Saturday, January 20, 2007

C.S. Lewis on a Meaningless Atheistic Universe: Or the Argument From Evil

The current Atheist Papal AuthorityI have recently been reading through "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis and have found it to be a delightful book. Although I have hangups with some of Lewis' ideas of free-will and God's providence, I find this to be a wonderful read. To be blunt this man is brilliant, he is able to see truths so clearly and convey them in such a way as to paint a picture for his reader to give illumination to that truth. A portion I found particularly sharp is section where Lewis talks about the irrationality of his former Atheism, he writes:

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But 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? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: A fish would not feel wet.

Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. 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: 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 without meaning." (Mere Christianity Book 2 chapter 1)

This is an arresting observation I think for the Atheist. He (the Atheist) wants to argue against existence of God because of the ubiquitous evil is in the world. Yet from where comes the idea that this world is screwed up? This is just simply what is, you can not say what is is wrong in any objective sense from an Atheistic standpoint. Thus, the Atheist really has no footing to bring up the problem of evil to challange the Christian worldview. Also, if the universe simply is and there is no real meaning where do we get the notion of meaning to even announce that the universe has no meaning?

I think this is an absolutely brilliant point which Lewis raises.

12 comments:

Jody said...

Saying "there is evil in the world, therefore it is screwed up" is akin to saying "there is black on the car therefore the car doesn't work." It doesn't follow.

There's no evidence that the Universe should (or did) work anyway other than it has.

natamllc said...

Bobby

keep reading.

Lewis said another, HE WROTE, I believe, GOD WHO "CREATED" SATAN CAN BESTOW UPON US "CREATURE" WISDOM THAT WAS BEFORE SATAN WAS CREATED TO USE AGAINST HIM.

We cannot defeat Satan with his wit, it's impossible. The wisest man to ever live, JESUS CHRIST, was defeated by him. How do you suppose he was allowed to do that?

We easily agree with WHY He died. But rarely do we ever come to HOW SATAN WAS ABLE TO DEFEAT HIM.

Consider Lewis' insight into how we "defeat" Satan.

Consider these words of Scripture too:::>

2Ki 21:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah.
2Ki 21:2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
2Ki 21:3 For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.
2Ki 21:4 And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.
2Ki 21:5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
2Ki 21:6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
2Ki 21:7 And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name forever:


and then speaks this sentence of JUDGMENT upon this whole bloodline:

Parenthetically, the first several times I read this next bit of verses, I squirmed and shuttered with fear and trembling UNTIL the revelation of what Lewis said made sense:::>

2Ki 21:10 And the LORD spoke by his servants the prophets, saying,
2Ki 21:11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:
2Ki 21:12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.
2Ki 21:13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.
2Ki 21:14 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies;
2Ki 21:15 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.
2Ki 21:16 Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

I refer you to the Garden experience in which Jesus sweat great drops of blood and Ps. 22.

When you want to trap someone, you are greater then them if you trap them.

What if they turn it around and trap you with the TRAP YOU SET FOR THEM?

Atheists are just like what the now deceased Dr. J Sidlow Baxter said, one can think for eternity when they are thinking in the direction they are going. But the moment you start thinking backwards at some point you have to stop because, thinking is something you do in time not eternity.

At some point atheists will become THEISTS and we have been called by God who places His Holy Ghost and Christ in us to help them turn around and go in our direction!

Bob said...

Jody
"Saying "there is evil in the world, therefore it is screwed up" is akin to saying "there is black on the car therefore the car doesn't work." It doesn't follow."

You're absolutely right it doesn't follow. However, that's not what I nor Lewis said. Lewis is responding to the popular Atheistic reason for rejecting the existance of God, the "Problem of evil". The argument goes something like this:

1)There is much evil in the world we live in. (Starvation, rape, murder, senseless war, etc)

2)If God exists He is good.

3)If God is Good than all He does is good (ie creating the universe.)

4)Thus, if the world is created by God it is good.

5)The World has much evil in it.

.:6)Therefore, either God is not good or He did not create the universe. (ie He does not exist)

This is the bare bones of popular Atheist argument against Gods existance, this is the "Problem of Evil". What Lewis does is spin this on its head and make it a proof for the existance of God by challanging premise 1). From an Atheistic standpoint suffering, death, and seemingly senseless violence can not be said to be objectively evil. These are just parts of a chance universe, they just are. From an atheistic standpoint there is no footing at all to say that these things are "bad" in an objective sense.

The problem is that the Atheist does not live like that. If he did he couldn't bring up the "Problem of Evil" because in an atheistic universe there is no such thing as evil in an objective sense. Now I know, I know Atheists believe in right and wrong, but I must point out that in doing so they are being inconsistant to their worldview.

But in being inconsistant to their worldview they are really being consistant to the Biblical worldview which provides objective footing for why murder and rape are wrong. So when you say:

"There's no evidence that the Universe should (or did) work anyway other than it has."

If you apply this to morality (like Social Dawrwinists) then what is is right. You have no reason to think that rape is wrong, that is just one of the things that happens in this world. We might throw people in jail for doing it, but that does not mean it is WRONG in any moral sense.

But I don't think that is where you really are. I am inclined to think that you do hope for a world better than the one we are in, one that people can walk the streets without fear of being mugged, a world where the environment is cared for, politicians are honest, and hate is eliminated. If you in any way think there is a world that could possibliy be better than what now is, then I would submit to you that it is because the world we now are in has veered off its course in someway. As Lewis said you are like a fish out of water, and you deep down know because God made us for more than what we now see.

Anonymous said...

