Trinity in Middle-earth, part 4

While Tolkien deliberately mutes—much as he does the fact of God’s presence—the Trinitarian character of the Creator in his mythology, in this series of posts we have also seen that, again, similar to the point concerning the divine presence, far from this representing a departure from the Christian and biblical traditions, Tolkien has both profound Scriptural and theological reasons for doing so. Tolkien’s relative silence on the question of this “possibility of complexity or of distinctions in the nature of Eru,” therefore, is no reason for thinking it unimportant for a right understanding of the theology and metaphysics of his fiction. While such complexity or distinction may not be properly knowable by unaided, natural reason, like St. Thomas Tolkien clearly ties God’s status as Creator with his identity as divine difference. Eru creates, in short, by sending to burn at the heart of the world the Flame Imperishable that both is and is not himself.[1] Eru thus may be the “One alone,” but this is not to say that he is therefore alone in his aloneness, and as the case of Melkor in his self-imposed isolation confirms, complete solitude is as much a metaphysical vice as it is an ethical one.[2] For Tolkien following Aquinas, God creates a world other than himself because he is the God who is other than himself, meaning that the difference or “otherness” that constitutes creation in its very being receives its own significance and ground in the deepest possible source, the God who is being.[3]

[1] As Devaux puts it, in the Ainulindalë the Holy Spirit is “distinct from God but also in Him.” Devaux, “The Origins of the Ainulindalë,” 106.

[2] Peter Candler writes: “It is not enough simply to say that the world is created ex nihilo by an eternal ‘simplicity,’ but by a Holy Trinity who in its primordial fecundity is not threatened by any kind of ‘original’ violence, strife, or chaos. For this reason Tolkien’s ‘creation myth’ in The Silmarillion depicts a prior, though learned, harmony among the Ainur.” Candler, “Tolkien or Nietzsche, Philology and Nihilism,” 23.

[3] Again, as Candler observes, for Tolkien the “appearances” and “surfaces” of created beings “can therefore be like one another but truly different from one another because they are created by the One God, who in His eternal tri-unity, creates the world from nothing.” Ibid., 37.

1 thought on “Trinity in Middle-earth, part 4

  1. There may also be a clue in the name “Eru” itself. In old Norse, and still in Faroese, “eru” (meaning ‘are’) is the plural form of “er” (‘is’). Considering Tolkien’s profound understanding of these languages, this is hardly a coincidence.

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