Although Tolkien was always quick to declare that The Lord of the Rings was not an allegory (like Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia), it is still evident that the figure of Christ is prevalent throughout the books. But, this raises the question, which figure is the Christ-figure? Frodo? Gandalf? Aragorn?
One of the wonderful complexities of Tolkien’s work is that the answer is: all three. Unlike Lewis, Tolkien does not take all of the characteristics of Christ and pour them into a single character, but rather spreads out those characteristics (albeit unconsciously) over what are arguably the three main characters.
And when you consider these three characters in tandem, it is clear that they line up rather nicely with the three offices of Christ: prophet, priest, and king.
- Gandalf is the prophet: Middle Earth needs a wise teacher who can bring counsel, instruction, and guidance. Gandalf is the one who proclaims truth—often when no one else will.
- Frodo is the priest: Middle Earth also needs someone willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of everyone else. Frodo offers his own life, and suffers greatly, in order to save others.
- Aragorn is the king: In addition, Middle Earth needs a warrior; one who can fight and defeat the enemies and who can guard, protect, and lead the people.
Tolkien’s vision in Lord of the Rings is a wonderful reminder that Christ is a complex, deep, and multi-faceted character. He embodies not a single office, but three. And they are all related and intertwined with one another.
The three offices of Christ, thus provide a helpful framework as we consider what is (or should be) meant by the idea of “Christ-centered preaching.” Certainly Christ-centered preaching is a good and wonderful thing. But, what exactly counts as Christ-centered?
Some today will say that the only thing that counts as Christ-centered preaching is if we talk about how Christ has suffered and died to save us. But, this would, in effect, limit our preaching to just a single office of Christ. It would be like preaching Christ only as Frodo.
As wonderful as the priestly role might be, one can quickly see how limited and one-dimensional such preaching might become. It would be a Christ who saves but doesn’t rule. A Christ who suffers but does not reign. A Christ who redeems but not a Christ that instructs. It would be a Christ who is only the lamb, and not also the lion.
It would be like having Lord of the Rings and no Gandalf and no Aragorn. Only Frodo.
Thus, Christ-centered preaching cannot be restricted to just preaching the priestly office of Christ as is so often done in pulpits today. If we are going to preach Christ, let’s preach all of him.