C.S. Lewis, Francis Collins, and the Moral Argument

cs-lewisMy own heart and mind were first turned to God by reading C.S. Lewis and specifically Mere Christianity. Since that time, I have read most of Lewis’s works, fiction and non-fiction and, suffice it to say, I am a fan.

Though his writing style is relatively simple (some find him difficult, but I fear this is due to the low level of literature in our day), he is a well-read scholar in the humanities. I once read a lot of philosophers on the subject of love and then found Lewis’s The Four Loves to be a soul-delighting stroll through bright meadows and green hills. Yet I concluded that Lewis had read every idea I had encountered and more though he did not put on any pretense or footnote hundreds of references.

In particular it was the moral argument for God that persuaded me to give up my nineteen years of agnosticism with atheist leanings. I won’t rehearse the moral argument for God here, but I encourage you to read it for yourself, preferably in Lewis’s version and not in some shoddy website (if you go immediately after this and google the term “moral argument for God” I will symbolically punch you).

I was reminded of the power of discovering evidence for God in my own world and within the bounds of what knowledge I can posses when I picked up Francis Collins’ The Language of God.

If you don’t know, let me tell you that Francis Collins is the head of the Human Genome Project and is, therefore, no mean scientist. He is persuaded by his studies that evolution explains the history of life on this planet. He also believes quite firmly in God and in Christianity.

Lately, at the local Borders bookstore, I have noticed the growing section of atheistic books, the new atheists as they are called, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris to name the leading writers. The only one whose prose even interested me so far is Christopher Hitchens. The man is a great writer (though I am sad to say I find his philosophizing unsophisticated).

It seems I have seen, though I cannot quote a title, a volume or two specifically seeking to overthrow the moral argument on the basis of evolutionary science. In order to do that, the evolutionary scientist must explain altruism and moral codes genetically.

The books now popping up on Borders Bookstore shelves claim to do that.

It was refreshing to read Francis Collins, in the very first chapter of his book, explain and simply refute these counter-arguments vaunted against the moral argument. It is nothing more than wishful thinking for people who wish God did not exist to take the thorniest intellectual and epistemological problem of atheism and try to rationalize it away.

And the irony is that those who so greatly wish to prove a Godless universe cannot escape the moral law themselves, and find themselves living according to the very thing they deny exists. Truth, in some cases, is inescapable even to those who choose not to look upon it.

Meanwhile, Collins’ obvious reverence for Lewis and especially for Mere Christianity reminds me of the joy I have had in reading Lewis over the years and often rereading him.

The following is a short list of recommendations for those who might decide to read the greatest writer, in my opinion, in recent Christian literature, if you judge writing by both style and import:

Mere Christianity is your first assignment in Lewis. It is very short and you could finish in a few days of light reading.

The Great Divorce is about residents of hell who take a field trip to heaven. It should be your second stop and it may leave the longest impression. I have read it a dozen times.

The Four Loves is another life-changing book and will not only inform, but completely capture your soul if you have a shred of humanity in you (which, of course, you do).

Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra are the first two in a science fiction trilogy. They are theological science fiction and if you read them you will quickly see what I mean. The third is not as good, but if you are in love with the series, go ahead and try the third one too.

’Til We Have Faces is a bit harder, more literary and dense, in terms of fiction, but is one of the greatest novels I have ever read. This book does not get enough appreciation in my opinion.

Narnia would be a great read after you have absorbed the Lewis essentials above.

The Screwtape Letters are not as good, in my opinion as those listed above, but worth reading if you have captured the Lewis bug.

Other works by Lewis: I haven’t mentioned them all, but the titles above are more than a good start. Happy reading.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christian, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to C.S. Lewis, Francis Collins, and the Moral Argument

  1. tbyjanicki says:

    I am a big fan of Lewis myself. I also recommend the book “The Quotable Lewis” where you can find quotes of his arranged by topic. A great reference tool and it also gives you a window into some of his more obscure writings and letters.

  2. Rabbi David Wolpe’s “Why Faith Matters” is the best antidote to these “new atheists” that I’ve read so far.

    • amiel4messiah says:

      Derek, great post – I enjoyed it. I also am a great CS Lewis fan and have read most of his books. How about ‘a grief observed’ which was also made into a great movie with Anthony Hopkins?

      CS Lewis’ spiritual mentor was George McDonald (another fine writer in his own right). Not many people are aware that McDonals passionately believed in a Universal Salvation.

      My favourite McDonald quote is “we build a relationship (with G-d) through obedience”. Amen!

  3. judahgabriel says:

    Great post, Derek. Thanks for this.

  4. oldsaltdd says:

    Derek,
    Thank you for bringing light to Lewis’ work. He was foundational to my growth as a young believer. I was incredulous to learn that the very Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien led him to faith, but not the church that had given him (Tolkien) so much.

    What is missing, from my perspective, is “The Abolition of Man” in your must-read list. He foretold the purposeful devolution of our education systems which have intentionally (thank you, Progressives) paved the way for our day’s perilous political and economic situation. You’ve bemoaned the reduction in reading abilities of our fellows, but missed a chance to point out that Lewis saw and documented the advent of it in “Men Without Chests/The Abolition of Man”.

    While I’m being persnickety, you mentioned Chris Hitchens’ being unsophisticated. If one breaks down the term, you wind up quickly with sophism (people telling others how smart they are) and, worse yet sophistry (things overcomplicated – think Rube Goldberg) I find Hitchens’ argumentation full of sophistry – I agree, delightful in his writing ability and sense of humor, but logically convoluted to a fault. Did you see him in Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”?

    You blog delightfully, keep it up!

    Baruch Hashem,
    David Hambleton, USN – Ret.
    http://www.oldsaltweb.com

  5. I am also a Lewis fan. I wish more people read his work. I am afraid you are right to suggest that literary intelligence is low in current society. I am also a believer that the best argument is one of an apology.

    Cheers and Shalom.
    Stephanie

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