The Christian Humanists
No author works alone—even an author who creates a new world out of his own imagination. Born in 1892, J. R. R. Tolkien came of age in a dark, secular time. He responded in terms common to a group of English Christian writers—mostly Catholics and Anglo-Catholics—who upheld older, truer values against the dehumanizing trends of rationalist science and secular philosophy.
G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, and others all lit bold flames against the century's darkness. Tolkien's torch joined theirs as he turned to classical and Norse mythology and the timeless teachings of the church to forge a new "Christian myth."
Each of these "Christian humanists," including Tolkien, wrestled against the legacy of two men: Friedrich Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde.
Friedrich Nietzsche died, after twelve years of insanity, in the opening months of the new century. He was the most outspoken philosophical foe of Christianity in the late nineteenth century, and his ideas flourished in the twentieth. Convinced that Christianity was bankrupt, he proclaimed Schopenhauer's "will to power" and emphasized that only the strong ought to survive.
He maintained that Christian charity served only to perpetuate the survival of the weak and counterposed the idea of the "superman" (the Ubermensch) who would overcome human weakness and vanquish the meek. In Tolkien's mythical world, Nietzsche's shadow emerges in the "will to power" of the Enemy, most specifically in the designs of Sauron and Saruman but also in the ambitions of Boromir and Gollum.
Oscar Wilde died on November 30, 1900. The inheritor of the decadent romanticism of Byron and Baudelaire, he flouted traditional morality and was sentenced to two years in prison as a result of his scandalous homosexual ...