Last week, Albert Mohler republished one of his essays, “From Father to Son—J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex.” It deserves to be read by fathers and sons and everyone else. It is taken from Mohler’s book Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance, and the essay is about J.R.R. Tolkien’s views on sex, captured in a host of letters to his three sons (see The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien).
Mohler’s article is well worth the read as it sets out the ways in which Christian Scripture informed Tolkien’s sexual ethic and the way that the architect of Middle Earth stood against the prevailing notions of sex half-a-century-ago. Here are some of the best lines from Tolkien’s letters, which Mohler included in his essay.
- The dislocation of sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall.
- The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject,
- Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed’ ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh.
- Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains.
- No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.
- Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance–in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure . . . .
As is evident, Tolkien conceived of sex in a way that is lost on inhabitants of the twenty-first century, and that is foreign to many Christians too. His perspective needs to be heard, and fatherly model of speaking candidly to his children about sex needs to be imitated too. Let me close with Mohler’s reflections:
From the vantage point of the 21st century, Tolkien will appear to many to be both out of step and out of tune with the sexual mores of our times. Tolkien would no doubt take this as a sincere, if unintended, compliment. He knew he was out of step, and he steadfastly refused to update his morality in order to pass the muster of the moderns.
When it comes to sex, may we keep in step with the Spirit, by following in the footsteps of someone who did not succumb to the spirit of the age.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss