Creation

On creation’s moral sensitivity

 

Seriously, has there ever been a more timeless exegete of Scripture than Calvin? Commenting on Genesis 4:10–12 Calvin remarks that God ‘constitutes the earth the minister of his vengeance, as having been polluted by the impious and horrible parricide: as if he had said, “Thou didst just now deny to me the murder which thou hast committed, but the senseless earth itself will demand thy punishment”’ (John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis, Vol. I (trans. J. King; vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 208). God does this, to ‘aggravate the enormity of the crime, as if a kind of contagion flowed from it even to the earth, for which the execution of punishment was required’. There is no sense, for Calvin, that cruelty can here be ascribed to the earth. Rather, the creation, reflecting the Creator’s hand, shows mercy because, in abhorrence of the pollution, it opens up its mouth to swallow the shed blood. For Calvin, this signifies that ‘there was more humanity in the earth than in man himself’ (Ibid., 209).

A similar observation is made by Motyer in his brilliant commentary on Isaiah 24:5: ‘As God’s creation, the world itself is morally sensitive, and the ‘thorns and thistles’ of Genesis 3:18 illustrate the two sides of this sensitivity. On the one hand, they evidence the way in which earth itself fights against sinners. It does not readily yield its bounty to them but turns its productive powers to their disadvantage. On the other hand, the fact that an earth which the Lord pronounced good can produce thorns and thistles is evidence that its nature has been damaged and the garden is in the process of becoming the wilderness’. (John A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah (Leicester: IVP, 1993), 198).

Jürgen Moltmann lectures

Andy Rowell recently made available two audio discussions featuring Jürgen Moltmann, recorded at the Society for Pentecostal Studies and the Wesleyan Theological Society 3rd Joint Meeting at Duke Divinity School, March 13-15, 2008. The recordings are not brilliant, but well worth persisting with.

Thursday, March 13, Jürgen Moltmann – Sighs, Signs, and Significance: A Theological Hermeneutics of Nature

Friday, March 14, Jürgen Moltmann – Darwin, Theology, and Culture. Respondents: Ellen Davis, Frederick L. Ware (whose response is downloadable here, and Barry Callen.

Many thanks to Andy for making these available.

A comment on Genesis 2:21–22

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Gen 2:21–22)

What is going on here in this second creation account? It is as though we are being warned against an overly optimistic reliance upon some technique or some technician – or of making fools of ourselves – who could intensify or alter existing creaturely being so that it could fulfill and complete itself, i.e. without God.

Steve Holmes evaluates McCormack’s TF Torrance Lectures

After posting his four reflections, Steve Holmes (who is obviously not lecturing this week and so has more time to devote to blogdom) now stands back and asks, ‘How to evaluate McCormack’s novel account of kenosis?’ He writes:

On trinity: ‘… it seems to me that [McCormack’s] basic position is securely orthodox, certainly much more so than all of the recent theology that, misled by the word ‘Person’, insists on finding three instances of many or most divine properties (will; operation; knowledge; …) within the Godhead.’

On creation: ‘If there is a criticism which is in danger of sticking, I think it is to do with creation.’

On kenosis: ‘McCormack’s account of kenosis is, or at least could easily be rendered, orthodox. Is it, however, compelling? Alongside the constructive work in these lectures was a line of critique of classical Christology which established the need for the fresh construction. Simply and bluntly, I found this critique unconvincing. It was, in essence, Herrmann’s critique of metaphysics: the problem with Christology prior to Schleiermacher was its investment in certain metaphysical commitments that were alien to the gospel. This led to irreconcilable tensions, in patristic Christology, which only Cyril’s (supposed) Origenism allowed him to escape, and throughout the tradition into the nineteenth century, with the incompatibility of the anhypostasia and dithelitism coming to the fore. It is these metaphysical commitments, giving rise to the tensions they do, that drive the need for a revisionist Christology … I don’t feel the pressure that is driving Bruce.’

Full post here.

Colin Gunton’s ‘The Barth Lectures’: A Review

Colin E. Gunton, The Barth Lectures (transcribed and edited by Paul H. Brazier; T&T Clark, London/New York, 2007). xxiv + 285 pages. ISBN: 9780567031402.

While he fruitfully enjoyed a life-long engagement with and formation by Karl Barth’s work, produced numerous articles on various aspects of such, and lectured on Barth most years he taught at King’s College London, Colin Gunton never fulfilled his ambition to pen a monograph devoted solely to this his favourite theologian. Had he done so, these lectures (recorded and transcribed almost verbatim by Paul Brazier, complete with charts, diagrams, live-questions and Gunton’s responses) would have served as the basis.

Chapters 1-3 attend to the intellectual, historical and theological background to Barth’s thinking. Beginning with a focus on Enlightenment philosophy as it finds voice in Kant, Schleiermacher and Hegel – all three of whom ‘identified Christianity too closely with modern culture’ (p. 17) – Gunton then turns to Barth’s early theological formation in the nineteenth-century liberalism of Harnack and Herrmann, as well as to some other voices and ideas that impinged on Barth’s theological development – Johann Christoph Blumhardt (who also influenced Moltmann), Albert Schweitzer and Franz Overbeck through whom eschatology was re-confirmed on the theological radar. Barth’s engagement with existentialism (Kierkegaardian and other) and theologies of ‘religion’, ‘crisis’ and ‘dialectics’ are introduced in the second and third lectures, and re-appear subsequently throughout. Certainly, for the Swiss theologian, ‘no road to the eternal world has ever existed except the road of negation’ (p. 33). Thus when Gunton later comes to unpack something of the charge concerning Barth’s ‘irrationality’ through the continuing influence of Der Römerbrief, empiricism, and Barth’s ‘assertive style’, the United Reformed Church minister notes:

The influence of empiricism, especially on the minds of English and American theologians, cannot be dismissed. The English, or to be more pertinent, the Anglican theological mind is shaped by a philosophical tradition that does not find Barth’s approach to theology easy to understand let alone agree with … Part of our intellectual tradition makes it hard for us to understand – particularly an Anglican tradition. Anglicans on the whole like things to be nice and middle way, the via media. And there is not much of the middle way in Karl Barth! … Barth’s assertive style does make it difficult for mild-mannered establishment Anglicans to cope with. (p. 66)

Whether critiquing Augustine, Calvin, Kant, the ‘Absolutely Pagan’ Hegel (p. 17), or the ‘great opponent’ Schleiermacher (p. 15), Gunton repeatedly identifies that the crucial question for the author of the groundbreaking Der Römerbrief remains ‘how much of your intellectual method hangs on something foreign to Christianity?’ (p. 42; cf. pp. 52-3). To this end, Gunton also devotes an entire lecture (pp. 53-63) to Barth’s 1931 work on Anselm, Fides quaerens intellectum, and to the Archbishop’s understanding of the relationship between ‘proof’, ‘reason’ and ‘faith’. He later writes: ‘Barth is a post-Reformation thinker with the rallying cry, by scripture alone and by faith alone! Barth found in the Reformation tradition a conception of theology based on a view of God that is linked with human salvation. The problem for Barth with the Scholastic tradition is that they begin with a rational view of God – a rational idea of God abstracted from human salvation. Barth begins with scripture because the God of scripture is about salvation not philosophical argument’ (p. 69). And on a comparison with Schleiermacher: ‘the problem with beginning with religion is that it is not theological, it can be, it can lead into theology, but in essence it is not: religion is an experiential concept, not a theological concept. Barth wants a theology that is theological right from the very outset. Barth considers that Roman Catholics and Protestants such as Schleiermacher are wrong in thinking that there can be a non-theological basis for theology. Barth is a theologian you see, to the fingernails’ (p. 69).

