Beowulf and the Sovereignty of God

For long ages past - longer than I've been around - people have been arguing about whether or not God is completely sovereign, or if Man has a say in the whirling of the spheres. I don't know about the whirling of the spheres; I'm not sure I want to be responsible for how those massive structures chart their dance. In brief, I must say that my view is thus: that God, being God, must by his very nature be totally, utterly, and completely sovereign, and that Man, in some way, must be responsible and be held accountable for his actions: i.e., he must have a self-functioning will. Both are necessary. How they work together, God alone knows; but that is not the point of this musing.

The point is Beowulf. More generally, the old, old writers, but I will stick with Beowulf. Now, I am sure that Beowulf's original tale was not so clean and God-fearing as it has come down to us today. I am sure Christians got a hold of it and tidied it up. But I like the tidiness, and I'm not going to argue. What I like about Beowulf is the lack of arguing. As the writer narrates, whoever the writer may be, several times there crops up remarks on God's firm, unfailing, foundational sovereignty. Most vivid in my memory is a passage concerning the dragon's tower:
All this ancient hoard, huge and golden, was wound about with a spell: no man could enter the tower, open hidden doors, unless the Lord of Victories, He who watches over men, Almighty God Himself, was moved to let him enter, and him alone.
A beautiful and poignant image. Not a footstep was allowed inside that tower unless God had so ordained it, and then in his own self-sufficient pleasure. It is a message rarely heard today, a message I find refreshing. Beowulf, in a free-will-of-man sort of way, pronounces his own ability to vanquish the dragon; yet not long after he also acknowledges that his fate, the fate of the dragon, and the fate his kingdom all rest under the dominating will of the Almighty God. While ancient almost to the point of being culturally incoherent to us, Beowulf's message is as true today as it was then: and possibly more urgent. How many of us, with so much required of us, find ourselves facing our dragons, not knowing the outcome, only knowing that somehow we have to win, even if we go down winning, remember that all rests finished and good in the hand of God? How many of us can find solace in that? Knowing that all is finished, we can take comfort in Beowulf's own assurance as we, like him, go out conquering and to conquer.

1 ripostes

  1. Very good! I've been having to trust in a alot lately. Or least it seems a lot to me. Voting in the primaries, was one such thing. All I could think about was what Galadriel said to Frodo, even one person can change the course of history.." I was so nervous, but I Prayed, voted and had/have to leave it in God's hands. It's tough.

    ReplyDelete