“He who has Christ has all he needs and needs no more.” — Jonathan Edwards
ONCE UPON A TIME there were four Inklings: learned men of letters who, despite their professions of faith, sought after a secret alchemy to transform the ancient stones of paganism into spiritual bread. For although they called themselves Christians, they did not wish to feed upon the perfect sustenance of God’s word alone through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Seeking to be wise, they became foolish, and exchanged the pure light of God for the mystical shadows of old, dead myths. They had forgotten that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!
Long ago, centuries before the time of the Inklings, great men of God foresaw this kind of folly. They knew that some, even after tasting the goodness of the word of God, would return like dogs to their vomit (2 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 6:5). The Apostle Paul warned that some would depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). And he pleaded with them to not be taken captive by philosophy and empty deception, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).
Sadly, it appears, the four Inklings did not heed these prophetic warnings. They did not listen to the instruction of the Apostle Peter to “not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance” (1 Peter 1:13). Instead, these bright but misguided men, captivated by their old spiritual cravings, turned back to their precious myths and fairy tales from “once upon a time.” And in doing so, they routinely exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator.
Indeed, like Paul once asked the Galatians, we too might pose this heartfelt question: “O foolish Inklings, who has bewitched you?!”
The Four Inklings And Their Fascination With The Occult
The Inklings, as most people are aware, was the name of the informal literary society at the University of Oxford during its heyday in the 1930s and 40s, and was the first think-tank for the promotion of mythology and philosophy in the Church. Its four most celebrated members are now considered some of history’s most brilliant Christian thinkers: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. These were the like-minded men of literature who sought to merge pagan and ancient wisdom with the so-called “true myth” of Christ. Not surprisingly, their intellectual efforts as “sub-Creators” working alongside God fell short of the Biblical standard, and they were mired in a misguided devotion to primordial traditions, a low view of Scripture, and a dangerous pursuit of so-called “higher” knowledge.
What many Christians may not realize is how much these Inklings were influenced by the specter of Occultism and the esoteric philosophers who “stray after the devil” to learn of the “deep things of Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15; Revelation 2:24). Much too often, it can be shown, these four men left the simplicity of the Gospel to dance around the pagan fires of the “curious arts” (Acts 19:19) and the supposed secrets of the invisible world.
Oxford Professor and one-time Inkling Adam Fox, who knew all of these men, spoke of this sad fact in a 1975 interview. “They all had a tendency to the occult in some way,” he acknowledged. Indeed Gareth Knight, an authority on occult subjects, noted that the Inklings’ written works were steeped in the “vision and power of the ancient wisdom,” and believed that their orthodoxy as Christians was “debatable.”
What, then, are we to do with this troubling information? Surely the Inklings’ popular status in Christendom today needs to be reevaluated to recognize the fact that these men acted more like Christian romantics drawn to strange, otherworldly “enlightenment” than trustworthy bearers of God’s truth as found in Scripture. Perhaps, upon further inspection, we may even wonder if they sometimes cast their lot with “savage wolves who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30-31). At the very least, theirs is a cautionary tale of the kind of professors who succumb to the lure of vain imaginations and suffered shipwreck with regard to their Christian witness, if not their very faith.
In light of these legitimate concerns, it is the sole purpose of this article to provide a brief synopsis of the “spiritual lust” of these four Inklings so that the Christian reader can rightly “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and decide whether or not the Church should “mark them as those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). We begin with Inkling numerus unus…
C. S. Lewis
As the most outspoken advocate of the Inklings’ mythopoeic philosophy, C. S. Lewis is probably the most influential member of this famous group. Today, Lewis is highly esteemed in most Christian circles for his eloquence of words, having charmed many believers to emulate his romantic brand of Christianity. On the surface, the theological musings in his writings are earnest and articulate, but sadly he often questioned or dismissed important tenets of Biblical Christianity.
