Life is meant for reflection. Yes, I know it is meant for a lot of other things as well, but certainly reflection is a key component to living. Of course, the content of the reflection is of the utmost importance.
Take for example, the exercise of reading. An important, although admittedly, pastime sparingly tackled. Reading serves as a wonderful benefit to a person’s mind. Not just for entertainment purposes, but the instructive as well. And yet, it is an absurd notion indeed when a person suggests that reading alone is what is needed.
I remember seeing a flier for a public library’s reading program that stressed reading for the sake of reading. A similar assumption is touted in our society about education. Education is important. One must pursue a good, well-rounded education. Such lofty notions have an air of truth about them, but consideration must be given to the content, before one can claim its benefit.
If all I do is spend my time reading comic books or sultry romance novels, how beneficial is that to my day-to-day living. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good comic book, as well as a little romance without all the unnecessary seasoning (if you get my drift), but there are more important things in this life than imaginary superhero’s and yarns about maidens being rescued from dire circumstances.1 In the same vein, a well-rounded education serves the person who gets it, but getting a PhD in feminine studies in a patriarchal2 dominated society is truly of little value. Unless, of course, you want to understand femi-nazis3 at their finest. In that case, you don’t need a PhD from some Ivy League school; rather, a few late charges at the local library will suffice.
All of that to say, that I believe honest reflection about this world and the Maker who created it is of extreme importance to human beings. Of course all this talk about reflection means that I have reflected on something that I thought important enough to share with you, my audience. “What, is it,” you may wonder “have I been reflecting on of late?” A great number of things, truth be told, but only one of them shall I now share with you, my mildly interested reader.
The Depths of Tolkien…
I have noted in the past my love for the work of the late J. R. R. Tolkien. His literature is profoundly deep to those who want to ponder, but shallow enough that the young might find enjoyment. It is no secret that what spurred Mr. Tolkien on in his writing, was the immense trials he faced as a young man. He was a man of war. He was a man of great lose and sorrow. Yet, he was also a man of great love. Living in a world racked with war and death and suffering causes a man to think deeply about the nature of a great number of things in this life. Such tragedy gives you perspective. A knowing that enables you to love the things that need to be loved, to hate the things that need to be hated, and a content enjoyment of the temporary good one might experience in this life.
The Two Towers…
My thoughts this day drifted back to my reading of the Two Towers. This is the 2nd in a Tolkien’s treasured three-volume set. In this volume we see a great war looming on the horizon. The darkness from Mordor approaches and threatens to cover all Middle Earth in his shadow. The title of the book aptly envisions the conflict that the reader finds within the pages of this volume. The great tower of Sauron is in the south amassing its army of orcs and goblins. As the tower in the north governed by Saruman the White is, under the guise of good, is endeavoring to do the same. The goal of both Towers and their leaders is to crush the might of men. To rid the world of their stain and to have absolute dominion over all remaining creatures in Middle Earth. Separation and division are the key elements being used in order to defeat the hope of men. Gondor fears the might of the Tower in the South, and Rohan fears the power of the Tower in the North.
As the Scriptures say, “…a threefold cord is not quickly broken…[but] woe to him who is alone…” (Eccl 4.12, 10; respectively; ESV).
Theoden, king of Rohan is offered some sage advice from Gandalf the White to take his people to Helm’s Deep. A stronghold in the cleft of a mountain that has never been taken, never seen defeat. When Peter Jackson created his version of Tolkien’s world he seemed to focus on this battle more than the actual author of the book did. Some may disagree with Jackson’s approach, but I think it is appropriate since that battle is a pivotal point in Tolkien lore. If the nation of Rohan falls, then the war is lost; regardless of how mightily the men of Gondor answer the call of war.
I personally think that this particular event is somewhat analogous of our current cultural climate. Mankind has been given the earth to exercise godly dominion in the name (image) of God. But since the fall, sin and her minions have waged war against all manner of righteousness. Rather than justice and mercy and goodness and love of the Creator being imbued in all of creation, fallen men have sought to twist creation to image their wicked hearts. Rather than reflect the God who made them, mankind seeks to make a name for themselves: evil becomes good and good becomes evil.
The orcs and goblins and all other manner of dark creatures serve in Tolkien lore as the physical manifestation of the power of the Dark One (Morgoth) and his servant Sauron. Not being able to create, they corrupted what the Creator had made. And Sauron through the power of his one ring sought to bind all others to his will; which in truth was the will of his master.
