Jesus will fix everything—if the resurrection happened!

April 11, 2022 • 11:45 am

Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren continues to proselytize for Jesus in the op-ed section of the New York Times, but this time she does it by proxy—by interviewing one of her friends who was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Click on the screenshot to read:


Now I don’t want to be too hard on her friend Timothy Keller, who founded an evangelical Christian church in New York City. After all, the guy is dying.  And he’s finding his final comfort in Jesus and, especially, in the resurrection, as many Christians do.  I for one wouldn’t want to be comforted by superstitions at the end, but hey, he’ll never find out he was wrong.

No, what bothers me more than Keller’s clinging to the myths of Christianity is his claim below that all things will be put right on Earth, but only if the resurrection happened. If that’s not true, then things will go on sucking. (Note, however, that there is absolutely no tangible evidence for the resurrection.)

At first I thought that Keller meant that all things will be set right after you die if the Jesus story be true. Or that somehow we would all come into God’s Kingdom on Earth (not in heaven) when the trumps sound and Jesus comes back at the Rapture.  But I read the passage below twice, and it doesn’t seem to say that. I interpret to me this: IF THE RESURRECTION HAPPENED, then some day (day not specified), God “is going to put everything right.” That is, we’ll keep living our lives on Earth, but all evils will vanish.

You read this and tell me if Keller doesn’t mean that. (Warren’s question is in bold, Keller’s response in plain type. My own emphasis is in italics.

In your latest book, you wrote that our culture is experiencing a “crisis of hope.” Where do you find hope? What hope do you offer to others?

If the resurrection of Jesus Christ really happened, then ultimately, God is going to put everything right. Suffering is going to go away. Evil is going to go away. Death is going to go away. Aging is going to go away. Pancreatic cancer is going to go away. Now if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, then I guess all bets are off. But if it actually happened, then there’s all the hope in the world.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories,” he says there are indelible human longings that only fantasy, fairy tales or sci-fi can really speak to. He says that all human beings have a fascination with the idea of escaping time, escaping death, holding communion with other living things, being able to live long enough to achieve your artistic and creative dreams, being able to find a love that perfectly heals. Tolkien says: why do we have those longings? And as a Christian, he thinks the reason is that we were not originally created by God to die.

We all deep down kind of know that this is the way life ought to be, and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ happens, then all those things are literally going to come true for us.

That’s the reason you have this paradox. On the one hand, the resurrection is a kind of very concrete thing to talk about, like “What is the evidence for this historical event?” Probably the single best book on this subject in the last 100 years is N.T. Wright’s book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” [JAC: There’s new evidence?]

Yet if we come to the place where we accept it, then suddenly there’s no limit to what kinds of things we can look forward to. I know some of your readers are thinking, “I can’t believe there’s a person with more than a third-grade education that actually believes that.” But I do. And these last few months, as we’ve gotten in touch with these great parts of our faith, Kathy and I would both say we’ve never been happier in our lives, even though I’m living under the shadow of cancer.

Now I’m not sure exactly what Biblical exegesis tells us that Earthly evil will vanish if the resurrection occurred. Yes, the resurrection supposedly affords us a chance to find bliss in eternity (in Heaven, remember), but that doesn’t even hold for all Christians. Whether you believe in salvation through faith or salvation through works, the sheep will still go up and the goats will be fried.

As for “knowing the way life ought to be” in our hearts, well, the way we “know” how life should be will vary among people. And anyway, who says that the way life “ought to be” is the way God will make it? After all, aren’t God’s plans a mystery? Further, what the resurrection has to do with all this is unclear, save that it’s an example of eternal life for one person and a purported miracle.

Keller goes on to say that his belief gives extra power to the holiday of Easter.  As I said, if this makes Keller feel better, more power to him, but the theology behind his reasoning eludes me. Surely there are some ex-Christians among the readers who can explain.

More curious is why The New York Times continues to publish this kind of stuff. If we use the Chicago Maroon editors’ view that op-eds with factual inaccuracies can’t be published, this one should have immediately been spiked. The NYT has no astrology column, and it has no comics. Why does it have this kind of theobabble?

