Fundamental to the creed of the contemporary skeptic is the notion that everything is relative and that there are no absolutes. However, that is itself an absolute. And no matter how cool it is to feign the attitude that one exists beyond right and wrong, no one wants to be treated as if right and wrong did not exist.
Of this universal truth, Lewis observes, “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right or Wrong, you will find the 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' (15).”
Since law exists whether we like it or not, it must have a source beyond us in order to be binding upon us and to avoid degenerating into a matter of mere preference or opinion. Since this universal law represents the codification of a set of principles, it could not have come about as a result of random choice, but rather through some kind of purposeful intelligence. Thus, a second issue confronting the skeptic in “Mere Christianity” is whether the source of this law is personal or impersonal.
The views regarding God can be divided into two basic viewpoints. On the one hand, pantheism believes, in the words of Lewis, that “God animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe is almost God (30).” Traditional monotheists, on the other hand, believe that God is distinct from creation in a manner similar to “...a man making a picture or composing a tune...A painter is not a picture (30).”
From our understanding of law as a set of principles established for determining right and wrong, the monotheistic conception would be the one most in keeping with the evidence. For if God and the universe were co-terminus as postulated by the pantheists, by definition whatever is, is ought. Only by being distinct from what He has made is God justified in pronouncing judgment upon it.
Since God is the source of perfection and man so marked by imperfection, there must be some way for these seemingly irreconcilable twains to meet. Since man is imperfect, there is nothing he can do of his own merit to bring himself to God's level. Rather, the imperfect can only be made whole and elevated to a higher status on the terms of the perfect.
Since God is the ultimate authority and source of power, it is up to Him to determine the method through which man can be reconciled to God. Of all of the religions of the world, orthodox Biblical Christianity is the only one where that particular belief's conception of salvation is not granted on the basis of the adherent's own merit or accomplishment but rather as a result through the realization that one's own works are as filthy rags and by throwing oneself on the mercy of a loving God willing to extend forgiveness to those embracing what God has done for them rather than on what they have done for Him. In the Christian tradition, this eternal pardon is granted to those believing that Jesus as the only Son of God lived the perfect life that we could not, suffered and died upon the cross for the sins of the world, and rose in bodily form from the dead.
Thus, the most important issue the skeptic is forced to confront is exactly who do they think Jesus is. Impressed with the morals of Jesus but not wanting to admit that they themselves are sinners, most unbelievers think they are broadminded enough by giving Jesus an esteemed status as an ethical teacher from the past with no present claim on their lives.
However, as Lewis points out, a moral person would not say the things about himself that Jesus said about Himself. Lewis writes, “A man who...said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be a lunatic --- on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg --- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice (41).”
Much of the spiritual danger of the contemporary world lies in the numerous distractions available to those preferring to avoid those fundamental questions nagging at the human soul. C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity”, forces the reader to confront these issues in an engaging and forthright manner.
By Frederick Meekins
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