Sunday, May 21, 2006

Iluvator and Evil

Then Iluvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Iluvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

I took the above passage from The Simarillian, by JRR Tolkien, to write about the present confusion over God’s reigning on earth. Biblically speaking, we are at or near the period in which Lucifer is cast to earth and is furious, knowing that his time is coming to an end. We humans tend to see the need for order and coherence in our world; instead we see disorder and confusion. Why, we cogently ask, is there not a seemly pattern to our world- why is it all the time invaded by evil, dominated by evil, and we often see humans doing what humans ought not to do- furthering the cause of evil? Tolkien believed strongly in the power of the myth to teach reality. His works greatly reflected his strong religious beliefs and the above passage shows his clarity of understanding of our present plight.
     Evil is here, apparently ruling and reigning. But even while evil is having its day, the goodness and power of God are going to pattern that evil into good. There is nothing that Lucifer does which, in the nanosecond God says to stop, shall not instantly cease. Nevertheless God allows evil to have much sway, and herein fits the doctrine of original sin. But even the instance of original sin is under the providence and dominion of God; he has all, the least jot and the tittle shall not happen without God’s having allowed it.
Lewis does this same theme great justice when he gives us the character of Aslan. When Aslan is absent from Narnia, evil reigns (or thinks it does). The White Witch even reasons that if she can kill Edmund there would only be three to fulfill the prophecy, and then she reasons that Aslan himself may go. I find it intriguing that never for an instant does she feel that evil can stand against good; it is her fervent and fruitless hope that Aslan may leave Narnia.  
     Tolkien and Lewis of course met regularly and often agreed that myths are an excellent means to explain reality. Their works which differ so much in literary style both harmonize on this one theme. Descartes famously said I think therefore I am- a statement I think is a sound basis of modern western thought. But if perhaps I might be allowed to play with such a great statement, let me change it a bit: I feel right and wrong therefore there is good and evil.
     I am not trying to be philosophical here. Rather I am trying to argue from backwards design. Isn’t it obvious that we have been made to see good and evil, however poorly, and isn’t that a sound reason for our Creator? Why should we feel right and wrong at all if it were not true that there is both good and evil? The day is coming when our Melkor’s reign shall end, when our Aslan will assume command and “begin setting things aright”. Our God is but reigning at present in a distant sense, an absent Aslan, but the day is soon coming when he will reign in visible physical form.
     I think therein is the confusion of many over the presence of evil. Evil cannot live with good- so the poor reasoning goes- therefore there is no good, or if there is good it is too weak to overcome evil. They could not be more wrong. The good which they only imperfectly see at the best of times is a lot bigger and a lot stronger than anything imagined. What of a goodness, shown to us with the mythical charms of Tolkien and Lewis, that is capable of folding evil into a greater pattern of good? Good food for thought.

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