The Fall in Middle Earth vs the Fall in Christian theology

Odola

Well-Known Member
But there is no evidence the constellations are our own. I don’t expect them to be in a fantasy world. I don’t expect similarities to a particular concept of Christian morality to be anything more than similarities I am using as reference points for understanding. I bring that familiarity to frame why I’m reading but I also know it’s not relevant to the world I am reading. ‘Oh, that’s something i can understand’ regarding a moral worldview is no different to ‘okay, okay I know what a wolf is’. But it doesn’t mean I assume the thing I recognise as a wolf in Tolkien’s world has the same lineage and origins as a thing of similar shape in my reality. I don’t assume evolution in my fantasy took the same course because it did in my reality. It’s just that I have a reference point to understand the language used. Sorry, I’m struggling for a good analogy here. What I mean is, I don’t see any evidence to suggest the attitude of Hobbits is anything I should be connecting to Christianity as that isn’t something that exists in their past.

I like Tolkien’s world because by and large it exists as a closed circuit. I totally get that one way to read is to examine the comparisons and influences, but it’s not a way I personally enjoy my Fantasy.
I understand. But Tolkien was a linguistically, historically and phylosopically aware author. Would he have stated out clear in his intentuon to write a fantasy not connected to our world today he would made sure the hobbits have a moral system adequate to their described times and context. It would probably rensemble that of the Rohirrim with whom they seem to be distanly related. But Frodo's inner struggle and the ways he tries to combat the ring's influence would make little sense then. Those are basic methods of Christian spiritual warfare. For them to work and to add up, there has to be a Redeemer somewhere or "some-when". Otherwise his methods have "no right to work" as they are then completely baseless.
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
I understand. But Tolkien was a linguistically, historically and phylosopically aware author. Would he have stated out clear in his intentuon to write a fantasy not connected to our world today he would made sure the hobbits have a moral system adequate to their described times and context. It would probably rensemble that of the Rohirrim with whom they seem to be distanly related.
I just see no evidence in the text that the only reading that is valid is one that takes in a Christian viewpoint. Frankly, artist intention isn't really a good metric of the work. In fact, it's one of the worst as artists can easily fail to capture and convey their intentions. But I do like the suggestion of the in-world roots of a Hobbit morality and the connection to the Rohirrim feels correct.

But Frodo's inner struggle and the ways he tries to combat the ring's influence would make little sense then. Those are basic methods of Christian spiritual warfare. For them to work and to add up, there has to be a Redeemer somewhere or "some-when". Otherwise his methods have "no right to work" as they are then completely baseless.
I think the ideas of 'Christian spiritual warfare' are for starters a very specific version of a branch of Christianity and by no means all encompassing. And the desire to fight objectively evil forces in a world where embodied evil is a very present and tangible thing with living representatives is quite a different reality from what is generally considered in the notions of spiritual warfare. Generally those aren't applied to a world of werewolves and wraiths and Dark Lords. Middle Earth is a reality with very different rules and thus different responses. Frodo's desire to resist become something that is so far from his own Hobbitness doesn't strike me as requiring a Christ-like figure so much as the basic human desire to retain one's own identity and to not let the evils of the world prevail. That is why I think it has such a broad reach and is so applicable to so many. Frodo's journey fits the human experience. I'm not really sure what methods you are referring to that have no 'right to work'. Sorry, I feel I'm forgetting something that ties it together for me.

Thank you - I was not referring to your comment when I said that, but to the prior discussion. I took your comment to refer to the time and type of composition of the two books, which is what I think you intended. I take Genesis to be a collection of oral tales (except for the first chapter) about a family that became ancestors of the people telling the tales. (Also a polemic on how not to raise children.) I also consider the whole Bible as a history, at least in part, of how those people viewed and related to God over several thousand years. What I like about Genesis is the imperfection of the people in the stories.

