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Twilight Musings: God’s Goodness and the One Ring

Editor’s note: Twilight Musings is a new series written by the luminous mind behind “Leaked Documents: Ichabod to Apollyon,” whose identity has heretofore been kept anonymous: none other than my (Dave’s) main undergraduate mentor and longtime dear friend, the inestimable Dr. Elton Higgs. Our contributor section contains the highlights of his long and impressive career as an English professor and scholar. The new series will feature a new piece from him each Friday, and is to be entitled “Twilight Musings,” as he approaches the end of his eighth decade on this terrestrial ball. (His choice; my guess is he’ll outlive us all!) We have offered him the regular Friday slot at MoralApologetics.com in perpetuity, or at least until either the eschaton arrives or Elton shuffles his mortal coil. In the interim, we are all sure to derive great benefit, edification, and insight from his thoughtful reflections.

By Elton Higgs 

Those of you who read the last installment of the “Letters of Ichabod” series will remember how it depicts the possibility that even a demon can be affected by the goodness of God.  That scenario may be far-fetched, but this conclusion to the career of Ichabod reflects a more certain truth: that the Goodness emanating from God will either transform the person who engages it, or the person will reject the Good and replace it with a counterfeit “good,” which then becomes an instrument of evil.  True goodness is a part of God’s nature that can be wielded only by Him and by those to whom He grants the grace to be avenues and instruments of His Goodness. God’s Goodness is a part of His non-contingent existence, which can be defined only by reference to Itself (cf. Ex. 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM”).

This fact reminds me of the nature of the One Ring, the Ring of Power in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.  Again and again, the characters in this epic struggle between good and evil are reminded that the Ring of Power cannot be used except according to the manipulative design of its creator, Sauron, the evil Lord of the Rings. All who try to use the Ring, even for good purposes, will be corrupted by that usage.  It strikes me that the reverse principle is true in a theological sense: Only God, who is Absolute Goodness and the Source of all true goodness, can bring out of His Goodness truly good things.

To this similarity, however, must be added the observation so astutely made by St. Augustine in his Confessions (as a part of his rejection of his earlier Manichaeism), that evil has no separate existence and can be manifested only as a corruption of the Good.  Seen in that light, Sauron’s One Ring doesn’t represent a dualistic Evil Power equivalent in nature to the Good Power, but rather (like Satan) a horribly distorted counterfeit of the Good.  Consequently, unlike the Good, the only transformative capacity Evil has is to take its users farther away from reality into illusion.  To be drawn thus into the imprisoning vortex of Evil is to experience an ever-narrowing path leading away from all true reality.   By contrast, the drawing of the soul into the Goodness of God offers an infinite future for that soul’s development and enhancement.    C. S. Lewis depicts this contrast graphically in The Great Divorce, in which he shows the inhabitants of Hell continually and progressively growing more isolated from the center of things, because they chose to focus on their own “good” rather than embracing the great and essential Good.

To be drawn thus into the imprisoning vortex of Evil is to experience an ever-narrowing path leading away from all true reality.   By contrast, the drawing of the soul into the Goodness of God offers an infinite future for that soul’s development and enhancement. 
Herein is the chief pitfall of self-centered insistence on individualistically defining ourselves.  The noblest desires within us to be good and to do good can easily be diverted into a kind of solipsistic and pitiful parody of the Source of Goodness.   That associates us with the demonic “shadow government” that Ichabod’s letters were describing, a complete model of darkness purporting to be light.  (More to come about the intertwining of Goodness, Glory, and Light.)

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