Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence

The doctrine of providence is a fitting one to study as one begins a new year. Since the release of The Hobbit, I have began re-reading the Fellowship of the Ring. I have learned that it is best to read the book that was turned into a movie after watching the movie. The reason for this is it allows me to enjoy the movie as is. I read The Hobbit years ago in college and thus will not re-read it until the third and final film is released.

With that said, while I am reading through The Fellowship of the Ring I came across the following dialogue between the wizard Gandalf the Gray and the hobbit Frodo. Frodo has inherited the Ring of Power from his uncle Bilbo (whose story is told in The Hobbit) and is learning from the wizard that he must destroy it. How Gandalf, through the Catholic J. R. R. Tolkien, describes the nature of the ring and the "chance" that Gollum, Bilbo, and now Frodo has possessed it is interesting and illustrates what Christians mean when they speak of providence.
  
"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else’s care – and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside. It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The ring left him."

"What, just in time to meet Bilbo?" said Frodo. "Wouldn’t an Orc have suited it better?"

"It is no laughing matter," said Gandalf. "Not for you. It was the strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo's arrival just at that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark.

There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur’s hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!

Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."


Encouraging indeed! The doctrine of God's Divine Providence is an encouraging one. You were meant to be where you are, with the family you have, with the job you enjoy, and the church you worship and serve at. If it were mere chance, as both atheist and Pelagians suggest, then fight! Providence reminds us that all that we are and have is a gift to be enjoyed from our Maker. To deny such providence turns us towards ourselves. We will always have enemies to fight and entitlements to demand.

So as we begin this new year rejoice that God is in absolute control and like in the Triology, God wins in the end. We are participating in a story much bigger than us, like Frodo and Sam. A story that ends in God's greater glory. Now that is an encouraing thought!


For more on Creation and Providence:
All Aspects of Our Lives Are Preordained: Grudem on Providence & God's Plan Calvinism on Providence
Providence and Prayer: Carson Response
Repost | "A Sweet & Bitter Providence" by John Piper
Tony Evans on God and Purpose
September 19, 2010 - God is Provident
April 29, 2012 | Ruth 1:1-22 - Better or Bitter: When Providence Means Suffering
May 6, 2012 | Ruth 2:1-13 - And It Just So Happened ...: When God's Invisible Hand Becomes Visible 
May 20, 2012 | Ruth 2:14-23 - Grace in Abundance: That's Why Its So Amazing
May 27, 2012 | Ruth 3:1-9 - Resting in the Providence of God - Part 1
June 10, 2012 | Ruth 4:1-15 - When Providence and Grace Kiss
May 29, 2011 | Habakkuk 2:2-20
August 1, 2010 - Matthew 6:25-34 - Worry and the Providence of God: What Our Anxiety Says About What We Believe About God


Creation and Providence from Millard Erickson:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16
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