The ‘Romantic’ Theology of the Inklings
“A romantic theologian does not mean one who is romantic about theology, but one who is theological about romance, one who considers the theological implications of those experiences which are called romantic.”
—C. S. Lewis in Essays Presented to Charles Williams
Romantic Theology is a term coined by Charles Williams and carried out by C.S. Lewis and “our little literary club” known as the Oxford Inklings. In their shared love of Greek and Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, Celtic sagas, and romantic poetry, they produced an enduring treasure of theological fantasies and spiritual writings reflecting the romantic spirit in theology.
Through the portal of what Lewis called the “baptized imagination” Romantic Theology was born. The Inklings, through their writings, have inspired generations of Christians and people of goodwill to read and write with the “feeling intellect” of the heart, and not just analyze and
abstract propositional truths with the discursive reasoning of the mind.
Michael J Christensen PhD
Professor of Theology & Spiritual Formation
As a literary scholar and orthodox Christian, C. S. Lewis felt that “if the real theologians were doing their job” there would be no need for lay theologians like him. Lewis and his fellow Inklings championed the creative integration of Logos and Mythos (Reason and Story) to produce compelling works of theological fiction. JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, and others, joined Lewis in employing mythopoetics–the language of myth, metaphor, poetry, and narrative–to point to religious experience and theological truths in
The Inklings met regularly in Oxford pubs and University rooms to read aloud to each other their works in progress in the 1930-50s. Williams referred to this chivalrous and fantastical enterprise as the “theology of romantic love” and tried to express its main elements in his posthumously published Outlines of Romantic Theology. Owen Barfield’s autobiographical attempt to capture the romantic vision of the Inklings is published as Romanticism Comes of Age. For the most part, the Inklings were content to perform romantic theology without the need to over-define the term.
This doctoral course of study offers Inklings-lovers and life-long learners a systematic way to read the creative works of the whimsical Inklings and to contribute to the field of Romantic Theology. The process involves meeting with your Faculty Mentor to develop a bibliography and reading schedule for “Oxford-style” guided learning, individual & group discussions with visiting faculty and viewing guest lectures and resources.
The program concentration entails, notably, seven elements:
Literature review of all published works of the Oxford Inklings (Lewis, Tolkien, Barfield, and Williams)
Completion of six tutorial courses on the distinctive contributions of the Inklings to Romantic Theology
Four topic essays per course on figures and themes in Romantic Theology
A physical or virtual pilgrimage to Oxford
Portfolio research on the selected topic
A doctoral treatise of 80 pages
An oral defense before a faculty committee
The Oxford Pilgrimage to visit historic Inklings sites and to do portfolio research in Oxford
University libraries are an additional expense. With diligence and sustained effort, one can expect
to complete this doctorate within 2-3 years.
Romantic Theology - Michael J Christensen, PhD
C.S. Lewis on Scripture, Literature and Theology
J.R.R. Tolkien on Truth in Story and Myth
Charles Williams on Theology of Romantic Love
Owen Barfield on Creative Imagination and Consciousness
Honorary Inklings: Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton,George MacDonald, Warren Lewis, Joy Davidman, et.al.
Oxford Pilgrimage & Research
Portfolio Research & Treatise
Center Director: Michael J. Christensen (M.A., Yale, Ph.D., Drew)
Dr. Charlie Starr, D.A. (English Literature)
Terry Glaspey, M.A. (History)
Dr. Crystal Hurd, Ed.D.
Owen A. Barfield
Malcolm Guite, Ph.D.
Brenton Dickieson, Ph.D.
Michael Ward, Ph.D.
Sørina Higgins , Ph.D. Candidate
Louis Markos, Ph.D.
Diane Pavlac Glyer, Ph.D.