Friday, December 11, 2015

CS Lewis: The Spy

Here's Christianity Today's article on C.S. Lewis as British Intelligence Operative

If you don't want to read through the whole article, here is the summary:

C.S. Lewis during World War 2 was asked by some anonymous agent in MI6 to assist in the war effort against Nazi Germany. Lewis had a reputation as a stirring public speaker and lecturer at Oxford. Lewis proceeded to record a message for Iceland, arguing for a shared kindred spirit between the English and the island-dwelling Norse. He argued that they must stand together, as allies, against the Nazis. This was crucial. With Denmark and Norway already fallen, it was not unlikely Iceland would follow suit. If this happened, this island would be a potential staging ground for Nazi invasion of both the British Isles, but also westward towards Canada. However, if friendly to England, it would act as an air-base to launch seeker missions against Nazi submarines attacking England's merchant fleet.

Now, honestly, this is a cool story. This is one reason why I study history, it's stranger than any fiction. Who would have thought that an Oxford don/popular Christian apologist was actually apart of an intelligence service.

However, this is what disturbs me. Lewis never mentioned this anywhere else. The author of the article stumbled into this truth by buying what he thought was a hoax on Ebay. In fact, the message that he delivers, about the importance of Nordic culture among the English, was never a serious topic Lewis ever spoke about. He dedicated no books, lectures, or public recordings to it. So how can he speak of it leaving an irremovable impression on him?

Yes, we can say it was World War 2, the good war. We can say it was for king and country, honor and duty, kith and kin. Dulce et Decorum Est.

I love a good spy story. But that is not the same thing as trusting or listening to a spy. Spies are liars, tricks, spinsters, deceivers, and manipulators. And yet the great radio personality, the man who defended Christianity on the air-waves was an active pawn in the great geo-political battle over the fate of Europe.

Now I understand that the times were serious. Britain had a real threat of invasion. The Nazis were ideological and ruthless. I am not equivocating here, between England and the Reich. But while the Nazi part channeled the spirit of Satan, the Nazis were misguided and lost souls. They were Human too, bearing the image of God, despite the atrocities of many. And England was not guiltless. The Dresden bombing campaign, of laying hellfire down upon a civilian center, is an Allies brutality that most conveniently forget. There was mass killings on both sides. This is the nature of Total War, the modern military doctrine.

So as I read the article, my heart dropped a bit. If C.S. Lewis can stretch the truth and employ it for country, what else did he do? What was the point of his apologetics? Yes, the Truth remains despite the deeds of men. But, it ought to give one pause. Is all the 'Mere Christianity' a load of bullshit, a unifying force around Western culture to resist the Soviet bloc? The Soviets used Peace, the People, Equality and the West used God, Freedom, Democracy. These were all ideological props. How can I trust a single word from Lewis' mouth?

This kind of thing can be dizzying. It's like the recent spate of Bond movies or the film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. At the end of the day, what does any of it matter? It's all kind of a Nietzschean farce, a will to Power. It's who gets to run out the clock the longest. It's sheer nihilism dressed up in poetic and epic excitement.

I get the impression that the author of the article is proud of Lewis. It's fitting, he is the Chair of Chuck Colson at some no-name university. In the spirit of Colson, he would be proud that C.S. Lewis invested in real power, put his talking to some real use. For me, it is sick.

If Christianity is a load of symbols, a Western project for protecting the globe ala. Niebuhr, then I want no part of it. I'd rather just move on to something else; the 21st century US already seems to be doing that. But if Christianity is true, then I hope Lewis repented.

There are two kinds of Christianity: the one of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the apostles, and the other of the empire-builders. The latter is the Christianity of the Grand Inquisitor. A Christianity that, out of supposed love of man, hates God and must keep man bound. It's the Christianity of the imperial Roman Popes, it's the Christianity of Corporate backers, it's the Christianity of the Niebuhrs, Colsons, Richelieus. It is a Christianity of calculated pragmatism, not obedient fidelity. It's a Christianity who promotes Christ as a 'Beautiful Soul', and uses this to plan, build, and conquer. It doesn't matter if it is eloquent preaching, this Christianity has utilized a Schliermacher and a Billy Graham, whether willingly or not, I do not know.

God have mercy on the soul of C.S. Lewis. May God have mercy on us all.


  1. Wow. That Christianity today piece was weird. I thought of two things on reading it and your post

    - Maybe Lewis didn't mention his MI6 service because latter in life he realized it was an embarrassment? I certainly don't want to get defensive for defensive's sake because there's not much evidence to support why he didn't mention his service. But, it's convenient if we could believe something like this. For my own sake I don't want to believe Lewis was an unrepentant propaganda mouthpiece

    - Lewis was certainly capable of detecting his present day deceptions. Latter in life he called Evolution "The Great Myth" Of course if he was capable of writing on the academic communities greatest myth then why didn't he write on the British involvement in WW2?

    1. -Lewis wrote "A Grief Observed" when he put tears in his ink, so to speak. This is (or seems to be) a radically honest grappling with death, God's Goodness, grief, and healing. If he was so willing to write this, where one sees him call into question all the smooth edges he put on his apologetics, why not about MI6? The obvious answer is that they told him not to. I don't blame a man for not wanting to be roughed up for something seemingly inconsequential. But for me, it's either a failure of nerve, or Lewis really bought into the British/Anglo imperial mission.

      I don't want to say he was a hack or a "mere" pawn. But Lewis has an unassailable stature, and the reality is maybe it was more complicated.

      The reality is that most Evangelicals (besides others) expect a kind of triumphalist kind of Christianity. That Christianity represents the brightest, strongest, cleverest.

      But as Paul makes clear: God's Wisdom is considered foolish by the World, and God's Strength is considered weakness. Christ trampled death by death, but non-Christians see a moving tragedy at best.

      We love CS Lewis for all the clever arguments he brought to the table, and no doubt that Christ has used Lewis' works. But is that the full measure?

      -As I alluded to above, Lewis was not an unbeliever in England. Unlike Tolkien, Lewis doesn't seem to have been scarred so deeply by the Great War. So perhaps he saw warring against Hitler as something to be proud of.