From Chapter Four onwards, Gunton turns to Barth’s Church Dogmatics, acutely aware that ‘there is nothing as boring as résumés of Barth’s Dogmatics‘ and that ‘the way to get into Barth is to select and to read – read him, there is no substitute!’ (p. 71). Over the next 190 pages, this is precisely what Gunton masterfully helps us do; whether on Barth’s theological prolegomena, his witness to the three-fold Word, trinity, the doctrine of God proper, election, christology, soteriology, ethics and creation, we are all along driven by the only thing of theological interest for Barth, the question ‘Who is the God who makes himself known in Scripture?’ (p. 77). ‘When Barth is at his best’, Gunton writes, ‘he looks at the biblical evidence in detail; when he is weak he tends to evade it’ (p. 119)

A few tastes from ‘5. Barth on the Trinity and the Personal God’:

Barth is anti-foundationalist … God’s revelation is self-grounded; it does not have to appeal to anything else beyond itself. Because it is revelation through itself, not in relation to something else, because it is self-contained, lordship means freedom. This is characteristically Barthian: a characteristically Barthian phrase. Lordship means freedom – freedom for God, absolutely central for Barth’s theology. (p. 78)

The basis of all theology lies in the fact that revelation does happen … This revelation is Christological: Jesus Christ is God’s self-unveiling. The Father cannot be unveiled, but the Father reveals through the Son. This is imparted through the Holy Spirit. A little artificial I actually think, but you can see what he is actually trying to do: he is trying to show that inherent in the structure of God’s presence in Jesus Christ is a Trinitarian view of God … The point here is that in Jesus Christ we see the limits, the possibilities of the knowability of God … So Barth in a way is still retaining this dialectical structure: veiling-unveiling, knowability -unknowability, revelation-hiddenness … In the end you have only got paradox … God preserves his privacy. (pp. 79-80)

The logic is that if God is like this in time then because he doesn’t con us, so to speak, he doesn’t pull the wool over our eyes, because he is a revealing God, then that is what God is. So don’t think that the God we meet in Jesus is one God and that the God of eternity is entirely different from Jesus. The God you meet in Jesus is no different from the God you might meet if you were able to have a direct view of eternity. (p. 83)

Barth is against all mathematics in theology – he is against theories and ideas propounded down the centuries by theologians whereby examples are given of the Trinity, where three things make one; Augustine was often doing this, it is pure analogy or an attempt at analogy, which generally fails to offer any theological elucidation … I don’t like Augustine. I think he is the fountainhead of our troubles. (pp. 84, 96)

[Barth] is often accused of modalism, and I think he is near it … I think he is on a bit of a knife-edge myself, but then all theology is on a knife-edge, it is such a difficult discipline. [Barth] wants to do what the Cappadocians did, and Barth thinks he has done it better with this term – ‘modes of being’. Well, I don’t agree with him, but that is the way he puts it. (pp. 88-9)

Theology is our interpretation of God’s self-interpretation. God interprets himself to us, that is what revelation is. Our response is to interpret this faithfully, or as Jüngel would put it, responsibly … We move from faith to understanding. We move from a grateful acceptance of revelation to an attempt to understand as best we may what that revelation means for God and ourselves. And the understanding consists in the fact that we can talk of God as Father, Son and Spirit. It is so obvious that we should, isn’t it! We might talk of God as a tyrannical monad, but the fact that we can talk of God as Father, Son and Spirit is, so to speak, a demonstration after the event that we are making sense, that God is making sense, our theology makes sense. (p. 91)

And from ‘8. Ethics: Church Dogmatics Chapter VIII:

I do think that there is a problem of abstractness because there isn’t really in Barth, I think (and I say this tentatively), I think that there isn’t really in Barth an account of how this relationship between God and the moral agent takes shape. There is not much of a principle of formation. How are people formed so as to take one ethical direction rather than another? Barth is relatively weak in ecclesiology; that is, some account of how ethics are shaped by the community of belief. He is so anxious not to tie God down; that is always his anxiety, not to tie God down. (p. 133)

Throughout, Gunton is rousing his 30-40 mostly MA and PhD students (although the lectures were intended for undergraduates and so leave considerable ground un-traversed and engage minimally with secondary literature) to ‘read as much of the man himself’ not least because ‘the people that write about him are much more boring than he is’ (p. 9; cf. p. 39). In a sense, this is one book to ‘listen to’ more than to ‘read’. At times, it’s a bit like the difference between a live album and a studio version. Not all the notes are spot on, but the energy – filled with a depth of theological and pastoral insight that betray years of wrestling with the things that matter – is all there.

