Shortly before Lewis died, a guy named John Wain wrote about the Inklings. He saw the Inklings as “a fairly uniform group with common ideas, theories, moods, created worlds, approaches, patterns and sources.”
In his book, Wain claims that group members shared on single outlook. He writes, “The group had a corporate mind”, a mind both “powerful” and “clearly defined.” And its nature? “Politically conservative, not to say reactionary; in religion, Anglo- or Roman Catholic; in art frankly hotle to any manifestation of the ‘modern’ spirit”. Wain takes the matter a step futher and claims that the group’s strong focus was not only radical but quite intentional. He describes the Inklings as “a circle of instigators, almost of incendiaries, meeting to urge one another on in the task of redirecting the whole current of contemporary art and life.”
Wow. All kinds of Christian leaders would be thrilled to have someone describe them as such. See Brant Hansen’s recent comments on the Catalyst conference.
On the other hand…
Lewis read [Wain’s comments] and he was outraged. He published a rebuttal..seeking to set the record straight. Lewis states in no uncertain terms, “The whole picture of myself as one forming a cabinet, or cell, or coven, is erroneous. Mr. Wain has mistaken purely personal relationships for alliances.
The claim that the Inklings gathered together under the banner of some “incendiary” purpose cannot be substantiated.”
Right. I think Lewis is right. They didn’t see themselves as being “impact your world” cultural architects, “planet shakers”, or whatever else. They were just passionate about certain kinds of literature and worked really hard. It happens that their views on many things were highly Christian while still being remarkably creative.
I gotta say though, 60-70 years in hindsight, I think Wain’s comments can NOT be written off. Lewis’s theology is incredibly influential throughout the western world now. Tolkien wrote THE novel of the 20th century and it spits in the face of modernism like nothing else could. If they were overtly TRYING to change the world with Christian ideas, they couldn’t have possibly done a better job. In fact, maybe if they were “trying to change the world” they would have written crap instead. That’s more likely.
Perhaps, just maybe, the greatest work you can do for God is some sort of trade or seemingly “secular” discipline. The Inklings were not men of the cloth, but name a man of the cloth who left such a mark? Do not despair in your endeavor.
Along these lines (I think), read Michael Spencer’s recent biographical post that ties into this.