Dr. Dan Hayden •
An enormous tsunami of evil seems to be surging over planet earth to engulf any sense of moral goodness, personal integrity and spiritual truth.
Hitler’s Third Reich was a mere local flood by comparison, as have been the totalitarian regimes of communist thugs and Islamic radicals over the years. Fortunately, territorial and national boundaries have thwarted the spread of those destructive inundations. A confined, localized enemy can be resisted and conquered by conventional means; but the insidious evil that now permeates our world is spreading like seeping water through broken levees unchecked by national and geographical boundaries.
It seems that, no matter where we are, the enemy is among us. The swelling tide of darkness which threatens to submerge the light of truth and goodness is flowing into every crevice of safety and hope. Were it not for confidence in God’s sovereign control of all things, we would soon be lost in a sea of despair.
As we open the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s insightful trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, a similar scenario grips the reader. The Lords of Darkness (Ringwraiths) are riding, and the Shire is no longer safe. An insidious evil crouches before the world of men. Sauron’s hideous power is expanding and the penetrating eye of Mordor seems to invade even the secret places. The long-feared apocalyptic war of the ages has already begun on the fringes of middle earth , and the tentacles of darkness are now penetrating the realm. It is time for courage, determination and sacrifice.
This parallel between Tolkien’s fantasy world and the real experience of expanding evil in our own day seems eerily prophetic. As an Englishman writing during the Second World War (Tolkien wrote his trilogy between 1936 and 1949), he constructed his masterful literary work on the historical backdrop of horrible darkness spreading across Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. It must have seemed to him that the real Lords of Darkness in Germany, Italy , and Japan were indeed threatening the very existence of the civilized world. Little did he realize that the twenty-first century would usher in a more pervasive global evil that would carry his trilogy to new heights of fulfillment.
Although the Lord of the Rings trilogy has many similarities to the contemporary struggle between good and evil, as well as the biblical scenario of end-time events, Tolkien disavowed any direct correlation. In his foreward he says, “As for any inner meaning or message, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.”
Yet, the parallels are striking and the temptation to hijack his analogies as being descriptive of our times is irresistible. So, the following application of his story to our contemporary world is purely a product of my overactive imagination. I cannot help but think, though, that Tolkien would smile and wink at what you are about to read.
ORCS & TERRORISTS
The news flash was stunningly horrific. Another terrorist bombing—this time in Islamabad, Pakistan killing 53 people in the infernal blaze of a Marriott Hotel. Westerners were the target, but the goal was the same as always—to create terror.
A more insidious type of enemy than the Western world has traditionally known is causing havoc everywhere, and although many terrorist plots have been thwarted through vigilant security, everyone is still asking, where next? And will I be among the victims? Terrorism is definitely taking its toll.
Tolkien envisioned a new kind of enemy in his make-believe world when he created the Orcs. Resembling humans, Orcs were grotesque creatures with animalistic spirits and beastly hearts. Actually, there was nothing human about them. Out of the slime pits of Saruman they came by the thousands ready to devour everything like a locust horde, leaving nothing green in its wake. With grunts and snarls they obeyed their handlers with mindless obsession. Terror and destruction were their mantra of duty as they pursued their prey with relentless persistence. Not an ounce of reason could dissuade them from their programmed violence, and the only way to stop them was to kill them.
Could any verbal picture more aptly describe today’s horrible emergence of radical Islamic terrorism? With no regard for human life and blinded by a singular cause to envelop the world in the darkness of Shia law they hurt, maim, slaughter and brutalize in the name of Allah. Reason is a foreign concept—lies and deception are the formulating influence on their twisted character. Appearing more animal than human, these new millennium Orcs are the demolition warriors of Lucifer’s dark world spearheading his plan for the demise of western civilization.
At the midpoint of the twentieth century Tolkien could not have imagined the meteoric rise of global Islam as the spawning ground of ultimate evil. Nazism and Fascism were the nemeses of his day. And yet, it is no accident that the regime of the Dark Lord of Iran has been compared to Adolf Hitler. As Luciferic principalities, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden seem to have been incubated in the same slime pits of Saruman, and their terrorist Orcs have been unleashed on the civilized world.
This is what the world has come to. The Shire is indeed under siege. The first wave of Orcs has penetrated the land and their number is steadily increasing. It seems inevitable that we must brace ourselves for more destruction and increasing mayhem.
Yet, even with the great similarity between Orcs and terrorists, one major difference causes us to pause and think. Terrorists are real men and women who have been deceived into wearing the mask of the Orc. Created in the image of God, they have eternal souls which beg for eternal life. Unlike Orcs, they can be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ . . . redeemed, regenerated, and reclaimed for the kingdom of Christ. Thousands of Muslims are turning to Christ in every area of the world. Think of it! Many potential terrorists are now walking in the light of the Gospel.
So, while the coalition armies of men rightly resist the growing terrorist threat, the church of Jesus Christ on the other hand must never underestimate the power of the Gospel to transform lives . . . even the twisted, demented life of a terrorist. After all, Saul of Tarsus was a radical terrorist before he became Paul, the devoted servant of Jesus.
