"Christians And The Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 3, No. 7:  February 15, 2002.



The latest revision of this issue of "CATI" can be accessed
online at http://traver.org/cati/archives/cati70.htm.  The
Web page edition makes it especially easy to visit the links.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  See
the end of this issue for more information on "CATI."


"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."  Thus begins
the novel The Hobbit, and the hobbit involved is an unlikely
hero, Bilbo Baggins.  As in Wagner, so here the story has to
do with a special ring, and the story is one that is enjoyed
(make that much-loved!) by children and adults alike.

More challenging reading is The Lord of the Rings, a trilogy
which - like the earlier work - also has to do with a special
ring and a hobbit.  This hobbit's name is Frodo, and he makes
as unlikely a hero as Bilbo.  The trilogy (sometimes simply
called "LotR") is an epic work, made up of The Fellowship of
the Ring (recently made into an award-winning film, with more
films to come in the series), The Two Towers, and The Return
of the King.  Like the novel The Hobbit, the trilogy "LotR"
has been enjoyed (and is much-loved) by many.

What is a hobbit?  Here's how hobbits are described in the
book The Hobbit:

"They are (or were) a little people about half our height, and
smaller than the bearded dwarves.  Hobbits have no beards.
There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary
everyday sort....  They are inclined to be fat in the stomach;
they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear
no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and
thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is
curly), have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces,
and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which
they have twice a day when they can get it)."
  --The Hobbit, page 2.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the
Rings, was a member of an informal British literary group
at Oxford known as The Inklings.  The Inklings included a
number of Christian writers - including C.S. Lewis, Dorothy
Sayers, and Charles Williams - who read to one another from
their respective "works in progress."

For each of these four authors, we'll be taking a look at
their accomplishments as well as at related resources on
the Web.  Perhaps at the outset it should be noted that to
describe them as Christian writers means that they thought
of themselves as such and that Christians today can benefit
from their writings, provided that those writings are read
with appropriate understanding and discernment as to the
extent to which the influence of historic Christianity
was determinative.

In other words, you may benefit most from what they wrote
if you recognize that they may not always had a perfect
understanding of the Christian faith, even if they had the
main outlines properly in place.  What they wrote was not
infallible or inerrant, like the Word of God.  Rather, they
wrote as imperfect human beings, so we have a responsibility
to determine to the best of our own abilities when they were
fully on target and when not.

Tolkien, Lewis, Sayers, and Williams were not Presbyterians,
nor would they agree with all of the tenets of evangelical
Protestantism.  Lewis, Sayers, and Williams were Anglican
(or even Anglo-Catholic), while Tolkien was Roman Catholic.
Furthermore, each of these four authors had his or her own
eccentricities (or, upon occasion, even unorthodoxies?), even
though they held to the fundamental Christian doctrines (e.g.,
God is Triune, Christ was God incarnate and died for sinners,
and so on).

But is there anything specifically Christian about The Lord of
the Rings?  This question has provoked significant debate.  We
don't have room to go into the matter in full depth here, but
let me say that I personally have found helpful the discussion
of this issue by Clyde S. Kilby, who served for many years as
Chairman of the English Department at Wheaton College and who
personally spent a summer with J.R.R. Tolkien.

First, here's what Dr. Kilby had to say in an essay entitled
"Mythic and Christian Elements in Tolkien," published in
John Warwick Montgomery, ed., Myth, Allegory, and Gospel
(Bethany, 1974):

"...I wish...to show The Lord of the Rings has not simply a
religious but also a clearly Christian meaning.  I am aware
that such intentions are at once up against the stone wall of
Professor Tolkien's denial that the story has any direct or
allegorical implications." (page 124)

How does Dr. Kilby respond to that challenge?  He makes
several points:

"First, Professor Tolkien was himself a devout Christian.
My summer's experience with him convinced me both of his
wide Biblical interest and his deep convictions about sin
and salvation through Christ.  Once he showed me an
unpublished paper by a British professor the idea of which
was that The Lord of the Rings is misunderstood by critics
because they failed to see that it is based on the manner
of Christ's redemption of the world.  To this Tolkien said,
'Much of this is true enough--except, of course, the general
impression given that I had any such "schema" in my conscious
mind before or after writing.'  It was against this ticketed
didacticism that Tolkien found it necessary to make his
disclaimer." (page 141)

