Whence Cometh the Christian Renaissance?

Think about this: sixty years ago, the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Now this: noone today has a similar effect in the literary world.

That’s a sad reality. Of course, I’m not positing Tolkien as an evangelical believer (he was Roman Catholic), and Lewis made his share of theological mistakes. However, the writings of these two men represent the capturing of the Christian worldview by the printed word. These men, who loved and studied literature, communicated with exceptional beauty and ingenuity the richness of Christian thought. They were scholars, trained by years of dogged study to think well and write clearly. They were churchmen, shaped by their contact with the Bible and the teachings of their traditions. Though I have vast theological disagreement with Tolkien, I must say that both he and Lewis spoke far more eloquently and effectively for the Christian worldview than any other literary author since.

It is interesting to note that neither of these men arose out of fundamentalism or revivalism. Each of them arose from distinctively British versions of the Christian faith, Tolkien a Catholic, Lewis an Anglican. While American Christians focused their attentions almost solely on explicitly ministerial actions, these British authors devoted themselves to writing eloquent works of profound depth that spoke to the power of the Christian worldview. Decades later, their legacy endures. Despite its weaknesses, how many countless hearts have been won to Christianity through Lewis’s Mere Christianity? Despite its failings, how many minds have been enchanted by Tolkien’s vision of Middle Earth? Now, I ask you, where are the literary descendants of these men?

Who will follow in their footsteps? Will anyone? We desperately need pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. But perhaps we also desperately need Christian authors, scientists, and musicians. This week, we’ll look at this subject, and ponder the hope of a Christian intellectual renaissance. We’ll think about this question that I leave you with: will we Christians so focus ourselves on professional ministry that we lose sight of the fact that a layman writer like Lewis has won far more to the faith than most pastors ever will?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Whence Cometh the Christian Renaissance?

  1. BC

    Regarding 20th century literature, Owen, you left out Flannery O’Connor, who is certainly worth mentioning.

    I think that I’ve suggested this before, but M. Robinson’s _Gilead_ is excellent.

    BC

  2. Jed

    While we’re talking about British Anglo-Catholics, we might also want to consider G.K. Chesterton. Who else could write chapters titled “The Ethics of Elfland” and be taken seriously?”

  3. Anonymous

    I’m looking forward to what you have to say, Owen. These are things I’ve thought about quite a bit.

    KC

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