The Lewis/Tolkien Syndrome.

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C.S. Lewis and J.R. R. Tolkien were both scholars of the highest order, each teaching English Language and Literature at the prestigious Oxford University (Lewis later taught at Cambridge).

Lewis and Tolkien were also Christian, sharing fellowship with a group of writers they called the “Inklings.” Lewis “Mere Christianity” was first shared as a radio broadcast on the BBC during WWII, making him the second most recognizable voice in all of England, explaining the basics of Christianity to a so-called Christian nation.

Mysteriously, though they died 40 years ago , Lewis and Tolkien are the force between four extremely successful film adaptations, The Lord the Rings Trilogy and the “Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” In a spiritually and intellectually superficial age it is odd that such men’s work would find such a demand.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? How do you explain the contemporary popularity of these two thoroughgoing Christian academics?

The genre doesn’t hurt. Fantasy and children’s stories will always be popular, but they are also plentiful and filmmakers did not have to reach back to Oxford dons to find them.

The secret, I think, is their creativity and craft.

Both Lewis and Tolkien understood themselves to be created in God’s image, believing therefore that humans are endowed with wondrous creativity. Their friend Dorothy Sayers once observed if all we knew about God was Genesis One, all we would know is that God is creative. Tolkien wrote a piece explaining our human role as sub-creators with God. There was a large place in their life for the imagination and playfulness. Tolkien even invented languages for LOTR.

Because they served God, believing that everything they did was for his glory, they believed their work should be done well. At the end of each day of creation God looked at what he had made and saw that it was good! So it was with Lewis and Tolkien. They were craftsman–the top of their field. Today’s audience, though weaned on sub-standard gruel, recognizes and is hungry for creative, well-crafted art that feeds mind and soul, because though it is tarnished and sometimes unrecognizable, all humans are created in the image of God and therefore possess a capacity for the spiritual, intllectual and imaginative.

The creativity and craft of Lewis and Tolkien is undeniable and has stood the test of time, something I think cannot be said by most of what Christians are writing these days.

I see in Lewis and Tolkien a call back to a deep faith that enriches culture and such faith combines the highest and best of us spiritually, intellectually and creatively.

God help us produce a next generation made of such stuff, by aspiring for it ourselves.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in January 10, 2006 by | No Comments »

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