Imperfectly Ideal

One of the things I find most endearing, and most solidly Christian, about J. R. R. Tolkien is his avoidance of ideal types of good in Middle Earth. Evil, yes—Sauron—but not good, the ideals of which, like Elbereth, are beyond its borders. I hate hagiography because what is normally assigned to that category is full of idealism—exaltative lies about its objects—so there is little in it to which our needy souls can attach. The Bible contains none of it, where even the greatest of the saints, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, Mary, Peter, and Paul, for example, are presented with sins and flaws alongside their exemplary faith.

Only Christ is immaculate, but the Evangelists, as I have noted, have given us a portrait of the Lord that makes it easy to regard him as imperfect, and more than imperfect, if we will—insensitive, vindictive, racist, sexist, a scofflaw and disrespectful son, for example, so that accepting him as the spotless Lamb of God can only be done as an act of faith, based in either religious imagination or the mystery of communion with the Person himself. Only the second gives rise to true faith.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

32.4—July/August 2019

Image- Bearers for God

Does Biblical Language for Man Matter? by Stephen F. Noll

22.7—September/October 2009

Science Fictions

on a Random Quantum Fluctuation by Marilyn Prever

33.2—March/April 2020

Christ Chapel at Hillsdale

An Architectural Sign of Mere Christianity by Michael Ward

00