C.S. Lewis’ “Secret Society”

C.S. Lewis once referred to the Church as “a sort of secret society to undermine the devil.” Instead of exploding onto the scene of a lost, dying and sinful world, he saw the people of God rather emerging somewhat stealthily, subtly and surprisingly amidst a failing culture. Amidst a World War 2 ravaged world, Lewis questioned why the work of God did not land as did the Allies on the Beaches of Normandy:

“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force: we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely.” (Mere Christianity, p. 64)

Lewis cited the “invasion” of God’s judgment on the world as a demonstration of his graces on those yet to be saved. But he did not waiver in his assertion that the world is rapidly rushing towards judgment in a type of sudden shock and awe. “God will invade,” Lewis asserts.

“I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.” (MC, p. 65)

The subtlety of God’s “secret society”, as Lewis calls it, should not weaken our notions of the force of the Day of the Lord and the judgment of God. The coming revelation of God and his glory on the earth and the emergence from the current experience Lewis referred to as “Shadowland” will strike joy in some and at the same time “terror” in others. Lewis says,

“God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered into your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it wills strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.” (MC, p. 65)

Currently the church in America, and in other areas, is awash with a growing fascination with the emergence of the Kingdom of God and the role of Christians today as Restorers. I resonate with this image and concept and find it a helpful one for engaging the lives of people Jesus would see as “helpless and harassed, like sheep without a Shepherd” (Matt. 16:24). Yet, we stray away from a true Biblical honesty if we fail to pronounce both “the kindness and the severity of God” (Romans 11:22) in our preaching and teaching of the Good News. Lewis would affirm that Grace points to our salvation, but Wrath reminds us what we are to be saved from. What he says next sounds as fervent as any altar call or appeal I have ever heard:

“It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”