In general, I appreciate and relate to your comments - I think without them I wouldn't have ventured to comment myself.
I always enjoy your comments so glad you joined in. I'm really fascinated by Genesis and looking at what it tells us about the people who told that story and how it shows and informs a cosmological worldview. It is also the basis for all the themes that unfold after. And frankly, and intricately structured piece of literature that speaks to people who worked really hard on their craft. Stunning poetry and form and insight into that groups understanding of reality that is then picked up and referenced and linked back to in creative ways. Could wax poetic about the themes and images and form of Genesis. The repetition of the story with subtle alteration is something I enjoy (like a song's refrain). Something that is also in the Silmarillion.
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
I think the ideas of 'Christian spiritual warfare' are for starters a very specific version of a branch of Christianity and by no means all encompassing. And the desire to fight objectively evil forces in a world where embodied evil is a very present and tangible thing with living representatives is quite a different reality from what is generally considered in the notions of spiritual warfare. Generally those aren't applied to a world of werewolves and wraiths and Dark Lords. Middle Earth is a reality with very different rules and thus different responses. Frodo's desire to resist become something that is so far from his own Hobbitness doesn't strike me as requiring a Christ-like figure so much as the basic human desire to retain one's own identity and to not let the evils of the world prevail. That is why I think it has such a broad reach and is so applicable to so many. Frodo's journey fits the human experience. I'm not really sure what methods you are referring to that have no 'right to work'. Sorry, I feel I'm forgetting something that ties it together.
Let's say having Frodo use them is as out of the place as an actual game set of Monopoly on Tatooine.

And I really do not know of any branch of Christianity, modern or ancient, that does not involve spiritual warfare. Exorcisms or self-exorcisms require someone to back you up, you cannot do it with one's own limited spiritual power. So - by extention - there has to be someone - however in the background - that is "nearer to you (and your heart) than yourself" to back you up. Otherwise it simply would not work.
And I do not know of any other belef system that makes resisring temptation a spiritual "martial art".- an intricate complex process. I know of some which require the estinguishing of self for comparable purposes - but this is not what Frodo is doing.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Aren't there some Christian religions that believe people are saved by Grace instead of acts? (Presbyterian, I think, is one.) That seems to me the opposite of a Christian life defined by spiritual warfare.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Aren't there some Christian religions that believe people are saved by Grace instead of acts? (Presbyterian, I think, is one.) That seems to me the opposite of a Christian life defined by spiritual warfare.
Yes, but spiritual warfare is described post Christ's in Pauline letters in an not ignorable way. So it always is a part of any branch of Christianity. They might not stress it, but it is always there.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Aren't there some Christian religions that believe people are saved by Grace instead of acts? (Presbyterian, I think, is one.) That seems to me the opposite of a Christian life defined by spiritual warfare.
There are plenty of Christians who believe spiritual elements of the Bible are more symbolic snd metaphorical. And the belief in the need for literal exorcisms is by no means a given across the board. Evil as an abstract concept versus a literal force is most definitely a conversation in modern Christianity and through philosophy.

I still don’t really understand why a desire to not become something that harms those around us innately Christian as opposed to just a moral desire (and a biological imperative) to be a member of a group. Every culture has its definition of a good person. Most involve tribal solidarity, even those that have never encountered Christianity. Now, you could argue that you believe this is something inbuilt by a Creator, which there is possible evidence of in Middle Earth also, but that’s not the same as saying the moral desire to not be a monster is implicitly Christian

Not to mention the fact that the worldview of the Bible is rooted in an assumed belief is spiritual forces, from the start of Genesis. So Hebrew belief, the parent faith, would be arguably a better candidate for the source of morality. The Sermon on the Mount is distilling of those Old Testament teachings. It wasn’t a removal of them. Christianity remains of Jewish sect. Which is no bad thing, I just know that from my church tradition growing up we were not taught to think in those terms and Hebrew roots were never really honoured in conversation

EDIT: Just to say, after all this rambling, I think I’ve worked out the core of my issue: I’m uncomfortable with crediting what works about the story and makes it transcendent to a singular faith.As a reader of fantasy,I don’t enjoy fantasy because it’s reminiscent of a recognisable faith nor do I think it succeeds because I feel it steers closely to that belief system. But I think what I’m most uneasy about is a sort of explorer’s mentality of finding a place already richwith culture and then planting a flag and laying a claim. I’m not saying you ARE doing that but that I have recognised a strong aversion within me to that kind of Christianity. The kind that sees other cultures and praises them for the ways in which they are like that explorer’s/missionary’s brand of Christianity. Perhaps this is the unpatriotic Brit in me who recoils at the continued prevalence of empire. So I don’t mean to respond to you directly with negative rebuttals, but that your stirring up attitudes in me that I’m now identifying. I dislike praising a thing that isn’t Christian (which, in my Death of the Author reading, Middle Earth is) for its similarities to Christianity and im very uncomfortable with anything that I MIGHT INTERPRET (rightly or wrongly) as a sort of cultural appropriation. Again, not saying you are doing that but rather that I had an epiphany of myself and wanted to lay out what I feel had been my urge to tackle the points raised. I still stand by the points I made but think it’s useful to admit I am coming from a reflex place that perhaps is a much deeper discussion on literary analysis than is needed. All that said, I also think that whatever one finds in the text themselves is the true meaning.So I don’t want to detract any pleasure anyone finds in seeing Tolkien’s world as speaking to their faith, I just recognise that in myself, it isn’t something that brings me pleasure and perhaps therefore I don’t connect with those readings.

