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“The Hobbit”: Blogging Through Tolkien’s Classic – Roast Mutton

“Blimey, Bert, look what I’ve copped!” said William.

“What is it?” said the others coming up.

“Lumme, if I knows! What are yer?”

“Bilbo Baggins, a bur – a hobbit, ” said poor Bilbo, shaking all over, and wondering how to make owl-noises before they throttled him.

“A burrahobbit?” said they a bit started. Trolls are slow in the uptake, and mighty suspicious about anything new to them.

“What’s a burrahobbit got to do with my pocket, anyways?” said William.

“And can yer cook ’em?” said Tom. (34)

We come now to discuss the second chapter of J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit. Here, Bilbo and the dwarves find themselves battles three hungry, ignoramus trolls. For me personally, the scene with the trolls is one of my favorite episodes in this 20th century classic novel.

The chapter is not as lengthy as the first and is largely straightforward. Bilbo discovers the trolls eating roast mutton and tries to prove his ability as a burglar. He is caught by one of the trolls and the dwarves seek to come of to his rescue only to be captured themselves. The trolls are controlled by their appetites and only see Bilbo and company as a means to filling their stomachs.

The chapter ends with Gandalf, who had left the company earlier, remaining in the shadow and mimicking the other trolls creating turmoil between them. Eventually, he exposes them to the sun and they are turned into stone and Thorin’s company is saved by the gray wizard.

The notable section of the chapter comes near the end when Thorin quizzes Gandalf regarding his whereabouts during the episode.

“Where did you go to, if I may ask?” said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along.

“To look ahead,” said he.

“And what brought you back in the nick of time?”

“Looking behind,” said he. (41)

There is a real beauty here and it is striking that this is Thorin and Gandalf speaking. Both are the respected leaders of the company but are different types of leaders. Thorin is the heir to the throne that the dragon stole and he seeks to take what is rightly his. He leads, we could say, from the ground. He never leaves the company but is always leading from the front. Gandalf, on the other hand, has no right to any throne and his motivation is different. His concern is long term. We learn in the appendices that Sauron is rising and Gandalf fears what the Dark Lord would do if the dragons sided with him. To him, this is the first move that will culminate in the Lord of the Rings narrative. Thus Gandalf is a visionary leader who is always ten steps ahead of the company.

So Gandalf is absent because he is preparing the company for what is coming next – something that Thorin cannot do while marching with the dwarves. The danger, however, is when leaders stay ahead and do not return to bring those in whom he’s leading with him. So as I see it, Gandalf and Thorin embody true leadership in this narrative. Gandalf is looking ahead and is prepared for what is next but does not forget to look behind. At the same time there is Thorin who never leaves the side of the ones he is leading.

Something to consider.

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All Around the Web – February 19, 2019

AATWTrevin Wax – Millennials, Evangelism, and Whatever Happened to Hell?

Kevin DeYoung – Theological Primer: Pactum Salutis

Mormon Research Ministry – Mormons and The Bible

Sam Storms – 10 Things You Should Know about Slavery in the Bible

John Stonestreet – A Debate to Watch

Thom Rainer – A Few Thoughts about Ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention

BBC – Chernobyl: The end of a three-decade experiment

TGC – Frederick Douglass and His Fight for Freedom

Denny Burk – “Battle for the Minds” at Southern Seminary

National Geographic – The Mars rover Opportunity is dead. Here’s what it gave humankind.

Babylon Bee – Man Robbing Chick-Fil-A Impressed By Level Of Customer Service

Babylon Bee – Obama Condemns Trump’s ‘Dangerous’ Use Of Unilateral Executive Action

Babylon Bee – Democrats Storm Notorious Billionaire Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin To Demand He Pay His Fair Share

Sola Evangelii Episode 10 | Mere Calvinism: An Interview with Dr. Jim Orrick – Part 2

In part 1 of my interview with Dr. Jim Orrick, author of Mere Calvinism (read my review here), we explored the meaning and rise of Calvinism. In part 2, we take the time to explore common objections to Calvinism. Does Reformed Theology undermine free will? Do Calvinist reject free will? What about double predestination? Does the Perseverance of the Saints undermine holinessness?

Once again, I think you will find Dr. Orrick’s motive obvious. He is not seeking to score theological points among fellow Calvinists, but to clearly articulate Reformed Theology in a pastoral way. At the end of the day, Orrick wants the reader to fall in love with the God of the Bible who initiates, sustains, and completes our salvation. As a result, I believe there is reason for both critics and adherents to Calvinism to listen to what Orrick has to say in the following interview.

