SPU Hosts Tolkien Fans

Published in The Falcon (Seattle Pacific University)

“All of the speakers and subject matter sound ridiculously interesting to me. It is going to be great,” freshman Than Vlachos said about the upcoming J.R.R. Tolkien conference at SPU.

The conference, titled “Celebrating Middle Earth,” will seek to tell “the story behind the story” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Conference sessions will focus on exploring the man behind the masterpiece and explaining the profound imagery and literary background of the three-piece saga.

“I thought it would be wonderful to have a conference that explored not just the fantasy aspect, but the moral and spiritual and political aspects of ’The Lord of the Rings,’” said Associate Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute John West.

“I think it is really cool of SPU and Professor West to organize something of this caliber. It would be good enough just to talk about the books, but we are watching trailers, listening to music and getting really good speakers to come,” Vlachos said.

The conference, organized by the C.S. Lewis Institute and co-sponsored by the SPU Society of Fellows, the Discovery Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, will take place on Nov. 9 and 10.

According to West, the purpose of the C.S. Lewis Institute is to bring speakers that engage the culture with their faith to the Seattle area and particularly SPU’s campus.

An impressive list of speakers will talk at the conference, including Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and author of more than 20 books; Joseph Pearce, author of “Tolkien, Man and Myth: A Literary Life and Literary Converts”; and members of SPU’s faculty.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Phillip Goggans will be part of a discussion about the theology and morality in “The Lord of the Rings.” Professor of Theology Kerry Dearborn and Pearce will also take part in the discussion.

Goggans said he hopes that those who attend will get a glimpse of the wisdom that Tolkien’s masterpiece embodies.

West’s speech is titled “’The Lord of the Rings’ as a Defense of Western Civilization.”

West said he expects “Celebrating Middle Earth” to draw a crowd of 500-600 people each day of the conference.

The C.S. Lewis Institute worked hard to get the word out about the conference. According to West, a brochure about the event was sent out to about 6,000 people.

Attendees of past events, subscribers to “Christianity Today” and similar publications as well as people on the Discovery Institute and C.S. Lewis Institute mailing lists account for most of those people.

Press releases were also sent out to a few schools and churches, and the event is advertised in the arts and entertainment calendar of the Seattle Times.

There has been a great deal of excitement for the upcoming event, which takes place just in time for the much-anticipated film version of Tolkien’s tale.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about how much rocking these movies will do. I am very excited, to say the least,” Vlachos said.

“’The Lord of the Rings’ is such a profound work that after you’ve read it, you’ve been changed,” West said.

He believes the reason that Tolkien’s work has such a tremendous impact on people is because it depicts struggles between good and evil, “which touches deep chords within us.”

Goggans said “The Lord of the Rings” inspires him.

“I’d like to live a life as meaningful as Frodo’s. I wish I had his determination and perseverance. I’d like to be as dedicated to God as Sam Gamgee was to Frodo.” Sam Gamgee and Frodo are main characters in the book.

“[’The Lord of the Rings’] isn’t just a fantasy trip; there’s a lot there that will help us learn about who we are as human beings,” West said.