Of note is his denial of the inerrancy of Scripture, where Lewis believed the account of Creation was mostly derived from pagan myth. He also saw “contemptible” brutality in some of the Psalms, suggesting that the “sufferer in Psalm 22” was not originally a prophetic reference to Jesus (Reflections on the Psalms). If some of the Psalms were so contemptible, one might ask, then why did Jesus quote from this book more than any other?
Lewis also went out of his way to deduce an “embarrassing” error in Jesus’ end-time prophecy (The World’s Last Night). So the perfect Lamb of God made a mistake out of ignorance? With this brash attitude, Lewis not only exhibited a level of disrespect for the reliability and authority of the Bible, but contradicted Jesus’ own testimony on the matter of God’s “unbroken” word (John 10:35). Sadly, such intellectual musings and critiques of the Bible were foundational to Lewis’ concept of “mere” Christianity.
In a 2011 article, in fact, Pastor Kevin DeYoung pointed out that Lewis’ Mere Christianity rejected the orthodox doctrine of penal substitution and promoted the false teaching of inclusivism, which is the idea that conscious faith in Jesus Christ is unnecessary for salvation. Because of this, DeYoung brought this crushing indictment: “…C.S. Lewis was not an evangelical” (Cautions for Mere Christianity, Kevin DeYoung).
This defective understanding of the Bible by Lewis may have been largely due to his interest in pagan mythology as a more palatable source of spiritual study. In his criticism of the imprecatory Psalms, for instance, Lewis stated, “One’s first impression is that the Jews were much more vindictive and vitriolic than the Pagans” (Reflections on the Psalms). With a baffling statement like this, it seems obvious that his abiding fondness for paganism clouded his perception of God’s inspired word. And this is probably the very reason why Lewis once speculated that it would NOT be “very wrong” to pray to Apollo for his wife’s healing because he would have been “addressing Christ,” in the creative form of the Greek god, “sub specie Apollinis” (C.S. Lewis: A Biography by Roger Lancelyn).
Even back in 1934, Lewis was already compromised by his partiality to paganism with he confessed in a letter to his friend, Bede Griffiths, that pantheism (the pagan belief that God consists of everyone and everything) was true in some sense. “It is only since I have become a Christian,” he wrote, “that I have learned really to value the elements of truth in Paganism and Idealism. I wished to value them in the old days; now I really do. Don’t suppose that I ever thought myself that certain elements of pantheism were incompatible with Christianity or with Catholicism.”
Of more bone-chilling concern, however, was Lewis’ behind-the-scenes attraction to the Occult and how that may have influenced the content of his essays and his fantasy fiction. In his book Surprised By Joy, Lewis publicly confessed to having a lifelong, on-and-off struggle with a “desire for the preternatural” and a “passion for the Occult,” which he labeled a “spiritual lust.” One must wonder how much this inner compulsion may have wormed its way into his outward theology, whether Lewis was consciously aware of it or not. Sadly, according to Gareth Knight, Lewis’ creative writings are strewn with elements that are in direct accord with the esoteric doctrines taught by occultists H.P. Blavatsky, Alice A. Bailey, and Rudolf Steiner.
Specifically, Knight notes several occult ideas and themes running through Lewis’ science fiction “Ransom” trilogy: Out Of The Silent Planet, Voyage To Venus, and That Hideous Strength. In fact, the major story arc of the trilogy’s protagonist, Ransom, is clearly reminiscent of the journey of an initiate going through the rites of a mystery religion. “Indeed,” writes Knight, “a deliberate comparison is made of Ransom’s journey with the type of meditational discipline that brought about the cosmological visions of Rudolf Steiner” (the Austrian mystic and self-proclaimed clairvoyant who founded the esoteric religion known as Anthroposophy).
