The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth

The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth

Ralph C. Wood
Westminster John Knox,
184 pp., $14.95

Hobbit fever has spiked to new heights, and a spate of recent books seeks to tie Tolkien's writing more firmly to Christian thought. Among them is Ralph C. Wood's "theological meditation" on The Lord of the Rings, in which he traces the way the trilogy discloses Christian faith.

Wood, a professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, argues that Tolkien's work is "all the more deeply Christian for not being overtly Christian." In scholarly yet accessible prose, Wood examines its subtle faith themes—creation, the Fall, evil and moral courage, love, hope, and the promise of life after death.

He also looks at criticisms of Tolkien's series, such as male chauvinism, a rural world irrelevant to modern urban life, and the lack of formal religion in the story. Wood argues that Tolkien captures the transcendent, even divine, quality of real love through his portrayals of forgiveness—key to our own transformation.

Cindy Crosby is a frequent contributor to Publishers Weekly.

Related Elsewhere

The Gospel According to Tolkien is available from and other book retailers.Ralph Wood wrote for Books & Culture Corner on the Two Towers movie.

Books & Culture also asked if Tolkien should be considered the foremost author of the twentieth century.

He also wrote for Christian History about good and evil in Middle Earth. Other articles in that issue, wholly devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien, include:

Tolkien: Man Behind the Myth | At odds with his age, he created another.
A Feeling for Language | Without philology, Middle-earth would never have existed. But what is philology?
Meeting Professor Tolkien | An American professor spent a summer with Tolkien. He remembers the man, his faith, and his writings.
The Christian Humanists | Tolkien joined these authors in countering the decadence of a dark century.
One Truth, Many Tales | How did Tolkien's approach to writing for a secularizing world compare with those of his contemporaries?
Sacramental Imagination | Catholicism anchored Tolkien's life and suffused his writings.
Gallery: The Inklings | Tolkien relished his weekly meetings with this club of remarkable friends.
Tollers & Jack | Tolkien and Lewis made an odd couple, but they contributed profoundly to each other's work.
Hobbits & Englishmen | His were small people surmounting impossible odds.
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Father of Epic Fantasy | Scores of authors have paid Tolkien the highest homage—imitation.
An Unexpected Party | Tolkien found himself, in the 1960s, hosting a growing American fan club.

In a recent CT opinion piece, Wood discussed the Enlightenment and its effect on his own employer, Baylor University.

Wood's faculty page is available at Baylor University's web site.

Christianity Today's past coverage of Tolkien includes:

Christian History Corner: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, a Legendary Friendship | A new book reveals how these two famous friends conspired to bring myth and legend—and Truth—to modern readers. (Aug. 29, 2003)
Christian History Corner: Saint J.R.R. the Evangelist | Tolkien wanted his Lord of the Rings to echo the "Lord of Lords"—but do we have ears to hear? (March 4, 2003)
Christian History Corner: 9/11, History, and the True Story | Wartime authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis help put 9/11 in perspective (Sept. 13, 2002)
Christian History Corner: Intro to the Inklings | C.S. Lewis's intellect was stimulated at one of the most fascinating extracurricular clubs ever (May 18, 2001)
Christian History Corner: The Lord of the Rings: What Harvest? | A reader's guide to the best of epic fantasy. (Sept. 05, 2003)

Earlier articles on the Lord of the Rings movies include:

Film Forum: A Season of Saviors | Christian media reviewers take on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. (Dec. 19, 2002)
Soul Wars, Episode Two | The second Lord of the Rings film raises the spiritual stakes (Dec. 18, 2002)
Books & Culture Corner: Saint Frodo and the Potter Demon | The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series spring from the same source (Feb. 18, 2002)
Film Forum: The Fellowship of the Raves | Critics grope for superlatives for The Fellowship of the Ring. (Dec. 21, 2001)
Film Forum: Gandalf and the Gamblers | As everyone talks about The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, critics also get around to reviewing Ocean's Eleven, In the Bedroom, and The Business of Strangers. (Dec. 13, 2001)
Film Forum: First Looks at a Feature Fantasy | Early reviews for Fellowship of the Ring are in. (Dec. 6, 2001)
Lord of the Megaplex | The onscreen Fellowship of the Ring launches a new wave of Tolkienmania (Nov. 11, 2001)

Christianity Today presented last year a three-part online conversation between two authors whose books discuss the faith of J.R.R. Tolkien and the religious values underpinning The Lord of the Rings. The installments included:

Why The Lord of the Rings Is Dangerous | The authors of Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues and J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth talk about the Christian life in Faerie. (December 18, 2002)
Does The Lord of the Rings Teach Salvation By Works? | The authors of Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues and J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth talk about whether Tolkien was too ignorant of evil and other subjects. (December 19, 2002)
Hobbits Aren't Fence-Sitters | The authors of Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues and J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth discuss why Tolkien hated modernity and thinking about evil—and whether he was right to do so. (December 20, 2002)

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