What does Ecclesiology mean? It’s certainly not a word people hear often. Well, I’m here to tell you it means the study of churches. But even that definition is vague, to truly understand what ecclesiology means we must first dive into the meaning of the word church. Now, you may be telling yourself “oh i know what a church is,” but there’s much more to it than just a building where people go to worship. Church signifies a variety of things such as a community, a place for people to confess their sins, and a safe haven for those who have nowhere else to go. We will investigate more in depth of what church symbolizes while at the same time connecting it to The Hobbit to see if there are any relations to be explored. A community is having a sense of fellowship with the surrounding people.
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Everyone within a community has a goal, and therefore, it is up to the people to achieve that goal. For a Christian church community, they read a psalm every day, and spread love and joy around to be closer to God etc, but what’s important is the fact that they do it together. When someone strays from the group or is in error, it’s up to the community to correct him. In The Hobbit, Bilbo and the company of dwarves symbolize their own community in a way, once Bilbo signed the contract to be the fourteenth member he has been accepted into the group, and in their brotherhood they always look out for each other. When Bilbo escapes the spiders in chapter 8, his first thought is to go and find his friends who could be in danger. Everyone is always looking out for one another and the moment someone decides to do something for his benefit or only listens to his ideas, he is then straying away from the community. Within the church it is everyone’s duty to listen to one another, especially during confession of sin. If the church symbolizes a community and there is no one who listens or cares to listen to the confession then we aren’t doing our jobs within the community. We have no right to judge each other for one sins, and therefore, it’s important to understand the idea of listening to them and helping correct them. For example, when Bilbo is telling the story of how he escaped the goblins and Gollum, he never mentions the ring because he may believe that the dwarves may think less of him if he had a ring of power to aid him in his escape. Or he didn’t want to say how he basically sinned in a way by cheating the sacred game of riddles. But in chapter 8 Bilbo finally lets them in on the ring and told them the true story of how he acquired it.
This could be seen as a confession in some way, but the main idea here is that the dwarves listened and didn’t think less of Bilbo that he used the ring or had some luck involved with his escape and were kind of amazed with Bilbo. They main point is they didn’t judge him for his actions. Singing can play a big part within a community, it brings people together, makes everyone feel more secure and safe, and when people sing it tends to spread joy around or lift spirits. In The Hobbit more than once the dwarves would sing together, and normally it would be during a feast or if the dwarves were in a safe place. The first part being Bilbo’s home, before they all began their adventure. They sang about the dangerous journey to come and even though the particular song wasn’t a joyful song because it was about the dragon taking their home, it still brought the dwarves together in a sense, and reminded them of their one common goal, which of course was to take back the mountain. Another example being the time when the dwarves were taken in by Beorn’s hospitality. They were given food and they sang and ate once again about the journey ahead of them. In this case, the song described the dark and shadowy forest of Mirkwood and the evil creatures that lurk there, which the dwarves couldn’t have possibly known because they have never been there. So this song could symbolize foreshadowing of what’s to come.
It wasn’t only the dwarves that connected together through the songs, but also the goblins and elves. Now, the goblins of course are evil creatures but if we look past their evilness its still plain as day to see that the goblins were singing to boost their morale and united in way against the dwarves, although they wish only malice upon the dwarves they still shared a common goal, even though it wasn’t a good intention. The elves also sang back when the dwarves arrive in Rivendell. They sang and they feasted. In chapter 8 it was a great autumn feast for the elves and they sang songs all night long.
The point is singing is a way for people to understand each other and create harmony as we have seen in The Hobbit so far. Dwarves, elves, goblins, good and bad, they all did something in common which was sing. Now that we mentioned a few key aspects of what a church is, we can now ask ourselves the same question once again on what is ecclesiology? Ecclesiology and the study of churches revolves more around the idea of a united community that share common beliefs. A church is not just a building, really it’s the people that form the church. The idea of listening to one another, singing, worshiping, and helping each other are all deeper interpretations of the church. Through these ideas we have developed a more clear definition of what Ecclesiology really means, and to help back this reasoning up, we have linked ecclesiology and the church with The Hobbit to help us better recognize connections and themes between the two.
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