 

All Around the Web – February 18, 2019

AATWRussell Moore – Southern Baptists Face Their #MeToo Moment

SBTS – Statement from R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Sovereign Grace Churches

Doug Wilson – Dominated by Howling Commies

TGC – How ‘No Creed But the Bible’ Subverts the Bible

John Stonestreet – Millennials and Evangelism

Denny Burk – Is social justice unjust?

Evangelical History – Mark Dever’s Original Letter to a Church Plant on “The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church”

Carey Niewulf – 8 Signs Your Church Is Actually Reaching Unchurched People

Crossway – 5 Myths about Christian Publishing

Thom Rainer – The Most Frequent Issues Facing Pastors and Other Church Leaders – Rainer on Leadership #511

Facts & Trends – 7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness

Tim Challies – Has the Bible Been Preserved For Us Today?

Babylon Bee – Atheist Requiring Evidence To Believe Anything Knows For Certain Trump Colluded With Russia

Babylon Bee – Conservatives Accused Of Making Liberals Look Bad By Simply Reading List Of Things Liberals Believe

Babylon Bee – Ocasio-Cortez Declares Victory Over The Modern-Day Equivalent Of Slavery: Jobs

Babylon Bee – Disney Confirms ‘Frozen 2’ Will Just Be ‘Let It Go’ On A Loop For 4 Hours

All Around the Web – February 16, 2019

AATWAlbert Mohler – From Two Murder Victims to One: It Didn’t Take Long for New York’s Radical Abortion Bill to Show its Deadly Consequences

The Federalists – LGBT Activists Teaching Judges To Yank Kids From Parents Who Won’t Transgender Them

Christianity Today – James MacDonald Fired from Harvest

Church Law and Tax – 5 Surprising Insights from the 2019 Youth Pastor Compensation Survey Results

Thom Rainer – Nine Commitments Needed From Church Members for Revitalization to Happen – Revitalize & Replant #080

TGC – Why Robot Commercials Creep Us Out

Chuck Lawless – 10 Lies of the Enemy that Church Leaders Believe

TGC – Pastor, Preach Like Hurt Women Are Listening

Tim Challies – How Can We Glorify God with Our Time?

Facts & Trends – 3 Things Church Planting Couples Need to Do

Babylon Bee – Benny Hinn Criticized For Dressing Up As Actual Pastor

Babylon Bee – New Toyota Prius Will Remind You To Check Your Privilege Every 3,000 Miles

All Around the Web – February 15, 2019

AATWAlbert Mohler – The Power of the Gospel and the Meltdown of Identity Politics

John Stonestreet – The Cost of Skipping Children

Jared Wilson – Are Mormons Heretics?

Thom Rainer – The Pendulum Swing Syndrome When Churches Get a New Pastor: Five Key Questions

Crossway – 5 Myths about the Song of Songs

Chuck Lawless – CHURCH HEALTH QUIZ #2: IS YOUR CHURCH A DISCPLING CHURCH?

Jason K. Allen – Six Simple Steps to Revolutionize your Spiritual Life

TGC – Don’t Be Individualistic in Evangelism

Tim Challies – Biographies for People Who Have Never Read a Biography

WORLD – A silhouette of a man

Babylon Bee – Democrats Unveil Surefire Plan To Get Trump Reelected In 2020

Babylon Bee – ‘We Must Treat The Constitution As If It’s Alive,’ Says Man Who Doesn’t Treat The Unborn That Way

Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office (Updated)

Image result for the officeI recently rewatched The Office and thought I would repost my review of the show as I stand by my conclusions with only a few modifications added.

One of my favorite shows of all time is NBC’s The Office. The dry wit and satire on reality TV sets it apart from TV comedy. The acting is superb and the writing and jokes are rich. Each character only adds to the narrative and intrigue of the show. Recently I watched through all nine seasons again on Netflix and noticed an important point worth exploring from a Christian perspective.

The show, at its root, is about man’s obsession and need to be accepted.

Consider the evidence. First there is Michael Scott. Scott is woefully awkward and inappropriate yet his need to be accepted and his fear of loneliness prevents him from seeing this. Scott has to be viewed both as a cool boss (made most evident by his “World’s Best Boss” mug) and a funny man. Every time he is rejected as either crass, crude, or unlovable he lashes out in rage and depression.

His fear of loneliness is obvious. It is revealed that Michael was raised without a father figure, supposedly has a brother he has never met and a stepfather he strongly dislikes. The episode featuring his nephew reveals the dysfunctional nature of his extended family and why he views Dunder Mifflin as his real family. In one scene, Michael is seen as a child confessing on TV that when he grows up he wants to father over a hundred children so that he will never be without any friends. The series finale shows him with two phones loaded with pictures of his children he shares with his wife he met on the show.

All of his romantic relationships are dysfunctional in some way. Outside of his relationship with Jan, the blame lies solely at his feet. Michael craves their affection and obsesses over each of them even after their relationship is over. He needs them to accept him, to approve of him.

There is also his obsessive need to be the center of attention. Many scenes feature Michael in the office begin with him casually and unnecessarily walking out of his personal office into the broader area without purpose only to do something to draw something to himself. The annual Dundees is nothing more than a comedy routine in which he expects his employees to praise his superfluous award show. Likewise, most of his jokes and conversations are a reflection of his need for attention, not community. One of the best examples of this obsession is Phyllis’s wedding where he thinks pushing Phyllis’s wheel-chair-bound father down the aisle is equivalent to walking the bride down the aisle. When her father stops half-way and walks on his own thus no longer needing Michael, he marches off in anger. He later interrupts the traditional toast in an inappropriate way in order to draw attention to himself.

Michael names Dwight the Assistant to the Regional Manager because the beet farmer is a sycophant and almost worships him. Michael needs this and when Dwight leaves Dunder Mifflin, Michael sinks into a type of depression. In addition, Michael is intimidated by the success of others he considers a threat to him. Most notable here is Ryan Howard (who went to business school) and Jim Halpert.

Secondly, there is Dwight Schrute. For the first eight seasons (which feature Michael Scott), Dwight needs to be accepted by both Dunder Mifflin in general and Michael in particular. Dwight does everything – everything – to prove his loyalty to both his regional manager and the company. His need for acceptance is best evidence in the following quote:

 

In one season Dwight actually leaves the company and works for Staples. He later returns after Scott, in the midst of his own depression, wins him back.

Dwight also seeks acceptance by proving his superiority to his co-workers. He is superior as a paper salesman, farmer, a man, a fighter, a volunteer sheriff deputy, tight-rope walker, boyfriend, Game of Thrones nerd, etc. The list is endless. Dwight’s obsession of proving his superiority is the fuel behind many of Jim’s pranks against him. In the final season after Dwight finally becomes regional manager, Jim convinces Dwight to be the assistant to the assistant to the regional manager. This would make Dwight both the number 1 and 3 in the office because no one else was worthy of being his number 3. The running joke that illustrates this superiority mindset is his made up title given to him by Michael of “Assistant to the Regional Manager.” Dwight prefers the more dominant title “Assistant Regional Manager.”

A cursory web search of some of the classic Dwight quotes reveal this need to be accepted. Most notable in this regard is a season 5 episode where Dwight confesses, “Nothing stresses me out. Except having to seek the approval of my inferiors.”

Then there are the other characters. Ryan Howard needs to be rich and successful even if he has to cut corners. After quickly climbing the corporate ladder of Dunder Mifflin, Ryan is arrested for corruption only to return later to the show. Ryan is an arrogant jerk who uses people for his own purpose. At one point he starts a social media company taking money from his co-workers.

Erin Hannon replaces Pam Beasley as the receptionists of the office. She is an orphan who constantly longs to know her mother. In the finale she reunites with both of her birth parents. Toby Flenderson is rejected by everybody. Michael especially loathes him while the rest grow tired of him. He tries to run from his rejection overseas only to return to the Scranton branch. He is divorced multiple times over – a reflection that everyone rejects him. It seems that only his daughter likes him and that is at risk at times. (and he’s the Scranton  Strangler)

Angela Martin is a self-righteous fundamentalists that wants to be viewed as such. In reality, however, she is a hypocrite who commits adultery against every boyfriend and husband outside of Dwight whom she finally marries in the finale. While married to “the Senator” she gives birth to Dwight’s child. She tries to tell everyone the baby is premature in order to explain why she gave birth before the ninth month anniversary of her wedding. She finds acceptance in her self-righteousness

Andy Bernard is a salesman (later turned regional manager) who constantly brags about his alma mater Cornell (ever heard of it?). He is constantly trying to prove himself to his rich parents who think of him as a failure. In the final season Bernard quits his job to chase his vain dream of stardom. He becomes a star, but only as a viral joke on YouTube. His final line is of him longing for “the good ol’ days.”

