Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tolkien on history

Well, here's the followup to this post that I promised.
In the "Foreword to the Second Edition" to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes the following: Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegeroy in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the though and expereince of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
(emphasis mine) One of the things that I like about The Lord of the Rings is that it isn't an allegory. Instead, it provides plenty of material for consideration that can be applied to one's own life and experience. According to Tolkien, this is a result of its being a history (of imaginary events), rather than its being written to convey a certain point. The reader absorbs the patterns and principles on display in the history and then must take the next step of figuring out what they mean in his own life. In this way, the reader is shaped by grappling with the narrative. I wonder if this is why so much of the Bible is historical narrative. There's not one point. Instead, the reader is faced with the patterns and principles on display in the text and then must take the next step of figuring out what they mean in his own life. Thus, the reader's life is shaped by grappling with the narrative. This has implications for teaching and preaching through the narratives. Rather than trying to figure out "the point" of this text in the Bible, perhaps Bible teachers need to draw out some of the patterns and principles that are on display and make application in this fashion. Of course, this means that teaching the Bible becomes more like teaching a good literature class, which may not be a bad thing, either.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home