Guest / Limited Access /

In the early years of World War II, Britain was in its darkest hour. It stood alone, facing the "cold fury and might" of the Nazi war machine, as Winston Churchill put it. If Britain fell, Churchill said in a May 1940 radio address, the world would "sink into the abyss of a new dark age."

Hope was in short supply, God was absent from most people's daily lives, and the church was seen as irrelevant. The war was going badly, and "death was becoming a daily companion for many," writes Justin Phillips in C.S. Lewis in a Time of War.

Into this moment stepped C. S. Lewis. In his "deep booming voice" Lewis showed that God still had something to say, even in the darkest circumstances, writes Phillips in his book (first published in 2002).

In 1941, when he began giving fifteen-minute broadcast talks on BBC radio, Lewis was relatively unknown. Within four years, he would become "the most widely celebrated Christian apologist on both sides of the Atlantic," writes Phillips. The radio talks were later published as Mere Christianity.

How did this happen? Phillips, a BBC journalist who died at 49 just after completing the first draft of the book, gives much of the credit to James Welch, the BBC's director of religious programming during the war. When Welch started, BBC religious broadcasting was limited to spiritual talks by vicars and live coverage of Sunday worship. Most church leaders, Phillips says, believed that radio was beneath them. When Welch arranged for then-archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang to address the nation at the beginning of the war, he hoped Lang would bring a message of hope. Instead, as Welch's assistant Eric Fenn put it, Lang's message was "completely vapid and totally irrelevant."

It appeared that in the face of the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueKenneth Bae: My Story of Faith in a North Korean Prison Camp
Subscriber Access Only Kenneth Bae: My Story of Faith in a North Korean Prison Camp
Why this missionary’s prayer changed from “Send me home, Lord” to “Use me.”
RecommendedHow the American Bible Society Became Evangelical
How the American Bible Society Became Evangelical
A look back at a major turning point in the 200-year history of the storied organization.
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickWhat It’s Like to Be Gay at Wheaton College
What It’s Like to Be Gay at Wheaton College
The evangelical university has received negative press on LGBT matters. My own experience paints a different picture.
Christianity Today
Mere Christianity Goes to War
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.