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The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth Paperback – October 31, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers and fans of J.R.R. Tolkien have long been aware of the Christian underpinnings of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, Tolkien has not been without his religious critics, including those who have read a fascination with paganism into the pre-Christian world of Tolkien's creation. Wood, a professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, responds to those critics with an academically sound retort of "Nonsense!" Acknowledging straight off that Rings is devoid of any traces of "formal religion," Wood offers countless pieces of evidence that support his analysis of the full-fledged, deeply Christian theology of the mythological culture of Middle-earth. And he does so convincingly. Even longtime fans of Rings who have never questioned the books' Christian elements will undoubtedly discover new insights, so rich is Wood's analysis of Tolkien's gospel. But be forewarned: This is not a book for the casual reader. Rather, it is a somewhat scholarly endeavor for those who want a more thorough understanding of the underlying themes that have made The Lord of the Rings novels, as well as Tolkien's other writings, such enduring treasures. Wood teases out those themes-life and death, good and evil, courage and cowardice, mercy and justice and of course, faith, hope, and love-to reveal the faith-filled nature of Tolkien's theocentric and sacramental, albeit fictional, world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ralph Wood's The Gospel According to Tolkien will send readers back to Tolkien's work to see what they had missed, as well as to enjoy what they had seen before. --Mark A Noll, author of America's God; From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
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While I do not agree with some of the author's allusions, I find his drawing of the connections to at least be interesting and, at times, thought provoking. The book gives a different way of looking at parts of the story that one may not have considered before. Most Tolkien fans will tell you that there is not supposed to be any one-to-one relations of things in TOLR and things elsewhere. I would grudgingly concede that there may be connections that Tolkien did not intend to be there, but are there if you are looking at them with a certain lense as this author is.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a TOLR fan as well of other Tolkien works. It gives you things to think about the next time you are reading the trilogy or The Hobbit or The Simarilion. I would caution the reader to not take this book as gospel and to leave some room for doubt and for making your own conclusions. It is an enjoyable read and is well worth the time spent reading it.
Another reviewer criticized Wood's work as overreaching, but i believe the criticism to be misplaced. The history of Tolkien is one of presenting the Gospel at every turn, from drawing C.S. Lewis to Christianity to producing an overtly Christian literature. It's true that he was fascinated by paganism, but so was Chesterton, who was an influence upon Tolkien as well as a Christian apologist. It should not come as a surprise that Tolkien's work begins with a creation myth story and contain fallen angels, good angels, and a battle for the redemption of humanity that can only compare with Milton's Paradise series (in fact, i'd argue, rising above it). It is far more difficult to claim the epic to be thoroughly pagan than to claim it thoroughly Christian. The critic is the one overreaching.
Dr. Wood's examination is revealing, and i believe one could probe even deeper to uncover even more Christian themes that this volume could not cover. Why does Frodo, a normal powerless hobbit, shine and regain such strength when he bravely confronts Smeagol as he is about to arrive at Mt. Doom if there is no underlining spiritual message? Why does mere bread revitalize when it is thin and tasteless? Lord of the Rings is incredibly and obviously buried in Christian doctrine, though one has to be familiar with the themes to recognize them.
Tolkien's theology,nicely done ! It has been stated that we live in a "post-bibilcal age ,do we
really or are many of us embarrassed by fundamentalism, consumerist evangelism, ever been
to a mega-church?, and do'nt want to discuss religion ? But still feel there is deeper meaning
to life . Read The Gospel of Tolkien , and you will be on your way to finding that meaning!