Sorry if that was overly long but felt it might be worthwhile
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
I still don’t really understand why a desire to not become something that harms those around us innately Christian as opposed to just a moral desire (and a biological imperative) to be a member of a group. Every culture has its definition of a good person. Most involve tribal solidarity, even those that have never encountered Christianity. Now, you could argue that you believe this is something inbuilt by a Creator, which there is possible evidence of in Middle Earth also, but that’s not the same as saying the moral desire to not be a monster is implicitly Christian
Modern approach towards temptation is actally expressed by Oscar Wilde" "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."
Modern approach is to give in/follow ones impulses, follow them, embrace them and hold the postion that one does not owe anything to anybody.

Other systems you mention do not have a developed concept of temptation at all and as such no worked out methods to resists it.

Of course one could disregard Frodo's inner struggles is ring-induced halucinations and focus on the political and adventurous elements of the story. But one would miss out on a skillfull intricate description of a "Dark Night of the Soul", nowaday called often a "Night of Faith" or - less dramatically - "Spiritual dryness"- which is an important phanomen in the spiritual life of a Catholic.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Modern approach towards temptation is actally expressed by Oscar Wilde" "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."
Modern approach is to give in/follow ones impulses, follow them, embrace them and hold the postion that one does not owe anything to anybody.

Other systems you mention do not have a developed concept of temptation at all and as such no worked out methods to resists it.

Of course one could disregard Frodo's inner struggles is ring-induced halucinations and focus on the political and adventurous elements of the story. But one would miss out on a skillfull intricate description of a "Dark Night of the Soul", nowaday called often a "Night of Faith" or - less dramatically - "Spiritual dryness"- which is an important phanomen in the spiritual life of a Catholic.
I don’t think a hedonistic approach is the only modern response to temptation. And had its roots more in some Greek schools of thought.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a term borrowed for a general story telling beat that you get in most modern Western stories. I’m not sure it depends on any connection to faith. Or rather, it’s deeply rooted in belief and the loss there of, but that can also be the loss of belief in one’s self. I think the loss of belief in what we held dear when confronted with perceived failure is a very broadly human characteristic.

I’ve actually had some really interesting discussion with human friends regarding Genesis and temptation recently. We were talking about ‘sin’ as a word and how it means to ‘miss the mark’; fail to hit a target. Hebrew warriors used slings and didn’t ‘khatar’ - translated as missing the target in that context but the same word as sin. So we got to discussing what the Biblical assumption is of failing to miss the mark as a human means = sinning. We were actually both in agreement that humanity has the potential for more than it currently is. Hebrew storytellers looking around them knew that to be true and in recounting their origin story they had a reason for why that is. Humanity ought to be peacefully governing the planet in harmony according to that text and humanist ideology. Humanity should and could be more. The discrepancy is the belief in the need for an external force to make this possible.

I think that concept of a Fall, a failure in potential, a loss of belief in the face of perceived failure and then reclaiming it (or not) certainly permeates Tolkien’s work in a way that is meaningfully recognisable to people of various beliefs, including the simple belief in humanity.

Also, I made an edit to my above post with some revelations I had as to why I might feel so strongly on this topic. I concede I’m was picking apart individual points so tried with this response to be a little more unifying
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I don’t think a hedonistic approach is the only modern response to temptation. And had its roots more in some Greek schools of thought.
Interesting! The modern approaches I do know either deny the existence of something like temptations altogether or invite one to embrace it. What actual modern concepts do you know which do teach actual methods of actively fighting off a temptation not by avoiding it - by strategically placed distractions - but by going right though it?
"Facing one's own demons" is a term, but there are no instruction how to do it, actually. At least I've never seen one.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a term borrowed for a general story telling beat that you get in most modern Western stories.
Really? Self-doubt I have seen. But a clear "contestation"? Where? And by whom? And who is doing the contesting there? Oneself?

Also, I made an edit to my above post with some revelations I had as to why I might feel so strongly on this topic. I concede I’m was picking apart individual points so tried with this response to be a little more unifying
Will have to look for it. But from my point of view you might express yourself as strong as you wish to. Imho you have the same right to defend your point as I do mine.