That is, Tolkien did not deny that Christian elements were
there in The Lord of the Rings.  What he denied was that they
were put there consciously, as if he were writing not a work
of art, but an evangelistic tract.  (C.S. Lewis has made
similar statements about his own Narnia Chronicles.)  Kilby
continues his argument:

"When I raised the question of motive, Professor Tolkien said
simply, 'I am a Christian and of course what I write will be
from that essential viewpoint.'...  Many of Tolkien's remarks
on the story suggest that, behind the scene at least, there is
a solid theistic world." (page 140)

Dr. Kilby goes on to make a second point:

"...one concerned with the possible Christian implications of
the story will turn inevitably to Tolkien's famous essay on
Faerie [i.e., fairy tales and fantasy] and particularly the
last part of it in which he discusses the eucatastrophe and
evangelium.  'The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of
Man's history.  The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the
story of the Incarnation....'  The joyful eucatastrophe of
men's stories in its minor way echoes that of the greatest
story of all, the Descent of God to redeem men.  Thus any
story falling into the classification of Faerie [i.e., fairy
tale or fantasy], as defined by Tolkien, will be happily
freighted with the highest 'significato' and redolent of
heaven and eternal joy even if it never once mentions the name
of Christ." (pages 140-41)

Let's see if I can explain that a bit.  A catastrophe is an
unhappy event, but a eucatastrophe is a catastrophic happy
event related to God's intended purpose to redeem men through
Christ.  Both Tolkien and Lewis use "myth" not in the sense
of something untrue, but in the sense of "powerful story."
The distinctive thing about the Christian story (e.g., about
a dying and rising God) is that it's true!  It actually took
place in history.  And the joy that comes at the end of The
Lord of the Rings when good triumphs over evil (even though
The Lord of the Rings is fictional, not factual) points to
the Joy the Christian knows as a reality as he looks to the
final triumph of God in history.  (I'm reminded here of C.S.
Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy.)

In short, The Lord of the Rings is a "fairy tale," but God's
work of redemption in history is no fairy tale, but reality.
Yet the joy of the fairy tale can point to the true Joy of
the reality (just as the Old Testament types in their way also
point to Christ).

A second place where Dr. Kilby has some helpful comments on
the subject is in the chapter "Tolkien as Christian Writer" in
his book "Tolkien & The Silmarillion" (Harold Shaw, 1976):

"Responding to a letter from Father Robert Murray suggesting
Tolkien's story impressed him as entirely about grace, Tolkien
wrote:  '...The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally
religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first but
consciously in the revision....'" (page 56)

Kilby also summarizes some arguments he had presented in the
earlier essay and makes it clear that he is in good company in
seeing The Lord of the Rings to be Christian writing (i.e.,
writing that reflects its having arisen out of specifically
Christian convictions):

"I have elsewhere discussed some of the Christian implications
of The Lord of the Rings--such as descriptions of paradisal
peace and splendor, the contrast between darkness and light,
the sense of the ongoing of evil, Frodo's calling and
dedication, the place of the human will in goodness, Christ
images, the apocalyptic ending and what Tolkien calls the
Eucatastrophe and Evangelium--and shall not repeat them here.
But there does seem abundant evidence for W.H. Auden's
statement that the 'unstated presuppositions' of The Lord of
the Rings are Christian, also Edmund Fuller's conviction that,
'A theology contains the narrative rather than being contained
by it. Grace is at work abundantly in the story' and all the
way 'a thread of prophecy is being fulfilled'; also W.D.
Norwood's remark in his interpretation of Tolkien's aesthetic
theory that this writer 'sees in the story of Christ a record
of absolute reality incarnate in history.'  Various other
interpreters...express similar opinions." (pages 58-59)

Since Tolkien is Roman Catholic, we ought not to be surprised
if we also see evidence of that perhaps as well (and here we
go back to Kilby's earlier essay):

"...[Tolkien] speaks...of Elbereth as 'a "divine" or "angelic"
person' and admits that elves and men and hobbits 'invoke' her
aid in time of trouble and that elves sing hymns to her, and
then adds...the highly significant remark, "These and other
references to religion in The Lord of the Rings are frequently
overlooked.'" (page 142)

This devotion to Elbereth seems to parallel Tolkien's own
devotion (as a devout Roman Catholic) to the Virgin Mary,
and on this point evangelical Protestants would disagree
(unlike Roman Catholics, they would see it inappropriate
to invoke the aid of Mary or sing hymns to her, since the
Bible teaches in 1 Timothy 2:5 that "there is one God and
one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.").

You can, of course, enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the
Rings, regardless of whether you see Christian elements in
the trilogy.  Tolkien's intention was that the story would
be interesting in itself (without direct references to
Christianity or Christian allegory), and there is widespread
evidence that he was successful in accomplishing that goal.

Another approach to Tolkien's work is to note that in a sense
he has accomplished the godlike task of creating a world, a
world populated with various creatures.  In the beginning God
created, and He created man in His likeness, which means that
one result is that man can also be creative (not ex nihilo
like God, of course, but in a derivative way).  When even
fallen man displays such creativity, that can point us to the
creativity of the perfect Creator.  (Tolkien himself saw man's
creativity as coming from God.)  Middle-earth is an amazing
piece of handiwork, but we see even greater handiwork from the
God who made the universe (and who in fact made J.R.R. Tolkien,
even as God is the creator of all mankind).

J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon (the language
in which Beowulf was written) and of English language and
literature at the University of Oxford.  He actually began
writing the trilogy while he was an undergraduate at Oxford,
and while he was working on The Lord of the Rings, he also
wrote The Hobbit, which serves as an excellent introduction to
the trilogy (and is a great book in itself).  You may or may
not wish to work your way through "LotR," but I think there
are very few people who would not enjoy reading The Hobbit.

Incidentally, the story of The Hobbit can entertain in other
formats as well.  My wife and I recently attended an excellent
dramatic production put on at (and by) Phil-Mont Christian
Academy, the same school our son John attended for high school
(where he also was involved in drama).  The PMCA productions
are as good as those of many college theatre groups (and that
is still true, even after my son graduated <grin>).

So now you know perhaps more than you wanted to know about
J.R.R. Tolkien!  (We'll look at other Inklings members - C.S.
Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Charles Williams - in future
issues, Lord willing.)  Let's finish up this week's article
with a list of some Web sites relating to The Inklings in
general and to J.R.R. Tolkien in particular:

(By the way, the Web is always changing.  Although all of
these links should work, don't be surprised if you find some
"broken links" at some of these sites.)


The Inklings Webring


Google Directory: Inklings


The Mythopoeic Society
"A non-profit international literary and educational
organization for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of
fantasy and mythic literature, especially the works of
J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams."


The Lord of the Rings Webring (105 sites)

Fantasy & Tolkien Ring (24 sites)

Middle-Earth Web Ring (19 sites)

Hobbits of the Shire (10 sites)


Abiator's Hobbit
Great site for teachers and kids ages 8 to 13! "Features...
art, chapter summaries, miscellaneous facts, quizzes, author
info, a pick-a-path Hobbit adventure, and more"

The Barrow-Downs
This site may be "The most complete Middle-earth site on the
Internet. Encyclopedia, Forum, Chat, Fan Fiction, Reader Art,
Articles, and all kinds of fun things including a Hobbit Name

The Cave of Lost Scrolls: A Tolkien Website Directory

Circle of Rings: A J.R.R. Tolkien / Lord of the Rings Resource
    Center - Info - News - Links

The Encyclopedia of Arda

The Hobbit Hole

The HoBBiT Site

Imladris: Lord of the Rings Movie News

The Last Homely House

Lord of the Rings: Welcome to Middle-Earth
"One of the largest Tolkien sites on the internet. Plenty of
information, downloads, some of the best links to other sites.
Lots of graphics."

Lord of the Rings Fanatics Site
"...a very extensive collection of original Tolkien, Lord of
the Rings, the Hobbit and Middle-earth related information,
background, research and products. Our main features are 5
Guided Tours with Bilbo Baggins, a 111-Question-Quest-Quiz,
the Lord of the Rings Timelines, Art Galleries and a lot of
information, background, research and essays. All our content
is available in a Flash and HTML version...."

Lord of the Rings: Movie News Site


"Includes an ever-expanding archive of Middle-Earth info, as
well as Movie info, original MP3's, Wavs, Games, Art, Humour,
and much, much more."

One Ring: The Complete Guide to Tolkien Online
This site may be "The most complete and up-to-date resource
for Tolkien information anywhere on the net."


"The UK's largest leading resource for J.R.R. Tolkien related
information and daily Lord of the Rings movie news."

There and Back Again

Tolkien in Oxford

The Tolkien Network

Tolkien Online: The One Ring

The Tolkien Society

The Tolkien Trail
"The Tolkien Trail is an exciting J.R.R. Tolkien site in which
you get a guided tour of Middle-earth from Gandalf. Includes
info, fun Java games, fan fiction, MP3s, original artwork,...
more! Constantly updated."

The Web-Book: An Online Tolkien-Encyclopedia



Did you know that you have a choice in what Web browser to use
when you surf the Web?  That's true, and most of the choices
are free.  Since that's the case, you may want to consider
whether the Web browser you're currently using is the best one
for you or whether there is a better Web browser (at least for
certain activities).

If your ISP uses proprietary software, you may need to use
that software in order to log on to the Internet, but once you
are connected to the Internet, you can minimize the default
browser - such as that supplied by AOL, for example - and then
run your own favorite Web browser to surf the Web.

Most people know of Microsoft Internet Explorer and perhaps of
Netscape Communicator, but there are other choices available.
Two of my favorites are Opera and OffByOne.  Here is where you
will find their home pages:



I may say more about Opera at a later time, but for now I'd
like to focus on OffByOne, which is not a "Christian" Web
browser (nor are the others, for that matter) but is a Web
browser with some characteristics that a Christian may well

I think I first discovered OffByOne through the October 18,
2001 issue of Fred Langa's LangaList newsletter.  He tells
about OffByOne in an item entitled "Free, Ultra-Small, Low-
Impact Browser."  In that item, he mentions the following:

"Because it's small and doesn't try to do everything, it's
also very parsimonious in its use of system resources: On a
test system here, the OffByOne browser consumed only about
3% of system resources in use, versus 13% for Navigator and
6% for IE. Nice!"

If you're using a desktop or laptop computer that may be a
few years old, you may appreciate finding a Web browser that
will not make great demands on your system but rather is very
conservative in its use of resources.

Sometimes less is more.  One of OffByOne's benefits is its
speed, as Al Fasoldt headlines in his October 24, 2001 review
of OffByOne, "'Off by One' Browser is a Windows speed champ":

"Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the ubiquitous browser for
Windows PCs. It's common not because it's so good but because
it's part of the Microsoft Windows monopoly. Internet Explorer
is a fine browser in most ways. Ask a dozen experts to tell
you the biggest advantage of Internet Explorer and they'll
tell you the best thing about IE is that it's fast. Nothing
comes close. But that's not true any more. There's a new Web
browser for Windows that makes Internet Explorer seem like
Internet Molasses. The new browser, called "OffByOne" (no, I
don't know what the name means either), is available free...."

Sometimes "less is more," because there can be benefits from
the features OffByOne lacks;

"OffByOne doesn't have all the features most people want in
a browser, so don't expect it to be a full replacement for
Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. But the lack of
features could be a big advantage. Most of the dangers of
Internet Explorer come from the extras Microsoft built into
it, such as Visual Basic scripting and JavaScript. They're
... missing in OffByOne. Likewise, what I consider the single
biggest annoyance in modern technological life, the pop-up
browser window, can't even get the time of day from this
new browser. Since it doesn't know Java from beans, OffByOne
can't let Web sites stick extra windows in your face. They
just can't get through."

In short, Web sites can't do mischief with your computer (even
to create an annoying pop-up ad) because of OffByOne's lack of
support of Java, Javascript, etc.

You'll have to decide whether you think the trade-off is worth
it, but before you decide, it needs to be said that in spite
of some weaknesses (although you may consider them strengths,
since they enable you to avoid mischievous code and annoying
pop-ups), OffByOne has some definite strengths (some of which
cannot be found elsewhere).

Here as listed on the OffByOne Web site are "Reasons To Use
The Off By One Browser":

"You want an independent online/offline Web browser that
loads and runs quickly and reliably on all Windows systems
[Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP].
You need a secure browser that protects your identity when
browsing and leaves no track of where you've been.
You prefer to browse the Web without pop-up, pop-over and
pop-under advertising windows.
You need to distribute a lightweight, consistent browser that
behaves identically on all Windows platforms.
You need a browser that can run directly from a floppy, CD,
ZIP etc. without installation."

I challenge you to find another Web browser that can match
those specifications.  In addition, note the following
"Off By One Browser Features":

"Implements full HTML 3.2 support plus many HTML 4.0
extensions, including Frames.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support provided by optional
OpenSSL libraries for secure navigation to https://
Extras include image animation, WAV and AVI playback and
the ability to automatically launch external applications
for file types that are not supported internally.
Packaged in one self-contained 1.1MB application. Can be
compressed down to about 400KB for distribution.
Completely self-contained, does not require the presence
of any other browser.
Does not require any installation; browser can be run
directly from a CD or over a network.
Has a unique Find-In-Files feature that can search the
non-tag text of multiple HTML files.
Has a unique image zoom option [between 50% and 400%;
text can also be enlarged or reduced]."

Did you note that you can carry a ready-to-run OffByOne Web
browser around with you on a plain, ordinary 1.44 meg 3 1/2"
floppy disk?  No installation is necessary.  It may be hard
to believe, but it's true!

There are other features that OffByOne has that haven't yet
been mentioned.  For example, it has a "Cookie Viewer" so that
you can check out (and perhaps remove) cookies left by Web
pages you may have visited.  (Or you can set up OffByOne so
that it accepts no cookies.)  In addition to your being able
to access the normal Favorites list, OffByOne lets you have an
OffByOne mini-Hotlist.  You can customize the font and many
other characteristics or operations of the program.

Pop-ads are annoying.  They are especially annoying when your
child may be visiting an innocent site and a not-so-innocent
pop-ad appears.  OffByOne is one way to avoid those pop-up
ads.  (Another way is free software called WebWasher, which
we may say more about in a future issue.)  Christians who
believe that "adult" sites are not appropriate for the family
are naturally irritated when adult-oriented pop-up ads (which
may be R-rated, even if not X-rated) show up uninvited, but
OffByOne is one possible solution to that problem.

And remember that you don't have to confine yourself to just
one Web browser.  You can use whichever one is best adapted
for the particular task you are doing at the time.  Yes, there
are some things that OffByOne cannot do, but there are also
some things it can do (and do very well indeed) that few other
browsers (if any) can do.

OffByOne has a few imperfections.  For example, there is no
direct way to edit the URL of the current Web page.  But there
is a work-around:  Right-click on the page, choose "Copy page
URL," do a Ctrl-W to display the input box for a new Web page,
do a Ctrl-V to paste in the currently displayed page, and you
are then free to edit as desired.

At any rate, why not give OffByOne a try?  Here, again, is the
location of their Web page:


If you prefer clean, tightly-coded software to overgrown,
bloated software, you may want to check out this site:


A "tiny app" (i.e., small application) is one that can fit on a
floppy disk, perform a useful task, perform under all versions
of Windows from Windows 95 on, and be inexpensive or free.

Some of my favorite "tiny apps" available on this site are
metapad and TreePad, which you may want to check out.  The first
is a Notepad replacement, while the second is an information
organizer.  (Most of the software on the tinyapps.org site,
however, is rather specialized, whereas almost anyone may be
able to benefit from metapad and TreePad.)


Like to know what this is?  This is the seventieth issue of
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Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2002 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.