If the universe was created by a highly intelligent being, how would we, being part of that being’s creation, come to observe that fact?
I recently came across a little treasure of a book by C.S Lewis, which put a fresh perspective on my faith by forming logical ideas about tendencies which are observable in each and every one of us and what those tendencies might mean or what they could tell us about our true origins.
Lewis decides to go about answering the question of our origin (which is still in much debate, as no concrete evidence upon which hard facts can be based is available) by going about it in an extremely logical way, looking at the one thing that we all, personally have inside knowledge of: ourselves.
Lewis concentrates on a particular peculiarity that he observed not only in himself, but in everyone in the world, and that we too, if we are honest with, can easily observe in ourselves: the Moral Law.
Lewis describes exactly what this Moral Law is, which we will then see can be applied to every single human being, and the following are his thoughts, ideas and words which I have changed slightly so that they are more applicable to us in this age and here and there my own two cents is also thrown in.
- The Law of Human Nature
People argue. If you pay attention to what we tend to say when we are arguing, certain remarks are made almost every day by all kinds of people be they educated or not, young or old- “You can’t just push in line like that.” – “Come one, you said you would do it.” – “That’s my seat, I was there first” – “How would you like it if someone did that to you?” – “Leave him alone, he hasn’t done anything to you.” – “Give me some of yours; I gave you some of mine the other day.”
What Lewis found interesting was that the person who makes the remark is not only saying that what the other person has done does not please him, he is also appealing to some kind of standard behaviour that he expects the other person to know about. The reply that is received is hardly ever “To hell with your standard!” Instead, the other person will will try to make as if he actually is complying with the standard or will most likely make some excuse as to why he has not complied. He will pretend that there has been some injury done to him which justifies his own actions, or that something important came up which made him unable to do what he said he would, or that the situation was quite different when you gave him some.
It seems then, that both parties to these everyday arguments have some kind of rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality, whatever you want to call it, in mind about which they both agree. Arguing means trying to show that the other person is wrong; and it would be impossible to do so unless there was some kind of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are.
Every human, it seems, is forced to believe in a real Right or Wrong. This Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature- Lewis goes on to refer to this as the Law of Human Nature. When we talk about the laws of nature these days, we normally mean things like gravitation or the laws of chemistry and so forth, but when people spoke of the Law of Nature, they meant Human Nature; the idea being: just as all of our bodies are governed by the law of gravity and as organisms we are subject to biological laws, we as humans also have a law completely unique to ourselves- and this law is also starkly unique from the laws of science and biology, because humans cannot choose whether or not to obey natural laws like the law of gravity: we have simply always obeyed that law, so much so that it was not even discovered until someone thought to ask why it was that an apple had fallen on his head; but a person can choose to either obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.
People can sometimes be mistaken about what Right or Wrong is, but that does not change the fact of Right and Wrong, just as a person can be mistaken and think that 2 plus 2 is 5, but it does not change the fact that 2 plus 2 is 4.
(There are some objections to this view, and Lewis answers them satisfactorily enough but for the sake of brevity I will not include them here; they can be found in the book itself, if you are interested in more than the overview that I’m trying to give here.)
- Practicing the Law
Now, none of us can honestly say that we keep this Law of Nature very successfully. There is no offence meant in this statement, and I am of the opinion that it applies to all of us. This statement is made by Lewis in order to draw attention to the fact that: this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have, ourselves, failed to practice the kind of behaviour that we expect from others. There are all sorts of excuses that we use: that time when I was unkind and snapped at my friend or my children or my wife I was just stressed out and I didn’t really mean it; when I promised that person something, I didn’t know that I would be much too busy to keep it, it’s not really my fault; or I know deep down that this sort of thing is wrong, but I have a really good reason for it and people will understand when they see it from my point of view.
It is obvious that we do not keep this Law very well at all, and as soon as someone points that out to us, we don’t reject the whole thing, rather, we almost immediately start thinking up excuses and justifications for ourselves. The point here is that we in fact do, at our very core, believe in this Law. If we didn’t believe in the law of decency, then why would we always make so many excuses for not behaving decently?
So now, Lewis has made two points: firstly, human beings all over the world have this peculiar idea that we ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, we do not in fact behave in that way.
