The Hobbit & Humanity by Kirk Miller
I can’t wait to see the Hobbit!
I mean I really, really can’t wait. I am known to fall asleep at late night movies (i.e. Transformers) but I want to be there at midnight to see the Hobbit. I absolutely love these stories. I’ve been thinking; why is that? Then a thought came to me, like a cloud descending from on high J … The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy gives me a picture of what it means to be human.
What does it mean to you to be human? Why are we the way, well, that we are? You know, messed up, courageous, beautiful and sometimes ugly. What is the essence of being human? When I read the Hobbit I am struck with many thoughts but the one that sticks out the most to me is the humanity that is displayed in these hobbits, elves, orcs, wizards and yes even bears! (Gotta read the book to get the bear reference)
Before I get too far though, let me start with a caveat for all you L.O.T.R. nerds (which I am too), I don’t speak for Tolkien, these are my observations. Tolkien was clear saying his story was NOT a spiritual allegory or hidden theology. This however is the essence of “theology soup”, that being; it is my take on how this story collides with a valuable theological truth.
Ok, are you calm now? Good.
What Tolkien does best in his amazing stories is tap into the essence of humanity, giving us a picture of ourselves at our best potential and worst. Here is a definition of humanity that I’ve found to be true in Scripture.
The constitutional nature of humanity is Spiritual (Matt 10:28), Biological (1 Cor. 15:44) and Psychological (Matt. 22:37).
Human beings are spirit, physical and psychological. All three aspects create one personality, connected, instead of compartmentalized. All three aspects of humanity need to be redeemed together, not separately. That’s why what we do with our bodies effects our spirit as well (1 Cor. 6:16-19).
If I have a physical need my spirit and psyche will need attending to as well. This is what I love about Bilbo Baggins and really most of the Hobbits, they are fully aware of how their spiritual needs are attached to their physical and psychological needs.
In Fact a picture of our humanity, like in the Hobbit, gives us a picture of who our Creator is, since we are created in his image. The image of God is something that humans are, not something humans attain; “A key expression is that God made the human in God’s own image and likeness” (Christian Theology by Erickson Millard, 1998, p. 518).
It is universal to all humankind and we all equally share in the image with no greater degree than anyone else, the image is the essence of ourselves that allows us to have relationships, free will, and thinking and reflecting as part of us.
The communicable attributes of God which “are those qualities of God for which at least a partial counterpart can be found in His human creations” (Erickson, p. 533) make up the image of God that we all share together.
The implications of the image of God for us are that we are God’s creation (Gen. 9:6) and we belong to Him and we will only truly be human when we align ourselves with God becoming a follower of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). David Benner in The Gift of Being Yourself describes the concept of self as directly tied to our knowledge of God.
Benner quotes John Calvin saying, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God”. This points to the fact that we are uniquely tied to God; in scripture he often talks of us being his children speaking again to our connection to Him. We are designed in God’s image and our humanity reflects His greatness and creativity.
Knowing that each of us are created in the image of God allows me to see each person as special and unique, having insurmountable worth intrinsically. No one is a mistake; no one is worthless or less valuable because we are all created by the One who has more worth than anything. Nothing God puts his hands to or creates is bad and nothing He touches could be anything less than amazing.
Also to be human means we are designed for relationship, Stephen Seamands author of Ministry in The Image of God says “To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter. If God is a communion of persons inseparably related, then…it is in our relatedness to others that our being human consists”. I recognize that all humanity was created for relationship because we are created by a relational God.
Like most good art, I believe the Hobbit connects to us because it reflects our humanity, the good bad and the ugly. Tolkien’s genius was to “sub create” (a word he used for his creative works) a story where we can explore what it means to be human and how we relate to our world and others. I love how art can do that!
As you go to the movie or read the book try to see how the theology of humanity comes to life in this story. Even though unintentionally, I believe Tolkien gave us a great theological picture of our humanity to explore.
Share your thoughts.