I may as well start with Middle-Earth religion, cosmology and creation, and work from there. Eru is the only actual god in Middle-Earth (well… technically the planet’s Arda and the universe is Eä, but at that point it’s semantics). In addition to Eru, there are 14 Valar and numerous Maiar. There was also originally a 15th Vala, Melkor, but he turned evil and is no longer counted as one. Sound a bit familiar? While, yes, it’s stated that in Middle-Earth the Valar are commonly regarded as gods, they really are more similar to angels. Especially important to note is the fall of Melkor, which has a direct parallel to the fall of Satan.
While we’re on the topic of evil, I may as well point out a few more similarities. In Middle-Earth (as in our own world), evil cannot create. It can only destroy. For a Lord of the Rings example, consider the orcs. Melkor did not just create a new race. He only corrupted the elves until they were unrecognizable. In fact, the only major race not created entirely by Eru was the dwarves.
One last thing to note from the early ages of Middle-Earth (or again, technically Arda), is the concept of the Void and also of death. The speaker correctly notes that in the Silmarillion, death is described as a gift. While this, in itself, in contrary to Christianity, let’s look at a bigger picture. The elves, in a way, are more similar to us theologically. They’re the principal creation of Eru. They were created immortal and do experience a fall early in creation. That’s not, though, to discount the humans. In behavior, they really are similar to us. And as Tolkien himself pointed out, we don’t actually know all that much about the early history of men in Middle-Earth. The Silmarillion is about the elves, and men only show up later. For all we know, they, too, could have had a fall we never saw that brought death into their world. And as the speaker mentioned, there is no talk of any “Hell” in Lord of the Rings. Only this “Void”. Except the Void, in a way, is Hell. If Hell is the absence of God, then the Void is its analogue in Middle-Earth, being the absence of Eru.
Approaching the Third Age and the War of the Ring, the next thing to discuss is the One Ring and its owner, Sauron, the titular Lord of the Rings. (Surprise! The book’s named after the villain) Sauron is actually only Melkor’s right hand man. So in some ways, he’s actually more similar to the Antichrist than to Satan. Which in turn lends an interesting turn on the fall of Númenór and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Knowing that the One Ring represents sin, it’s interesting to see a sort of Antichrist beguile once-good men into following him, enticing them with sin. However, for the rest of this essay, it’s more useful to compare Sauron to Satan.
So Sauron’s mostly been defeated. Middle-Earth has still lost its way. So the Valar send five Maiar into Middle-Earth in the form of men to advise them. They are known as the Istari, or more commonly as wizards. Two of them, the blue wizards, head East and aren’t heard from again. The other three, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, and most notably, Gandalf the Grey, play a more active role in the War of the Ring in the west of Middle-Earth. And if you hadn’t guessed by the imagery I was trying to evoke, Gandalf is a sort of Christ-figure in the story. However, as opposed to Aslan’s near-direct analogy in Narnia, Gandalf only really plays the role of prophet in the story. Instead, Frodo fills in as priest, and Aragorn fills in as king.
Now as the speaker pointed out, there seems to be a dichotomy of good magic and bad magic in Lord of the Rings. Except the only real magic is used by Sauron and villains. All the “magic” we see any of the Istari use is actually angelic power. And elf magic is actually comparable to the Sacraments. Look, for instance, at lembas, elvish waybread. There are two notable events surrounding the elves and food. First, as the Fellowship leaves Lothlórien, they feast with the elves. Some of the language used there is actually reminiscent of the Last Supper. And much later, as Frodo and Sam are climbing Mount Doom, there’s a passage describing lembas. It doesn’t fill up up very much physically, but instead feeds your spirit and gives you the strength to go on. Words that I think are evocative of the Eucharist.
And finally, I point out the slight nod to Christianity Tolkien made in choosing dates. The day the One Ring was destroyed? March 25th.