I personally do not think how something as specific as the "Dark Night of the Soul" can be generalised outside of fighting a spiritual oponent stonger than yourself - and as such making it necessary to rely on support of a power even stronger than your oponent is - while it still stays your fight - if you do not make it very superficial. But maybe that is just me.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Interesting! The modern approaches I do know either deny the existence of something like temptations altogether or invite one to embrace it. What actual modern concepts do you know which do teach actual methods of actively fighting off a temptation not by avoiding it - by strategically placed distractions - but by going right though it?
"Facing one's own demons" is a term, but there are no instruction how to do it, actually. At least I've never seen one.


Really? Self-doubt I have seen. But a clear "contestation"? Where? And by whom? And who is doing the contesting there? Oneself?



Will have to look for it. But from my point of view you might express yourself as strong as you wish to. Imho you have the same right to defend your point as I do mine.

I personally do not think how something as specific as the "Dark Night of the Soul" can be generalised outside of fighting a spiritual oponent stonger than yourself - and as such making it necessary to rely on support of a power even stronger than your oponent is - while it still stays your fight - if you do not make it very superficial. But maybe that is just me.
I think the last statement ignores the belief that a vast array of people simply don’t believe in supernatural powers and yet continue to battle temptation. I’m thinking of my (cursory) understand of Rational Recovery versus Alcoholics Anonymous and the focus less on one-day-at-a-time and reliance on a high power and more on constructing a big plan for moving forward with your life and working through voluntary choices. Additionally, I don’t think a non-religious reading of overcoming struggles need to isolationist and ‘man is an island’ oriented. A reliance on a force bigger than oneself could simply be interpreted as community and those in a support system. It doesn’t necessarily require the external force of aid to be supernatural.

I think the traditional AA model (used in other addiction support programmes) of confronting one’s own addiction head on, taking a Fearless Moral Inventory and making a list of those to whom you feel you owe amends is very much about not avoiding the problem, nor distracting yourself from it but acknowledging it, recognising temptation and finding the means to not fall to it. Not always rooted in a desire to be more aligned with an overtly Judeo Christian ideal, but from a place of not wanting to be destructive to onself snd others.

Broad strokes here but The Dark Night of the Soul moment (a story beat highlighted by Blake Snyder in his seminal screenwriting book Save The Cat) comes around the end of the second/fourth act (depending on your preference) when all plans have failed, the goal seems unreachable, hope is lost, opposition closes in. It’s the moment before the protagonist reevaluates and finds a new solution thanks to either external aid or inner grit. They then tackle the problem again and in the final act overcome (or fail, in the case of a tragedy).
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
I think the last statement ignores the belief that a vast array of people simply don’t believe in supernatural powers and yet continue to battle temptation. I’m thinking of my (cursory) understand of Rational Recovery versus Alcoholics Anonymous and the focus less on one-day-at-a-time and reliance on a high power and more on constructing a big plan for moving forward with your life and working through voluntary choices. Additionally, I don’t think a non-religious reading of overcoming struggles need to isolationist and ‘man is an island’ oriented. A reliance on a force bigger than oneself could simply be interpreted as community and those in a support system. It doesn’t necessarily require the external force of aid to be supernatural.

I think the traditional AA model (used in other addiction support programmes) of confronting one’s own addiction head on, taking a Fearless Moral Inventory and making a list of those to whom you feel you owe amends is very much about not avoiding the problem, nor distracting yourself from it but acknowledging it, recognising temptation and finding the means to not fall to it. Not always rooted in a desire to be more aligned with an overtly Judeo Christian ideal, but from a place of not wanting to be destructive to onself snd others.
Understandable. But clearly not what Frodo is doing in the text. And I do know very only little about the working approach of AA myself but still think Frodo's approach resembles the AA's - as you have described it - far more than the other one (Rational Recovery?) that you have mentioned.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
Modern approach towards temptation is actally expressed by Oscar Wilde" "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."
Modern approach is to give in/follow ones impulses, follow them, embrace them and hold the postion that one does not owe anything to anybody.
Oscar Wilde had a strong sense of evil and of good. Dorian Gray is a study in evil, and shows the devastation caused by living by giving in to temptation. I would hardly call it an approving look at giving in to temptation. As for good his idea of good, try The Happy Prince.

Not to mention the fact that the worldview of the Bible is rooted in an assumed belief is spiritual forces, from the start of Genesis. So Hebrew belief, the parent faith, would be arguably a better candidate for the source of morality. The Sermon on the Mount is distilling of those Old Testament teachings. It wasn’t a removal of them. Christianity remains of Jewish sect. Which is no bad thing, I just know that from my church tradition growing up we were not taught to think in those terms and Hebrew roots were never really honoured in conversation
It wasn't rooted in Tolkien's religious learning either - the Catholic Church taught that the Jews killed Christ until Vatican II in the 1960's. Being called Christ-killer was still a thing when I was growing up - and the teachings couldn't have changed all at once, given how Catholic teachers had been taught.

