Helping Students Imagine the Kingdom in Modern Life
"It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy;
for we have sinned and grown old,
and our Father is younger that we."
Every school year, Law Student Ministries (LSM) will provide an opportunity for students across the nation to join online to discuss works of fiction and fantasy in order to cultivate the Christian Imagination.
The purpose for this Forum is to help law students escape their worldly busyness and develop liturgical habits for work and worship. It is a time to discuss the weightier matters of the law and reflect on God, who made all things for himself and, as such, His Creation daily testifies of His glory. To do this requires a renewed imagination, not in the sense of pretending things to be true that are false, but reflecting on the patterns of everyday existence in order to see God’s glory through nature and our place in His redemptive plan. This Forum beckons us to consider – if only through a dim passage – that Light that knows no evening: to look upon His Creation and know that it is very good.
The name [pronounced NAMA-REE-AYE] is an Elvish chant that translates as "farewell," sung by Galadriel as the Fellowship of the Ring left Lórien. It is a name that requires one to slow down, reflect, and participate in the aesthetics of language – in the most fundamental way. In our modern condition, filled with transactional engagements and short term pleasures, I hope the name is an opportunity for creating walls of stillness and enhancing our communion with the unseen realm. To escape from the earthly patterns and develop new habits for the eternal sense.
Read the short introduction here for a better idea of what we hope to accomplish in the next eight months.
THE PLAN (2021-2022)
In the upcoming year, we will focus on the battle for Middle-earth, perusing the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien and the commentary of Fleming Rutledge. Our goals will be these: to consider the divine presence throughout the Lord of the Rings, to debate questions surrounding the unseen realm, and to imagine our own place in God's unfolding story. At the end, we will also talk ministry and life for those who stick around.
September (9/3) | Introductions
October (10/1) | Prologue + The Hobbit
November (11/5) | Fellowship of the Rings, Book 1 [FM]
December (12/3) | Fellowship of the Rings, Book 2 [FM]
January (1/7) | The Two Towers, Book 3 [FM]
February (2/4) | The Two Towers, Book 4 [FM]
March (3/4) | Return of the King, Book 5 [FM] | CANCELED
April (4/1) | Return of the King [FM]
NOTE: I know you're busy and law school provides you plenty of opportunities to practice your reading. I will structure each meeting so that we can discuss the material without you having to read the sections. That said, I am providing you links to the audiobook. You'll get a lot more from this time together if you try to listen + read the accompanying chapters in FM (see below).
The first Friday of every month at 9 PM (EST).
- The Hobbit [audio] + The Lord of the Rings [audio: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
- Fleming Rutledge [FM], The Battle for Middle-earth (2004)*
- G.K. Chesterton, Everlasting Man (1925)
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)
- Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (1988)
- Humphrey Carpeter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (2000)
- Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (2011)
- Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings (2015)
- Jonathan King, The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics (2018)
- Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (2019)
- Justin A. Bailey, Reimagining Apologetics: The Beauty of Faith in a Secular Age (2020)
- Jeremy S. Begbie, A Peculiar Orthodoxy: Reflections on Theology and the Arts (2020)
- Holly Ordway, Tolkien's Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (2021)
- Malcolm Guite, Lifting the Veil: Imagination and the Kingdom of God (2021)
- James K.A. Smith, Cultural Liturgies series (3 volumes)
Articles / Chapters
- David C. Downing, Sub-Creation or Smuggled Theology: Tolkien contra Lewis on Christian Fantasy [available here]
- G.K. Chesterton, The Ethics of Elfland [available here]
- C.S. Lewis, Myth Became Fact [available here]
- Elisabeth R. Kincaid, Meritocracy and the Failure of the Christian Moral Imagination [available here]
- Bradley J. Birzer, The Christian Humanism of J.R.R. Tolkien [available here]
- Mark T. Mitchell, The Beauty of Tolkien's Quest [available here]
- Peter Williams, Aesthetic Arguments for the Existence of God [available here]
- C.J. Armstrong and Andrew R. DeLoach, Myth and Resurrection [available here]
Lectures / Interviews
- "How to Read J.R.R. Tolkien" (lecture by Michael Drout)
- J.R.R. Tolkien discussing The Lord of the Rings (1964 Interview)
- "What C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien Teach Us About Resilience and Imagination" (conversation with history professor Dr. Joseph Loconte)
- "Tolkien: Faith and Imagination" (lecture by Dr. Holly Ordway)
- "Why Do We Need The Arts: A Conversation with James K.A. Smith"
- An Unexpected Podcast
- The Tolkien Professor
- The Prancing Pony
- The Tolkien Road
* Free to CLS students attending the online Forum. If you'd like a copy, please email Anton with your preferred mailing address. We are working with Hearts & Minds Bookstore in the distribution.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, d. Stanley Kubrick)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, d. Steven Spielberg)
- Blade Runner (1982, d. Ridley Scott)
- The Sacrifice (1986, d. Andrei Tarkovsky)
- Spirited Away (2001, d. Hayao Miyazaki)
- Big Fish (2003, d. Tim Burton)
- The Fountain (2006, d. Darren Aronofsky)
- Pan's Labyrinth (2006, d. Guillermo del Toro)
- Sunshine (2007, d. Danny Boyle)
- Tree of Life (2011, d. Terrence Malick)
- Interstellar (2014, d. Christopher Nolan)
- The Lost City of Z (2016, d. James Gray)
- Arrival (2016, d. Denis Villeneuve)
- Silence (2016, d. Martin Scorsese)
- Twin Peaks (1990-91)
- X-Files (1993-2016)
- The OA (2016-2019)
- Dark (2017-2020)
- The Expanse (2015-Present)
- Black Mirror (2011-Present)
- Mandalorian (2019-Present)
- Pieter Bruegel's The (Great) Tower of Babel (ca. 1563)
- Caravaggio's The Seven Works of Mercy (ca. 1607)
- Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (ca. 1633)
- John Martin's The Deluge (ca. 1834)
- J.M.W. Turner's The Slave Ship (ca. 1840)
- Sophus Jacobsen's Fishing with Nets by Moonlight (ca. 1900)
- Leonora Carrington's The Kitchen Garden on the Eyot (1946)
NOTE: The recommendations above are there to stimulate the imagination and help you think about the topic in more depth. They are not connected to Tolkien per se, just something we wanted to share.
INVITE YOUR FRIENDS
Feel free to invite your friends of any faith or disposition. All are welcome to attend and participate. Everyone is encouraged to engage and challenge one another's ideas, so long as you remain respectful. While I hope the Forum is a place where you can individually grow in your faith and find a deeper affection for Christ, my ultimate aim is to build a community rooted in common purpose and intimacy.