I was reading an article the other day that complained of why current Christian writers can't rise to the level of the Tolkiens and Lewises of last century; why Christian fiction now is so dull and drab in comparison. I didn't finish the article so I can't offer a comprehensive answer as to whether I agreed with the writer's logic or not. I think my tablet crashed of there was a baby to rock to sleep or something along those lines. Or kittens. I think it might have been kittens.
So this question ("Why don't we have a new Tolkien yet?") stayed in the back of my mind and collided this morning with idle musings over the fact that Tolkien's translation of Beowulf is going to be published this spring. (incidentally, I've never read Beowulf but I think I need to now.) At first I thought, "Oh, of course. Translation of Beowulf. Tolkien. Right. Okay, what next?" and then my brain wheeled around like a dog that has just galloped past a cat and squeals to a stop on his rump.
Well that, my darlings, is the answer to your question.
J.R.R. Tolkien was fluent in or at least had a working knowledge of 35 languages, including those he invented. (But a ruddy lot of the languages he knew were real, not concocted.) Lewis was equally intelligent. Both were professors at Oxford and Lewis took a spell at Cambridge too. These were brilliant, disciplined, crazy-academic minds, not your average aspiring novelist.
When people complain about today's Christian fiction, I don't think they are entirely complaining about its preachiness. You see, an unskilled writer is always going to disappoint in putting forth their subjects. You might notice the glaring lack of tact in portraying the Gospel ("I've got to have God in here somewhere. Might as well bang 'em over the head with it."), but if you care to look deeper, you will also find a lack of tact in portraying almost anything. The general question is, "Why can't authors today portray Christianity in their writing like Lewis and Tolkien did?" but I think the underlying question is: "Why can't authors write today like Lewis and Tolkien did?" and there is an answer to that question:
We don't bother enough with our education and intellect.
I don't intend to urge you into that boorish style of living. I only propose that, did J.R.R. Tolkien stop pouring into his education at eighteen, he might never have written The Lord of the Rings or translated Beowulf or taught at Oxford or learned all his languages. I also propose that if you, dear Christian Writer, make an effort to continuously broaden the horizons of your mind, there is no limit to the things of which you might be capable. Build your mind, nurture your intellect, and write to the depths of your being. That is the secret of Tolkien, the genius of Lewis. Stop asking why we aren't them. Start paying heed to the methods and path they forged before us.