Book Review: "That Hideous Strength: How The West Was Lost"
Updated: Mar 8, 2020
by Nicholas J Mattei
Melvin Tinker’s book addresses the idea that through the ideology of Cultural Marxism the scenario’s predicted in C.S Lewis’s book, That Hideous Strength, have come true here in the West in the 21st century. Tinker, writing from an Anglican perspective in the United Kingdom, makes a plea to evangelical Christians in the West to awaken and be alerted to the reality of where we have come as a society and how we got here. Tinker informs his readers through this book on how the culture in the West got to its current state, what methodologies and devices were used to bring about this change and what Christians should do about it going forward.
As the book begins Tinker talks about how influential media and technology is on the masses, so much so that it can shape the very concept of reality for most people, as Tinker puts it “stories and images are very powerful in portraying what we think the world is like or should be like, and today we are furnished with the means to do this both quickly and widely through modern technology” (19). This is illustrated by the example given to us in C.S Lewis’ novel, That Hideous Strength, by the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments or N.I.C.E. This group illustrates the potential that “an intellectual elite of ideologues is capable of changing the way great swathes of a population consider what is ‘common sense’, as well as being able to determine which views are permissible, which ideas are passé and, more than that, dangerous” (24). This novel and this group in the novel are referred back to many times throughout Tinker’s work.
Tinker draws many concepts from Lewis’s novel. Lewis novel, That Hideous Strength, is actually named after a poem written in the sixteenth century, which refers to the Tower of Babel as ‘that hideous strength.’ So the scriptural account of the Tower of Babel is another major concept in Tinker’s work. It is explained that the Tower of Babel is an open rebellion against God. Instead of filling the earth and subduing it, mankind decided to centralize in the plain of Shinar and not be scattered. Instead of approaching God his way they sought to make a name for themselves and bring God down to them in their own way. The rebellion is summed up in three ways in which that ‘hideous strength’ attempted to exert itself over against God. The first is communalism “the group identity and solidarity in rebellion” (42). The second is constructionism “literally in the building of a city and a tower, but also in using language to reshape reality”(42) and the third is connectivity “being in one place and having one language enables the people to connect with each other and so perpetuate their blasphemous ideas and actions even further” (43). Ultimately this is a rival cosmology to God’s.
Tinker goes on to show how in our day Cultural Marxism, a variant of naturalistic materialism, is this rival cosmology or ‘that hideous strength.’ Just as the Tower of Babel was not only a human enterprise but also truly a religious one, so too Marxism is just a corruption of the Christian faith, “having its own prophet (Marx), Bible (Das Kapital), gospel (dialectical materialism), apostles (Lenin, Trotsky) and eschatology (the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the workers ideal)” (33). Tinker basically draws to the conclusion that Cultural Marxism is truly a religious ideology and it is this ideology that is used by a cultural elite through the means of technology and media to manipulate, and control society and defy God and his boundaries and ultimately the power behind this elite is the spiritual powers and principalities of darkness and the only way for this evil to be thwarted is for the LORD God to come down and intervene for truth and righteousness, just like in the account of the Tower of Babel.
Melvin Tinker is spot on in his assessment of the situation here in the West. I found his references to C.S Lewis’ book and the account of the Tower of Babel very helpful in framing the situation before us because it keeps things in perspective when it is so easy to get caught up in the details of these secular humanistic ideologies. As Tinker went more in depth into the principles of Cultural Marxism I was reaffirmed in my understanding of it. Everything I have studied in the past he addressed. He touched on all the major players like the Frankfurt School and their attempts to change Western culture by their slow march through the institutions; those institutions being schools, media and the government. He addressed Antonio Gramsci the Italian Neo-Marxist who put forward the idea that cultural hegemonic powers in the West made up of white Christian males influenced all of society’s institutions and therefor for a revolution to happen they needed to be replaced. Herbert Marcuse and political correctness were rightly analyzed in their ultimate goal of controlling the conversation, and language in general, through linguistic censorship. Tinker also talked about Critical Theory and its foundation of tearing down power structures through and unending critique of all hierarchies in society.
Tinker did a good job in showing the connection of all these people and their ideologues to the methodology of using media and technology to influence the general populace. A prime example of this is when he brings up how the masses have been brainwashed to accept the homosexual lifestyle as normal through the propaganda techniques of Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. As others like, Dr. Voddie Baucham have pointed out they employed a three-step process of desensitization, jamming and conversion. Desensitization is simply flooding society through the media arts with an unending stream of pro-homosexual entertainment and advertising. This has clearly been seen to have happened here in America through shows like Will and Grace. The second step is jamming. Jamming simply being the portrayal in the media of all those opposed to the homosexual lifestyle as being hateful bigots and archaic in thinking therefor stirring the emotions of those being desensitized to oppose those opposing the homosexuals. This then ends in conversion where the majority of people now agree with the homosexual lifestyle. Tinker is right in discussing this three-step process and exposing it because we have seen all three steps used here in America with the final step of conversion being blatantly realized in the legalizing of gay marriage in 2015.
I agree with Tinker’s solution to how we as the Church need to respond to this hideous strength. It is ultimately our reliance on our Sovereign God to intervene. Tinker portrays this truth powerfully in laying out the story of Babel in its chiastic structure. Tinker says “The story is presented in a chiastic structure which depicts a reversal of humankind's plans with the center point being Genesis 11:5” (90). Genesis 11:5 simply being ‘the LORD came down’. The LORD has to come down “in both judgment and mercy” (91) to save mankind from themselves and restore what they have ruined. That is our hope. But, Tinker goes further and I go with him in saying that though ultimately God must come down and bring revival we as the church in the meantime must be laboring for reform. We must engage the culture and as Tinker puts it “the church must eschew seductive approaches to accommodate to culture and instead embrace a more costly path” (101). Tinker continues his application with showing that this engagement must include courageous refusal to compromise with the culture and a courageous refutation of it. I would add that a great verification of Tinkers advice and a great example of the church engaging in courageous refutation is that of Apologia Church and their ministry End Abortion Now. Through their bold stance of going to abortion mills and preaching the gospel and calling out abortion for what it is they have created a chain reaction of other churches doing the same and we are now seeing more babies being saved and more bold anti-abortion laws being passed in many states.
Overall, I find this book to be of great value and I have seen its positions verified in these last few years. Like many books that analyze hostile fronts opposing the Church the conclusion is always the same, the need for the church to labor for reformation and above all for God to send forth revival. We need to simply obey God and actually do what He says. We need a radical devotion to Him and the kingdom of heaven. We need to truly be bond-slaves of Jesus Christ, choosing to give up things we are at liberty to enjoy and to instead endure the reproach of the culture in hope that God will bring justice to the evil and redeem many sinners. Melvin Tinker’s book has helped to reaffirm these convictions.
Tinker, Melvin. That Hideous Strength: How The West Was Lost. Garden City, UK: EP Books, 2018. 127pp. $8.99