61 thoughts on “Jesus will fix everything—if the resurrection happened!

  1. At least it’s labeled “OPINION”… she paid for this nonsense? Is there a disclaimer at the end of the piece?

    1. Warren may be gullible enough to believe some of this drivel. But she’s not so gullible as to write it for free. After all, as Dr. Johnson said, none but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.

      1. Well…those VERY gullible will write it for free…because they collect heavenly ”brownie points” for public proselytization.

  2. At risk of starting a conversation that I really have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in, briefly I will say what I think Tim Keller means. For Jesus to return in glory to both judge and to reign in a newly-restored world (where everything is “put right”), it obviously requires that he be alive. Resurrection then becomes necessary. I am a Christian and it is an understatement to say I understand how all this works, but I do believe the same thing.

    1. Well, you have to answer one question: Is there any evidence that the Resurrection took place besides the assertions of the Bible (which also claims that Jesus was born as the result of a census that never took place)?
      I always wonder how people can predicate so much of their existence on such an unsubstantiated claim. I know it’s called “faith”, but that’s why it IS called “faith.”

    2. I used to be a Christian, raised ortho catholic and attended catholic schools from first grade through law school. I was heavily indoctrinated. But once I viewed scripture objectively and critically, I realized I was believing in a bunch of nonsense, as all religions are. Suffice it to say I have read enough to conclude that Sam Harris was absolutely right when he said:

      The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticize.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.
      But honest reasoning can lead us further into the fields of unbelief, for we can prove that books such as the Bible and the Quran bear no trace of divine authorship. We know far too much about the history of these texts to accept what they say about their own origins. And just imagine how good a book would be if it had been written by an omniscient Being.
      The moment one views the contents of scripture in this light, one can reject the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam definitively. The true authors of God’s eternal Word knew nothing about the origins of life, the relationship between mind and brain, the causes of illness, or how best to create a viable, global civilization in the 21st century. That alone should resolve every conflict between religion and science in the latter’s favor, until the end of the world.
      In fact, the notion that any ancient book could be an infallible guide to living in the present gets my vote for being the most dangerously stupid idea on earth.
      What remains for us to discover, now and always, are those truths about our world that will allow us to survive and fully flourish. For this, we need only well-intentioned and honest inquiry – love and reason. Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.”

      I hope someday you see your way clear of Christianity, as so many others are doing every day.

      1. Sam Harris is right – and that one always gets me: The ancients. Held up as knowing pretty much anything at all. These mostly illiterates with dung on their faces and bad teeth who didn’t know where the sun went at night or not to poo in their own drinking water. Who’d never heard of China, the Americas, or anywhere beyond their tiny state. There’s no -ology they could fathom.
        THESE are the sources?

        1. “The ancients. Held up as knowing pretty much anything at all.”

          Oh yeah – I must admit I love that fantasy story idea, THE ANCIENTS, wizened old bearded cloaked figures in the castle tower buried in ANCIENT texts, or even MORE ancient, …

          Its great for story telling!

    3. In addition, I guess that Mr Keller’s comment that ‘if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, then I guess all bets are off’ is not a denial that the Invisible Magic Friend will make everything OK in the end. It’s a bit of finger-crossing that the IMF might be merciful enough not to condemn us all to the everlasting pit. But Christian dogma tells us that it was the temporarily visible third part of the IMF that was crucified in the first place. So the IMF should know whether part of it was resurrected or not.

      Honestly, one has to devote only ten minutes’ scrutiny to the whole gallimaufry to realise that it’s complete nonsense. I don’t know why people bother trying to count the numbers of angels on these pins any more.

    4. EDIT: I meant an “understatement to say that I don’t understand how all this works”….
      I DO NOT understand it all. Far far from it!! lol…

      To briefly address Jerry’s assertion that I have to answer one question…..
      I am not trying to convince anyone of anything, so I probably do not “have to answer one question”…but I will say that I do believe what the Bible says. Yes, it is faith. But many things I read in the Bible make me think that even the things in there I don’t understand are true. How they work? I have no clue. But apparently the One who designed this endlessly fascinating universe and put the laws of physics and biochemistry into motion made it happen. Yes, it is faith. 🙂

      1. What about the assertions in the Bible that are palpably false, like the Exodus in the desert, the captivity of the Jews in Egypt, and, of course, the story of creation given in Genesis 1 and 2. This is “what the Bible says” plainly. It is creationist, invoking the instantaneous appearance of man and the creation of woman from his rib.

        What about Noah’s Ark. That is in the Bible, too. Do you believe that the Bible is accurate on that point? You cannot get away with saying that it’s all metaphor because then you are leaving yourself open to the possibility that everything in the Bible is metaphor.

        1. The things you say are palpably false….might not be.
          You are so right, though, when you assert that one dismissing some things as metaphor opens the possibility of it all being metaphor.
          I do see instances of metaphor and poetic form in the Bible, but I believe the accounts of creation and Noah’s ark are true.

          1. You are entitled to believe what you want, but you are not entitled to your own facts. The facts of science are incontrovertibly on the side of evolution, and I am curious how you manage to dismiss the fossil record and the many other bits of evidence for evolution THAT I WROTE A BOOK ABOUT.

            I am sorry, but you are at the wrong website. You cannot come over here and say that the stories related in a book of myths, stories that are in contradiction to everything that science has shown, TRUMP ALL OF SCIENCE. Why do you even patronize an evolution-oriented site if you think everything scientific in it that contradicts the Bible is wrong?

          2. It looks like my last comment didn’t make it. Not sure if it was due to a computer glitch or if you banned me.

            Sorry for any offense, Jerry. I love your website….always interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. AND….I love cats! I thought this was a place for dialogue….even when there is a difference of ideas. I was not in any way trying to attack you. I have always tried to be honest and courteous in my comments. I am not offended when someone disagrees with me and I understand if you feel you need to ban me. It is your website…and a really good one. No hard feelings if you are blocking me. I guess I was hoping there was room here for “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”. 🙂

          3. The offense is not to me, it’s to the truth, and you have attacked the truth, though yes, in a courteous way. However, this is not a difference in political opinion: by saying that the creation account in Genesis is true, you are just flat wrong. It’s like you disagreeing that the formula for a water molecule is H2O.

            Here’s what you can do. Read Why Evolution is true, and then, explain to me how the facts in the biogeography chapter can be explained by animals dispersing from Noah’s Ark. Show us why all evolutionists are wrong about that and you and the Bible are right. If you can do that, then post your response here and we shall see.

            I’ve spent my life fighting people with ideas as misguided as yours about evolution. Now it’s time for you to battle for your faith and tell us why all the fossils are wrong, how we were created as we are today with all those hominim fossils misleading us, and so on and so on. It is the polite disbelievers that are the most distressing, because they flaunt their ignorance and tell us how polite they are at the same time. Being polite doesn’t give you the privilege of posting an idea that is as insane as the QAnon pizza conspiracy on this site. For that is what Biblical creationism is.

          4. The discussion should end right here, because if you choose to believe what is palpably false because “it might not be” there is no hope of enlightenment. And just by the way, the story of Noah’s Ark is nothing more than a plagiarized variation of a similar story in the Epic of Gilgamesh, an Assyrian tale that predates the Bible.

    5. For Jesus to return in glory

      Why do the god-squad always assume that Jeebus is going to come back “in glory”, when it’s pretty obvious that a large proportion of people would greet his (or her – if he had dangly bits last time, then obviously this time he’ll be a her. No? Because, “made in [mankind’s] image”?) return with contempt, many would be utterly disinterested (e.g., non-monotheists, atheists, FSMers), and the various churches of whichever god you believe in will have an absolute blood bath killing the infidels who believe in something slightly different to them (is it not written that the KJV biblical literalists will descend upon the readers of the Coverdale Bible of (1535) with fire and sword, and napalm and AK-47s ?). If that’s the kind of “glory” that the return of Jeebus Ibn Joseph will create (and it is – haven’t you seen the news this side of the invention of the Gatling gun?), then there’s a good chance he’ll find something better to do that night.
      Unless he’s(*) the vicious misogynistic psychopath that he(**) is painted in the bible – in which case, he’ll be back after a little bit of fluffing up the maniacs. Leopards don’t change their spots.
      * New Testament version
      **Old Testament version.

  3. “Why does it [the NYT] have this kind of theobabble?”

    Because it wants to appeal to virtually everybody, including the religious, as it’s a business. It’s not only a business, of course, so they do report truth for its own sake. But they are not above pandering, especially if it is widely considered to be innocent and having little or no bearing on news reporting. It’s not totally innocent but it is perceived by most that way.

    1. Adding on to the question in this section “The NYT has no astrology column, and it has no comics. Why does it have this kind of theobabble?”

      I was going to say maybe this means it needs comics, good fiction, stories… when comics were in the NYT did it have astrology? Can we make a chart showing if comics are printed then theobabble isn’t?

      1. Good question. Perhaps comics cost too much. People prefer to see the nationally syndicated ones and, presumably, they are more costly than finding someone to write about religion. It also might be that comics offend the Woke. I know that the LA Times has removed comics for some sort of verbal offense. Religion is relatively untouchable. We know that atheists’ complaints don’t hold much sway.

  4. Why would I read a book about the resurrection other than the Bible? To your point, is there some additional evidence that isn’t in there? At the risk of being rude, it sounds like Keller is looking for any reason for hope, and that doesn’t set the bar very high.

  5. This is, of course, why people cling so fearfully to creationism and have to defy science. Because, if evolution is true, then the bible isn’t literally true, and so no salvation.

  6. Many years ago, I founded Kosher Goyim, a Christian faith fellowship dedicated to celebrating the mysteries of the Holy Trinity through Jewish food. Our way of celebrating Easter is as follows.

    “On Ash Wednesday, we did not join our Christian colleagues in handing out ashes to the faithful. Instead, our volunteers were everywhere, distributing motza brei in shopping centers, train stations, hospital waiting rooms, and traffic queues. To our friends in the evangelical churches, we say: one smeck of our kugel, and you will be born again, again. In fact, one of our teaching films shows Jesus Christ Himself, smacking his lips and exclaiming: “That’s the Last Supper that we’ll have without extra rugelach.” “.
    More details at:

  7. So let’s suppose the Resurrection happened. Then we are supposed to conclude that all Earthly evil will disappear. My question is: When is this going to happen? It’s been 2000 years and Earthly evil is still with us. So the probability of that happening within the next year or so is pretty small.

    Sure, if you want “hope” then you can point out that the probability isn’t zero. That’s true and you can hope for it. You could also hope that some scientist will discover the treatment for your cancer soon — the probability of that is pretty small too, but it also isn’t zero.

    1. So the probability of that happening within the next year or so is pretty small.

      Yeah, not forgetting that most of Jeebus’ immediate followers were expecting the end of the world imminently after his preaching. “Imminently” in the sense of “next few years”. One of the topics that Paul had to address a couple of decades after Ibn Joseph got nailed to a post was trying to persuade early Christians to continue having sex (to produce children), paying taxes (to avoid being killed for tax evasion) and to continue in general economic life (so Paul didn’t get nailed to a post for sedition. The early Christian church – when adult male circumcision was being debated as a sacrament for joining the congregation – was that convinced that the “Day of Judgement” was coming in a matter of months-to-years, that they were leaving “real life” and going full-on monastic in large numbers.
      Perhaps the most frequently repeated theological line to come out of the Christian church is the one about calculating the date of the “Day of Judgement” being really difficult, and “I’ll have to do some re-calculation”, shortly followed by “of course you can’t have your money back”.

  8. As far as I understand them, the Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, regard the ego as the source of evil – not some odious Satan. Ultimately, it is the brain + environment which determines behavioural programming.

