The last post contained the skeleton presentations of the classic arguments for the existence of God. If you have been following the debate in the comments section of the post about Dawkins and Plantinga, you have witnessed a not so good interchange about one of those arguments, the cosmological argument. In this post I want to summarize some of the arguments CS Lewis offered for his belief in God.
The first section of the book Mere Christianity is titled “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.
His first point is that there is a universal law of human nature:
“The idea was that just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law – with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it…this law is called the Law of Human Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it” (MC, pp 4-5)
His second point is that none of us are really keeping the law of human nature
“…we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people” (MC p. 7).
“These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curios idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in” (MC p. eight)
Then he addresses the objections to his view:
The first objection is that the law is just the “herd instinct”. This may be the best part of his argument. Materialists will say that our moral sense is simply instinctual. CS Lewis argues this way.
“Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires – one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play; our instincts are merely the keys” (MC p. 16)
the second objection is the law is mere social convention. Lewis gives two responses here. First, it is a universal across history and cultures – this moral law exists in all times and in all places. The variations are not of substance but application. Second, we have no trouble gauging which expressions of morality are superior to others. There is a true Morality, a standard by which morality can be judged to be superior.
The Law of Human Nature is a real law, but different from the laws that govern other things, like the law of gravity. Again, gravity affects objects without regard to the desire of the body to respond to it. A body suspended in mid-air falls to the ground, and cannot choose to do otherwise. Laws really are not laws in the strict sense, they simply describe what things in fact do. The Law of Human Nature is different in that it doesn’t describe what men do, it describes what men “ought” to do.
“In the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts. Electrons and molecules behave in a certain way, and certain results follow and that may be the whole story. But men behave in a certain way and that is not the whole story, for all the time you know that they ought to behave differently” (MC p. 18).
He concludes that this law of nature is
“a real thing – a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves. And yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way as our actual behavior is a fact. It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality: that in this particular case there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior, and yet quite definitely real – a real law which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us” (MC p.20).
Our advantage is that as we observe man, we are also a man. We know what is going on within ourselves. This consciousness of existence separates us from things. The moral law within us points to the giver of the law.
“When I open that particular man called Myself, I find that I do not exist on my own, that I am under a law; that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way” (MC p. 25).
This is the first of three strands that Lewis argued were found in developed religion. We will explore the other parts in another post.