But when I read the Gospels, Jesus' teachings are all familiar to me from my religious education. We read Jesus' answer to what the most important law was. is part of the Sh'ma, a central prayer that is prayed three times a day by observant Jews.

In any case, most people I know share a common morality in its basics, whatever their religion - including no religion in that.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Understandable. But clearly not what Frodo is doing in the text. And I do know very only little about the working approach of AA myself but still think Frodo's approach resembles the AA's - as you have described it - far more than the other one (Rational Recovery?) that you have mentioned.
But I don’t really see him as attempting to connect with a higher spiritual being more than an internal perception of what is ‘good’. Resisting a literal enemy and their very tangible powers, doesn’t strike me the same as religious wrestling in attempt to return oneself to a some in-world concept of pre-Fall ideal. There’s definitely a spiritual wrestling for his soul, but in the same way that any attempt to not fail oneself is a ‘spiritual’ (in a broader sense) wrestling.

My point is, I just don’t see Tolkien’s World as reliant on religious concepts but rather that it is such an ingrained story that it permeates a lot of human experience, INCLUDING a religious experience and worldview. But for me it can’t be a Christian story as such a thing doesn’t exist in world and we can all agree it’s not singularly allegorical
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Oscar Wilde had a strong sense of evil and of good. Dorian Gray is a study in evil, and shows the devastation caused by living by giving in to temptation. I would hardly call it an approving look at giving in to temptation. As for good his idea of good, try The Happy Prince.
Yes, but not what he proclaimed to the world - (propably to shock the audience more than anything) - and it is still one of the mottos of "modern thinking".

It wasn't rooted in Tolkien's religious learning either - the Catholic Church taught that the Jews killed Christ until Vatican II in the 1960's. Being called Christ-killer was still a thing when I was growing up - and the teachings couldn't have changed all at once, given how Catholic teachers had been taught.
I do not know how. I did grew up in communist Poland. Still in my half-underground Catholic education it was compeltely obvious that Jesus and his Apostles, His Mother etc. etc were Jews. There were plenty of people who didn't like or even hated Jews but actually most of those very secular and not church-going people. I actually never met anybody practicing who was a Jew hater.

Tolkien was well versed both in Greek and in history. If he based Khuzdûl on Hebrew than he must have a basic knowledge of it, too. He would propably have more knowledge about the history of the Jews than the average British person.

But when I read the Gospels, Jesus' teachings are all familiar to me from my religious education. We read Jesus' answer to what the most important law was. is part of the Sh'ma, a central prayer that is prayed three times a day by observant Jews.
Oh, that's interesting to me. How far that goes, actually. But that is not for this thread. As I said before, Noahide and Mosaic Law are a prerequisite for the Semon on the Mount to make sense, but imho it itself goes beyond them both.

In any case, most people I know share a common morality in its basics, whatever their religion - including no religion in that.
That maybe. But not so a "Night of Faith". Because it is nor "basic". Quite advanced actually.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
I do not know how. I did grew up in communist Poland. Still in my half-underground Catholic education it was compeltely obvious that Jesus and his Apostles, His Mother etc. etc were Jews.
Sadly, people will always find some flimsy excuse to justify hate. I dislike the ascertain that religion leads to violence. I think any form of ingrained tribalism leads to mistrust and hate. You don’t need logic to justify prejudice sadly. But anyway, less on that. But to wizards and such lol
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Sadly, people will always find some flimsy excuse to justify hate. I dislike the ascertain that religion leads to violence. I think any form of ingrained tribalism leads to mistrust and hate. You don’t need logic to justify prejudice sadly. But anyway, less on that. But to wizards and such lol
O.k. Still I do see why Tolkien needed to connect ME with the Redeemer. If he used spiritual techniques in-story that require one, then there must be a window for Him in-story to fit in. Even if we never actually see Him appear. Similarly to how the boiling point of water is never adressed in-story. But we know there is one because hobbits drink tea and boil water for bathing.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
O.k. Still I do see why Tolkien needed to connect ME with the Redeemer. If he used spiritual techniques in-story that require one, then there must be a window for Him in-story to fit in. Even if we never actually see Him appear. Similarly to how the boiling point of water is never adressed in-story. But we know there is one because hobbits drink tea and boil water for bathing.
I can see that. And that's fair enough. The joy is that we get different things from the text
 
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