The Ring and the Cross

From Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005), page 224:

“The most fundamental Christian symbol is the Cross. This also is perfectly opposite to the Ring. The Cross gives life; the Ring takes it. The Cross gives you death, not power; the Ring gives you power even over death. The Ring squeezes everything into its inner emptiness; the Cross expands in all four directions, gives itself to the emptiness, filling it with its blood, its life. The Ring is Dracula’s tooth. The Cross is God’s sword, held at the hilt by the hand of Heaven and plunged into the world not to take our blood but to give us His. The Cross is Christ’s hypodermic; the Ring is Dracula’s bite. The Cross saves other wills; the Ring dominates other wills. The Cross liberates; the Ring enslaves.”

13 thoughts on “The Ring and the Cross

  1. Thanks for the comment. We need to be careful here. “Devout Catholic” does not always carry with it a false understanding of justification. This must be decided on a case-by-case basis. So for example Joseph Fitzmyer is a Jesuit priest and a devout Roman Catholic, yet his understanding of the gospel is quite evangelical. See his Romans commentary in the Anchor series, a work that D.A. Carson says reflects “magisterial” exegesis and “sounds far more Reformed than Catholic.” So all I’m saying is be careful here. Post Trent 2 these matters can get very sticky and tricky.

  2. Tony,

    Point well taken. However, how many devout Catholics do you know who will deny something teaching from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Kreeft has a book out to help people understand it. The main point I was trying to make is that Kreeft is hardly an biblical authority on anything at all to do with Soteriology.

    Some may want to read this where Kreeft ask: Why be a Catholic?


  3. Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith, page 290: “How do I resolve the Reformation? It is faith alone that justifies, or is it faith and good works? Very simple. No tricks. On this issue I believe Luther was simply right; and this issue is absolutely crucial.”

  4. Tony,

    I hate to keep going back and fourth on this but Kreeft’s statement in Fundamentals of the Faith are hardly his most recent with regards to justification.

    It almost sounds like you consider Kreeft biblical in his understanding of justification. If so, please just say it.


  5. I’ve not studied Kreeft’s soteriology extensively so I don’t know if he understands the biblical gospel but that is my point. I would refrain from making that conclusion until I had thoroughly studied his writings on the topic. Not long ago I would have made the same correlation that you seem to be making: “devout Catholic” = confusion over the gospel. But Fitzmyer’s Romans commentary hit me between the eyes and changed all that. I began to realize that each modern Catholic theologian must be carefully studied and given a chance to be heard. Fitzmyer is one of the greatest living NT scholars and holds to a clearly evangelical gospel and an interpretation of Romans that a reformed guy like me can appreciate. That he remains a devout and revered Catholic is a bit of a mystery to me. Kreeft, too, is a theologian from the ecumenical era and that makes it hard to assume that he follows classic RC teaching. If you can prove that Kreeft denies the biblical gospel I’d love to hear it. But we must always be very careful not to make damaging assumptions that judge someone out of ignorance. That’s easy to do–I know.

  6. Tony,

    Fundamentals of the Faith was first published in 1988. Kreeft’s book, Catholic Christianity, was published in 2001. That said, logically one must conclude that Kreeft’s more recent work is a more accurate reflection of his beliefs.

    So, there is a lot that could be said and quoted, but for now, consider the following quote from Kreeft in his book “Catholic Christianity”.

    “The Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone contradicts Scripture. St. Paul never says we are justified by faith alone, and St. James explicitly says we are not justified by faith alone (Jas 2:24)”

    Will the real Peter Kreeft please come forward. It is my contention, after reading several books by Kreeft, that he does not hold to a biblical Gospel and as such should be discounted as an authority in matters of Soteriology.

    My statement obviously is that, just a statement. I would love to read something from Kreeft that would suggest his belief in a biblical Gospel. Given his more recent work, I don’t see it.


  7. Tony,

    Again, from his book “Catholic Christianity”, Kreeft says

    The Catholic Church exists in three places: “the Church Militant” on earth, “the Church Suffering” in purgatory, and “the Church Triumphant” in heaven.

    How can one claim to have a biblical understanding of justification when they believe one can go to purgatory for a period of time then go to heaven.


  8. These are helpful excerpts Shane and they encourage me to read more of Kreeft’s modern theology. But to be honest I don’t use Kreeft for exegesis or for theology so I’ve never been motivated to read much of his theology to begin with. To me Kreeft’s importance is in 3 areas: (1) literature criticism, (2) logic, and (3) apologetics/philosophy. These are the areas in which I have chosen to read him. The same is true with, say, N. T. Wright. There are many important matters in which I disagree with NTW (and I certainly do not derive my soteriology from his writings!). But I do benefit from his understanding of the Christian life and what he has written on personal idolatry (for example). We need to be discerning readers and that means knowing who to trust on particular topics. Kreeft is trustworthy on a few important topics, LOTR being one of them. I hope this makes sense. Blessings brother!

  9. Tony,

    I profoundly appreciate the distinction you make between using a writer/thinker for exegesis or theology and other areas of scholarly inquiry. Of course we do need to be aware that a muddy or mistaken soteriology *can* influence any and all other areas, but it remains that common grace has enabled many men and women to generate deep and lasting insights notwithstanding their soteriological stance – or lack thereof.

  10. What’s more important than having and trusting in a right understanding of justification?

  11. Amen, brother, there is nothing greater than the gospel! And the writers who shape and define my biblical understanding of the work of Christ are carefully selected: Herman Bavinck, JI Packer, John Calvin, John Murray, CH Spurgeon, DA Carson, CJ, Jerry Bridges, John Piper, David Powlison, and Paul David Tripp. Again it’s about knowing who to read in particular categories.

  12. Exactly, Mark! In my book I explain how Calvin used Plato’s prayers to pagan gods as a way to instruct believers in the right manner of prayer. Calvin is a pretty fascinating case study on all this stuff. God speaks to us in very surprising ways and Calvin appreciated literature, while also holding firmly to an understanding of human depravity and to the fact that only divine revelation could save.

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