Knight identifies many parts of Lewis’ narrative, especially in the second book, as “a spiritual instruction, a preparation for the working out of a cosmic destiny that is a pattern for the highest aspirations that are to be found in the esoteric traditions of East and West.” And in the last book of the trilogy, Knight observes that Ransom is now seen “in no other guise than that of a high-grade initiate, an adept, a Master of the Wisdom…”
Upon seeing the rich tapestry of occult beliefs woven throughout these three books, Knight was left to wonder, “How much did conversations with (occultists and fellow Inklings) Owen Barfield or with Charles Williams contribute to all this?” He goes on to say with amazement, “This is quite incredible stuff coming from Lewis, who affected to know little of magical lore, for much of this has been held as secret tradition little revealed outside the various esoteric and mystical fraternities who revered it.” He concludes with this speculation, “The immediate source may well be Charles Williams who had closely associated with A. E. Waite (the American mystic who promoted and engaged in occult divination, Hermeticism, Esotericism, and Rosicrucianism).”
By all appearances, it seems, Lewis was affected by his “spiritual lust” more than he may have even realized. Even in his Narnia series written for impressionable children, Lewis evokes a number of dark strands of paganism and occult tradition in his narrative. There is magic and witchcraft, pagan gods of wine and fertility wildly dancing with Aslan and half-clothed schoolgirls, and other “images that are broadly recognized in many occult circles today,” says Knight. Thus, he concluded, in Lewis’ mind there is “no irreconcilable difference between Christian and pagan.”
Of course, the bigger issue in all this is whether these facts about Lewis’ occult predisposition will lead to better discernment when it comes to assessing the merit of his works for the Church. As Christians, we are called to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
For more information on this matter, see the article, C. S. Lewis Thrilled: Paganism On The Move.
J. R. R. Tolkien
A staunch Roman Catholic traditionalist (which has its own unbiblical baggage), J. R. R. Tolkien expressed caution toward occult practices, and yet without reservations he equipped his literary characters with the pagan powers that God has strictly forbidden in Scripture. He also littered his Lord of the Ring stories with occult imagery that is broadly recognized and celebrated in Gnostic and neo-pagan circles today.
Joscelyn Godwin, a leading esoteric scholar, is just one of many modern-day Gnostics who have found much commonality with Tolkien, and who views his works as “manifestos of the Aquarian Age,” replete with “traditional wisdom and esoteric lore.” Writes Godwin, “The cosmic and world view set forth in Tolkien’s fiction accords remarkably with the Primordial Tradition, and through its great popularity the souls of millions of readers have been instilled with certain universal truths” (Tolkien and the Primordial Tradition).
Godwin specifically points out that the four stages of Creation in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion line up well with esoteric cosmogony: “Do we not find here the four degrees of Archetypal, Intellectual, Imaginal, and Physical existence; or, equally, the Four Worlds of the Kabbala: the Atziluthic World, in which dwell the archetypes or the aspects of Deity; the Briatic World of the Archangels and their ‘musical’ emanations; the Yetziratic World of their ‘visionary’ creations; the Assiatic World of physical formation?” (Ibid).
Furthermore, Godwin notes that “Tolkien accords to Man a unique position and a relationship with death that seem to find their closest echo in Buddhism” (Ibid). This informed conclusion is not surprising when one considers Tolkien’s personal thoughts on reincarnation, a main tenet of Buddhism. In a letter to Peter Hastings in 1954, Tolkien defended the idea of reincarnation as a real “possibility” (emphasized in italics):
“Reincarnation” may be bad theology (that surely, rather than metaphysics) as applied to Humanity; and my legendarium, especially the “Downfall of Númenor” which lies immediately behind The Lord of the Rings, is based on my view: that Men are essentially mortal and must not try to become “immortal” in the flesh. But I do not see how even in the Primary World any theologian or philosopher, unless very much better informed about the relation of spirit and body than I believe anyone to be, could deny the possibility of re-incarnation as a mode of existence, prescribed for certain kinds of rational incarnate creatures.
This kind of deep, academic musing, of course, is woefully unbiblical, and yet it speaks to the flawed reasoning of Tolkien who sought after “higher” truth, not in Scripture, but in the narratives of ancient mythology, romantic poetry, and other historical literature. His driving theory on the “sub-creation” of “Secondary Worlds” to produce a “Secondary Belief” was at the heart of it all. Myth and fantasy, to Tolkien, was a “human right” for writers to act as “sub-Creators” to reflect or re-imagine more profound “truth” through the magical stories of fairies and elves, and other such mythical creatures. (Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories). As Tolkien states in one of his lectures, “The story-maker’s success depends on his ability to make a consistent Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’, it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside.”
