Subject: He who Thinks has to Believe: Clive Staples Lewis Part 1 – Objective Morality
Romans 2:4 “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
What was the most famous news event back on November 22, 1963? I was only five, but I remember: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Most teenagers wouldn’t understand what that did to our country. In one way, President Kennedy was like our current President Obama. Both were young and gifted at public speaking when they were young and starting out, able to capture America with dreams of a bright future. Sadly, both men couldn’t lead us in fulfilling that dream. Kennedy’s vision was snuffed out by a madman, while Obama’s vision has turned out to make us weaker.
My conversion to Christianity has made me aware of another famous event on November 22, 1963. One of the greatest and most beloved Christian theologians and apologists died of kidney failure. Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis, known to millions as CS Lewis, may not have grabbed the news headlines that day, but his writings continue to grab the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. Everyone should read him. His books like “Mere Christianity, “The Problem of Pain”, “The Abolition of Man” and “Surprised by Joy” give cogent intellectual arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview. And especially the area we all struggle understanding: how a world filled with evil and suffering, much like we are witnessing today with the expansion of ISIS, can actually point to the reality of a loving, caring God.
As our verse from Romans this week testifies, Lewis didn’t reject God because evil and suffering exists but instead repented and turned to God as the opposing position. He concluded that evil and suffering argue against his earlier atheism and for the God of the Bible. Here he is making his case in “Mere Christianity”: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. Just how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”
Author Philip Vander Elst points out in his work “From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey” that it was Lewis’s argument for God based on the reality of evil and suffering that brought him to saving faith in Jesus Christ: “As Lewis rightly points out, we cannot complain about the existence of evil and suffering, and use that as an argument against the existence and goodness of God, unless we first believe that the standard of right and wrong by which we judge and condemn our world is an objective one. Our sense of justice and fairness has to be a true insight into reality, before we can we be justified in getting angry and indignant about all the pain and injustice we see around us. But if this is the case, what explains the existence within us of this inner moral code or compass? According to atheism, human beings and all their thinking processes are simply the accidental by-products of the mindless movement of atoms within an undesigned, random, and purposeless universe. How then can we attach any ultimate meaning or truth to our thoughts and feelings, including our sense of justice?
Lewis argues that atheism cuts its own throat philosophically, because it discredits all human reasoning, including the arguments for atheism. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (Mere Christianity). Only by acknowledging that there is a God, he concludes, can we hope to make sense of human existence, the world we inhabit, and, paradoxically, the problem of evil.”
But Lewis doesn’t leave us with just a discredit of atheism. As Elst explains, he answers atheism’s challenge: “If God is goodness personified and therefore, as our Creator, the divine source of all that is good, true and beautiful, why is there so much evil and suffering? The Christian answer to that question, Lewis argues, is that our world has been damaged by rebellion against God. An originally good creation has been spoiled.” The solution to our problem has already been witnessed in history: the voluntary death of Jesus Christ to save us from our rebellion against God, if we are willing to ask Christ to be our Savior.