|Focus on the
November 26, 2001
Finding God in The
Lord of the Rings
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, windy, at any rate. On the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, two tweed-jacketed, pipe-puffing professors go crunching down the gravel path known as Addison's Walk, under the deeper shadows of a grove of trees.
"Look!" says one of them, a tall, long-faced fellow with the furrowed brow and twinkling eyes of a sage . . . or wizard. He points to a large oak. "There it stands," he says, "its feet in the earth, its head among the stars. A majestic miracle of creation! And what do we call it? A tree." He laughs. "The word falls absurdly short of expressing the thing itself."
"Of course it does," responds the other, a round-faced, slightly balding, bespectacled man in his mid-30s. "Like any word, it's just a verbal inventiona symbol of our own poor devising."
"Exactly," says the first man. "And here's my point: Just as a word is an invention about an object or an idea, so a story can be an invention about Truth."
The other rubs his chin. "I've loved stories since I was a boy," he muses. "You know that, Tollers! Especially stories about heroism and sacrifice, death and resurrectionlike the Norse myth of Balder. But when it comes to Christianity . . . well, that's another matter. I simply don't understand how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever He was) 2,000 years ago can help me here and now."
"But don't you see, Jack?" persists his friend. "The Christian story is the greatest story of them all. Because it's the Real Story. The historical event that fulfills the tales and shows us what they mean. The tree itselfnot just a verbal invention."
Jack stops and turns. "Are you trying to tell me that in the story of Christ . . . all the other stories have somehow come true?"
A week and a half later, Jackbetter known to most of us as C.S. Lewis, teacher, author, defender of the Christian faith, and creator of the beloved Chronicles of Narniawrites to his friend Arthur Greeves: "I have just passed on from believing in God to definitely believing in Christin Christianity. My long night talk with Tolkien had a great deal to do with it."