Such advocacy of “total immersion” into a Secondary World, of course, has no biblical endorsement whatsoever. Creating Secondary Worlds to produce Secondary Belief is a fool’s errand that eventually clashes with the real world and Biblical truth. The danger to the reader is obvious: such fanciful stories will immerse them in an alluring world outside God’s reality, skillfully present error as an element of God’s truth, and lead to an affinity with (or acceptance of) mystical avenues of spiritual understanding found outside of God’s revealed word. It is, on many points, actual mysticism in practice.
Clearly, his fellow Inkling, Owen Barfield had some influence upon Tolkien in this matter of myth as higher truth. Tolkien, as a professional philologist, was already trying to emulate the ancient wisdom of Norse mythology by using strange, archaic language and concepts in his narratives, but he didn’t immediately realize the mystical power found in those kind of words. After exposure to Barfield and his book Poetic Diction, Tolkien came to embrace, at least generally, the idea that language reveals the “evolution of consciousness.” This is the philosophical concept in Anthroposophy which promotes the idea that mythic words can connect us to preexisting, primal archetypal knowledge which gives us access to an external, non-material, higher “Reality.”
According to Jay Weidner and Sharron Rose, “…Tolkien came to understand that it was very likely that, once upon a time, what we today would consider strange and magical forms of sentient beings, did exist in our world. Elves, Dwarves, Wizards and possibly even Hobbits, or creatures very much like them, appeared to be embedded in the languages that he studied” (Tolkien at the End of Time; and Alchemical Secrets of The Lord of the Rings).
Of course, it does not help that Tolkien had his own personal experience with an esoteric concept that he shared with Theosophists and other occultists at the time. He admitted to having haunting memories of Atlantis, the fabled lost continent first mentioned by Plato, that came to him in recurrent dreams. “This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming out of the quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green inlands…. It always ends by surrender, and I awake gasping out of deep water.” Tolkien considered it a possible regressed ancestral memory. “Possibly inherited,” he wrote, “though my parents died too young for me to know such things about them, and too young to transfer such things by words.”
Similar to his view of Atlantis, Tolkien also seemed to believe that his fictional stories of an Elvish people in Middle-earth may have been based on historical truth that he channeled through his educated imagination. He made frequent veiled assertions that his myths were not invented, but “recorded” by him as some sort of revealed ancient truth, perhaps even divinely-inspired. No wonder, then, that some Neo-pagans today use Tolkien’s works as religious texts to guide them in their belief and practice (The Spiritual Tolkien Milieu: A Study of Fiction-based Religion, Markus Altena Davidsen, 2014).
