I have competing forces in me, and it’s taken me along time to understand how they fit together. I’m not talking about the flesh and the Spirit, or even good and evil. But the boyish love for stories and the man-like love for logic, reason, and evidence. On one hand I’m the classic sap who loves a good story, cries watching sentimental movies, and can’t wait to see Frodo and Sam make it through the Black Gates. And on the other hand, I love precision, measure twice cut once, and carefully researched exegetical papers on theology. My Tolkien side has felt insulted by my Calvin side for being shallow and too easily entertained, while my Calvin side is being attacked by my Tolkien side for being too heady and academic. What to do!?! Here is how the Spirit of God has made these enemies into friends …
Understanding God’s Story
The Bible is a story! And not just any story, it is God’s story. And at the climactic center from the beginning to end is Jesus the Warrior King. God moved men in various times and in different places to reveal the grand narrative of heaven to earth. God is the great story-teller, and He has made Himself known to men. He didn’t drop a theology book from heaven, send a college professor, or host a pastors conference … He sent a King. So it appears that Tolkien’s Aragorn and Lewis’ Peter are actually quite helpful and beautiful in helping us understand the Father’s King Jesus. And so, the story of earth tragically corrupted by the dragon, intensely waiting for a deliverer, striving to fix itself, and the loyal following holding out hope, aren’t so “fairy-tale” after all. Hush up, academic side … God is the great story-teller, Tolkien and Lewis are just following their author.
Shading in the Details
Every good writer does his research, and the richness of the story is shaped by the textures and shades of the thoughtful details woven into the tale. So it is with these epic stories, they need the theology, care, and study of the great theologians. Truth be told, Tolkien and Lewis are some of the finest theologians around. Why? Because they had that academic, professor, Calvin-side. They wrestled with sovereignty, substitutionary atonement, depravity, and redemption. They were exegetes and not just playing make-believe. We miss the joy and beauty of the grand narrative without the depth and clarity of Biblical theology.
Jesus Told Stories and Preached Sermons
Survey the life and ministry of Christ and you’ll find both carefully constructed theological arguments and beautifully poetic literature. People sat on the edge of their seat as he crafted parables to bring home a heavenly truth. And they nestled into the hillside as he outlined practical theology in his sermonizing. Truth can be communicated many ways, the main thing is that truth is communicated. When I read a theology book, I slow down, think deeply, reference Scripture, and evaluate where my framework needs tweaking. When I get lost in a story, my heart is much quicker to recognize the dark shadows I face, admit my Hobbit-like need, and long for the return of the King.
The End of Theology is Joy
Calvin-ish people need Tolkien, and those lost in Narnia need The Institutes. If you’re feeling angry (or people feel your anger) and sorta crusty … Maybe you’ve been trying to play the starring role in your own movie, rather than recognizing the story isn’t about you. Pick up Lewis and be reminded that this epic tale is about the glory of God, not life done your way. You can’t fix it all! If you’re fearful and anxious … Maybe you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid of a superficial Christianity and anti-intellectual approach to the Word. Go deep in Edwards and Calvin, you need to be reminded of the Almighty Father, The rescue work of the Son, and the Spirit who ever lives to make intercession for you.
I’m not sure I’ll ever completely rid myself of this internal battle I feel, but the more I study theology AND the more I enjoy the beauty of His Story, the more my soul delights in the Gospel. And delighting in God and the Gospel (His Story) is the chief end of man … So that can’t be all that bad. Go on an adventure with Aslan, have a cup of coffee with Luther … But most importantly worship the Creator.
In His Story,