to have primary sway in our lives. We give ourselves to appropriate amounts of time in study of God’s Word and reflection of that Word. We spend time in prayer, not only asking God to do things, but simply seeking to spend time with Him.

Thomas à Kempis wrote; “Why wish to see what you cannot have?” Stories, music, and movies often lead us to desire a life that we simply cannot have. While they may awake in us emotions that will lead us to the foot of the cross, taken indiscriminately they have the power to take us very far way. If you are a Christian I urge you to be more careful in selecting those things that you allow into your minds. The power of the messages found in stories and songs is found in the unperceptive manner in which they invade our lives.

We need to diligently examine those things that we read, watch, and listen for they have the power to shape our lives. On top of that we need be very consistent in making sure we allow liberal amounts of God’s Word into our lives for reflection and guidance.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8; NLT).


Anonymous said...

It is impossible for a person not to communicate his faith; what he truely believes. It just comes out in what he does. Church members see what their pastor truely believes just as children see what their parents truely believe. Even a client will get a pretty good understanding of the counselor's faith without the counselor saying too much about it. It is impossible not to communicate our faith.

Hawkeye Gold

Katherine said...

Thanks for another interesting post Paul.

Inspite of JRRT's protestations, I think he was more deliberate then he thought. He was also teaching and writing during a time when New Criticism was very prevelant, which may hhave influenced him more.

It is interesting that I read your post right after an hour and a half lecture on the Renaissance, a period when thhe Christian worldview was very prevelant in England.

Sadly, I think many Christians today forget the ideas that you discuss and to often accept pieces of art that project a non-Christian or non-God viewpoint. Much "Christian" literature would go under this heading I am afraid. Especially the romance genre which portrays a salvation experience as the key to all relationship woes.

Paul said...


Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you said about Tolkien.

One of my disappointments with "Christian" fiction is that it so often seems to carry with it an agenda. It seems it isn't about writing a story, but making sure they get their point acrossed. One of the reasons great literature is able to endure is that it isn't "preachy" but it seems to remain relevant to the reader. One of the reasons to me that C. S. Lewis is a genius is that he was able to create this Christian myth, but when you read the Chronicles of Narnia you never feel like you are being preached at.

von said...

We need to diligently examine those things that we read, watch, and listen for they have the power to shape our lives.

This is very true, and extremely rare.

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