Prayer and concern, love and forgiveness, evangelistic passion and courageous witness—these are the qualities of Jesus that should motivate us to reach out with uncommon Christian love and the radical message of salvation in Christ.
DECEPTION & INCREASING DARKNESS
Although Orcs were the demolition experts of the dark side in Tolkien’s trilogy, their handlers and organizers provided leadership in the art of deceptive warfare. These wicked plotters of evil knew no limit to their ravenous appetites. Showing no mercy, no kindness, no concept of goodness, and no reverence for truth, these devisers of conquest, slaughter, and destruction embodied the spirit of Satan himself. The extinguishing of all that was good defined their purpose for existence.
Evil men with twisted minds were the driving force behind the massive invasion of darkness in the Lord of the Rings—not the Orcs. The evil spirit of Mordor bore a likeness to Lucifer (with his all-seeing eye and possession of ultimate power), but wicked humans staffed the hierarchy of his authority and commanded his awesome forces. The spirit world was there too, of course, represented by the fiery Balrog and other menacing creatures of the underworld (like wargs and trolls)—but the mighty thrust of darkness came from the minds of depraved men. That’s the way it has always been—and that’s the way it is now.
It is important to realize that Satan, as the Dark Lord of the spirit realm, has two faces. On one hand he is a devouring lion (his destructive side – 1 Pet. 5:8) and then he is a deceiving light (his deceptive side – 2 Cor. 11:13-15). Whatever it takes to accomplish his nefarious work is what he is. He will deceive with a smile and then stab in the back with furious rage. He destroys through the evil actions of corrupt leaders and their minions of terror, but he also ensnares his prey through every false religion and contrary ideology. That, of course, means that terrorism is not our only worry.
As we have watched the smothering of the Gospel by repressive regimes in far away places, we are now witnessing in America a similar attempt by liberal theologians, politicians, and judges to suppress the truth of God’s Word with deceptive ploys of false goodness and imaginary freedom from moral restraint. Issues like abortion and gay rights are at the core of the liberal agenda, and a spirit of pluralistic tolerance (that is intolerant of true Christianity) is deeply engrained in secular thinking. Liberal minds feel stifled by the moral boundaries of God and under the deceptive cover of various laws (such as the hate crime bill), are seeking to silence any contrary voice to their immoral demands.
The spiritual darkness that has inundated Europe in the last half century is spreading with increasing rapidness across America. Liberal states like Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont have already established a foothold of antichrist in our country. The floodwaters of evil are seeping through the broken levees of our societal system.
So, what should be our response? Well, hold our finger in the dike as long as possible, for sure. Beyond that, we need to realize that God has already told us that “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13 ESV). It’s going to get worse all over the world—not better. At the end of the age God will even send a spirit of delusion upon our wicked world, so that people will believe the lie (2 Thess. 2:11). This is reality, and we need to respond with more than visceral hatred or fear.
Like Tolkien’s Hobbits, God’s people need to realize that it is time for courageous action. As perhaps the last generation of this age, it is essential that we bring the precious Gospel to its divinely appointed destiny. Embarking on a perilous journey with the Fellowship of the Ring (book 1 of Tolkien’s trilogy) in the face of encroaching darkness is infinitely better than hunkering down in the temporary safety of the Shire.
HOBBITS & HEROES
Who exactly are the Hobbits? Well, a Hobbit is a human version of a rabbit, possessing larger-than-normal ears and big, thumpy feet. Hobbits live in mounded dwellings located in a place called the Shire, and are about as innocent and vulnerable creatures as Tolkien could imagine.
Hobbits were simple folk who were not numbered among the world’s elite. Yet, Tolkien dared to put the most precious possession of his imaginary world—the magical ring—into the safe-keeping of these little, powerless people who knew nothing about warfare or mighty deeds in battle. Frodo, Sam, Pippen and Merry were unlikely heroes, but they win our hearts through their courage, fortitude, endurance and unbelievable daring.
This too is what God has done by entrusting His precious Gospel to common believers in Jesus Christ who for the most part are simple people of love and faith. Sure the church has known its great warriors (like the Riders of Rohan)—but most of us are just . . . well . . . Hobbits. In the eyes of the skeptics and critics of the Dark Side, the Christian community appears vulnerable and unimpressive.
In the final analysis whether he intended it or not, Tolkien has challenged us to be as brave as the Hobbits by embracing Christ’s commission to embark on a dangerous journey that will lead us into the very heart of darkness. Surrounded by the rulers of darkness—with massive armies of hatred and destructive Orcs—we are encouraged by the Lord of Light to gird up our loins for the journey in order to press beyond our fears.
Most of all it is not a time for self-preservation and indulgence in the preferences of life. So what if we’re only Hobbits? We too can accept self-sacrifice and unwavering devotion to the task of carrying the precious ring of the Gospel through the darkness to its ultimate destiny in the all-consuming light. Then we too will rejoice with exceeding great joy at the Return of the King (book 3 of Tolkien’s trilogy) and the reclaiming of earth for Christ’s Kingdom.
So . . . for all of Christ’s Hobbits caught in the turmoil of expanding darkness, here’s the deal:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9 – ESV).
Tolkien would applaud. ■