Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reflections on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity: Book 1 Chapter 1

The Law of Human Nature

Mere Christianity is a book based on a series of talks C.S. Lewis gave in which he tried, successfully I might add, to explain Christianity in the most basic and easy to understand terms. Christianity can be explained logically, and C.S. Lewis is one of the greatest Christian writers of all time because he was able to simplify the message. In this way, he surely reached the minds of many who may not have otherwise considered or properly understood Christianity. Mere Christianity is broken up into four “Books,” each of which have several chapters. However, each chapter is only a couple pages long, so it is very easy and reasonable to read more than one chapter in one sitting. I have currently only read through the first two “Books,” but it won’t take me long to finish Mere Christianity. It is an easy read and one I think all Christians would do themselves a huge favor if they read themselves. I recommend picking up the book at your local library or better yet buying the book so you can always have it around for reference. I plan to do a brief reflection on each chapter of the book. So without further ado, below are my reflections on Mere Christianity.

The first chapter in the first book of C.S. Lewis’ masterful writing, Mere Christianity begins by simply observing people’s behavior. C.S. Lewis was a master observer of humans and human behavior. At one time in his life he thought that Christians were nonsensical, but as he began to observe people and the environment around him he began to see that Christianity made too much sense. He was able to come to this realization primarily through his own observation and common sense. To begin his explanation of Christianity, C.S. Lewis first appeals to human nature.

Every person can reason that there is a Law of Nature. For example, because of gravity we know that if a person jumps up in the air he must eventually fall back down. We know this because it is easily observable. From our experience, we have seen people jump up and they always fall back down. This is a fact that all humans easily recognize and accept as fact. What is not quite so easily recognizable but equally real is the Law of Human Nature.

The Law of Human Nature states that there is some certain standard of behavior which all human beings know about and expect others to follow. When describing the Law of Human Nature, C.S. Lewis uses the example of two people in an argument. When two people are in an argument, they are trying to convince the other that their position is right and the other person’s position is wrong. Another analogy he uses which I find particularly apt, is that of boundaries in a sporting event. Take baseball for example. Both teams agree that foul lines are necessary in the game of baseball. Both teams know that a ball hit outside the boundary lines is a foul ball. It is essential to have these boundaries to maintain the integrity of the game. They may disagree whether or not a ball is fair or foul, but they do not question that the boundaries themselves exist.

What makes the Law of Human Nature unique to simply Laws of Nature such as gravity is that human beings have the freewill to disregard the Law of Human Nature. If a person jumps up in the air, he cannot simply choose to stay up in the air, he must come down. However, a person knows from the Law of Nature that it is wrong to steal something that is not rightfully his own, but can and does willfully disobey this law and steals anyway. This freewill is what separates human beings from other animals.

Further proof that the Law of Nature exists is that when we do sin, most often times we try to explain away our sinful behavior. We have a bad temper, but only because we had a lack of sleep. That is only one example, but just about every time we sin we try to explain our behavior. The very fact that we believe we have to explain our behavior is proof that we all believe in a certain standard of behavior which we know we should live. Some things need not be taught, but are simply known. This is the Law of Human Nature which is written on each of our hearts.

The final point C.S. Lewis makes is that all of us disobey the Law of Human Nature. So, the first two essential things we learn from this chapter are that there are certain behaviors we all agree upon to be the standard way we should all behave and that we do not in fact behave that way. These two ideas are essential foundational and factual evidence for Christianity.

God bless!

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