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God Testing Middle Earth? A request for sources.

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  • JTHeyman@juno.com
    Lo. At a convention a few years ago, author Michael Swanwick raised an interesting idea at a panel dealing with Loss in Lord of the Rings . (I just found my
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 16, 2004
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      'Lo.

      At a convention a few years ago, author Michael Swanwick raised an
      interesting idea at a panel dealing with "Loss in Lord of the Rings". (I
      just found my notes while going through some old papers.)

      He suggested that perhaps the events in The Lord of the Rings were God
      *testing* Middle Earth in general, and Frodo specifically. The end
      result, Frodo failing at the end but the ring still being destroyed, was
      the statement that, "This is as good as a mortal can do, otherwise you
      don't need God."

      Given Tolkien's Christianity, does the above make sense? Can anyone
      point me to books or essays that would support or utterly refute this
      idea?

      Thanks.

      ~ JTHeyman
      Tom Whitmore (on LotR): "When philologists go bad!"
      Mary Kay Klare: "If philologists going bad gives us Lord
      of the Rings, I want more philologists going bad."

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    • David Bratman
      It s true, in a way, but it s expressed bass-ackwards. Rather than God placing a limitation on what mortals could do, without God s help they couldn t have
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 16, 2004
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        It's true, in a way, but it's expressed bass-ackwards. Rather than God
        placing a limitation on what mortals could do, without God's help they
        couldn't have gotten as far as they did. Anyone who thinks carting the
        Ring to Mordor was a doddle made difficult only by tripwires installed by
        God has misunderstood LOTR so badly that I doubt anyone has even bothered
        to refute it.

        David Bratman


        At 10:32 PM 8/16/2004 -0400, JTHeyman wrote:

        >At a convention a few years ago, author Michael Swanwick raised an
        >interesting idea at a panel dealing with "Loss in Lord of the Rings". (I
        >just found my notes while going through some old papers.)
        >
        >He suggested that perhaps the events in The Lord of the Rings were God
        >*testing* Middle Earth in general, and Frodo specifically. The end
        >result, Frodo failing at the end but the ring still being destroyed, was
        >the statement that, "This is as good as a mortal can do, otherwise you
        >don't need God."
        >
        >Given Tolkien's Christianity, does the above make sense? Can anyone
        >point me to books or essays that would support or utterly refute this
        >idea?
      • JTHeyman@juno.com
        ... I m not sure that was the intent of the statement. What if it was interpreted as God watching over it all, letting everyone strive and make their choices,
        Message 3 of 4 , Aug 18, 2004
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          David Bratman <dbratman@...> writes:
          > It's true, in a way, but it's expressed bass-ackwards. Rather
          > than God placing a limitation on what mortals could do, without
          > God's help they couldn't have gotten as far as they did. Anyone
          > who thinks carting the Ring to Mordor was a doddle made
          > difficult only by tripwires installed by God has misunderstood
          > LOTR so badly that I doubt anyone has even bothered to refute it.
          >
          > JTHeyman wrote:
          > > He suggested that perhaps the events in The Lord of the
          > > Rings were God *testing* Middle Earth in general, and
          > > Frodo specifically. The end result, Frodo failing at the
          > > end but the ring still being destroyed, was the statement
          > > that, "This is as good as a mortal can do, otherwise you
          > > don't need God."

          I'm not sure that was the intent of the statement. What if it was
          interpreted as God watching over it all, letting everyone strive and make
          their choices, and then adding just a smidgen of divine intervention at
          the very end so that all the striving wasn't utterly in vain? In other
          words, God didn't place any tripwires in front of our heroes, so that
          everything they achieved really was a great achievement (free will), but
          God might have "tripped" Gollum and the ring over the edge into the fires
          of Mt. Doom, having completed the divine evaluation of Middle Earth and
          deciding finally that it was time for God to act. "This is as good as a
          mortal could do." Given that "spin", what do you think?

          ~ JTHeyman
          "Wade Wells Lives!"

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        • David Bratman
          ... Fine, but I wouldn t paraphrase the lesson of that as This is as good as a mortal can do, otherwise you don t need God, which is a quote of the lesson
          Message 4 of 4 , Aug 18, 2004
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            At 08:28 PM 8/18/2004 -0400, JTHeyman wrote:

            >What if it was
            >interpreted as God watching over it all, letting everyone strive and make
            >their choices, and then adding just a smidgen of divine intervention at
            >the very end so that all the striving wasn't utterly in vain?

            Fine, but I wouldn't paraphrase the lesson of that as "This is as good as a
            mortal can do, otherwise you don't need God," which is a quote of the
            lesson expressed in your previous post. The lesson of this might be
            expressed as, "If you do as much as a mortal can do, God will help you do
            the rest." That's quite different.

            - David Bratman
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