C.S. Lewis held to many of the scientific conclusions of his day. Nonetheless, he was often critical of what others have sometimes called “scientism”—a worldview that treats science as a stand-alone teller of truth without a deeper epistemological basis and thus room for a metaphysics; a form of science that makes absolutist exclusive claims that lead it to assume more jurisdiction than its methodological parameters actually allow.
See the following quote from his lecture, “Is Theology Poetry?” or as we might rephrase it, Is Christianity nothing more than aesthetically pleasing mythology?
“The picture so often painted of Christians huddling together on an ever narrower strip of beach while the incoming tide of ‘Science’ mounts higher and higher corresponds to nothing in my own experience. That grand myth … is not for me a hostile novelty breaking in on my traditional beliefs. On the contrary, that cosmology is what I started from. Deepening distrust and final abandonment of it long preceded my conversion to Christianity. Long before I believed Theology to be true I had already decided that the popular scientific picture at any rate was false. One absolutely central inconsistency ruins it….
The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory — in other words, unless Reason is an absolute — all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.
Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based. The difficulty is to me a fatal one; and the fact that when you put it to many scientists, far from having an answer, they seem not even to understand what the difficulty is, assures me that I have not found a mare’s nest but detected a radical disease in their whole mode of thought from the very beginning. The man who has once understood the situation is compelled henceforth to regard the scientific cosmology as being, in principle, a myth; though no doubt a great many true particulars have been worked into it.
We pursue some thoughts triggered by Psalm 36:9: ‘In your light do we see light.’ And these thoughts are provoked further by the catalyst of a famous quote from C. S. Lewis: ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’
Ordinarily when we seek to have a well-grounded conviction about some claim to truth in this world, we bring all our experience to bear on the claim and try to make sense out of it. What we know from experience before we hear the claim, we apply to the claim to see if it measures up. Does it cohere with what we know to be true? Does it make sense in the light of what we already know? What we know from experience is the standard, the arbiter, the measure of truth.
But what happens when we encounter a claim that says, “I am the Standard, the Arbiter, the Truth”? This claim is unique. It is not like other claims to truth in this world. When the ultimate Measure of all reality speaks, you don’t subject this Measure to the measure of your mind or your experience of the world. He created all that. When the ultimate Standard of all truth and beauty appears, he is not put in the dock to be judged by the prior perceptions of truth and beauty that we bring to the courtroom.
The eternal, absolute original is seen as true and beautiful not because he coheres with what we know but because all the truth and beauty we know coheres in him. It is measured by him, and it is seen flowing from him. He does not make sense, and thus have plausibility, in the light of this world. He brings sense to the world. He is sense. The light that we have in the world does not shine on him and reveal his truth. He is the light of the world, and in his light we see light.
The following is a summary of and reflection upon an abridged version of Calvin’s Institutes produced by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne (see it here on Amazon). I should note that I did not read the final book, Book IV: Outward Means by which God Helps Us, in its entirety; and therefore, it was directly not taken into consideration in the writing of this review.
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Calvin’s understanding of how men know God, know themselves, and the relationship between these two types of knowledge is seemingly foundational to the entirety of his theology (1:1:1). For Calvin, knowledge of self is intrinsically linked to knowledge of God while knowledge of God results in proper assessment of self (1:1:1). Genuine knowledge of self necessarily assumes knowledge of God. One cannot fully grasp the existence of the creature apart from his fundamental relationship to his Creator and Sustainer (1:1:1). Comprehension of man’s falleness assumes an ideal, one that is rooted in God’s creative-design; transgression implies the reality of Judge (1:1:1). On the other hand, without knowledge of God, no one ever truly knows himself (1:1:2). Lacking insight into the purpose for which He was created, ignorance of his original nature and its divine intent flourish. Unaware of God’s standard of righteousness, man consequently assesses his moral condition inaccurately (2:1:1).
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.
“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.”
“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.”