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The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Readers have repeatedly called "The Lord of the Rings" the most important book of our age--absorbing all 1,500 of its pages with an almost fanatical interest and seeing the Peter Jackson movies in unprecedented numbers. Readers from ages 8 to 80 keep turning to Tolkien because here, in this magical kingdom, they are immersed in depth after depth of significance and meaning ...more
Paperback, 169 pages
Published October 31st 2003 by Westminster John Knox Press (first published October 15th 2003)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThe Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Middle Earth
83rd out of 127 books — 57 voters
Blink by Malcolm GladwellThe First Pillar by Roy HuffA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le GuinEverything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran FoerProof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
2013 A
90th out of 109 books — 12 voters


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Community Reviews

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Phillip
There is more going on in this book than merely showing the reader that J.R.R. Tolkien's Christianity is present in The Lord of the Rings. I read this book when it first came out in 2005. I think I may have read it one other time along the way. But I have just read it again in preparation for meeting the author, Ralph Wood, at a conference last week. This time I really liked the book.

The Gospel According to Tolkien brings together scripture, Christian history and doctrine and shows those things
...more
Matt
Jul 05, 2008 Matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tolkien lovers of an intellectual bent, Christians who have a hard time seeing Christ in LoTR
It's been a few years since I read this book, and so I won't risk the sort of complete review the book deserves.

I used to hang out frequently in various online Tolkien fan communities to share my love of Tolkien's works with other geek. One thing that always struck me about the conversations which developed in this places was how much fuller, deeper, and well reasoned the arguments were than those I encountered in published works by literary critics and scholars. The average literary critic rea
...more
Angela
Amazing and incredibly insightful, especially for those of us who are fans and know and live the great story better (thanks, Dad!). Even if you're not a Lord of the Rings fan or aficionado, you can still appreciate the parallels between Tolkien's work and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, a former atheist converted to Christianity by Tolkien himself, merely scratch the surface. Just as Tolkien spent so much time creating a high-fantasy (detailed) world with its own fun ...more
Mike Fox
It's hard to pinpoint one's rating in the 5-star rankings. I'd actually give it 3.5 / 5 stars, or 7 / 10, but if I have to choose between 3 or 4 (as is the case), I'll give it 4 / 5.

In this brief but penetrating book, author Ralph C. Wood accomplishes 2 things that make it pleasurable as well as insightful reading.

1) He gives a meaningful, insightful reflection on LOTR from a Christian perspective. As a Christian myself, it is hard to say whether or not this book would be equally valuable to non
...more
Daniel
From my Weekly Standard review [http://tinyurl.com/3x7pha]:

But among all these new books, Ralph Wood's The Gospel According to Tolkien stands out for its discussion of the Christian theology that informs the depictions of evil in The Lord of the Rings.

Other writers--notably Joseph Pearce and Bradley Birzer--have written on the orthodox Christian character of the trilogy, but many of these authors tend to overplay the superficial Christian elements like the eucharistic symbolism of the elven wayb
...more
Ethan
A very entertaining listen, this book has helped me to see the world of Tolkien in new and interesting ways. The author tends to draw more allegorical connections that I agree with, and Tolkien was very clear that no allegory was intended in his writings. This is not to say no connections can be made between Tolkien's world and our own, and there is much to be learned from studying his literature. Many things pertaining to the Christian life were made clearer to me and I feel that I grasp more o ...more
Arava
Many hold the works of J.R.R. Tolkien high as magnificent works of literature, while others criticize them from afar. After reading Mr. Wood's analysis of the Christian themes inherent in Tolkien's books, I have a much-increased appreciation for the lovely writing and powerful stories I've discovered in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Beyond skilled artistry, Tolkien's works brim with gospel-saturation. The Gospel According to Tolkien is an incredible guide through Tolkien's writings, brin ...more
Nathan
Great book that connects faith and fantasy in a way that isn't a stretch.
Doug Adamson
Overall very good with good insights and connections to Scriptural themes. Noticed a couple of errors that surprised me: on p. 90 hestates that Farmer Cotton helped Frodo and his friends "from the very beginning"--should be Farmer Maggot. And later on p. 155 he states that Aragorn and the two hobbits give Boromir a reverent funeral ceremony--should be Aragorn, Legolas (the elf), and Gimli (the dwarf). Those, however, are minor faults and the book is worth the read.
Karen Floyd
A very wise book, which I seem to re-read once a year since I first got it in 2004. There is something to meet me at whatever stage I am at in my life. And there is always something to give me insight about other people as well as about myself. At the moment I am reminded to beware of self-righteousness and the inclination to rush to judge others harshly. One of the temptations of Sauron is to let myself think I'm somehow better than people with whom I disagree.
Blake Kanewischer
Ralph Wood is the best sort of scholar--he takes ideas from the "ivory tower" and makes them accessible to readers. The ideas he presents are illustrated with plenty of references to the books (though it would be interesting to see how he handles the Peter Jackson oeuvre). He builds a case for Sam and Frodo as the pattern for Christians, and shows how the other characters in the LOTR universe have their own roles to play. Well done!
Jenny
This book is for anyone that is interested in the fundamentals of myth and religion historically and spiritually. It is also for anyone that loves The Lord of the Ring books and responds to their story at a deep level that they may not fully understand themselves. Tolkien was an amazing writer and scholar. This book by Ralph Wood brings to light why Tolkien's Mythologies feel so true.
Titus Hjelm
The back cover recommends this for 'Christians and non-Christians alike'. I beg to differ. No one who's read Tolkien's letters can deny that he was a profoundly Catholic man. Yet, beyond a couple of OK insights, most of the book is theological gobbledygook that speaks only to a particular constituency. Fair enough, the author himself doesn't claim to be doing much else.
Maggie
second reading. just as good as the first time. i am an unrepentant christian and love reading what others say about this strong faith tradition. RCW does justice to Tolkien's view of modern life, christian thought, and good story telling through myths. yay tolkien. thank you, RCW.

