Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


Click to enlargeJon Kennedy's
'C. S. Lewis Overflow
'
Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, due in stores in March 2008, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. This series of articles is thinking inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series.

Lewis's arguments for belief

It is generally agreed that there is no air-tight or incontrovertible argument for the existence of God. But C.S. Lewis apparently believed for some years that he had at least a rationally incontrovertible set of arguments, meaning that if you're a rational person, you would have to agree to his points. Of course rational people continue to argue against Lewis's points and on the surface pull the ground under from that claim, but then questions about the integrity of atheist apologists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins come into play. Are they lying about their supposed evidence? Are they hiding or "talking around" the main opposition of their believing opponents? I can't undertake an examination of these huge questions but I will present the core arguments Lewis gave for the existence of God and the logical veracity of the Gospel, the kernel of which is that God became a man in the birth of Jesus Christ, that God died as a man on the cross and in doing so undid the universality of the penalty enacted for the disobedience of the heads of the human race, Adam and Eve.

The argument from design

C. S. LewisOne of the most controversial developments in Christian apologetics in recent years is the development of the "argument from design" that has been propounded by some scholar-leaders in both Catholic and Evangelical circles. Its nutshell summary is that because some developments in evolution are so complicated that they can't be explained rationally as accidents (the development of eyes in unseeing creatures which, lacking knowledge of anything to be seen, nevertheless developed all the apparatus of sight, being the most frequently cited example). But though it has become controversial in American and European academic circles in the past decade, Lewis was propounding a version of it a half-century earlier. Ironically, or perhaps logically depending on how you approach it, in his youth before becoming a believer Lewis was a firm believer in what is often called "the argument from undesign." It was classically summarized, as Lewis often cited, by Lucretius (Roman philosopher, 99-55 B.C.) as:

Had God designed the world,
it would not be a world
so frail and faulty as we see.

It is known as the “Argument from Undesign,” because it argues that obviously there was no good and kind almighty Designer behind a world in which there is untold suffering, alienation, and, to top it all, death.

But as he matured, Lewis became more and more aware of the inconsistency of his belief in Lucretius's simple syllogism. If you deny the existence of design, you also deny there being any meaning in creation and life. If there is no design, everything that exists has come about in a long series of random accidents. Evolutionists may argue that lower life forms "willed" their development from finned water creatures to legged walkers on dry land (for example), but they certainly have no more evidence of the existence of any such "will" than believers of the ancient world religions have for their "creation myths." Having seen this, Lewis made his step toward believing, becoming a theist though not, as yet, a believer in God incarnate in Jesus.

Purpose and reason

If all is the fruit of happy accidents, there is no meaning in life, no purpose. If there is no purpose, there is no reasonable explanation for anything and, hence, no reason in any—well, meaningful—sense. What does it all mean? From dust we came and to dust we return, the Old Testament offers as one reply, and to the naturalist (in the philosophical sense, as one who believes that all is nature and nature is all there is) that's enough. But of course that's not the Old Testament's final word. In fact, the Bible begins by a confession: "In the beginning, God created...." And if something created, whatever created it did so for a purpose. So dust to dust is not all the Old Testament has to say on meaning, but rather is proposing that it's one way some will look at nature or all they survey, including themselves. But if there's a creation, a purpose, everything changes. Job says, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job:19:26). Even after Job, often considered the most ancient of the characters in the Bible, has returned to the dust, he will still have purpose which he summarizes as simply "seeing God."

Lewis is famous for saying that those who argue there is no reason will soon be arguing for their own reason/reasons/ reasonableness. And in this is one of his strongest arguments for believing: If you believe you "make sense," or that your own life can be considered sensible—meaningful—you can't rationally argue that reason does not exist. And if it exists, there has to be a Reasoner behind it. If there's a design (any purpose, any meaning) there must be a Designer. If not,...taking an overdose is just as good as being a moral upright person.

The Trilemma

Another argument that Lewis is famous for (though he acknowledged that G. K. Chesterton used it before he did) is what is called "the Trilemma." If a dilemma presents two possibilities to choose between, a trilemma presents three such possibilities. The claims of Jesus to be in unity with God his father, give the listener three choices. Either He was mistaken and thus a fool; He was mad and only mad men and women would follow His madness; or, what He claimed about His union with the eternal creator and His own role in the creation of the universe was somehow true.

The "easy" refutation of this was given by Europe's reigning theological establishments in the 19th century, where the answer for all such hard questions was that the Bible cannot be relied upon. The Gospels had been edited to put things in Jesus' mouth that no sane person would have ever uttered. And the circular reasoning was that Jesus had to be a sane person to have made such a deep impression on so many people as to get the church started, so those who purported to report about his life and teaching made up tall tales about him.

But if God has not spoken in Christ as the church and the New Testament claims, has He not spoken at all? And if He is silent, is that because He's not there in the first place? And if He doesn't exist...does anything exist?

Choose you today.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Procedural: These Jonals will appear sporadically, on Wednesdays. Please check the Home Page crawling marquee, click "Latest Post," or check the Jonals Index for updates. To have Jonals sent directly to your email or to reply to a Jonal, please write to jrk@nantyglo.com.

 

latest additions
to the Nanty Glo Home Page

NEW C.S. Lewis resources page
Nanty Glo skaterboarders
Vintondale Homecoming
Report on latest NTAMHS Meeting


Today's chuckle

At the airport they asked me if anybody I didn't know gave me anything. Even the people I know don't give me anything.

—George Wallace


Thought for today

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


The Nanty Glo Home Page and all its departments are for and by the whole Blacklick Valley community. Your feedback and written or artistic contributions, also notification about access problems, are welcomed. Click here to reply.

Suitable letters to the Home Page will be considered for publication in the Forum departments unless they are specifically labeled “Not for Publication.”


 

 

 
 
Google
 

Search nantyglo.com
 Search web
Find a word



in Merriam-Webster's
online dictionary

 

 

Nanty Glo Home | Blacklick Township Page | Vintondale Page | Jackson Township Page