C.S. Lewis on the Danger of God’s Goodness

[I]t is no use either saying that if there is a God of that sort–an impersonal absolute goodness–then you do not like Him and are not going to bother about Him. For the trouble is that one part of you is on His side and really agrees with His disapproval of human greed and trickery and exploitation. You may want Him to make an exception in your own case, to let you off this one time; but you know at bottom that unless the power behind the world really and unalterably detests that sort of behaviour, then He cannot be good. On the other hand, we know that if there does exist an absolute goodness it must hate most of what we do. That is the terrible fix we are in. … We cannot do without it. and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible-ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger-according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 1, chapter 5, paragraph 3.

C.S. Lewis on the Limited Domain of Science

I’ve been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis lately. Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing some sections with some occasional commentary. (If you follow me on social media [Facebook; Twitter], you will see that I will be sharing some quotes there too.)


In Mere Christianity Lewis makes the following comment:

You cannot find out which view  is the right one by science in the ordinary sense.[1] Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so and-so,’ or, ‘I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such -and such a temperature and it did so-and-so.’ Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science–and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes–something of a different kind–this is not a scientific question. If there is ‘Something Behind,’ then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, ‘Why is there a universe?’ ‘Why does it go on as it does?’ ‘Has it any meaning?’ would remain just as they were?

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 1, chapter 4, paragraph 2 (emphasis added).

In short, Lewis is pointing out that science has a particular domain, and as such, has a limited object of study. It cannot, by definition of being that discipline which studies the observable (not the non-observable), reach outside of the observable into the realm of the non-observable (e.g., God) or into matters of meaning, e.g., why the observable is the way it is.

To be specific, Lewis’ comments serve as a rebuke to those who adapt the following sorts of arguments:

  • I believe what we can know through science (observation).
  • Science cannot observe God.
  • Therefore, God does exist.

(Besides the fact that this sort of argument is non sequitur) what this sort of argument fails to recognize is the limited domain of scientific study (i.e., it is limited to the observable). This form of argumentation makes a huge assumption–that science is not merely a means of gaining knowledge, but the means (i.e., the sole means) of gaining knowledge. But this is merely to preclude a prior–not by demonstration or argument, but simply out of hand, without any justification–all other means of inquiry.


Notes

[1] Here Lewis is referring to the following two views: on the one hand, a view that all there is is the material world and that there is no God, for instance (what he calls “the materialist view”), versus a view, on the other hand, that holds to a belief in a God who in some way stands behind the material world (“the religious view”).

Have the Christian Scriptures Been Falsified? –Evaluating an Islamic Critique

I originally wrote this post last spring, but, for whatever reason, never got around to publishing it. So, long over do, here it is.


Falsified?

Prominent among Muslims is the belief that the Christian and Jewish (implied) scriptures have been falsified, the text having been changed and corrupted. They seek support for this in the Qur’an and the Hadith (their two authoritative texts). This is how Muslims explain that, although Muhammad was predicted in the Christian and Jewish scriptures, he was rejected by both groups.

But is this a legitimate claim? The evidence argues to the contrary.[1]

1. The word of God reflecting the character of God.

The falsification of scripture is incompatible with the character of God as recognized by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. God is truthful, trustworthy, and faithful. Therefore, His word cannot be corrupted or become unreliable. God is sovereignly powerful. But a God who intends to communicate yet fails to preserve His message from falsification is not a sovereignly powerful God.[2]

The Qur’an itself says,

We [referring to God with a “royal we”] have sent down the Qur’an Ourself, and We Ourself will guard it. – Sura 15:9.

Or again,

[Prophet], follow what has been revealed to you of your Lord’s Scripture: there is no changing His words…. – Sura 18:27.[3]

And the witness of the Christian scriptures correspond to this.

So, I ask, how does a falsification of scripture fit with this theology?

2. The manuscript evidence.

There are more manuscripts for the Biblical text than any other ancient document. And when we examine these manuscripts, we can confidently determine that the Biblical text has been transmitted with incredible accuracy.

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God and Science by Jon Hanes (FACT)

The following lecture was presented by Jon Hanes (deacon) at Lake Drive Baptist Church as a part of the FACT (Forum for the Advancement of Christian Thought) ministry run alongside the church. In this lecture Jon argues that the nature of science assumes or presupposes the existence of God. God is a “properly basic” belief in the scientific method, namely in its blind trust in the uniformity of nature and corresponding use of induction. This is true despite many scientists who deny the existence of this God. In essence, Jon argues for a Reformed, foundationalist epistemology as it relates to science. However, he explains all of this in much more colloquial language than I just did. This lecture is geared for the lay individual; and it is very understandable and clear. Among other things, it has much apologetic value. Jon has doctoral background in the sciences and enters this discussion prompted by the observation that there is very little regard for, or awareness of, the philosophy of science among other scientists in his field of study. I highly recommended it. Check it out.

Belief–The Only Valid Frame of Reference for the Resurrection of Christ

“The risen Jesus Christ cannot be discerned within the frame of the old conditions of life which by his resurrection he has transcended, and cannot be understood except within the context of the transformation which it has brought about. . . . The evidence for the resurrection can be handled and tested, appropriately, only within the orbit of its impact.”[1]

“We are not concerned here simply with what is often called ‘the hermeneutical circle’, but with the kind of circle which is posited by an ultimate fact which in the nature of the case cannot be brought within the same circle as other facts, but which stakes out the very grounds upon which experience and knowledge of it are possible.”[2]

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