3 defining traits of Lewis & Tolkien’s small group of “Inklings”

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We’re in a four-week series exploring how God’s Word shaped the work of C.S. Lewis—the author of Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other beloved works. One of the most obvious ways the Word shaped Lewis’s work is found in today’s passage: For most of his life post-salvation, Lewis was in intentional community with other Christians.

During the 1930s and 40s, Lewis met on a near-weekly basis with a group called the Inklings, which was marked by three distinct characteristics.

First, the core members of the Inklings were all serious Christians, including Lewis, Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams, and Lord of the Rings creator, J.R.R. Tolkien. Notes from their meetings make clear that their gatherings enabled each other to renew their minds with the truths of God’s Word.

Second, the Inklings were also all writers. They didn’t just love the Lord; they loved literature as well, which enabled them to not only encourage each other spiritually but also vocationally.

Finally, many of the Inklings were marked by genuine humility and lived out Paul’s command to “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). 

Take Tolkien and Lewis as case-in-point. While these men were great friends, they were also great rivals. And yet Lewis was the chief cheerleader of Tolkien’s work. As Tolkien said of Lewis, “He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought [The Lord of the Rings] to a conclusion.”

Knowing that The Lord of the Rings would compete directly with The Chronicles of Narnia, that must have required a great deal of humility on Lewis’s part. But this, Lewis said, is “The real test of being in the presence of God…that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object.”

If you want to work with increased levels of excellence and obedience to God’s Word, having your own group of Inklings is critical. If you’re in a group like this—maybe in your local church—praise God! If you’re not, find one. Because, in the words of Jen Wilkin, “The Christian faith holds no room for individualism.”


50% Complete

Join 100,000+ Christians who receive my weekly devotional every Monday morning!