Lewis' argument is:

1. Everything is wrong in the world.
2. But since I'm right, then everything can't be wrong after all. 3. God exists.

What's so brilliant about that?

Bob said...

Strapaddo: I will respond to you just as I did to jody above, you said:

"Lewis' argument is:

1. Everything is wrong in the world.
2. But since I'm right, then everything can't be wrong after all. 3. God exists.

What's so brilliant about that? "


Well, you are right there is absolutely nothing brilliant about that, that's actually a rather dull and ridiculous argument. But that is simply NOT what Lewis is saying.

I would ask you to read the quote again, and read my response to Jody if you are genuinely interested in understanding his argument. What you and Jody set up are simply a straw men.

In logical form Lewis' argument would look something like this:

1)According to an atheistic scheme we are products of the universe.

2)We think that there are components of the universe (ie men's behaviour) that if changed would make a "better" world.

3)This idea of a "better" world is prevelant throughout humanity.

4)This idea demands that we transcend what simply is.

.:/5)The mere idea of a better world indicates that we are not merely products of an impersonal universe. (Premise 1 is false by indirect proof)

This is similar to Lewis' talk about meaning. Many say that life really is meaningless and religion is just a crutch for those who are too weak to face this fact. Well if life is without meaning and we are products of an impersonal atheistic universe where in the world did the notion of meaning even come from?

Lewis compares it to creatures living in darkness all their existance discussing how dark it is. That is absurd, the notion of darkness wouldn't occur to creatures if they lived in it their entire existance, darkness just is what is, there would be no discussion of light and darkness.

Bob said...

Oh by the way after glancing at your page it seems obvious that you are not looking at the skeletons in your own faith's (Atheism) closet with statements like:

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" (Voltaire)

Um, ever heard of Eugenics? This is based on Darwinistic principles which when applied led to the notion of the Arian Master race in Germany, and the systematic elimination of Aborigies in Australia.

How about Atheistic Marxism? This led to the butchering of untold millions in the communist regimes throughout the 20th century.

I know that people do horrible things in the name of religion, I know that people do horrible things in the name of Jesus and I own up to that. However, don't just point the finger exclusively at the Theists and ignore the evil done under the philosophies of Atheism. Ultimatly however, I have an objective standard to judge the atrocities done in the name of God by and say they are evil, you sir do not.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear.

Unleashing references to the profoundly bigoted, and utterly simplistic assertions of Lewis, does little to bolster an argument for belief in supernaturalism. Any knowledge of both his life, and his literature, uncovers a propensity toward the acceptance of binary interpretations of infinitely complex affairs.

Indeed, one can fairly easily deduce from Lewis's infantile atheism (up until the mature age of thirteen), and subsequent "conversion" to Christianity, the anxious need for definite answers to ascribe stability in the fact of the vast insecurity prevalent within that period of mid-war history. Indeed, even I, despite my overwhelmingly current and categoric skepticism, may have been swept along the waves of the post-World War 1 malaise, and cast against the rocks of intransigent Christian theocracy, or the need for certainty in a chaotic world, to settle on the shores of Lewis's idiosyncratic and asininely simplistic viewpoints. Circumstance can evoke undesired consequences, however in the case of Lewis, George Orwell is most poignant in his comment's of a Lewis writing;

"Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such (supernatural) spirits, and of benevolent ones as well. He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance."

natamllc said...

My dear King Richard,

with all do respect,

there was enough hot air in those words to fill a hot air balloon and safety navigate the high winds across the atlantic without pulling the lever!

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.

Here's a bit more:


A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.

Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favor.

The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.

Bob said...

Hey Richard good to hear from you again, you said:

"Indeed, one can fairly easily deduce from Lewis's infantile atheism (up until the mature age of thirteen), and subsequent "conversion" to Christianity, the anxious need for definite answers to ascribe stability in the fact of the vast insecurity prevalent within that period of mid-war history. Indeed, even I, despite my overwhelmingly current and categoric skepticism, may have been swept along the waves of the post-World War 1 malaise, and cast against the rocks of intransigent Christian theocracy, or the need for certainty in a chaotic world, to settle on the shores of Lewis's idiosyncratic and asininely simplistic viewpoints. Circumstance can evoke undesired consequences, however in the case of Lewis,"

Well, that is simply your a-posteriori interpretation of what happened to a man. You as an atheist need to have some account for how this man who was an atheistic skeptic became a Christian. You have a post War psycho-analysis story to explain his conversion. That's nice, but in the spirit of our post-modern ethos I say,"That's just YOUR interpretation."

Unfortunatly Lewis in recounting his own conversion seems to have a very different view than you (and Orwell) who are but on the outside looking in. What Orwell said really is self refuting, he (atheists) from the outset presupposes materialism, yet he balks at Lewis because in his writings he presupposes Theism.

Anonymous said...

Bob, it's good to see you enjoying CS Lewis. He is one of my favorite authors. While you made a nice synopsis of Lewis's argument for God, there is so much more to Lewis's change from atheism to Christianity besides this simple argument. I would highly recommend that you read Surprised by Joy, which will give you a deeper sense on the foundation of his conversion and faith. Maybe you've already read it.

On the side, my all-time favorite book of CS Lewis is The Great Divorce. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Tim said...

Interesting, the last comment I wrote came up as "anonymous". It was actually me: Tim

Bob said...

Huh, it did say "Tim" a few days ago...I did just switch to the "New blogger" wonder if that effected anything. Oh, by the way I do have suprised by joy on the shelf, I haven't read it yet I suppose I will when I get some more free reading time.