We will never know, this side of heaven, where 9/11 fits in the larger story God is writing. But our literature and our history testify that it does.

Deep in the stream of Western literature runs a current J. R. R. Tolkien called "eucatastrophe"—literally, "good catastrophe." Tolkien served as a lieutenant in WW I and saw action in the offensive of the Somme before succumbing to trench fever. In a famous essay written many years after the armistice, he described how our favorite stories often bring us to the "sudden joyous 'turn'" that in the face of horrific events "denies … universal final defeat," giving "a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief."

Far from functioning as illegitimate escapes from reality, Tolkien argued, these tales of joy snatched from the jaws of tragedy point towards the central True Story of Christ's passion and resurrection—"the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe." All stories that hold out hope in the cataclysmic struggle between Good and Evil—from the first fairy tale to the Lord of the Rings to Star Wars and beyond—echo this greatest eucatastrophe.

For Tolkien, no evil event, however horrible, is outside the story of salvation-history. God bends them all to his purposes. In the creation account found in Silmarillion, Tolkien has the spirits sing Middle-earth into existence. The melody of Illuvatar (God) was "deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came." Melkor (Satan) interfered with a loud, brash tune, trying to "drown the other music by the violence of its ...

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