from strength to strength

C.S. Lewis. The Christian spaceman who put theology into outer space and planetary adventure…

The third novel in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy series , That Hideous Strength, is a buyoant satire on the overweening pretensions of technology and the social sciences. Lewis had already gibed at the latter in The Screwtape Letters, in which the elder devil counsels the junior tempter:

Above all, do not attempt to use science ( I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology.

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In That Hideous Strength the forces of evil operate behind the front of a vast sociological institute with much money and political power: the N.I.C.E. ( National Institute of Coordinated Experiments). Aspects of the N.I.C.E. are highly funny, but the picture grows grim as it reveals the intention, meaning, and motivation behind the boast that “this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state”:

It does really look as if we now had the power to dig ourselves in as a species… to take control of our own destiny. If Science is really given a free hand; it can now take over the human race and re-condition it: make man a really efficient animal.

Jan Van Eyck. Read More:

It pictures an attempt at the dehumanization of man fully as deadly as those imagined by Huxley and Orwell. This plan aims at “Man Immortal and Man Ubiquitous… Man on the throne of the universe. ” This vision, of course, is madness. The dream of man as supreme in Creation, with the ruthless totalitarianism that accompanies it, is inspired by the corrupt Oyarsa ( angel) of Earth and his cohorts of banished angels. These are not known in their true nature to the men of N.I.C.E., who would consider angels, good or bad, to be vulgar superstitions.

But against this dreadful threat of enslavement by a dehumanizing tyranny, a counterforce is poised of a kind imagined by neither Huxley or Orwell in their famous novels of dark prophecy. The human protagonists guided by the hero, Ransom, who is now identified as the Pendragon, the successor to King Arthur, in a mystical and not political sense, invoke the strength of the Logres, the ancient Christian realm in the heart of England. Arthur’s great magician, Merlin, is awakened from the magic sleep into which, in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, he had been cast. The great Oyeresu of the first two books in the trilogy lend their power

hrough the voluntary vehicle of Merlin, so that the mighty coup prepared by the forces of the corrupted Oyarsa of Earth is thwarted.


On this topic, the extensive space Hitchens gives to C.S. Lewis, the Oxford/Cambridge professor and Christian apologist, is quite helpful. On page 119 he quotes Lewis’ famous “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” argument, the core of which I will reproduce here:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

This is the key dilemma (actually trilemma) which I believe Hitchens is wrestling with, and which Harris and Dawkins are not. Read More:

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