  9. If it comforts him and gives him hope, then religion is doing its job; or rather, what is effectively its job.

    To what extent can ideas like this be critiqued in a US public school? Can religious thinking along with its flaws (as a way of deriving reliable knowledge about nature) be discussed in a public school philosophy class? For example, would a teacher be allowed to point out that literal interpretations of religious creation myths are in conflict with science?

      1. If living your life based on a lie makes you happy, fair enough; I suppose.

        Or rather, living your life based on abject nonsense. I think that is what religion does for most people. If they were really after what is true, they would have to work a lot harder.

  10. I think Warren is agreeing with the apocalypticist ideas that developed in Judaism in the couple of centuries before Christ. The idea was that God would soon intervene and establish his kingdom HERE ON EARTH, where evil and its practitioners would be defeated once and for all and the original perfection of Creation would be restored. The coming of this Kingdom would be heralded by the Messiah. Jesus seems to have thought he was this herald of the Kingdom; in the earliest New Testament books, like Mark, Jesus makes clear that this will all happen very soon, in the lifetimes of his disciples. When he turned out to be mistaken, later books started to hedge and suggest that it could be a long time coming, or alternatively that the Kingdom would rather be established in the Hereafter, so instead of experiencing Utopia on earth, believers would enjoy it after death instead.

    So Warren seems to be anticipating the earthly paradise that Jesus and other Jews of his time believed in, just on a much-delayed schedule. She evidently thinks that Jesus was right about the eventual outcome but wrong about the timeline, bless her heart.

  11. I have a certain sour opinion toward dying Christians because they are a menace in cancer support groups where they constantly force their beliefs on everyone else and run out any other cancer sufferers who disagree with their continuous god bothering and praying. I know this isn’t all Christians but there are enough of them that separate secret groups have to be created that forbid this kind of behaviour.

      1. Yes the only difference is cancer support groups typically don’t include a prayer but the religious just take over in them with constant prayers, Jesus talk, god blessing, god aphorisms etc so it’s something that happens but not part of the system (unlike AA).

    1. I know this isn’t all Christians but there are enough of them that separate secret groups have to be created that forbid this kind of behaviour.

      And you don’t take succour from the god-given certainty that such evil will result in them getting their cancer back, with all the suffering of both cancer and chemo , for all eternity.
      That’ll guarantee you the full “eternal torment” treatment.
      I can hear you quaking in your boots from here.

        1. One almost wonders where Honey is. And I’m not even a follower of the Botanypond-quacka-saga.

  12. [ my Tolkien comment]

    I am a fairly large Tolkien fan, and delight in his tales and imagination – I will get that book.

    There’s an interview with Christopher Tolkien on YouTube (no link given, easy to find on one’s own) in which the idea of a fall from grace permeates the stories of Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien felt intimidated by noisome developments of modernity, and how the green Earth of old was bring lost in the balance.

    What does this have to do with Jesus? Nothing really. Tolkien IMHO wasn’t writing to support the mind virus of religion. His interest as I gather was to forge his own new world using these primal human needs, etc. I do not see how this supports the major claims. All it does is broaden our knowledge of stories, fiction, writing and what we derive from it. Etc. etc. etc. but not literally Jesus.

    1. Given that his day-job required a close, hands on familiarity with at least one other religion (and, his word, “legendarium”) than the one he was brought up in, he had already got one of the major steps that many people have to disentangling themselves of religion – knowing that there are multiple “other” mind sets than the one you were brought up in.
      Actually, given the moving countries in his childhood, and being a non-dominant-caste member in a profoundly caste-riddled society … he had several things going on to tilt him to consider “other” a good thing.
      If I still had a copy of “Tree and Leaf“, I could probably drag this a bit further.

  13. Whenever I read or hear someone saying things along the lines of, “We all deep down kind of know that this is the way life ought to be”, I want to respond with a quote from Inigo Montoya:

    “You keep saying that word*…I don’t think it means what you think it means.”


  14. [ my cancer comment ]

    There’s something unseemly about the pairing of the religious stuff with cancer.

    Yes, we all know a lot about cancer and read about it a lot. We pretty much get why it appears in religious writings like this.