Such wrestling means that whether expounding a key motif in Barth’s theology or fielding questions, Gunton reveals not only a deep indebtedness to Barth’s work, but also points of divergence. He is upfront in the first lecture: ‘Not everyone buys into Barth … I don’t, all the way along the line, as I get older I get more and more dissatisfied with the details of his working out of the faith … over the years I think I have developed a reasonable view of this great man who is thoroughly exciting and particularly, I can guarantee, if you do this course, that you will be a better theologian by the third year, whether or not you agree with him – he is a great man to learn to think theologically with’ (p. 10; see the prefaces to his Theology Through the Theologians and to the second edition of The Promise of Trinitarian Theology). Clearly, Gunton is no clone of Barth. Though mostly unnamed, he draws upon Coleridge, Owen, Zizioulas and Polanyi as allies in order to attain a measure of distance from Barth’s theology (and that of Barth’s student Moltmann), notably on creation, trinitarian personhood (Gunton prefers the Cappadocians), natural revelation, Jesus’ humanity, Christ’s priesthood, the Word’s action as mediator of creation, ecclesiology, and an over-realised eschatology, among other things (see pp. 52, 74, 82, 88-90, 96, 133, 142, 148, 170-1, 186, 200, 212, 227, 236, 250, 253-4, passim). Not alone here, Gunton reserves his strongest criticisms for what he contends is Barth’s weak pneumatology (for which he blames Augustine and the filioque): there is ‘not enough of the Spirit accompanying and empowering Jesus at different stages of his ministry’ (p. 200). Again: ‘the second person of the Trinity is made to do a bit more than he does in Scripture’ (p. 212). Gunton is always cautious and respectful however: Barth ‘never really forgets anything, he is too good a theologian for that. And when you are criticizing Barth it is only a question of where he puts a weight; he never forgets anything, he is too good a man for that’ (p. 171). Even on the Spirit, Gunton suggests that he can only be critical here because of what he has learnt from Barth already: ‘That’s the great thing about Barth: he enables you to do other things that aren’t just Barth but yet are empowered by him. Yes, that’s his greatness’ (p. 200).

While the reformed theologian is ‘too-multi-layered a thinker to have one leading idea’ if there is one, Gunton suggests it is that of covenant: ‘that from eternity God covenants to be the God who elects human beings into relation with himself’ (p. 149), that from eternity the triune God is oriented towards us. Gunton’s chapter on Barth’s revision of God’s election in CD II/2 is an astounding example of his adroitness and élan as a theological educator. Not many teachers could summarise so sufficiently and with such economy (just 12 pages!) what for Barth is the root of all things, ‘creation, atonement, all’ (p. 115), that is, election. Gunton concludes by (over?)-suggesting that Barth’s effort was ‘a huge improvement in the crude determinism of the Augustinian tradition, which did not represent a gracious God. The Augustinian doctrine replaces grace with gratuity: God gratuitously chooses group A and not group B – this is not the God who seeks out the lost [even Judas] and does not reject them’ (p. 121).

This volume is significantly more than merely a course on the theology of the twentieth century’s superlative theologian. It is also a reminder that to read Barth attentively is to be introduced to a broader dogmatic and philosophical tradition. Moreover, it is to be led to do so by one of Britain’s ablest pedagogues. A foreword by Christoph Schwöbel and a warm introduction by Steve Holmes prepare us for one of the freshest introductions to Barth available. Again, we are placed in Professor Gunton’s debt.

