Guest Blogger: H.G. Ferguson
Say the name “Tolkien” and immediately images flourish about rings, trilogies, hobbits and fabulous fantasy films. Everybody knows The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and perhaps even The Silmarillion. But how many Christians have read or even heard of “Akallabêth,” Tolkien’s story of the downfall of the greatest kingdom of Men Middle-Earth ever knew? And how many feel, as do I, that this short tale is the deepest and most profoundly biblically true thing the pipe-smoking Roman Catholic ever penned? And that every Christian, especially those who write speculative fiction, should read, learn and practice its message? For the message of “Akallabêth” is the most fundamental truth of the scriptures, which if followed brings God’s favor and blessing; and if disobeyed, brings only ruin and destruction.
After the defeat of Morgoth (Satan) at the end of The Silmarillion, Morgoth is imprisoned (Rev. 20:1–3) but his chief servant Sauron escapes and sets himself up as lord of that land one does not simply walk into. At the same time, the Valar (God’s angelic deputies and with His consent and purpose) reward the single tribe of Men who fought against Morgoth in the war with two blessings: a lifespan far greater than that of other mortals, and a new bountiful land raised from the sea for them to dwell in, Numenor. But Eru (God) places a Ban upon the Men of Numenor: they may not sail west beyond the sight of their own shores (Gen. 2:16–17), for in the West lies Valinor, the holy land where the Elves dwell, and the Valar. For it is not Eru’s will that Men should be immortal like the Elves, but that they should die and leave the world, trusting Him. They are not to go to Valinor, nor set foot upon its holy soil. And for many long years, Numenor rises into the greatest kingdom of Men, and the Ban is kept.
But after a time, the Men of Numenor begin to chafe against Eru and His Ban (Rom 1:21–22), and become discontent and murmur. More time passes, and the people split into two very different groups: the King’s Men, who have come to despise the Elves, the Valar and even Eru, and the Faithful, who keep Eru in their hearts, of whom Elendil and Isildur and Anarion are their mightiest members.
Finally the last of the Numenorean kings, Ar-Pharazon, arises, and drunk with power and pride he makes war upon Sauron in Middle-Earth. And Sauron pretends to go into captivity in Numenor. But Sauron lies to the king (Jn. 8:44), even telling him Eru does not exist, this “phantom” is not to be feared (Gen. 3:1–5), and that great kings do not tolerate being told NO, but seize what is theirs by rights. Sauron deceives the King into breaking the Ban—and Numenor is destroyed (Is. 1:19–20, Eph. 5:6) by an all-consuming wave of judgment forever. Elendil and the Faithful escape (I Thess. 1:10) and found new Kingdoms in Middle-Earth.
Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field (Matt. 13:44). Reading Tolkien is much like that. He is far less explicit than his friend C.S. Lewis, and you have to dig for it. But “Akallabêth” is indeed a treasure hidden in a field—or buried in a sudden, unexpected watery cataclysm (Matt. 24:44, I Thess. 5:3) .
But what is the heart of this story? You either obey God, or you disobey God. You either keep the Ban, or you break it. You do what God says you ought to do, or you brook no denial and seize for yourself what God has forbidden. If you do what God says, you are blessed both in this world and in the world to come. If you refuse to obey and do the opposite of what God says, you bring ruin and destruction upon yourself, both now and in eternity. Just like the people of Numenor, who stopped fearing God, stopped trusting God, who chafed and kicked at being told NO, who wanted something for themselves (immortality like the Elves) God said it was not His will or purpose for them to possess. A Ban.
OK, fine, HG, this works for the life we ought to live, but what has this to do with writing?
Sauron still whispers today, just like he did to Numenor’s doomed last king. There are no rules, no “bans,” no lines, no restrictions in what we should write. That only the weak, the legalistic and particularly the ignorant attempt to follow them. I am not speaking of the bans the CBA puts on things. We can and should debate that ilk till the cows come home. I am speaking instead of the temptation to weave something—anything—into a story that is the opposite of what God says. One of His . . . Bans. And yes, gentle readers, there indeed ARE Bans God has placed, on life and in writing too.
The One Who said “You shall not commit adultery” is not honored if I break my commitment to the person I married. Committing adultery doesn’t honor God, it’s the opposite of what honors God.
But HG, you’re being ridiculous.
Am I? Why should we think the restrictions, the Bans he places upon us in His Word don’t apply to writing? Is our writing exempt? No. Nothing is exempt from what God says in scripture, for we shall all give account for all we have done, writing included (Rom. 14:12, II Cor. 5:12). And the temptation is always there as Christian writers to weave into a story the opposite of what God says is true.
I faced this temptation when I wrote my novel Jezebelle, so let’s apply it to me.
Jezebelle is a ghost story. Its theme is there seems a way right to a person, but its end is the way of death (Pr. 14:12). In life Jezebelle Beaumont had a choice—to flee or to accept what the Devil’s hand offered to get what she wanted. But the Devil lied. And Jezebelle went to her doom. Yes, she came back, but she’s still a soul in torment, lost and damned because she chose her way and not God’s. It’s tragic, it’s horrible, and the thought arises, “Wait, what if somehow Jezebelle is able to turn to God, even like this? Doesn’t God’s grace extend that far, even to her, after death?”
No. It does not. God has placed a Ban on this (Hebr. 9:27, Rev. 20:11–15, 2 Cor. 6:2, Jn. 8:24). There is no second chance after death. No matter how much I would have longed to do it, having Jezebelle “find Jesus” after she’s dead breaks the Ban God has placed on these things. Now is the accepted time to repent and name Christ Lord. Afterward, there is only judgment and wrath or Heaven (Matt. 25:31–46). Any other “story” I’d try to craft to get around this Ban is breaking it. And in doing so, I would join Ar-Pharazon the doomed and displease God, to say the very least. Why? Because my reconstruction is not the Truth as it is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21). No thanks. Jezebelle ends the way God says it should, according to his changeless Word. There may be stories written out there about second chances after death and “ghosts” getting “saved,” but the source of lies like this is not the Word of God.
Oh yes, Sauron still whispers. There are no Bans, not to great writers who do not take NO for an answer but take what’s due them.
But we need to listen to God’s Bans, both in life and in writing. We need to keep them, not break them. God tells us what they are in his Word in language so clear. If you have questions, take them to God, take them to His Word. He’ll answer you (Is. 55:6–13). Cling to Eru, love Him, keep his Bans (Jn. 14:15, I. Jn. 5:3).
Or, listen to Sauron.
There is no third option. Tolkien knew that. And, he warned us, did he not?
Read “Akallabêth.” Dig for Tolkien’s treasure hidden in this field. You will not be disappointed, and both your writing and your very life will never be impoverished.
Author, theologian, graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and Oral Roberts University, HG Ferguson brings biblical truth and articulate power to bear upon matters of both spiritual arcana and his work as a writer of horror fiction from a thoroughly scriptural perspective. Always outside the box of convention, but never outside the lines of what God has told us in His Holy Word. In his metaphysical horror novel Jezebelle, the darkness haunting a small southern town takes a road trip—into implacable evil and mindless destruction. And some Light too.