Even Pam Beasley is subject to this indictment. She is discontent with being a lowly receptionists and is always afraid to take risk. She knows her relationship with Roy isn’t healthy but can’t seem to break it off even though the wedding planning never ends. She wants to be an artist but fears failure especially after no one comes to her gallery. Of all of the characters, she finds redemption the earliest in Jim Halpert who alone, except for his brief flirtation with Athlede in the final season, is the exception to the acceptance rule. Jim is the only character that doesn’t fully fit this pattern in the series. He isn’t brash, outlandish, a drunkard, stereotypical, or anything else. He’s rational, gifted, and “cool.” Jim is everything the other characters want to be and everyone, secretly, resents him for it. Michael is intimidated by him, Dwight fears Jim will defeat him, and Pam won’t measure up to him.

In terms of redemption, The Office is a comedy that offers little until the final season when the show transforms into a semi-drama. By the end of the series, the characters that find peace find it in love. Jim and Pam, for example, work out their differences when Jim discovers that Pam is more valuable than a dream job while Pam discovers that Jim is more valuable than her comfortable life in Scranton. Dwight and Angela discover the same thing. Angela, the fundamentalist hypocrite who is an adulterer, has her heart broken by a husband guilty of the same, finds peace in her marriage to Dwight. Dwight, similarly, finds his “perfectenschlag” as a humble manager at Dunder Mifflin and as the husband of said Angela. Michael, too, finds love as both a husband and father. He leaves the show after getting engaged. He is finally happy. Even Ryan and Kelly seemingly find happiness in their witty escape in the series finale.

Yet those who do not find fulfillment are those who do not find love. Andy, for example, concludes the series by regretting abandoning Dunder Mifflin referring to it as “the good old days.” He now has a job at his alma mater and is a viral superstar online, yet none of it matters. He spent his adult life fantasizing about Cornell and now that he has returned as an employee, he fantasizes about his past life as a paper salesman. In the plot of the story, Andy lacks love.

As a Christian, such redemptive hope is not redemptive. Romantic love, as defined by the culture, is fickle at best. Jim and Pam, from what I’ve witnessed in pop culture, do seem to possess one of the strongest marriages in modern television, yet even it is flawed. Erotic love is no Savior and it will not bring joy. Only Jesus can.

This is really what makes The Office so good. It is more than jokes and comical routines, but well-written satire that tells us something about ourselves. While mocking reality TV, the characters hold up a mirror to the viewer. Each of us have this same longing in our hearts. We may not act like Michael Scott of Kevin Malone, but that same desire is still ours. The good news of the gospel, however, is that in Christ we are accepted. We have nothing to prove.

 

Image Credit

For more:
Christianity on the Small Screen: The Office (Updated)
Christianity on the Small Screen: Arrow, Seasons 1-5
Christianity on the Small Screen: Flash, Season 1-3
Christianity on the Small Screen: LOST, Season 1-3
Christianity on the Small Screen: LOST, Season 4-6
Christianity and the Small Screen: The West Wing
Christianity and the Small Screen: Parks and Recreation
Christianity and the Small Screen: Jericho
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break – Part 1
Christianity on the Small Screen: Prison Break – Part 2
Christianity and the Small Screen: “Smallville”
Christianity and the Small Screen: Fox’s “House, M. D.”
Christianity and the Small Screen: NBC’s “Crisis”
Christianity and the Small Screen: FBI Files
Saying Shibboleth

All Around the Web – February 14, 2019

AATWJoe Carter – The FAQs: Investigative Report Uncovers Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Churches

Albert Mohler – The Reality of Sexual Abuse Hits Home: What Happened? What Do We Do Now?

J. D. Greear – 700 Is Not the Total Number: How to Get Help

John Stonestreet – The Green New Deal

Thom Rainer – Seven Ways to Stay Encouraged in Pastoral Ministry – Rainer on Leadership #510

TGC – Don’t Put Your Hope in Date Night

TGC – When Should You Report Ministerial Misconduct?

Jonah Goldberg – Backers of a Green New Deal Embrace Their Fantasies

National Review – Grant Gains Ground

Ross Douthat – The Myths of Voter ID

Yahoo! 7 – Unborn baby removed from mum’s womb for surgery and then put back

Babylon Bee – Confronted With Details Of Green New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez Claims Not To Speak English

Babylon Bee – Ocasio-Cortez Claims Full Text Of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ Was Uploaded To Her Website By Mistake

Babylon Bee – Virginia Democrats Announce They Would Only Resign For A Real Scandal Like Getting Caught Wearing A MAGA Hat

From Lewis’s Pen: Five Rules of Writing

LewisFrom a letter written in June 1956 to Joan:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.