Developing a Reading List – 3

Developing a Reading List – 3

So far I have listed books on (1) Theological Method and Prolegomena, (2) Systematics/Dogmatics (3) Biblical Theology, and (4) Theology Proper, (5) Patriology, (6) Christology, (7) Pneumatology and (8) Revelation. Below is a list of books that I’ve found helpful in thinking about Creation, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Anthropology. Remember, this series of 5 posts is with a view to developing some sort of a reading list for various areas of systematic and pastoral theology, and that the kind of thing I have in mind is a reading list and resource for English-speaking undergraduate theology students. It is to this end that I am inviting your help.


Reading List: 9. Creation:

Colin E. Gunton, The Triune Creator

Colin E. Gunton, Christ and Creation

David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall

Jonathan Edwards, Concerning the End for Which God Created the World

Joseph Ratzinger, In the Beginning

Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation

Langdon Gilkey, Maker of Heaven and Earth


Reading List: 10. Soteriology:

Albrecht Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation: The Positive Development of the Doctrine

Anselm, Cur Deus Homo?

Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Colin E. Gunton, The Actuality of Atonement

David Peterson, Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness

Edward Schillebeeckx, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Christ’s Cross Over Man’s Abyss

Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor

Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition

James Denney, The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation

James Denney, The Death of Christ

John McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement

John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ

John Webster, Holiness

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1

Kenneth Grayston, Dying, We Live: A New Enquiry into the Death of Christ in the New Testament

Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross

Michelle A. Gonzalez, Created in God’s Image: An Introduction to Feminist Theological Anthropology

Molly T. Marshall, What It Means to Be Human

Nigel M. de S. Cameron (ed.), Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell

Paul Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement

Peter T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross

Peter T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ

Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, vol. 1: Human Nature

Stephen C. Barton (ed.), Holiness: Past and Present

Thomas F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ

Thomas Smail, Once and For All: A Confession of the Cross


Reading List: 11. Ecclesiology:

Colin E. Gunton (ed.), Trinity, Time, and Church: A Response to the Theology of Robert W. Jenson

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Donald G. Bloesch, The Church

Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Children of Promise

Hans Küng, The Church

John D. Zizioulas, Being As Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church

Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit

Donald G. Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry Mission

Miroslav Volf, After Our Image: The Church as the Image of the Trinity

Peter Leithart, Against Christianity

Peter T. Forsyth, The Church and the Sacraments

Peter T. Forsyth, The Church, The Gospel and Society


Reading List: 12. Anthropology:

Alan Torrance, Persons in Communion: an Essay on Trinitarian Description and Human Participation

Christoph Schwobel & Colin Gunton (eds), Persons, Divine and Human

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Harry R. Boer, An Ember Still Glowing: Humankind as the Image of God

Helmut Thielicke, Being Human … Becoming Human

John D. Zizioulas, Being As Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church

Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan

Randall C. Zachman, The Assurance Of Faith: Conscience in the Theology Of Martin Luther and John Calvin

Ray S. Anderson, On Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology

Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self

Thomas Smail, Like Father, Like Son

Wolfhart Pannenberg, Anthropology in Theological Perspective


Next on the list: Prayer and Meditation, Missiology, Ethics, and Doxology.

NT Wright on the goodness of creation

Taken from an interview with N. T. Wright from CT.

You say that the Hebrew bible is not largely concerned with what happens to people when they die. That might surprise many Christians.

Yes, but it is not actually controversial. You can search the Old Testament from end to end, and even if you take a maximal view of passages like the “I know that my redeemer liveth” bit in Job, you’re still left with a very small selection over against the vast mass of the Old Testament in which the question is not even raised.

What is the point then?

I grew up with the view that in the early Old Testament period, there was no interest in life after death. In a middle period, represented by some of the Psalms, there were the beginnings of an interest in life after death. And then finally, with Daniel, you get resurrection, as though that’s a progression away from the early period.

The view that I came to is that the main thing the whole Old Testament is concerned with is the God of Israel, as the Creator God who has made a good creation, and that what matters about human life really is that it’s meant to be lived within God’s good, lovely, created world. That is equally emphatic in the early period, where you get agricultural festivals that celebrate Yahweh as king over the crops and the land. It’s equally emphatic there and in the doctrine of resurrection. From that point of view, the idea of a disembodied, nonspacio-temporal life after death appears as a rather odd blip in between these two strong affirmations of the goodness of the created order and the wonderful God-givenness of human bodily life within that created order.

