Does the Argument from Desire Have Any Bite?

by Matt Rawlings

It is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis.  The great apologist, novelist and Oxford Don may be best known for contributing the “argument from desire” to what Edward J. Carnell called, “a whole bag of arguments for the existence of God.” The argument can be found in Lewis’ sermon The Weight of Glory and in his classic Mere Christianity.  Lewis wrote, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food…”, and inferred that: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

The argument has been crafted with more precision by Peter Kreeft as follows:

Premise 1: Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.

Premise 2:  But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy.

Conclusion:  Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth and creatures, which can satisfy this desire.

This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.

from The Handbook of Christian Apologetics (IVP 1994).

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Alister McGrath and others have dismissed the argument as poor.  It is easy for a skeptic to dismiss.  An atheist can waive this off with a statement like, “I don’t have such a desire! My desires are perfectly fulfilled by [family, money, fame, power, sex, romance, art…]!”

Boom.  The conversation is over.

But is it?

I was an atheist for ten years.  I partied like it was 1999 until 1997.  I believed I could be happy but only if I had the right girl, the right job, the right look, the right opportunities, etc.  When I was a 17-year old runaway in Hollywood, I believed if I could become a successful film director then my desire would be satisfied.  When I was a 23-year old Congressional Aide, I believed that if I were eventually elected to the U.S House, then all my desire would be satisfied.  Yet, after meeting so many successful filmmakers, songwriters, musicians and government leaders, I came to know somewhere deep within myself that this was not true…

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Does the Argument from Desire Have Any Bite? | Pastor Matt


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