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Posts Tagged ‘sacramentalism’

While reading an audio book version of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live recently – and enjoying it, this first time reading —  I was reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing.  I have continually returned to Tolkien over the years, always finding joy and hope and adventure in Middle Earth.  In Schaeffer, I noticed similar thoughts in terms of worldview and especially a pre-modern view of history and the world.

An online search on Schaeffer and Tolkien turned up a few common references, including this interesting five-part series from Credomag:  Retrieving an Ancient Sacramental Ecology.  Starting with the early church’s view of nature as a great contrast with our industrialized modern age, this series traces the development of Christian thought from the ancient world through the Middle Ages; the 4th and 5th articles specifically look at the Inklings (Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis) and then at Francis Schaeffer, and their pre-modern (before the industrial age) views of ecology.

Lord of the Rings is so rich with so many themes.  I have always enjoyed the interesting characters, the background history, and the grand themes of good triumphing over evil and joy out of sorrow.  As I re-read through it this time, I’m noting even more the types of Christ in the characters along with Christian themes.  I’m also observing the references throughout to the natural creation – the many detailed descriptions of the various places along the journey, but also giving more attention to Tolkien’s love of trees and flowers.  As noted in the Credomag article:

When the Lord of the Rings books were published in the 1950s, Tolkien explicitly portrayed the ravages of “industrialized and militarized agriculture.” His villains—from Sauron and Saruman in their dark towers to the hobbit Lotho Sackville-Baggins who takes over the Shire—regularly despoil the land over which they rule through industrialization. Saruman the wizard “has a mind for metals and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment,” wrote Tolkien.

The “black engines and factories” of Mordor were decried by Tolkien’s sentient trees, such as the Ent Treebeard, who responded to Saruman’s deforestation of Isengard: “We Ents do not like being roused; and we never are roused unless it is clear to us that our trees and our lives are in great danger.” Mordor was a “land defiled, diseased beyond healing,” with “dead grasses and rotting weeds.” In short, Tolkien associated large-scale, slave-based agriculture with horrific evil.

Then the next (fifth) article has good insights into Francis Schaeffer.  From the recommendations in this article, I’ve also bought a used copy of Schaeffer’s “Pollution and the Death of Man,” to read in the near future.

While Schaeffer may have been co-opted by America’s “Evangelical Right,” he was never truly part of it. Indeed, in his The God Who is There (1968), he chided conservatives for being “far too provincial, isolated from general cultural thinking.” At the same time, he rightly complained that modern theology was not merely pantheistic but anthropomorphic, in that it worships human achievement. He argued that modern theology was blindly following cultural trends. To wed God to human culture or accomplishments was indeed what Bacon’s philosophy tried to do. But in his Pollution and the Death of Man, Schaeffer contended that such theologians were merely pragmatic and technological. According to Schaeffer, pragmatism is the death of morality, offering only a completely “egotistic position in regard to nature.” We save nature only because of how it affects us and our children and the generations to come. “Modern man has fallen into a dilemma because he has made things autonomous from God,” wrote Schaefer.

Schaeffer indeed is in a similar line of thinking with the earlier writers J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  As mentioned in the description of this book – An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien — on Goodreads, the author learned a lot about the Christian worldview from Francis Schaeffer and CS Lewis, but it was actually Tolkien who first showed him that such a thing exists and is an essential component of maturing faith.

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