So, instead of resurrection being a step away from the early period, it is a way of reaffirming what the early period was trying to get at: the goodness of creation.

On Annihilationism

It seems to me that one of the problems with the traditional doctrine of hell is its inability to provide for us a vision of creation which in its finality is without evil. Despite all God’s best efforts to sanctify the creation and turn rebels into enchanted sons and daughters, hell, at least in its more popular presentations, remains as the big black line across a page that God has made clean.

The alternatives of universalism and annihilationism raise problems as well. Although I remain convinced that the case for the later, on the basis of biblical exegesis alone, remains the stronger of the two, both reveal a theology deplete of all the revealed ingredients. Whereas the Scriptures seem to rule out the portrait of a final salvation for all, the door of possibility, and of God’s hope – a possibility and hope grounded in the nature of God’s very own being as revealed in Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures that bear witness to him – finally remains open. Despite the initial attraction of the annihilationist position as that which, at least at the end of the day, leaves every room of the universe without spot or blemish, it does so at the expense of granting evil a final victory. If annihilationism is to be defended, it must face the demon it creates, which is, in the final analysis, that evil has claimed a victim in the creation.

I confess that this topic is an ongoing wrestle for me. ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.’ I welcome, as always, your thoughts.

On Art Theory and Atonement Fact

Jacques Barzun, in his book, The Culture We Deserve, writes that ‘In the arts, theory comes after the fact of original creation and, far from improving future work, usually spoils it by making the artist a self-conscious intellectual, crippled or mislead by ideas. Not everything that is good can be engineered into existence’ (p. 19). Unlike this all-too-often truth, the work of Christ creates our response of repentance and faith in its very action. Thus is the creative power of grace. By the Spirit of grace, Christ creates the response to grace in us. In Forsyth’s words, ‘Christ’s was a death on behalf of people within whom the power of responding had to be created’. Interestingly, Forsyth equates this with the artist who must create their own positive reception of their work – create a taste for it – and the power to be understood by the public, or by the art critic or theorist. That so few manage to do this is testimony (in some cases) to their brilliance and significance. Christ, however, did not come to impress us, or to be the object of human understanding. He came to redeem. He had to save us ‘from what we were too far gone to feel’.

On Middle Earth

My copy of Tolkein’s The Silmarillion includes a copy of Ainulindalë, which he subtitles ‘The Music of the Ainur’ (literally, the ‘singing of the Holy’). This creation myth betrays Tolkien’s indebtedness to Norse/Germanic, Finnish, Greek and Roman myths, and is, I believe, critical to understanding Tolkein’s vision of Middle-Earth. Moreover, it is the most theologically significant creation story that I have ever read. Wikipedia offers a neat overview of the tale. All this is by way of saying that for any who may be interested, I noticed a flyer this week (while I was away in the Lakes District) of an up and coming short course on Tolkein and Middle Earth. More information can be found here. The blurb reads: ‘The fantasy world of Gollum, Gandalf and Frodo has been introduced to and absorbed a new generation, following the hugely successful trilogy of The Lord of the Rings films. On this highly enjoyable new course, you will find out more about the mythological world of Middle Earth, as we explore both the popular and lesser-known fictional works of JRR Tolkien. We shall place Tolkien in the context of the Oxford academic world of the 1940s and 50s, his participation with the Inklings and his friendship with fellow scholar and writer, CS Lewis. Among the themes we shall explore are the role of Christian fantasy, medieval influences and the moral centre of his work, including his portrayal of the machine as the modern form of magic. In addition to The Lord of the Rings, we shall consider the unfinished work The Silmarillion, as well as literary essays on fairy stories and Beowulf. This promises to be a fascinating and popular insight into one of the 20th century’s most influential writers on myth and fantasy.’ For those who can spare the time, it sounds most worthwhile.