by 4th year M.Div student Aidan Moon
If you have paid any attention to this blog, you may have begun to sense that some of us here at Kristine Kay Hasse Memorial Library maintain a steady interest in that Oxford fellowship known as the Inklings. C.S. Lewis in particular has found reference here, as well as his compatriots Owen Barfield and J.R.R. Tolkien. This month’s random pull is no exception: as we wait in anticipation for the coming of our king this Advent, we reflect on one of the recent books to come across our desk, The Ideal of Kingship in the Writings of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien by Christopher Scarf.
For those of us living in an American context, the ideal of kingship may seem a foreign concept. Many of us have been formed firmly in a democratic perspective on reality that can make it difficult for us to fathom or appreciate kingship as a concept, much less a reality. We may find ourselves suspicious of authority of any kind by nature, including that of the will of God. Scarf recognizes this reality, and points to the fact that in their own academic and cultural context, the Inklings presented an alternate ideal than the secular humanism prevalent around them. To reaffirm that kingship, as an ideal, is grounded in the Creator-King over all reality, was and remains a radical and countercultural claim. Scarf seeks to explore this ideal, and its implications.
For us, this work, and the original writings of these literary heavyweights, may prove helpful at reorienting our imaginations towards our own story as servants of a divine king. Seeing these ideals represented for us in fantasy might provide us narrative texture for our own hopes and expectations. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, in particular, paints a picture of a king returning out of the darkness of ages past, a messianic figure in which “the dignity of the kings of old was renewed.” As Scarf says in his own subtitle for this volume, “Divine Kingship is reflected in Middle-Earth.”
This ideal of kingship, for Christians, looms large in our expectation and hope as we tell our own story. Indeed, the Christmas story so familiar to us is a story of a long-expected king, born in hope from a house lost and forgotten. It is a story of humble beginnings with a great and glorious finale, the story of, as Saint Paul says in Philippians 2, the divine king himself being emptied, humbled, and lifted up on a cross.
“Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
An ideal of kingship, indeed! As we approach the Advent of our king, perhaps take some time with Williams, Lewis, and Tolkien, that your imagination may grow in the glorious hope of the one who was, is, and is yet to come, the Lamb reigning upon the throne.
If this topic interests you, feel free to check these tomes regarding kingship and Christ: