Mere Christianity 4

In the first chapter, Lewis begins his argument for God from morality by establishing two summary points:

  • “First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious 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 that way.”
He adds that if we are to think clearly about our true state of affairs, these two facts are the bedrock.
In chapter two, Lewis is ready to deal with two potential objections and his responses to each before he is ready to advance his argument further. I’d like to offer in bullet-point form here what Lewis offers in paragraph form in the book. As usual, read Lewis for yourself on this–his explanation of it all is really rich. But I hope this is a helpful way of making this part easier to see the progression of his counter-arguments to the objections he raises on behalf of those who may disagree with him.

Objection 1: Isn’t the Moral Law just a “herd instinct” we’ve developed like all the others? By “herd instinct,” Lewis is referring to what comes to us through evolutionary biology as a species.

  • Answer 1: What is the thing that judges between our instincts when they come into conflict with one another? (ex: help instinct vs. self-preservation instinct)
  • Answer 2: If there are only instincts and a situation draws up a conflict between 2 instincts (opposing in their behaviors), logic says the stronger instinct will win. But there is something that works on behalf of the weaker (more morally demanding) instinct to make it stronger, in that moment, than it is.
  • Answer 3: We have no instinct within that may be labeled “always good.” Our impulses are neither good nor bad, strictly speaking. They may produce goodness or evil depending on the situation and their use. So something else must be deciding/judging their proper use and the proper timing of their use.

Objection 2: Isn’t the Moral Law just a social convention, instilled by education?

  • Answer 1: Learning something in our education hardly makes it a social convention (ex: mathematics, multiplication table). Some are conventions (like which side of the road to drive on); some are objective facts, “real truths.”
  • Answer 2: Lewis offers 2 reasons why the Moral Law belongs in the same category of “real truths” like mathematics.

First, Despite differences in the particulars, there is a common thread of moral teaching that is present in all cultures. Second, We believe that some moralities are better than others, which assumes an objective standard capable of judging between the two.

In the next chapter, Lewis will pick up where he left off at the end of chapter one and continue making his case, so we’ll meet him there in the next post.

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