According to Markus Davidsen, it is not happenstance that Tolkien’s writings are used as religious texts by pagans. On the contrary, he writes, Tolkien’s books share a number of features with conventional religious texts that promote their transformation from fiction to religion. “These features, which I call religious affordances, include (a) an elaborate cosmology and theology (in The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth), (b) a frame narrative connecting a narrative world to our own (in The Lord of the Rings), and (c) Tolkien’s personal experience of being inspired during the writing process (in his letters)” (The Spiritual Milieu Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Literary Mythology). Davidsen then says further:
“…Hippies adopted the Shire life of the Hobbits as a social model, and demonstrate how Neo‐Pagans were moved by Tolkien’s enchanted world and considered The Lord of the Rings to contain metaphorical references to metaphysical realities… Indeed, for some readers it was The Lord of the Rings that first made them wonder about the possible reality of otherworlds and magic, this being their first step towards becoming Pagans.” – The Spiritual Tolkien Milieu: A Study of Fiction-based Religion
“…Many Tolkien religionists are Neo‐Pagans and naturally draw on Wiccan circle casting to create Tolkienesque rituals directed at the Elves and the Valar. Besides Neo‐Paganism, Tolkien religionists draw on the Western magic tradition, theosophy, and Christianity, in roughly that order of importance.” – Ibid
Indeed, rather than leading his readers to Christ, Tolkien has led a great number of lost souls to become more entrenched in their pagan belief systems through the medium of his occult-infused narratives. Perhaps the most obvious and egregious promotion of the occult by Tolkien is found smack dab in the middle of his stories for all to see and find instruction. For the sake of brevity, here is a concise summary of some of the forbidden magic featured in Tolkien’s works, including necromancy, divination, and magic spells sometimes performed by his heroes:
In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (or The Hobbit) universe, there are magic doors (the door of Durin); magic towers (Orthanc, which the Ents could not destroy because of magic); magic staffs (Gandalf’s staff could produce magic light); magic rings (i.e. “the one ring”); a “magic mirror” (Galadriel’s Mirror or magic pool); magic seeing-stones (the palantír of Orthanc, akin to a crystal ball); the “ghosts of dead men” (the Dead Men of Dunharrow); shape-shifting creatures (Beorn from The Hobbit); spells (Gandalf uses spells to conjure fire, produce light, break the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, etc.); and wizards (Gandalf, Saruman, and others) — From Lord of the Rings Wiki, 2014.
So herein lies the problem. Tolkien either forgot that these practices are forbidden by God or could not have cared less. Either way, as a professing Christian, he failed to honor the Lord who commanded in Deuteronomy 18:10-12: “There shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord…”
For more information on Tolkien’s works being frequently used by Neo-pagans and other occult-based spiritualists for their religious practices, please see the article, The Sad Truth of Tolkien Spirituality.
Charles Williams and Owen Barfield
The two lesser-known Inklings, Williams and Barfield, were nonetheless influential in their open promotion of the Occult, not only among the other Inklings, but among sympathetic Christians at large. Because of their unapologetic ties to esoteric and Gnostic beliefs and their public pursuit of said practices, there is very little reason to go into a more detailed analysis like the ones given above for Lewis and Tolkien. Nevertheless, the highlights in the summaries of these two men are enough to show their unquestioned allegiance to the Occult, despite their Christian professions. A quick look at the facts also prove that Lewis and Tolkien not only tolerated their beliefs, but were fascinated by them and thus influenced by them.
Charles Williams, a British poet and author, was supposedly a “committed Anglican,” but he openly pursued a relationship with the Occult, seeking to merge his black metaphysical beliefs with his Christian faith. According to Sørina Higgins, he was “a member of A. E. Waite’s occult secret society, the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, for ten formative years.” Specifically,” she writes, “he rose high in the ranks, leading initiates in practicing alchemy, astrology, Cabalism, conjuration, divination with tarot cards, and meditation on the Sephirotic Tree.” Tarot reading was a particular favorite of his to “unlock enormous metaphysical powers by allowing the possessors to see across space and time, create matter, and raise powerful natural storms.” These practices would find continued application in his novels and other writings for the rest of his life.
According to Higgins, Williams’ signature “Christian” doctrine was “Co-inherence,” which is the idea that Christ’s risen life inhabits believers so that they share the divine interrelationship of the Trinity in the flesh. “He was fascinated by the mystical body of Christ: he believed that sex is an act of co-inherence and that every romance corresponds to Jesus’ earthly life.”
Despite these ongoing heretical views, Williams remained a close friend of Lewis and Tolkien (though lesser so) until his sudden death in 1945. Lewis, in fact, called Williams his “dearest friend” and revealed his level of devotion in a personal letter to Williams. Wrote Lewis: “I begin to suspect that we are living in the ‘age of Williams’, and our friendship with you will be our only passport to fame.” This is quite the endorsement considering Williams’ strong occult beliefs and practices.