first reading: 18 march 2009
second reading: 3 september 2009
Jude Morrissey
Absolutely wonderful look at Tolkien's Middle-Earth works and the Catholic theology that influenced them. While it is definitely scholarly, it is also definitely Christian, which may throw off some readers. But I would recommend it to anyone interested in theology and literature, or the thought behind The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Courtney
I was so excited to read this book which brought together my favorite books with Christianity. It took me over a year to read and digest this very deep philosophical book. In the end i felt that perhaps this may have been someones thesis turned into a book. It missed the forest because of the trees.
Karl El-Koura
A fun and thought-provoking guided tour of Tolkien's fantasy world from a Christian perspective. (One minor quibble is that the author chose the RSV for his Bible verses, which I find is a very dull translation - extra strange in the context of Tolkien's poetic language.)
Becky
It was a good book, some very good points. Wood has a lovely way with words. It felt at times as if I was reading a devotional. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it did get annoying at times because that's not what I was looking for.
Tim
Pretty good analysis of Tolkien's themes but there's a bit too much "cut and dry" dealing with Tolkien's themes. I'd recommend Battle for Middle-Earth by Fleming Rutledge as a follow-up for more in-depth study.
Noelle Campbell
It was interesting, but full of a lot more speculation than quotes from Tolkien. Not as reverent or honoring as "Tokien's Ordinary Virtues" - but longer and a little more like a college lecture.
Greg Bailey
Wood has some good insights, but I struggled to follow the overall thread of his thought, even though I listened to the book twice. Perhaps some of what he said just went over my head.
Melinda
I really like Ralph Wood's writings. I have read another book he has written on Flannery O'Connor, and found his insights valuable. This book is no different. I recommend it highly.
Dean Perry
Wonderful look at how the Biblical narrative is woven into Tolkien's fantasy world! There are as many surprises in these pages as there are in his adventures.
Sherrie
This book is great. It makes me want to re-read LotR, because I know I will pick up so much more and love it so much more.
Annabelle
A great look at how fantasy can explore a deep subject matter such as faith while remaining immensely entertaining.
Mimi
Oct 16, 2008 Mimi rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mimi by: my pastor
My pastor loaned me this book. I found it had great insights into the crafting of words and writing in general.
Brent Keck
Finished first reading on December 9, 2012.
Finished second reading on December 28, 2014.
Zacaro Caro
I reserve 5 stars for fictional page turners. This book was a great non-fiction work.
Diane
I loved this book as I do most things about Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Bryan
Read the intro and the last chapter and so far... so great!
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Ralph C. Wood has served as University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor since 1998. He previously served for 26 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he became the John Allen Easley Professor of Religion in 1990. He has also taught at Samford University in Birmingham, at Regent College in Vancouver, and at Providence College in Rhode I ...more
More about Ralph C. Wood...
Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth Literature and Theology The Comedy of Redemption: Christian Faith & Comic Vision in Four American Novelists Chesterton: The Nightmare Goodness of God (The Making of the Christian Imagination) (The Making of Christian Imagination)

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