    Now here’s the part where it can get ugly :

    What is Warren doing with this pairing? Does Warren really know how such a … thing … affects families, let alone the person who has to fight it?

    Cancer _develops_, and _slowly_. Just because we – or anyone – does not have cancer does not mean they aren’t slowly developing it. It is, at root, a terrifying thing to think about seriously even if nobody we know doesn’t have any cancer. I find it hard to write this but just imagine a parent with a child – this is the terror. That parent bears a great responsibility for the child, on a moment to moment basis. I can’t bear to think of it and write it out.

    So I ask Warren, how are you addressing that profound terror, with this piece? Precisely what insight are you sharing to help us all?

  15. He says that all human beings have a fascination with the idea of escaping time, escaping death …Tolkien says: why do we have those longings? And as a Christian, he thinks the reason is that we were not originally created by God to die.

    Gotta love this apologetic.

    Atheist:”People believe in God because they fear death.”

    Christian:”Ah — but WHY do they fear death? The mysterious fact that we don’t want to die is actually EVIDENCE that God exists! Bet you didn’t think of that, did you?”

  16. I read that headline today and thought: “Oh that fool, AGAIN. I do hope PCC (E) does a number on her sniveling dumb-assery.” 🙂

  17. The theme of “everything is going to be alright, hosianna!” is running through defanged European Christianity, and is perhaps one of the most notable aspects that sets it apart from American fire-and-brimstone-style preachery. The European clergy are always on about some allegedly hopeful message, praise the Lord, as they have nothing else to offer than infantile whistling in the dark. It doesn’t occur to them that not everyone wishes a total totalitarian dictator was real.

    The belief in Jesus this time of the year is even more puzzling to me ever since I read across a bit of comparative mythology. Scholars have discussed in some great length the details of the Adonis myth, his cyclical nature of going with the seasons, coming in spring, and retreating in winter. How spring is universally mapped onto the cycles of days, and life and death, and how taken together, Gods with such aspects, like Adonis, represent a new opportunity, a new life, a new dawn, and a fresh start. Eventually, the harvest is brought in and he’s murdered. Revenge brings winter, starvation and death. But another year, and all is forgiven and the cycle starts anew. There are yet other aspects woven into this, of kings who are endured as long as the harvests are good. When the bad years mount, and he lost his favours with the deity of nature, the community would murder him, endure suffering in winter for their “sin”, but when the king is dead, long live the (new) king, and it all starts again. Once nature starts to blossom, all is forgiven. This Adonis myth is surveyed in Oxford Press‘ “Very Short Introduction: Myth” (2015). However, author Robert Alan Segal seems to mean Jesus Christ and was painfully obvious to me, but he never spells it out. I was even more amazed when I learned later that the “Nativity of Jesus” used to be a site of the veneration of Adonis. What other remarkable coincidence!

    Jesus was also coincidentially born at Winter Solstice, and the Romans managed to crucify him around Vernal Equinox, or spring — what a remarkable coincidence! Both dates span the ancient beginning of a new year (we still have that today, one calendaric, the other seasonal). It‘s also the time of the year that was apparently obviously about thresholds, and threshold deities, and cycles (e.g. death-(re)birth); not only to Christians. Germanic pagans worshipped Woden at the winter solstice, too, a supreme deity of thresholds, and the barrier to the afterlive was thought to be thin, with plenty of crossing back and fro which lasts from late winter to spring, too. I do not know why this is however never clearly spelled out by the scholars, who seem committed to uphold Christian beliefs, or go off on any of the other tangents. Even critics prefer other ways of debunkery (unsurprisingly, as the Jesus myth is filled with nonsense).

    The Jesus myth is such obviously a mythological tale with overt nature-seasonal symbology that I can’t unsee it.

  18. No, what bothers me more than Keller’s clinging to the myths of Christianity is his claim below that all things will be put right on Earth, but only if the resurrection happened. If that’s not true, then things will go on sucking.