It should be noted here that one of the minor Inklings had more sense than Lewis to openly denounce the heresy in Williams’ mysticism. Charles Wrenn, at one Inklings meeting “almost seriously expressed a strong wish to burn Williams, or at least maintained that conversation with Williams enabled him to understand how inquisitors had felt it right to burn people…” (letter of C.S. Lewis to his brother, Nov. 1939). Obviously, heretic-burning isn’t endorsed here, but certainly if Williams’ heresy was well-known to the Inklings, then one must question why Lewis and Tolkien refused to openly separate themselves from it, as frequently demanded in Scripture.
Owen Barfield, known as the “first and last Inkling,” became a member of the Church of England in 1946, but still held to much of the occult beliefs in Anthroposophy, founded by the esoteric mystic Rudolf Steiner. This school of thought is based on the premise that the human intellect has the ability to contact spiritual worlds. Steiner regarded human beings as having originally participated in the spiritual processes of the world through a dream-like consciousness that he believed could be recovered through the faculties of knowledge.
Even after his professed Anglican conversion, Barfield continued to believe in Steiner’s “evolution of consciousness,” along with reincarnation, and he later wrote several books promoting Anthroposophy. In his book, Unancestral Voices, one of Barfield’s characters, a “spirit guide” called the Meggid, speaks about the necessity of a man’s spiritual growth through “repeated earth-lives” and the evolution of the mind.
As mentioned earlier, Tolkien was quite enamored with Barfield’s teaching on poetic language as a spiritual conduit to revealing the hidden but true history of the ancient world, like Atlantis, or even the possible existence of Middle-earth in the primordial world. Lewis also consider himself to be a student of Barfield. In fact, Lewis dedicated his book, The Allegory of Love to Barfield, calling him the “wisest and best of my unofficial teachers.” Again, one might ask, why these endorsements with zero consideration of the biblical doctrines of correction, admonishment and separation? (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Titus 3:10).
So what are we to make of all this? For those believers who insist on celebrating the writings of the Inklings as a rich tapestry of Christian allegory and symbolism that advances their faith, some sobering facts need to be seriously considered. The sad truth is, that the Inklings, despite their Christian professions, allowed their deep fascination with pagan mythology and esoteric traditions to seep into their thinking and corrupt the spiritual content of their writings. Because of this, they are now more commonly known for their fantasy creatures and mystical worlds than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As writer Elizabeth Hand described their public personas, “One is left with the impression that within each of those hearty, laughing, church-going writers, there beats a pagan heart.”
Of course, some Christian fans, like English scholar Louis Markos, take issue with the view that the Inklings were, as Elizabeth Hand may have implied, “closet Pagans.” He maintains that such a critical assessment is “too quick to set up an artificial dichotomy between Christianity and paganism, suggesting that the real heart of the Inklings’ imagination lay with pre-Christian England and not with an orthodox faith rooted in the Nicene Creed.” To be sure, Markos is correct in pointing out that the intended target of the Inklings’ creative endeavors is on the so-called “true myth” of Christ, and not on paganism, but he misses the bigger issue. If, as he says, the Inklings’ focus was on an orthodox faith, then why did they keep returning to the pre-Christian elements of paganism to convey the truth of Christ instead of the purity of God’s word where paganism is always denounced as spiritual poison?
What are we to make of such spiritually irresponsible behavior by these Inklings? What are we to make of Lewis’ statement that we should first “make the younger generation good pagans and afterwards let us make them Christians” (C.S. Lewis letter from Yours, Jack; p. 219)? Where did he get such an outrageous and ridiculous idea? Not one Old Testament prophet or New Testament apostle ever promoted or suggested such an absurd thing. In fact, quite the opposite.
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites first entered the promised land, they were told by God to destroy the pagan idols and “high places” of Canaanite worship that they came across (Numbers 33:52). In fact, they were not even allowed to “reclaim” those elevated Canaanite sites for their own worship of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 12:2-3). To do so would be like yoking together believers with unbelievers. As Paul rightly asked, “What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial or what part has he that believes with an infidel?” Where, then, did Lewis ever get the arrogant notion that they could more properly understand or worship Christ through the “high places” of pagan mythology?
