Culture At Large

Filling Lewis' shoes

Andy Rau

Gregory Wolfe at Image magazine is concerned that Christians today have put JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis on too high a pedestal. Our enthusiasm for the two literary greats, he suggests, causes us to overemphasize their merits and overlook their flaws.

That's not a terribly controversial sentiment, and not something I'm too worried about--it's natural to gloss over flaws in a writer or artist you admire, and it's not difficult to find critics of Tolkien or Lewis online if you look for them. But this quote caught my attention:

What concerns me, however, is not so much the tendency of many Christians to treat these two writers as saints, as dubious as that may be. Rather, I find worrisome the fact that for many believers today, the Inklings seem to provide the sole literary diet. As we near the half-century mark since their deaths, this clinging to Lewis and Tolkien seems less a matter of homage and more an act of quiet desperation.

I have sometimes wondered if Christians aren't a bit over-reliant on these two writers (especially Mr. Lewis) for our literary inspiration. Don't get me wrong, I like Lewis' writings as much as anyone--but I also wonder if part of the reason we continue to hold Lewis up so proudly as a Christian representative in the world of great literature is simply that there aren't a lot of other good candidates for that position. There have been many great Christians writers since Lewis, but few of them have had the precise combination of eloquence and rigorous intellect that made Lewis a sort of cross-denominational literary hero.

And so while I heartily approve of our celebration of Lewis and Tolkien as great Christian writers, I also think it's time that we looked about for the inheritors of their literary legacy--some fresh voices, you might say.

So who in our current generation is writing with the clarity and universal appeal of those two literary greats? Is our generation of Christians producing theologians, writers, and artists that are contributing, or will contribute, as much to Christian culture as Tolkien and Lewis have? Fifty years from now, what authors from our generation will Christians be reading and admiring?

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Books