C. S. Lewis and “What Lies Behind The Law”

Mere Christianity

A small group of us from Solomon’s Porch meet each Thursday morning @ 5:30 AM to discuss a book. In the past we’ve discussed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, “Life Together” and Harry Blamires, “The Christian Mind.” Currently we are reading, “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis together. I (Jeremy) personally read this book many years ago. It was probably one of the first five books I read after becoming a Christian in late 1994. And as I read it again, I am realizing how much influence Lewis has exerted on me since that period through this work.

Thank goodness C. S. Lewis  disabused me of the horrible plague of antinomianism (anti-law) right off the bat. The church I became a Christian in was a Dispensational Baptist church and was heavily antinomian. As a result of reading “Mere Christianity” I never tumbled down that rabbit hole.  Lewis pointed (as St. Paul does in Romans 1-2) to an inward law that exists in the heart of all humans that tells them what they “ought to do”, and makes them feel a certain way when they do not do it. He calls this the “Law of Human Nature or of Right and Wrong” (pg 21). This law is not like facts that present themselves like gravity for instance. The rate of gravity is measurable and is devoid of choice. The Law of Gravity acts upon objects. It is a scientifically observable fact. But the Law of Human Nature, or morality, is not a fact to be observed in the same way as gravity acted upon Newton’s apple. People do not always do it. So the Law of Human Nature is not one of the scientifically measurable facts.

Lewis more or less asks, “How did these scientifically observable phenomenon get here?” Then points out that even if “science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe” (pg 23), it would still not be able to answer questions like, “Why is there a universe?’ ‘Why does it go on as it does?’ ‘Has it any meaning?'” (pg 23) These questions lie beyond the scope of scientific investigation because the scientific method observes only the external processes of matter. The question, “Is there a being behind it all?” is outside of the scope of scientific explanation. As Lewis points out, “if there is a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe- no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house.” (pg 24)

So then how would a power beyond the scientifically observable facts of the universe show itself to us? We would find it in the only place we should expect to find it, in a place that is beyond the scientific facts of the universe, inside human persons themselves. And when we look within we find what Lewis himself found,

“When I do, especially when I open the 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.” (pg 25)

So, outside the common facts of the observable universe but inside ourselves we find what we should expect to find if there were a power that designed the facts and desired to give meaning to human persons. We find an interior Law that we did not create shaping our actions and behaviors. We find an inner “influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way” (pg 24) We find then that there is something behind the law that is not a part of the universe itself.


 

*** If you’ve never read “Mere Christianity” you should. If you are unable to be with us on Thursday mornings please read along. We’ll be reading chapter 5 this week, completing Book One. Blessings!


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