Where the analogy serves today…
Both towers represent the powers or forces that be. They are both vile, although the one (the Tower in the North) has a veneer of goodness. Both nations of men Gondor and Rohan have been deceived in believing that their strongholds will preserve them and keep the hordes of evil at bay. Both strongholds have their place in the cleft of the Rock. The mountain serves as a refuge, a pillar of strength and a hope to withstand the onslaught against them. All of these images have their place in Scripture. God is our Rock, He is our mighty mountain, our place of refuge, our pillar of strength and hope to withstand the fiery arrows of our enemies.
But the question that needs to be asked, “Is the purpose of the stronghold to keep us locked away and safe from the onslaught of our enemies, or it is so that we might wage war in confidence against our foes?”
Christians in the West have decided it is the former rather than the latter. I am not making a hasty generalization here, for I am well-aware that there are those within our ranks still with the courage to fight, to exercise dominion in the name (image) of our God. But, this is not a majority position by “Evangelicals,” it is a minority one. If we were to describe our current generation we might think of the women and children, the old and decrepit who are hiding in the bowels of the mountain, rather than those willing to lift arms in this war.
One of the things that I find interesting about the battle at Helm’s Deep is the fragile nature of the soldiers hope. It takes the king of men (Aragorn) to strengthen their resolve. Like the deliverer’s in the book of Judges, he inspired the people, but that inspiration teetered on a very thin knife. For if he fell, then all hope would be lost.
Men are by nature cowardly, I think, unless they have someone strong to lean upon. I cannot help but think of how quickly we succumbed to the will of others in regards to COVID-19, the erroneous mask mandates, and now the push towards vaccination. Or what about the myth of transitioning? Or homosexual mirage? How quickly we give up our freedoms (and the truth) for the promise of safety!
Back to Helm’s Deep…
As the battle rages through the night the will of men is seen fading. Even Theoden, king of Rohan has all but declared defeat. The wall has been breached. Men and Elves have been forced back by the forces of darkness. Sorrow and hopelessness is spreading like cancer through the ranks. But, Aragorn remembering the words of Gandalf speaks to Theoden calling him to ride with him one last time. His words spark hope, for it is better to die fighting towards victory than to die wallowing in defeat, and they break through the gates and ride in the midst of orcs and goblins driving them back. And moments later, the promise of Gandalf rings true, for at dawns first light the Rohirrim (horse riders of Rohan; cavalry) charge down the mountainside towards the army of the Tower of the North in blinding glory. As the orcs and goblins flee, the trees led by Ents destroy them (a picture of the earth swallowing up the wicked who are unworthy to walk its soil).
We are being herded. We are being forced upon. Those that fear the fight run to the stronghold, thinking, it is better for the rocks to fall upon them and hide them from their duty rather than wage war with the powers of darkness. Various excuses are given, none of which hold any weight. Yes, God is our stronghold, our Rock, our Refuge, our Strength, our Hope (cf. Psa 144.1-2). but we are commanded to “Go…” not to stay (cf. Matt 28.19). We are commanded to “Teach…” not to remain silent (Matt 28.20). We are commanded to “fight the good fight of the faith” not to cower in fear (1Tim 6.12). For we are to fear no one except God above (Isa 8.12-13; Matt 10.28). It is the forces of darkness imaged in fallen mankind that ought to fear us, for their gates cannot protect them from the truth of God’s Holy Word (Matt 16.18). Why? Because our Stronghold, our Rock, our Refuge, our Mighty Mountain of Strength and Hope goes with us wherever we may go. For it is He, through us, His humble servants, that He wages war against the strongholds of fallen mankind, destroying every vain argument they raise against His Truth (see Deut 3.22; Psa 44.3; 2Cor 10.4-5).
1I should note that I don’t read romance novels. Not my cup to tea. However, if a novel of mine has some romance in it (as I said above without the spice), then I am fine with that (e.g., Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Series; Richard and Kahlan). Chivalry is not, nor should it be, a dead thing.
2If the reader is curious, I believe in the patriarchy. Not the chauvinistic version of fallen man, but the type that clearly understands the differing roles that God has given men and women. I believe and affirm that God has created ONLY two genders (male and female) and it is the male counterpart that has the highest responsibility before God to lead well (i.e., properly imaging his Creator in the manner by which he thinks and acts).
3A term popularized by the late Rush Limbaugh.