- The Uniqueness of This Law
What we call the laws of nature, may not actually be laws in the strict sense, but only in a manner of speaking. For example, when you say “when dropped from any height above a surface, a stone will always obey the law of gravity”, that is: it will fall, is it not the same as saying that that law only means “what a stone always does when it is dropped” that is: it will fall? What you are saying is not that a stone suddenly remembers when it is let go, that it must fall. What you are saying is that it does in fact fall.
Thus we can see that the laws of nature as applied to stones or trees may only mean “what Nature, in fact, does.” The Law of Human Nature, on the other hand, is a different matter as it certainly does not mean “what human beings in fact do.”
Therefore, in dealing with humans you have something coming in over and above the actual facts. You have the facts (what humans do, how we behave) and you have something else (how we all believe we should behave). Molecules and electrons behave in a certain way, certain results follow from that behaviour, and that may be the whole story. With men, we behave in a certain way and that cannot be the whole story because we always are aware of the notion that we should be behaving differently.
This observation is so peculiar that one is tempted to explain it away.
For example, one might try to say that when we say that someone should not act as he does, we only mean that his actions happen to be inconvenient to you. When I am in a rush, someone who is in front of me in the line because he got there first and someone who is in front of me because he pushed in are both equally inconvenient to me, yet I blame only the second someone. If someone trips me accidently I won’t be angry at him, but if he does it on purpose I am quite angry- though my inconvenience (falling to the floor) is the same in both cases.
On the other hand, some behaviour which I classify as bad may not be inconvenient for me at all; in fact it may be the opposite. For example, in war, each side considers traitorous behaviour to be bad, but if the traitor is betraying information about their side, that would be extremely convenient for our side; yet traitors are still regarded as vermin by those who use the information they provide.
As for decent behaviour in ourselves, it should be quite obvious that it does not always mean the kind of behaviour that pays. It means things like doing schoolwork honestly when it would be so easy and so advantageous to cheat; not taking that sweet without paying even though no one is watching and you can just slip it into a pocket; or telling the truth even though we may lose out on some sort of prize we may have obtained had we just remained quiet.
Some will then say that even if your Right behaviour does not pay for you, it pays for your community or country or for the human race as a whole. While this is true, it does not answer the question as to why humans should even care for their community or their country or the human race as a whole. The answer most likely to be given to that question is: not caring about the well-being of others is selfish. “Well, why shouldn’t I be selfish then?” Because it is good for the community, you don’t live in a bubble. “Why should I even care about the good of the community and others?” Because not to care, and act solely in your own best interest, would be selfish. You shouldn’t be selfish.” And we find ourselves back where we started. If someone asked why people play rugby and received “in order to score tries,” as an answer, it wouldn’t do him much good because trying to score tries is the game itself, not the reason for the game and you would just be saying that rugby is rugby- which is true but not very helpful.
In the same way, if someone asks why people should behave decently, it is no good to reply “in order to benefit society” because trying to benefit society (other people), in other words, being unselfish is one of the things that decent behaviour consists of. You would have said just as much if you had stopped at “People should be unselfish.”
Lewis stops there to drive in the point, which is: people feel we should be unselfish, we should be fair; not that people are unselfish, nor that people like being unselfish, but that they should be unselfish. The Law of Nature is thus not simply a fact about human behaviour in the way that the law of gravitation is simply about how objects with mass behave in certain situations. On the other hand, it is also not a mere desire, because try as we might, we can’t get rid of the idea, and it is not some mere statement about how we want people to behave in a way that is convenient to us as behaviour that we consider bad or unfair may be quite convenient to us.
Consequently, concludes Lewis (and I have found myself agreeing), this Law must be a real thing- a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves. Yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way that our actual behaviour is a fact. It begins to seem as though there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behaviour, and yet quite real- a real law, which none of us made, but which we all feel pressing on us.
- Behind the Law
So now that we’ve come to the point that we are haunted by a very real law which we did not invent and which we know we should obey.
Lewis asks us now to consider what this tells us about the universe in which we live. It seems that from the beginning of recorded history, men have been wondering what the universe is and how it came to be there. There are, very roughly, two views held: first is the materialistic view.
People who take this view think that matter and space just happen to exist, by complete chance or something, nobody knows why; and that the matter has just happened, by a sort of fluke chance, to produce creatures like us who are able to think. By one chance in a billion something went bang, and the dust from it started forming planets, and then by another one in a billion chance, the chemicals necessary for life and the exact right temperature required for life occurred on one of these nine very different planets and so some of this matter on earth somehow (inexplicably, in fact) came alive, and then by an extremely long series of chances over millions and millions of years, these living creatures developed into things like us.
The other view is the religious view. According to this view, what’s behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know. That is to say, it is conscious, it has purposes and it prefers one thing over another. And in this view, this Mind made the universe, partly for purposes we do not know, but partly, at any rate, to create creatures like itself- to the extent of having minds at least.
Science works by experiments, it observes things, how they behave and perhaps what causes them to behave in certain ways. But why anything comes to be at all and whether there is anything behind the things that science observes- something of a different kind- are not scientific questions. If there is “Something Behind” then it will either remain unknown to men or it will make itself known in some way.
The statement that there is such a thing and the statement that there is not such a thing are both statements that science cannot make. Imagine that science became so complete that it knew everything in the universe. Is it not obvious that questions such as “Why is there a universe in the first place?”, “Why does it just go on and on infinitely?” and “Is there even any meaning to all of it?” would remain just as they were.
So we would be quite hopeless in answering the question except for this: there is one thing and one thing only in the whole universe which we know more about than we could learn from external observation. That one thing is man: for not only do we observe man, but we are men.
Therefore we have some inside information, we are in the know. And because we are in the know regarding man, we know that humans find themselves under a Moral Law which we did not make, which we cannot quite forget even when we try and which we know that we should all obey. Lewis draws our attention to his following point now, saying: Anyone studying man from the outside, not knowing our language and consequently unable to gain any inside knowledge from us, but by merely observing what we did, would never get the slightest hint that this Moral Law even exists. How could he? His observations would only show him what we do and not what we know we should do- The Moral Law is what we should do, and not what we do in fact do (and I clarify quickly here that the laws of nature are “what things always do” and this unfailing consistency is what gets them classified as laws, therefore because we do not always obey the Moral Law, an outside observer who had zero means of communication with us would not observe our Moral Law as a Law of Nature because we do not always obey it; this however doesn’t change the fact that it is in fact there, the difference is that we have a choice concerning our obedience to it unlike normal, natural laws).
The position is then this: we want to know whether the universe simply happens to be what it is for no reason or whether there is a power behind it that makes it what it is. Since that power, if it exists, would not be one of the observed facts but a reality which makes them, no mere observation of the facts can find such a power. There is thus only one case where we can know whether there is anything more than the facts- ourselves; and we find that there is, in our own case, more than the facts of our behaviour. Just as an the architect of a house cannot be part of the staircase or the wall, if there was a controlling power outside the universe that had created it, it would not show itself as one of the facts that it has created. The way, therefore, in which we would expect such a power to show itself would as something inside ourselves, an influence or a command trying to get us to act in the Right way, the way in which it expects us to act.
So now we are at the point where there is a Something, a power, a Mind which appears in me as a law urging me to do Right and to feel responsible- guilty even- and uncomfortable when I do Wrong. (I don’t know about you guys but my conscience was just about flaring at this point).
- Cause to be Uneasy
Note that Lewis has not taken anything at all from the Bible or churches in coming to this Something; he has been trying to see what we can find out about this Something on our own steam, that is, by looking only at creation, of which we are a huge part. What we find out on our own steam gives us quite a shock. We have two bits of evidence about a Someone: one is the universe He has made. Observing only the universe would tell us amongst other things maybe that He is an artist (the universe, including Earth, is a very beautiful place) and maybe it would give us clues as to His size (the universe is said to be infinitely big and is in fact, ever-expanding). The other bit of evidence is the Moral Law which He has put into our minds; this is better information than the first as this is inside information. You find out more about God from the Moral Law than you do from the universe just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than you would by looking at a house he has built.
So, from the second bit of evidence we can conclude that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in right conduct- in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith (sincerity in our actions), honesty and faithfulness. In that sense we can agree with Christianity and some other religions that God is “good”. This Moral Law does not give us any indication that God is “good” in the sense of being lenient or soft or sympathetic. There is nothing lenient about the Moral Law, it is as hard as nails: it tells you to do the right and proper thing and does not seem to care how painful or dangerous or difficult it is.
The book is called “Mere Christianity” and it is definitely worth a read. If you happen to not be a Christian do not turn away because of the title, Lewis only gets into the religion Christianity in the second part of the book- the first part, which I have given what I thought was to be a brief overview of, at least should be read by persons of every faith as it is highly thought-provoking.
In the rest of his book, Lewis goes on to explain how Christianity offers an explanation of how we got into our present state of both loving goodness and hating it and how it offers an explanation of how God can be this impersonal mind behind the Moral Law and yet also a Person.
Christianity also tells us how you and I cannot meet the demands of this Law, and so in an act of immeasurable Love, the demands were met on our behalf; it tells us the good news: how God Himself becomes a man to save all men from the judgement of God.
And part of that Gospel is this:
Around 2000 years ago, way before anyone you know was alive, God loved us enough to send his perfect son to go through torture and to die for each and every one of us.
That makes you worth something; in fact, it means that you are worthy enough to be offered a glorious kingdom and eternal life to enjoy it.
So let’s take a look at why that Gift is the most precious thing in the world, more precious even than your current life and why such a Gift warrants at least close inspection before it is rejected.
Absent God, no matter what our lives are like, no matter how happy or sad or blessed or empty, everyone is just the same as everyone else in the world and this is because of that great equalizer: death.
Death will come for us all, eventually; no one will escape it. Everyone is so used to this notion by now that we have come to think of it as a part of life. But death is not a part of life, it is the absence of it, it is the price that humanity must pay for its sins: because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
What is sin, you ask? It is the the transgression of the Divine Law, which is the Ten Commandments. We looked at the Moral Law; we saw how we all know about it and how we all do not obey it. If one obeys the Ten Commandments, which can be summarised in just two commandments: love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul, and Love thy neighbour as thyself; is one not automatically obeying the Moral Law, which is, in my opinion fundamentally the same as loving thy neighbour – and thereby doing the right thing which is demanded by the Moral Law?
And consequently the fact that we do not in fact obey our Moral Law alone is evidence that we have not loved our neighbours and done right by them at all times- and so we are, every one of us, sinners.
There is only one man who in the whole history of man did not commit a single sin. Jesus Christ never once told a little white lie no matter how necessary it seemed, He never once felt jealousy in His heart even though He lived in poverty, He never once thought evil thoughts toward His fellow man, even when He was being tortured and mocked he prayed for His killers’ forgiveness, and he was never unfair or unjust or snappy or irritable towards His fellow man; He is utterly righteous.
Moreover, He chose to go through all of that so that he could be our Righteousness, because when He looked down on us in all our sin, He saw that we would be doomed to be slaves to death forever and He felt only love and pity for us. He was the highest of the high in Heaven; He ruled over vast multitudes of angels and was worshipped and honoured. He knew exactly how He would be treated once He came to earth; He knew what His fate must be and knowing all of that, it would have been easy to leave us to our own devices, which only lead us to our eternal damnation. This is the very writer of that Moral Law which is as hard as nails, which loves not itself but others and thereby does what is right for the sake of others even unto excruciating pain and even unto death.
This is something that I cannot wrap my head around, I am confounded every time I think of the great love that motivated the Lord Jesus Christ to make that sacrifice for us when no one in Heaven expected it of Him- indeed He volunteered, when He personally had nothing to gain but much to endure and suffer and finally overcome.
Overcome He did when God rose Him from the dead. He conquered death, and not only that but He gives us the choice to let Him do the same for us. He says that through His Spirit, we – sinful creatures- can be like Him. Through Christ we can be made into new creatures- sons and daughters of God the Most High, destined to live in His kingdom forever.
Imagine two princes stand before you and one of them shows you a kingdom and says: This is all yours… but only for about 70-90 years and throughout maybe half that time you can have everything you ever wanted but after that it’s over.
Seems like the standard deal and we want to take it- until we look at what the other prince, the true prince, is offering.
He says: There is a kingdom that is beyond all the glory that you could ever imagine, and this kingdom belongs to you. I am giving it to you freely, indeed I paid for your right to come into it with my life, and this kingdom will be yours forever. You will never die, you will never sorrow, and there will be no pain and no suffering.
