Keeping In Step with the Spirit by Following in the Footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien

ImageLast 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 Toleranceand 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

Lottie Moon: Service and Solicitor for Missions Giving

Service

When Lottie evaluated her ministry in China, she felt that the first 18 years of the work were just sowing with very little reaping.  From 1873-1890, she labored to learn the language, the customs, and the best ways to do evangelism.  And it was only after 2 decades that she began to see much fruit. Part of this was the way Lottie conceived of conversion.  She was not looking for numbers but transformed lives.  But also, it was the providence of God.  Sometimes in God’s perfect timing, the fruit takes much longer to form than we would want.  Yet, this should not have been a surprise to Lottie, for 18 years was the same amount of time it took for her own conversion.

As the years turned into decades, the focus of her ministry changed.  In 1873, Lottie began as a school teacher to young girls, but after ten years, she requested a permanent change to a ministry comprised of personal evangelism. She wrote to her supervisor, “Under no circumstances do I wish to continue in school work, but I long to go and talk to the thousands of women around me” (387).  This adamant statement was not a disgruntled complaint, but a heart that had traded in her intellectual pursuits for more personal ministry.  She continues, “If I am to devote myself to evangelistic work in the city and country I must be free from the school” (387).  This change would prepare the way for her most fruitful years of ministry, still eight years away.

It is worth noting the conditions that she endured in China. Her reports describe “long days of teaching, traveling, enduring poor weather and verbal abuse, uncomfortable accommodation, and nauseating food” all of which “had no romantic appeal for her.”  Remember, Lottie was a Southern Belle who used to skip church to eat heavy meals.

Like Jesus, she would often go days without personal times of quiet and solitude.  While she experienced a kind of loneliness in China, there were other times she could not be left alone.  When she would travel into the countryside, the Chinese women and children would badger her with questions, fondle her clothing, and interrogate her manners.  They had a childlike inquisitiveness that never failed to verbalize what they were thinking, and there would be times when she would nearly crack under the pressure of constant scrutiny.

For 30 years, this was the majority of her work.  Going house-to-house, village-to-village, introducing women and children to the gospel.  There were times when she would “preach” to mixed audiences (men and women), because she feared for their souls.  She did not want to miss the opportunity to tell the good news, but her standard ministry target was the women and children.

Missions Fund Raiser

Teaching and personal evangelism did not exhaust her duties, because she also served as a valuable reporter from China back to the United States.  A compelling writer, she held regular correspondence with the Foreign Mission Board back in Virginia, and her stories were widely circulated among the women’s missionary societies that were springing up in the late 1800’s.

This written correspondence is perhaps what has left the greatest legacy among Southern Baptists.  And among all her letters, her plea for funds during the Christmas season in 1887 is the one that has had the longest lasting effect.  Writing to Southern Baptist women, she says,

How many there are among our women, alas! Alas!  Who imagine that because ‘Jesus Paid It All” they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should following the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God, and so aid in bringing the answer to the petition our Lord taught his disciples: ‘Thy kingdom come”’ (383).

She would later say,

Should we not press it home upon our consciences,’ she asked, ‘that the sole object of our conversion was not the salvation of our own souls, but that we might become co-workers with our Lord and Master in the conversion of the world? (383)

Lottie Moon’s Enduring Legacy

Such was the boldness of Lottie Moon.  She picked up her cross and daily followed Jesus Christ, and she was glad to call others to do the same.  Indeed, she did so because of her love for her Savior and for the people of China.  Her joy was increased as she saw the Chinese come to faith, and she called others to increase their joy as well.

This is the reason why today Southern Baptists take up a missions offering in her name.  The goal is not to guilt people into giving, but out of the overflow of the heart, men and women might give funds so that more people might hear the gospel and the chorus of praise around the world might increase.

For a view on gospel-motivated giving, see my Gospel-Motivated Generosity is a Mark of True Obedience.

Check back tomorrow to consider a number of lessons from Lottie Moon’s life.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss