May 9, 2015

Merely a Christian 02.

In the first chapter, Lewis undertakes the explanation of the 'Law of Human Nature' or the 'Law or Rule about Right and Wrong' and how, regardless of whether you acknowledge God's existence, or not, these rules or laws are in place and effect us all.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.  Nowadays, when we talk about the 'laws of nature' we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry.  But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong 'the Law of Nature,' they really meant the Law of Human Nature.  The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law - with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it.  They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it.... But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one.

But the most remarkable things is this.  Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.  He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' before you can say Jack Robinson.

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong....  

The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature.  If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? 

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make.  First, that 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.  Secondly, that they do no in fact behave in that way.  They know the Law of Nature; they break it.  These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. 

Source: Mere Christianity c. 1952 C.S. Lewis 

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