Wednesday, January 2, 2013

There are a group of writers whose work I have long admired. They have much in common. They are prose and poetry writers, have contributed to newspapers and magazines, have broadcast their writings. They have, many of them, been recognised as literary scholars whose works are still highly respected. They have all been practicing Christians. Much of their work has been Christian apologetic while their prose and poetry reflect Christian theology. I do not profess an indepth knowledge of all their work, but I have been reading and rereading a number of their books over many years and keep coming back to them as a personal touchstone and reference point for my own thinking and writing. And I suppose I admire them and look to their work because, in a modest way, I have been a straggler along the trails they have trod.
The writers are George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Dorothy Sayers. There are others like Charles Williams and Madeleine L'Engle, but those I mention are the ones I keep coming back to. I have been rereading, as 2012 turned into 2013, Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Wonderful mythmaking with strong Biblical parallels, though Tolkien says forcefully, in a seminal essay accompanying the edition, it is not an allegory. (That 'essay' is in fact a letter Tolkien wrote to his publisher in 1951 concerning the writing of his great stories, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.)
One writer who is not mentioned here but who I also reread often, is a former student and friend of C.S.Lewis, Harry Blamires. He too, like many of these mentioned, is a creative writer and literary scholar and writer of Christian apologetics. His books of literary criticism include studies of James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Milton.
I have been reading his works like The Christian Mind (1963), Where do we stand? (1980), and The Post-Christian Mind (1999). He writes very much in the tradition of Chesterton and Lewis, bringing orthodox Christian theology to bear on the secular world of our times. He does so with astuteness, a fine intelligence, a clear understanding of the issues, the times and the Biblical theology he espouses.
In the midst of constant bombardments of orthodox Christianity, the rise of new atheists who still raise the tired trumpet of the god science, who still shout the old well worn arguments that deny revelation and mock faith, Blamires is a clear voice of the reason of faith. In the brave not so new world of iclouds, ipads, mobile technology, moral and theological confusion, a world that is more lost than ever in its hedonism and glitter and hopelessness of political directorates, Blamires is a strong voice of faith in its rationality for those who want help to understand how to live their faith in the twittering social whirl of secularism.
Here is a taste of his writing from Where do we stand (1980) in a chapter on Idolatries: "The Christian's intellectual, moral and spiritual disciplines are his only means to stability in the morass of current irrationality, amorality, and materialism. The bases of a differentiated Christian commitment are essential footholds at a time when the flood of secularist propaganda would wash away the landmarks of supernaturally-orientated allegiance. The tide muddies even the springs of language. Our words are taken over, smeared with secularist overtones, and returned to us almost too soiled for Christian use. We have seen how this has happened with words like 'love', 'compassion', and 'forgiveness', which have been so freely exchanged as counters in marketing cheap self-indulgence and easy lust that they come back into our hands coated with the grease of a thousand grubby fingers, and are scarecely recognizable as coinage." (p 120).