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Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Two Towers

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake [ them ] thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [ is ] in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:1-4


J.R.R. Tolkien reportedly and repeatedly made the claim that his most famous work, 'The Lord of the Rings' was not based on or biased by his study of Scripture, but it is not difficult to recognize its influence in this  fantastic work. Though this work has recently increased in popularity among the masses because of Peter Jackson's recent movies based on the book, it is eclipsed in importance by his less well-known and often laborious earlier history of the 'world' known as 'Middle Earth', 'The Simarillion'. In this work of art, Tolkien chronicles for us the the first several 'ages' of this fantastic 'world', from its conception and subsequent corruption, to the fullness of time when all would be set to rights again. Even after 'The Return of the King', though, Tolkien's 'world' still had its 'evils'; the 'Evil One' had been vanquished, but bad things still happened to good people, and vice-versa. Men still lost their mortal bodies to the ravages of time, and though it was in all respects better through the king's beneficent and benevolent rule, life was still life, and therefore no utopia and wrought with a degree of danger!

'The Silmarillion' gives us a most important background to 'The Lord of the Rings', though the latter very arguably stands on its own, and much as a passable knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is necessary to a right understanding of the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, so Tolkien leads us into a better knowledge and understanding of the background of his more famous work!

The fabled Tower of Babel, much as the fantastic towers of Tolkien's Middle Earth, was built at the height of man's arrogance and self-sufficiency. This Tower, while built primarily, maybe, as a defense against the forces of Nature and Nature's God, was at the same time, and more importantly, the mighty cry from natural humanity that it could reach perfection, or 'Heaven', on its own strength, and by its own volition. Reading both the account in Genesis 11 and Tolkien's in 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Lord of the Rings', we can see how this may seem to have worked out for a time, but ultimately proved to be but vanity, though age-long vanity!

Most important to remember, as well, when reading Tolkien's writings and the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, is that these things are in the past. As for Tolkien, of course, it is easy to disregard his writings as pure fantasy, but as for the history we receive in the Scriptures, the message that we read is a lesson on how God has dealt with His errant covenant people in the past, and thus what we can expect in the present from the 'towers' we have erected against His beneficence, and what we might look forward to in the future should we continue to vaunt ourselves against Him!

J.R.R. Tolkien, as a good Roman Catholic, was avowedly a Christian, and as one can see from an informed and judicious reading of his tales, as we mentioned earlier, it is clear that they were influenced, to some extent, at least, by his reading and understanding of Scripture. His tale, though by no means a perfect representation of the history we read in the Scriptures, is, on its own, a fairly accurate, though fantastic and metaphorical account of our history. Our own history has been plagued by many evils, not unlike those of Middle Earth, and like the ultimate eschatological victory won by those hardy individuals in Tolkien's most famous tale, the victory won by the Christ in the first century and continued throughout by His brethren was an everlasting one and eternal in its finality!

In opposition to that first Tower, the people of God, as the New Temple, have become, through the power of the Holy Spirit, a 'tower' that serves the same purpose as was hoped for in that first Tower. As our bodies are 'the temple of the Holy Spirit', we are 'a tower whose top [ is ] in the heavens'; we have, as it were, reached heaven's joys! Through being 'scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth', we have, not ourselves, but through the power of the Son of God, made 'a name for ourselves', and become a Tower, not only in opposition to the 'towers' that men have set up, but a Tower to ensure that the people of God will never ( again ) fall out of touch with their Creator!

As the True Tower, then, as the New Temple; let us live our lives as the gateway to the joys of 'Heaven' ( the Presence of God' ) that we have become through the power of the Holy Spirit; let us be that shining 'Tower" that men ( and women ) may flee to when their man-made 'towers' crumble!

Only in the strength of the Holy Spirit, and because of the all-consuming sacrifice of 'The Finger of God', we are a 'tower of strength' to a world whose own 'towers' ( 9-11 ) have crumbled and continue to crumble!

The question is; 'how will we present that Tower, and hence, our Power, to a world full of crumbling idols?'

Charles Haddon Shank











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