I think I see which kingdom is by far the more valuable. Especially because that first prince neglects to tell us how diseased and broken his kingdom is, but if we take a look out there and see what people are doing to each other, we can see the disease running wild in the streets. He also neglects to tell us how unsatisfying his kingdom is and he in fact goes to great lengths to convince us of the contrary. He knows that we were made by perfection, for perfection, in the very image of perfection and he wants us to be robbed of the eternal glory that has been promised us. He wants to deceive us into loving the first kingdom, the worldly kingdom, so much that it blinds us from ever seeing our true inheritance.
I was deceived too, my eyes were shut wide open as it were and I went for the worldly kingdom right up until God opened my eyes and I awoke like one coming out of darkness into blinding, glorious Light. Now I look at my fellow man and many of you are still asleep, walking around lost in the dark trying to find a path to happiness and the world carries on deceiving you into thinking it can satisfy you.
It never can.
The God who made you, made you an incredible being whose soul hungers for righteousness and peace and contentment. Those things can only be found in the arms of the Father, and through the Son.
Come, let us put some real effort into finding out what Christ is all about. A wise person considers all the options before choosing. So carefully consider both these kingdoms before making your choice. We know all about the worldly kingdom, but what about the heavenly?
Have we ever made a genuine effort to learn about it and those who Rule there? Have we done our research by reading the Bible and asking for help when we don’t understand what’s going on in it? I don’t think we have: because we are much too busy. We don’t have the time: because the rulers of the worldly kingdom are in direct rebellion against the heavenly kingdom, they wants us to be so immersed in ourselves and in the worldly that we feel we don’t even have a moment to look up and wonder: so they’re constantly selling us lies and things and lies about how things will make us happy, and it can be anything at all as long as it keeps you from taking a close look at the heavenly kingdom and from finding its Sovereign. But if we earnestly try reading the Bible, persistently and consistently, putting all scepticism aside and researching what we don’t understand, I promise that you will find the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him, eternal life and peace.
I can make that promise because:
- He made it long before I did: “You will seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. And I will be found by you, declares the LORD…” Jeremiah 29:13-14 (emphasis is mine) and
- Before I even knew that He had said that, I actually did seek Him. I looked at His world and wondered what was going on: I saw hunger, violence, hatred, wars and strife, selfishness, carelessness, monsters walking around looking like people, people greedily building up palaces for themselves while children are out starving in the streets and killing people for money- and I felt the need to know why the world was so broken.
I didn’t know that in all that searching I was going to find Him, but find Him I did.
And once He is found by you, He will open your eyes so that you may see Him, yourself and the world clearly.
There are four things that you must do in order to be created anew into the glorious creature that will dwell in the golden mansions that Christ Himself has prepared in heaven: accept, believe, repent and live.
Accept that you are a sinner, just like everyone else, that your sins have doomed you to eternal death and that you have no power to save yourself from this fate. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgression to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalms 32:5
Believe that, by God’s will, Jesus Christ came down to earth and gave His holy life as a ransom for your sins, that He rose again triumphant over death, that by this suffering all your sins are completely forgiven, paid for, and that by his sacrifice and victory you will receive eternal life and be reunited with our Creator. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.” John 3:16
Repent: turn away from sin, run from it, abhor it, and fight it, praying always for the help of the Holy Spirit, who is stronger than you are to resist sin and who is always there- the omnipresent Comforter. Once you ask Christ to change your life, His Holy Spirit will work no less than a miracle in you, making you new, you who were a sinner, making you just like Christ who is perfect and knows no sin. And if it is harder than you thought it would be, don’t despair: we humans are weak things, made weak especially through our flesh which we are so used to pleasing; but Christ is a human too, with the same flesh as you and I, and He overcame nonetheless. Christ is strong enough, and He wants so much for us to just reach out and lean on Him, and to ask Him to be our strength, so that he can help us overcome the world just as He did. “My flesh…may fail but God is the strength of my heart.” Psalm 73:26 “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 3:14 and this strength that our gracious God is anxious to give us is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD.”
And finally, Live! The life of a Christian is not as boring as the world would have you think. God made the whole world for us to enjoy, but he intended that we always love Him more than the mere things that He has created. And once we learn to enjoy our lives while living for Christ and walking in Him, we will find that the experience is much more fulfilling than anything the world has to offer, for the Lord brings joy and peace and blessings to those that love Him and keep His commandments.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart.”Proverbs 3:1-5
May the Light of the Lord shine a little brighter in your eyes every day
Amen and God bless