    I have no problem believing this statement (the bit I put in bold) to be true. I believe there was no resurrection and I believe all things will never be put right on Earth (unless you count the Earth’s eventual demise as the Sun expands to engulf it as being “put right”).

    The difference between me and Mr Keller is, I think, that he has a psychological need for a happy ending.

    1. “The difference between me and Mr Keller is, I think, that he has a psychological need for a happy ending.”

      [see later comment ]

      Tolkien writes in his essay specifically of this “happy ending” as a defining feature of fairy stories. But “fairy story” and “happy ending” do not express Tolkien’s ideas clearly.

      He writes that it is the opposite of the effect drama has, of tragedy, Tolkien terms it “eucatastrophe”. I am not doing justice to Tolkien at all – if you follow up on it, you will find a very thoughtful analysis.

  19. [ part 1 of 2 ]
    I would like to add some notes on the essay “On Fairy Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien. I will give notes as brief and concise as possible – I know comments should be short – as I see they might connect to the ideas put forth by Mr. Keller as quoted in the original post, as I find them insightful to the problem of faith, religion, and how the human species is victimized by them.

    I could not find any direct quotes from Tolkien’s piece in this post, which is specified as “On Fairy Stories” (abbrev. = OFS). As OFS is a somewhat rare essay, I give some detail of the version I read :

    Tree and Leaf
    ISBN 0-395-08253-6
    1964 George Allen and Unwin, Ltd.
    1965 Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston

    Special note : The essay OFS (approx. 84 pages) “was originally composed as an Andrew Lang Lecture and was in a shorter form delivered in the University of St. Andrews in 1938.”.

    I do not address Tolkien fans, but others, because this essay does a good job of discriminating between our common ideas of “fairy”, the supernatural, “beast fables”, adventures of humans in a fantasy land, and specifically what Tolkien means by the word and idea of “faerie” : “the realm or state in which fairies have their being.” Tolkien does this citing numerous examples of stories everyone should know, and many which are ancient but might be interesting to follow up on.

    [ continues on part 2 ]:

    1. [ part 2 of 2 ]:
      Tolkien also addresses the question if there is any “_essential_ connexion [sic] between children and fairy-stories? \
      Is there any call for comment, if an adult reads them for himself?” Tolkien argues that the apparent link between fairy stories and children is an error, due to “accident of domestic history”. Not surprisingly – and connecting with the problem in this post – fairy stories may actually intrigue adults to a deeper level than children. “Is it true?” is\
      the question that children ask of fairy story, and Tolkien suggests what children really mean is if there really will be a dragon lounging in the park this afternoon.

      Tolkien concludes on p.55 with “recovery, escape, consolation”. He writes at length on these, but I will only quote him on fairy stories as escapist literature as it is relevant to the original post : “There are other things more grim and terrible to fly from than the noise, stench, ruthlessness, and extravagance of the internal-combustion engine. There are hunger, thirst, poverty, pain, sorrow, injustice, death.” Fairy stories “offer a sort of escape, and old ambitions and desires”[…]” to which fairy stories ” offer a kind of satisfaction and consolation. Some are pardonable\
      weaknesses or curiosities: such as the desire to visit, free as a fish, the deep sea; or the longing for the […] flight of a bird.”

      The most important conclusion on “consolation” that Tolkien reaches is “Consolation of the Happy Ending.” He argues t\
      hat “Tragedy is the true form of Drama “[…]” but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite – I will call it Eucatastrophe.”[…] the true form of fairy-tale and its highest function.”[…] “a good catastrophe” “a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur”. One can see it is a straight shot from that idea to the Christian salvation story.

      The epilogue of OFS (p. 70) is less than 1000 words and is where Tolkien cites features of the Christian religion and connects them with some of the ideas developed in the previous fairy story section. The truth of the claims are treated as in theology, and are not remarkable, but the links to fairy story are compelling.

      Apologies for length – the essay is worth reading for insight to the psychological vulnerabilities used by religion, and how activities like the enjoyment of various stories might play a role at different ages, but also – and most importantly! – the enjoyment for everyone of storytelling as recorded in the written word in general.

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