C.S. Lewis, the Moral Argument for God, and the Gospel
by Paul Gould
In the conclusion of his famous Critique of Practical Reason, Kant famously said, “two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence… the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” Years later, C.S. Lewis picks up this Kantian insight and formulates an argument for God based on the reality of a Moral Law.Lewis thinks that the evidence from the Moral Law to God is better than the evidence from the reality of the universe since “you find out more about God from the Moral Law than from the universe in general just as you find out more about a man by listening to his conversation than by looking at a house he has built.” So, let’s look at the argument, found in the first five chapters of Mere Christianity, and summarized as follows:
1. There is a universal Moral Law.
2. If there is a universal Moral Law, there is a Moral Law-giver.
3. If there is a Moral Law-giver, it must be something beyond the universe.
4. Therefore, there is something beyond the universe.
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In support of premise (1), Lewis argues that we all have within us the sense of right behavior and character. There is a sense of “oughtness” that presses upon us. He says, “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.” Lewis calls this law of right behavior the Moral Law. We live in a moral universe—in addition to the physical facts (“this chair is brown”, “Gold is atomic number 79”), there are moral facts (“lying is wrong”, “bravery is a virtue”). We find in the universe “a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.” But if there is an objective Moral Law, and none of us made it, there must be something else that produced the Moral Law, a Moral Law-giver, hence premise (2).
Still, the “Moral Law-giver” could just be something within the universe—maybe moral facts just supervene on physical facts, such as facts about society or facts about (purely material) human nature. If so, then the Moral Law-giver (“society” or “natural selection”) would not be something beyond the physical universe, hence the theological conclusion (4) could be avoided. So, what is Lewis’ argument in support of premise (3)?
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