Chapter OneChoosing Darkness
The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die,
but the darkness grew.
-From The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter Five
Think back to the opening night of The Two
Your LOTR-junkie friends have just stood in line
for six hours to buy tickets. They now hand you a
ticket in exchange for several buckets of movie
popcorn (it occurs to you later that they had the
better deal), predicting in low tones that madness
will erupt the instant the theater opens. But this is
something you have anticipated and trained for together.
Step #1: Lock arms.
Step #2: Mosh. If that fails:
Step #3: Bodysurf to the eighth row (middle seat)
and hold fast till the others arrive.
The training pays off. You storm the doors and
seize the eighth row, popcorn miraculously intact.
After arm-wrestling a couple of junior high kids
into submission, you and your friends get comfortably
seated. The movie won't start for another
hour, but what's one hour? You've been waiting a
Just when you've decided that you desperately
need to go to the bathroom, the lights dim and the
action begins. You've talked about this for months,
but nothing in your wildest dreams has prepared
you for the stomach-lurching shot over the mountains
into the Mines of Moria; and nothing has prepared
you for Gandalf's epic struggle with the
Balrog, falling headfirst down the abyss.
How on earth did those CGI guys do it?
But most importantly, how does Gandalf do it?
In the previous flick, Gandalf stands on the bridge
looking small and frail against the looming giant of
a whip-cracking Balrog. You can hardly believe that
Gandalf will survive the fall into the abyss, let alone
everything that happens afterwards. But you have
read the books (after all, you and your friends areLOTR junkies). And you know the nightmare has
only just begun.
The Balrog is portrayed in the movie as a creature
of fire and flame. Tolkien also presents it as a creature
of darkness-one of many-and not the darkest
of the dark, either (don't forget Shelob). In The
Fellowship of the Ring Tolkien writes,
What it was could not be seen: it was like a
great shadow, in the middle of which was a
dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater;
and a power and terror seemed to be in it
and to go before it.
The idea that darkness would present itself as a being-with
not only a visible form but also an intellect
and will-is terrifying. When this being first
appears in The Fellowship of the Ring, there is instant
panic among the members of the Fellowship.
It's like they've suddenly been struck blind with
fear, confusion, and despair. Such an encounter is
more than any of them bargained for in this journey
they agreed to take with Frodo, a kind of
nightmare that surpasses anything Frodo himself
could have imagined before leaving the front door
of Bag End. Aragorn and Boromir beg to fight the
creature, but Gandalf says, "Fly! This is a foe beyond
any of you." In the end, only Gandalf stands
fast, and it costs him everything.
So here's the point.
There is such a being, though he may not have a
visible form like what Tolkien or the LOTR movie
gurus created. (In fact, C. S. Lewis, author of The
Screwtape Letters, pictured him dressed in a business
suit.) And the analogy is far from perfect.
But he's real.
At the heart of the spiritual opposition to the Creator
God of the universe is a character who goes by
many names: Satan, Beelzebub, the devil, the enemy,
the evil one. Satan was once an angel who rebelled
against God. He fled from the light of God's
presence to establish his own throne in darkness,
taking a host of rebellious angels with him (Jude
1:6). Jesus said of him, "I saw Satan fall like lightning
from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Satan has been
waging war with God and all who belong to him
Whatever the murky history of his past, Satan is
real. He specializes in absorbing light, in casting
shadows, and in generating great vacuums of fear
and spiritual blindness. He is especially good at
blocking the way of those who have sworn allegiance
to Jesus Christ and at stopping them from
accomplishing whatever tasks God has given them
to do (1 Peter 5:8-9). He has also mastered the art
of convincing people that he doesn't exist, that
there's no such thing as darkness (Isaiah 5:20).
And he takes particular delight in enslaving people
to the darkness before they have a chance to love
the Light, by teaching them to hate the Light itself
This is the lesson of the Balrog from deep within
the heart of Moria:
You are small.
Your foe is big.
So what are you going to do about it?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but
against the rulers, against the authorities, against the
powers of this dark world and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
THE WORD ON DARKNESS
Take some time to read one or more of the following
Isaiah 5:20; John 3:19-20; 1 Peter 5:8-9
What evidence do you see of the power of darkness
at work in your world?
Who among your friends or family is ignoring this
Who has given in to paralysis, despair, or exhaustion
in the face of darkness?
Who actually likes the darkness and hates the
What about you: What is your response to the
What are you going to do about it?