The Bible does not just teach us what happens, it teaches us what always happens. This is a good way to put what many people see in the Bible, it’s perpetual ability to be applied in any society, in any day, even though it is tied very closely in its origins to a specific region and specific times. The Bible might be written by Israelites and Jews in the Middle East, but it has powerful application across vast cultures and continents.
I would say that this is also true of good fiction. Good fiction points to what always happens, by telling us what happened in a specific story and then showing how realistic characters respond to various trials, triumphs and events that we can all relate to in some way or another.
The Lord of the Rings is perhaps one of the best examples of this ability for stories to speak beyond their original context and time to the trials and struggles we are facing in our own day. Stories like this tell us what heroes and villains can and in some ways should look like, why honour is so important, and why it is necessary to oppose lies and what happens when you don’t. They tell us about the importance of courage, perseverance and hope and how to face struggles and never lose these things.
A good example of this is this application from LOTR by an Anglican Church minister, in a short piece entitled The Saruman-Bishops of the Church of England[i]:
“Saruman believed that the power of Sauron was too strong... and therefore it was necessary to submit to him, work with him, make the best of him.
Saruman had a large stock of Shire pipeweed ready at Isengard, because he was so sure that Gandalf would walk well with him...
...even as Saruman was effectively walking to Mordor, accepting the rule of the lidless eye of Sauron.
Saruman was confident that he would persuade Gandalf to "see reason" and accept the wisdom of making peace with Sauron.
In this way, so many of the Church of England Bishops have concluded that the world's view of sexuality is too strong... and victory for chastity, celibacy and Christ is impossible.
So, they have reasoned that we must simply work with the world, submit to the world's view of sexuality and make the best of sex outside of Holy Matrimony.
They are so sure that historic, global Christians will "see reason" and walk with them under their new lord, the spirit of the age.
In fact, as Saruman appointed Grima Wormtongue into a position of influence for Theoden, so these Saruman-Bishops have been appointing those who represent the Sauron philosophy for a long time.
Especially over the past decade, we have become aware of deans, bishops, canons and diocesan advisor appointments who are openly/covertly following the sexuality of the world.
The Saruman-Bishops have bought in plenty of "pipe weed" and produced videos, study days and "pastoral letters", confident that the Gandalf-faithful will "walk well" with them under the rule of Sauron.”
I encourage you to read his whole piece, because it is not very long and it is encouraging. It reminds us that we are part of a battle between good and evil, and that victory can arise from the most unlikely places in the most unlikely circumstances. And it ends not on a note of despair, but note of hope, and just as importantly, a not of resolve.
We must resolve not to give up in the face of the onslaught of the Saruman’s. We must resolve not to let the advance of evil in the Church or in society come across to us as an inevitability. We must resolve not to despair, not to give up hope, not to give up the Church, but recognize that in both story, legend and real life, good men have faced what appear to be overwhelming odds and yet have still achieved victory because they did not give up.
Sometimes all it takes is one shepherd boy to say, “He can’t talk about the Lord like that.” Sometimes all it takes is a few fishermen to realize that they don’t need degrees, money and expertise to become powerful followers of the Lord. Sometimes all it takes is a guy like Barnabas to recognize that someone who was once an enemy has seen the light of Jesus and can help advance the cause of faith, hope and love. Sometimes all it takes is 12-1 good men and their friends and family standing up for the truth in the face of a corrupt religious establishment and culture.
Whether in Scripture or in history we see so many men, and at times even women, who have inspired people to stand up to evil and say: “No more!” Sometimes they are not the ones who achieve the great things, but they inspire the next generation to be truly great.
Don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t despair in the face of evil. The Saruman’s of this world appear powerful and influential, but the Lord is on the side of his people, and he will be victorious. The Bible and history show us what always happens, God’s people advance get prosperous, influential and then corrupt, and then they pander to the world and elite causes, and this brings hard times and then God raises up his men to call his people back to faithfulness. Don’t despair that you are in that time where there needs to be a calling back. Praise God that you get to be a part of his work, and note, as Tolkien notes, we don’t choose our times, we choose how we respond to them.
Be like Joshua:
“14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:14-15).
Choose to serve the Lord.
[i] Rev Paul Blackham, “The Saruman-Bishops of the Church of England” https://www.revdrpaulblackham.com/blog/the-saruman-bishops-of-the-church-of-england?fbclid=IwAR28nPTOgpLnQHF8oOT6ynwVsfmxuzY0Z-qDwsbTYp9nM459A14r9sU4vPg