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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Christian Literature And Its Worldview -- A Review of Donald Williams's newly published book "Inklings Of Reality"

Christian Literature And Its Worldview

A Review of

Donald T. Williams Inklings of Reality: Essays Toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters
                                 (Lynchburg, VA: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012)
                                 $14.99     337pp.     ISBN: 978-0615675732

Reviewed by: Forrest W. Schultz

      Donald Williams has composed the essays in this book to introduce us to the major figures in the Christian literature in Western Civilization and to the principles upon which this literature is based. And he has spiced up his book by sprinkling his evocative poems about these men and principles as interludes throughout the book. The reader should carefully read and savor and meditate upon these poems: they are not embellishments, but are helpful in grasping the subjects he covers. Another literary contribution is his clever title, which has a twofold referent: the Inklings group (friends of C. S. Lewis) and the inklings of ultimate reality (God) provided by good Christian literature. This is not surprising since Williams is a great fan of C. S. Lewis and of J. R. R. Tolkien, which is apparent from this book and from his other activities, such as the special courses he teaches at Toccoa Falls College. And, there is a poignancy in his writing of this book, which not only celebrates the great Christian writers of the past but laments that no great ones have appeared on the scene since the passing of Lewis and Tolkien. The sadness of this was noted back in the mid and late 1960s when at that time each issue of The Bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society included this lament referring to Lewis in a large rectangular box in large bold letters: "When Will We See His Likes Again?". Fifty years later Williams echoes this lament -- there have been no great Christian writers since the passing of Lewis and Tolkien. In fact there is one sad chapter titled "Why Evangelicals Can't Write", which introduces the problem, to which a great deal of thought and prayer needs to be addressed if today's shallowness is to be overcome. There is also sarcasm in this chapter refering to Evangelicals being "left behind", which, apparently is a not-so-veiled reference to the famous (or is it infamous?) Left Behind books. I would like to read what he has to say about them -- I am not sure why he omitted saying anything in this chapter -- maybe he considers them beneath comment!

     His discussion of the Christian greats of the past includes dispelling various common misunderstandings, including one which I used to have, namely that Foxe's famous book was limited to a cataloging of martyrs. Williams shows that it was far more than that: it had as its subject and purpose the providing of an encyclopedia of the Reformation in England brought about by God's mighty working in His church of that time.

     Williams not only discusses Christian principles of Letters, he also attacks anti-Christian ones, such as the influential Deconstructionist view, which he rightly dismisses as self-contradictory because if a text's meaning is not determined by the author then this would mean that a deconstructionist cannot write a book to set forth his position, a point which some deconstructionists have admitted.

     One of the best chapters was the one on the meaning of the elves in Tolkien's Middle Earth. His discussion of Tolkien's eucatastrophe principle was also good, and needs emphasis because I have known some Christians who think that happy endings are a sign of poor quality literature, and who were shocked when I quoted Tolkien on the matter! There is confusion about what good Christian literature means not only on the part of those producing mediocre works, but among those attempting to avoid doing so!!

     At the back of the book are found numerous student resources including indices, bibliographies, definition of terms, and rules of writing.

     Much more could be said but this is a review, not an essay, so I shall now conclude by recommending that it be read by anyone interested in Christian literature.


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