In Chris’ short satirical video, My Reconversion (HERE), he pretends that he is reconverted to his former Christian worldview through C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. I read the book as a young man in the military and was so impressed with it that I bought several other books by C.S. Lewis. At least for a short while, he had become my favorite author. Anyway, I would like to address in this post some of the things Chris brought up as he critiqued Lewis’ support of his Christian worldview.
Chris began with a supposed disagreement with a friend. One might tell his friend, “That’s not fair” or “I had that first” or “I helped you when you needed it.” Chris tells us that such statements point to a universal idea of fairness, which again infers a moral law or a law of human nature that we all understand. But, let’s stop for a moment and consider Chris’ conclusion. How does a sense of fair play involve moral issues? If I were your friend, but I made light of our friendship should my action or inaction be automatically considered immoral?
Let’s say I am involved with unlawful people, and, because I helped my friend out of a tight situation, would it be immoral for him to break our friendship agreement to help me out by murdering or stealing from my enemy? Of course, as an unlawful person, I might take my friend’s refusal to act as unfair or even immoral—I was his friend but he didn’t reciprocate. In my world people like me stick together (or so it is said)—we live by a code, or a sense of fair-play (call it morality) according to our standard of behavior.
Another example would be: perhaps my friend did act immorally by not helping me. “That’s not fair!” Why not? Perhaps my friend lied about me for his own advantage, perhaps to get a job for which we both applied. Such an act would be immoral, but by what standard? It certainly couldn’t be my friend’s, unless he shows some guilt over what he had done. In a survival of the fittest world, what is morality? Where is the code in our DNA? My contention is that, since the source of morality cannot be found in naturalism, our sense of it must come from elsewhere, outside of nature.
In another example Chris suggests that I imagine that I see a man in trouble but helping him would endanger me. Would I do nothing (self-preservation instinct) or risk my life to save him (altruism instinct)? Chris calls both instincts. Why would he do that? Where can we find in nature the sense of endangering oneself in order to save another? We may point to something similar in nature, where the female might fight to protect its young, such as, a mother bird, the larger meal, may ‘pretend’ it has a broken wing, but, once the predator attacks the adult, the adult will flee, giving its young more time to find safety. Is this altruism, or is it the instinct to survive? I’m not an expert, but when I consider the conflicts I’ve seen in nature, eventually the adult gives up, if the predator is overpowering, and its young are sacrificed for the life of the adult. So, where do we find altruism as a natural instinct? If there is no real altruistic behavior in nature, where should we look for its source?
Am I saying that atheists or agnostics by nature are immoral or never act altruistically? No, of course I’m not saying that. My Christian worldview tells me that God told the Jews that he would make a new covenant with them and write his law in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-33). How would God write his law in the hearts of men (both Jew and gentile)? Would he pause time and write it into everyone’s DNA or open a closed gate in the DNA string? No, he wouldn’t have to do that. The New Covenant calls for preaching the Gospel of Christ to the world, including both Jews and gentiles. Once altruism is lived out before mankind, it cannot be unlearned. It began with Jesus (God in the flesh) and continued through the 1st century Church. Folks thought they were crazy, but they continued, and the life of Christ and the lives of the first Christians were the epiphany of a self-indulgent world. While morality can be learned by anyone, its source is God.