This will be the final post in this series, and in it we will look at Lewis’s notion of “smuggling theology.” In a letter he wrote to a friend he said, “any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it.” The Abolition of Man is a brilliant work of philosophy, robust critique of “Scientism,” and a compelling defense of universal moral law, but it is not as readily accessible to the masses. Lewis, therefore, writes these same truths into his novel That Hideous Strength. He says, “This is a ‘tall story’ about devilry, though it has behind it a serious “point” which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man.” Lewis, therefore, teaches us how to thoughtfully and creatively use our imagination in theology, not simply how to reason.
In That Hideous Strength Lewis develops the truths in The Abolition of Man in many different ways. First, he portrays the book as an epic struggle between good and evil. The N.I.C.E (The National Institute of Coordinated Experiments) is an organization that is determined to establish the reign of science. Thus, the N.I.C.E represents the “controllers,” who propagate ideas like the one in The Green Book. Their ambition is to create a new breed of humanity in which emotion disappears and objectivity is attained. Along with emotion, the N.I.C.E must also to destroy any sense of a moral norm that would inform right or wrong emotional responses. One of the characters named Frost says, “When you have obtained real objectivity you will recognize not some motives, but all motives are really animal, subjective epiphenomena. You will then have no motives and you will find that you do not need them…. So far from being impoverished you action will become much more efficient.” The N.I.C.E is attempting to create a new breed of humans who will be controlled by this innovative program.
Those running this experiment want power and control. Control and power are major themes in the book, as Lewis says in the The Abolition of Man, “The true object is to extend man’s power to the performance of all things possible.” The N.I.C.E are looking at the world through the lens of philosophical materialism. Science is their God. Everything for them is measurable, quantifiable, and should be ever progressing and developing. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, they are undertaking a “revaluation of all values,” and pursuing, “Everything that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself.” They are attempting to apply this method not to technology or nature, but humanity itself. In order to make this move, the few must decide what is best for the whole. David C. Downing says:
“In That Hideous Strength virtually all of the technocrats at N.I.C.E would qualify as people “without chests.” In their disregard for traditional moral norms, for natural beauty, for the suffering of animals and of other humans, they reduce all questions of value to matters of rationality, utility, or self-interest. They dismiss any ethical qualms about what they are doing with grandiose abstractions about the advancement of the species, or else they dismiss such qualms as meaningless biochemical events.”
In the end, everything the N.I.C.E is trying to accomplish is unraveled. One of the main characters, Merlin, puts the curse of Babel on everyone at the banquet, which causes everyone to begin speaking in different languages. This scene takes Lewis’s readers to the biblical account of the Tower of Babel, when God sovereignly intervened and thwarted humanity’s attempt to reach heaven apart from Himself. The same curse fell on those in the N.I.C.E for trying to play God. Additionally, the ones who were trying to free themselves from nature were viciously destroyed by the animals. The members of the N.I.C.E were subsequently eaten by the animas they were touring in their gross experiments. The N.I.C.E became the main course at their own banquet. What began as an attempt to be free from nature, ended in being ruled by her, “Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.”
In reality, the N.I.C.E were the ones in Lewis’s day who were driven by philosophical materialism to see progress at any cost. Yet, Lewis shows that it does have a grave cost. No idea is neutral because humans are meaning makers. You can’t be a human and not interpret the world around you. Ideas are the fruit of that interpretation.
Lewis can be a guide to us today in a postmodern and technological world where we are flooded with information and ideas. He reminds us that culture is not king, Christ is King. Indeed, the hermeneutical key to Lewis’s apologetic writings is Christ, and what he calls, praeparatione evangelica. In his many different mediums of writing, Lewis wants people to get a vision of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Himself. Behind the truth of the moral law there is a person, and in all of his writings, Lewis is leading his readers (by God’s grace) a little closer to Christ himself. In the end, Lewis is a paradigm of wisdom because most of all he is pointing to, “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3, ESV)
Here is a lecture from Kevin Vanhoozer called, “In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship,” that I highly recommend.
 David C. Downing, Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), 36.
 C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Scribner, 1974), 7.
 Ibid., 293.
 Lewis, “The Abolition of Man,” 457.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, “The AntiChrist,” In The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin, 1982), 570, 579.
 Downing, Planets in Peril, 56.
 Lewis, “The Abolition of Man,” 454.