Can’t trust those ancient people to record history or scientific phenomena accurately. After all, we’re much smarter than they were.
Tag Archives: Bible
There’s a scene in the movie The Return of the King where Aragorn tells Gandalf, “We still have time. Every day Frodo moves closer to Mordor.” Gandalf objects: “Do we know that?”, to which Aragorn responds: “What does your heart tell you?”
It makes a great line in a book or movie script. However, as a way to find truth in the real world, it’s an absolutely awful idea. Charles Dickens makes a really good point in the words he penned for Scrooge, who, though talking about the senses, could easily be describing feelings as he tells the ghost why he doubts:
“Because a little thing can effect them. A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat. You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese.” (A Christmas Carol)
Feelings change, and can be affected by a dizzying variety of factors. And they are often fuzzy and hard to define. Yet, sadly, many Christians are far more comfortable trying to divine direction and truth from the churning chaos of their own feelings than they do from the Bible itself. We live in an anti-intellectual and anti-authoritarian age, after all. Reading and study are hard; a “gut check” is easy. And the feelings in your heart are comparatively non-threatening. They’re your feelings and admit many different interpretations, whereas words on a page are much harder to get around if one is inclined to do so.
The antidote for this? You really want to know the truth, rather than your own self-affirming opinions? Go to church and put yourself under good Bible teaching and regular and faithful expository preaching–that is, preaching that is concerned with explaining and applying what the actual text is saying:
“In the reading of the holy word, as the act of the church, with the light that will be thrown on its different parts in the exercise of the gifts of the members, their minds will be led up ‘to the law and the testimony,’ as the perfect and only standard of faith and practice….
“‘The law and the testimony’ will become the standard of faith and practice, in fact and not in name only. We shall then no more hear from Christians, ‘I do not feel to do this or that,’ although such feeling may be in direct opposition to the word of God. Neither shall we witness the unscriptural conduct based upon such an unscriptural sentiment.
Feeling will not be the standard of duty, but the word of the Lord. The enquiry as to the duty to be performed, will not be, ‘how feelest thou?’ But ‘what is written in the law?’ ‘How readest thou?‘” (William B. Johnson, The Gospel Developed, emphasis added)
J.R.R. Tolkien stands as a towering figure in English literature. His books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are among the most popular fantasy books ever written, and indeed have defined that genre ever since.
Part of Tolkien’s genius as a writer was in making the setting of his books come alive. Reading his books, one feels like they are peering through a window into an ancient land with a deep culture and long history.
What is sometimes overlooked is that Tolkien was a linguist before he became a writer. He was one of history’s most notable conlangers (those who invent languages). He once called it his “secret vice.” Since his childhood, he was developing languages. And his writing of the Middle-Earth epics was, in one sense, an effort to give a context and mythology to the languages he developed. In other words, to Tolkien, the story served the languages, and not the other way around.
Among his many languages was a family of “Elvish” tongues, derived from a mother tongue called “Quenya.” Tolkien, a devoted Catholic (try looking for Catholic ideas and themes in his books sometime!) actually translated prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary (RTF download), into Quenya. His voluminous writings contain many Quenya renderings of biblical and religious terms.
Given Tolkien’s devoted fan following, I suppose it isn’t a surprise to find that many biblical texts have now been rendered in Elvish, including Genesis 1 and 2, Luke 2, the Gospel of Mark, Matthew 1-5, and the entire Johannine corpus! Some of the work shows not only considerable linguistic skill but also notable artistry.
What to make of all this? I’m torn on this, honestly. On the one hand, my brother Mike was right to point out, when I mentioned this to him, that all this effort translating the Word into invented languages would be far better spent on translating it into real languages for people who don’t have the Bible. There are hundreds of language groups that do not possess any of the Scriptures at all, and thousands that lack the whole Bible. In that light, all the Elvish Scriptures of the world look like a frivolous waste of time. I’m sure Elrond and Legolas could use the Gospel, and having these works would certainly help, except for the minor issue that they are fictional characters only!
On the other hand, from looking through the commentary on these sites, many of these people aren’t believers anyway. So I’m at least glad they’re working in the Bible, even if it’s for the wrong reasons; perhaps God will use this to draw some to himself. In another important sense, they are in a narrow and unwitting way “preaching Christ” to their community, and so, in a Philippians 1:15-18 sort of way, I have to see that as something positive.
Anyway, I found that interesting, though a little strange…