Likewise, Tolkien was completely bereft of Biblical support when he claimed that “only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.” How spiritually dangerous was his thinking when he stated, “We have come from God, and inevitably, the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God” (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography)?
Why again should Christians look for God’s truth in “splintered fragments of light” that contain error? Was Tolkien completely unaware of Paul’s inspired warning concerning false apostles and deceitful workers that masquerade as apostles of Christ? “And no wonder,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Why, then, would Tolkien dare to insist that flawed human mythology can be trusted to be a servant of righteousness and a “fragmented” angel of light when the Bible teaches us there is no such thing? On the contrary, the eternal truth of God is found in the pure revelation of His Scriptures.
John MacArthur in The Cost of Compromise perfectly frames this tragic issue and Biblically puts it to rest: “From the very beginning, the enemies of truth launched an effort to infiltrate and confuse the people of God by mangling the truth and by blending lies with Christian doctrine… That was the case in the Corinthian church, where false teachers brought with them a quasi-Christian syncretism of gospel truth, Jewish legalism, and pagan mysticism. They were eager to blend the people of God with the pagan worshipers, and the truth of Scripture with the lies of Satan.”
Here is an undeniable fact: Neo-Pagans, Gnostics and other occult-based religionists greatly enjoy the Inklings’ works, but they are not turning to Biblical Christianity for further theological understanding or spiritual instruction. Instead, they are extracting detailed pagan teachings and practices out of the Inklings’ writings that support and bolster their own alternative religions. If, as Christian fans of Lewis and Tolkein maintain, the main focus of the Inklings’ written works is primarily to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then where are the flood of converts coming out of the ranks of Gnosticism, Theosophism, and Neo-paganism who read the Inklings’ works? You won’t find any record of these type of converts, but you will find Pew Research Center surveys in the last few years that prove a rapid decline in Christianity and a shocking increase in New Age spirituality among the American population, especially among the young.
In light of these facts, it is hard not to conclude that the Inklings have damaged their Christian witness to the world. The Bible, if they had focused on it, would have given them precise direction in what to do with their spiritual lust for the Occult. The new believers at Ephesus, who were likewise addicted to the magical arts, showed the Inklings the proper way to proceed, as recorded in Acts 19:18-20: “Many who had believed now came forward, confessing and disclosing their deeds. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books and burned them in front of everyone. When the value of the books was calculated, it came to fifty thousand drachmas. So the word of the Lord powerfully continued to spread and prevail…”
To this point, Matthew Henry wrote:
“Surely if the word of God prevailed among us, many lewd, infidel, and wicked books would be burned by their possessors. Will not these Ephesian converts rise up in judgment against professors, who traffic in such works for the sake of gain, or allow themselves to possess them? If we desire to be in earnest in the great work of salvation, every pursuit and enjoyment must be given up which hinders the effect of the gospel upon the mind, or loosens its hold upon the heart.”
If you are currently a devoted admirer of Lewis, Tolkien, or the Inklings, you certainly are not alone. There are many prominent Christians today who feel that their writings have brought value to their personal faith and to the Church at large. Because of this fact, the analysis and criticism of the Inklings’ dark fascination with the Occult is not meant to promote the burning of their books, or to pronounce final judgment upon their salvation or the salvation of their fans. The object of this article is to highlight the strong evidence which should preclude thoughtful Christians from using their works as a safe, reliable tool for witnessing or as a trustworthy source for Biblical doctrine.
For the sake of the Gospel and the preeminence of Jesus Christ, the books of the four Inklings should be immediately shelved by the Church, lest we become yoked with evil, or even the appearance of such. Continue to read them for personal use if you must (and at your own spiritual risk), but please prayerfully consider the Bible’s clear condemnation of the ungodly philosophies that drove much of the Inklings’ theological narratives and ultimately undermined their Christian witness. Why bring added spiritual confusion to a fallen world already mired in the satanic lies of pagan and esoteric thought?