Today is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation! We’re celebrating by examining the Five Solas the best way we know how: through the rulers in Lord of the Rings. Earlier, we looked at Sola Fide through the Faithlessness of Denethor. For more information, see our preview post.
Spoiler warning:this post does contain minor spoilers for the film version of The Two Towers and Return of the King.
Théoden’s story starts out as a sad one: a once-proud king of Rohan, reduced to a hunched and shriveled wisp of gray. He doesn’t listen to or even welcome Gandalf, who comes bearing truth. Puppet of the poison-tongued Gríma and unwitting servant of the villainous Saruman, Théoden is a ruined shell of a man—and Rohan a ruined shell of a nation.
Théoden didn’t fall from power in one day, or voluntarily lay down his youth in an instant. He trusted in a different story; a lie that gave him over to the enemy.
Believing a Different Story
When Gandalf came to Edoras, Gríma told Théoden that he shouldn’t be welcome. He instructed the guards to disarm the party, and sought even to have Théoden expel Gandalf and his party from the throne room. “Ill news is an ill guest,” he told Gandalf. “Why do you lay these troubles on an already troubled mind?”
The truth repelled him, and the lie sapped his strength until he was a shadow of himself.
Wormtongue convinced Théoden of a different story until the truth repelled him, and the lie sapped his strength until he was a shadow of himself. The false story became all he could hear.
A Life-Giving Discovery
But when he was finally told the truth, it changed everything. Théoden’s artifical age melted away, along with Saruman’s mind control. His kingly strength returned. He recognized his family and valued his people once more. For Théoden, discovering the truth about the world was life-giving!
Grasping his sword, Théoden became a fighting force and led his army boldly into battle. The power of the truth would soon turn the tide of the War for Middle-Earth.
Our Greater Story
Tradition and culture pull us in opposite directions in our modern world. “We’ve always done it this way,” tradition says. “That’s not what the modern world thinks,” culture replies. Both would have us go all-in on their story. But both are false, deadly lies.
Sola Scriptura tells us that Scripture alone is our highest authority. Its truth, its story is the truth against which we must validate all other stories. If we yield to a lesser story than the Bible, we become weak and ineffectual wisps, carried about by the lies.
But the truth. Oh, the truth!
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Continue celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with us! The next article is coming soon.
Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture!