Volume 3 Number 1 (1999:1 )
22 February 1999
The hobbits, dwarves, and elves of the Shire had known from some time that Gandalf was nearby, for some of them had seen, or thought they had seen, glimpses of him here and there. They also knew that his reasons for being away were always due to his required presence at other places in Middle Earth. The ringwraiths were still at large, after all, and their minions were ever stirring havoc in the southern reaches of Gondor. The wraiths themselves were being sent from the heart of Mordor, whose Dark Lord Sauron never ceased in his efforts to bring all of Middle Earth into his subjection. So the noble residents of the Shire were not wont to wonder whether Gandalf had reasons other than wholly legitimate for being away, whenever he was away. Moreover, they knew that when he was nearby but, as it were, in the shadows, that that too was due to his continual wariness of the Dark Lord and the extent to which the the power of the latter could reach. So it was that though Gandalf kept close tabs on the beloved denizens of the Shire, he often did so from the shadows.
But today, as they went about their workaday business from house to house and in the marketplace and, as usual, congregating daily at one time or another at the Inn to hoist a glass of beer, they were first startled, then wondering, and then finally thrilled to hear what they heard: the sound of distant hooves, a distinct sound to their ears and hearts, a sound soon confirmed in their minds as the unmistakable harbinger of
To the door they ran, just in time to see the dust of the streets seeming to run for cover from the gallop of the noble hooves of Shadowfax the fabled white steed, proudly bearing its rider into their sight. There were some among them who were too young to know for themselves whether all the legends concerning the Wizard were true (some were true, some were not), and so were not accustomed to his habit and manner, as the others were. Yet they too were exhilarated to see him, for they had heard about him in the lore of the Shire. "Gandalf!" they cried, as he dismounted and those who for eagerness were first in the doorway gave place as he now entered the Inn, his long white beard and longer white hat still somehow seeming to glisten from the noonday sun, and they gathered round. His four-year furlough was at an end.
Years earlier--yes, I think it was four or five years ago--this column was a regular part of correspondence which floated through the cyberspace of the old GEnie network CATegory 41, and what was rather famous--some would say infamous--about it was my outlandish claim that Gandalf Is Never Wrong . That claim still stands, though with a little codicil. Sometimes, in weaker moments I admit I find myself wondering if he might be wrong, but soon afterwards I discover that he was, after all, not. For those of you who are of the Bronze Age mentality (more on that later), I might even presume to say that Gandalf is infallible, for there is surely an ineffable way in which this, too, may--indeed must --be said of him and of every true preacher of the Gospel...yet only when he is Gandalf, or when they are true preachers of the Gospel. If Gandalf should fall, if he should turn to the Dark Lord--heaven forbid it--then, he would cease to be Gandalf.
But is this not true of one who preaches the Gospel? Else how could we say that we should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it? Is not preaching done by preachers? And if we, a priori , deem to hold their preaching sacred, does that not mean that we expect them to be infallible in some way? Surely, not that they are incapable of error, for that would be folly even to think, but in the sense that Christ has promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.
Ah, then we have discovered something about that famous encounter between Jesus and Peter, in which to Peter he says, "Thou art Peter, and I give to thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven." We know what Rome has done with this. Enough to make the rest of Christendom scoff at their notion that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he is infallible. But before we scoff too heartily, let us remember one of Gandalf's key truths: Every heresy lives by its grain of truth. So what is the grain of truth here? That what Jesus established here was the ministry of Peter and of every pastor after him, as the Lutheran Confessions also declare. Since this is so, then we are justified in returning to the point, and claiming that there is, there must be, a way to declare that not merely Peter, nor the Pope, but that all the preachers are infallible. Yet it is also true, and historically verifiable, that they can and do often err, since they are sinners; but when they do, they cease to preach! They cease to be Peter, but Satan, as Jesus pointed out immediately after he had given Peter the keys.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: not all preachers are preachers, even as Peter himself may not be Peter but Satan. But be of good cheer, for he was converted afterwards; as Christ had said that the gates of hell shall not prevail.
So it is that faith is requisite. I believe, then, that the Gospel shall prevail, and that therefore the preaching of the Gospel shall prevail, and so also the preachers shall prevail. Yea, Gandalf shall prevail, for Gandalf Is Never Wrong.
The Shire 1999:1
Copyright 1999 Gandalf the White.