Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Case for Something Instead of Nothing

"I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle.

God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing."
Dr. Alan Sandage - an American astronomer.


Why is there something instead of nothing? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? These are enduring questions that mankind has been asking himself since the dawn of time. Up until about a hundred and fifty years ago man thought he had the answer. The answer was God or the gods. The secular humanist revolution of the 19th century spurred on in part by the likes of Marx and Darwin has in effect pushed God out of the picture, prefering the chaos of random chance as the only rational explanation to these questions. But is it really rational?

Dr Alan Sandage, whom I quoted above, was born of Jewish background, but at age 60 became a Christian. He is not the only scientist who became a believer in Jesus Christ as God incarnate. One of the most famous is geneticist Francis Collins, the scientist who mapped the human genome. In the mid 70's Collins, a self described "obnoxious athiest" was surprised by the serene faith of the terminally ill patients he encountered during his medical residency. With his faith in "nothing" shaken he sought a consultation with a local minister who knew just the ticket... He handed Collins a book called "Mere Christianity" written by the most famous athiest to Christian convert of the 20th century - the one and only, C.S. Lewis. Dr. Collins put his science and his faith on the line in his own recently published book called "The Language of God".

"The Case for Christianity" the first volume of the collection that eventually became "Mere Christianity" is a gem of a book. C.S. Lewis has a remarkable way of making complex issues understandable. At the end of the first chapter Lewis lays out the scope of his argument: "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 not 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". It is true that all cultures throughout history have had such a moral code and those codes are remarkably similar.

If we start with the premise as Lewis does that there is an unwritten Law of Right and Wrong, Law of Human Nature, Code of Decent Behavior, a Moral Code or whatever you want to call it then logic and reason demand that it came from somewhere. Since it is not merely instinct and it transcends all cultures and all time it can't be simply "learned" then one concludes it was given to us by something, someone, - perhaps God???

Here I will step through the main points of C.S. Lewis' remarkable little book:

* * *
There exists an innate Law of Right and Wrong, Moral Code or Law of Human Nature that dictates how we "ought" to act and behave. The way we behave in fact is generally at odds with this Law. This Law had to have come from Somewhere or Something.

* * *
The universe we live in either exists for no reason or there is a power or "mind" behind it. There is but one entity that can even pose this question via the observation of the universe and everything in it, that would be man. LEWIS: "If there is a controlling power outside the universe it could not show itself as one of the facts inside the universe... The only way in which it could expect to show itself would to be inside of us as to influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way. And that's just what we do find inside us." (The Moral Code)

* * *
The power behind the universe is either a Duality as in a Light/Good force and a Dark/Bad force or it is a Singularity where one force precedes the other. In the case for the Duality both Light and Dark are equal but separate and both forces believes itself to be good and righteous while the other is bad and evil; the two are locked in an endless battle. In the case for the Singularity the Dark force has fallen away from the Light.

* * *
Badness/evil for it's own sake is insufficient since being in a state of existence is itself a good thing. To pursue badness takes intelligence and will, both of which are good. It follows that badness is only spoiled goodness. LEWIS: "And you begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil was a fallen angel... It's a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing... the thing that enables something to be effectively bad are in themselves good things - resolution, cleaverness, good looks and existence itself. That's why Dualism in a strict sense, won't work."

***
The Dark Power in the universe - a mighty evil who holds the power behind death and disease and sin was created by the Power behind the Good, which we call God Himself. The Dark Power was created by God and was a good when it was created and went wrong. The universe is at war with itself, but it is not a war of equal and independent powers. It is a civil war, a rebellion and the world we live in is occupied territory, occupied by the rebel, Satan himself.

***
LEWIS: "Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise... Christians then believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this World." Then how can the absolute Power allow something so contrary to His will? God created things which have a free will, free to go right or wrong. And why would God give us free will? LEWIS: "Because a free will, though it makes evil possible is also the only thing that makes possible any sort of love or goodness or joy worth having... When we've understood about free will we shall see why it is silly to ask: Why did God create a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?"

***
LEWIS: "How did the Dark Power go wrong? Because the moment you have a sense of self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first - wanting to be at the center - wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: that was the sin of the human race..." Satan, the devil, the Dark Power - put into the heads of our ancient ancestors that they too could be Gods. That they could invent some sort of happiness outside of God, apart from God.

***
The problem becomes that since we were created to "run" on God we don't run properly without him. He is the fuel of our spirits like gasoline is to a car. Despite all the terrific things man has accomplished throughout the centuries something always goes wrong. The people who rise to the top with their power, wealth and influence develop the fatal flaws of selfishness or cruelty and a people or a society falls into misery and ruin.

***
God is absolute goodness and imbued in us this Moral Code, the Law of Right and Wrong so that we can be good as well in order to be "with" Him. Since we, as fallen men under the yoke of the Dark Power holding this Earth in it's grips, fall short and do not live up to this Law we lose favor with Him. Christianity is the story of God's plan to save us from the emptyness of life without God.

***
There was a people chosen by God to be the ones to know and understand the sense of right and wrong and right conduct. The Jews spent several centuries chronicling the Moral Law that existed inside the conscience of man. The Jews, convinced that God was the creator of this universe and exists outside of it, were shocked at the claims of this Man among them, Jesus of Nazareth who went about claiming to be Him. LEWIS: " Let us get this clear. Among Panthiests, like the Hindus anyone might say he was part of God, or be one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, couldn't have meant that kind of God... Once you grasped that, you will see what this man said was quite simply the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips."

***
LEWIS: "We are faced with a frightening alternative. This Man we are talking about was (and is) just what he said or else a lunatic, or something worse." Christians accept that Jesus was God and landed in enemy occupied territory in human form. The question is - to what purpose? To suffer and be killed for the forgiveness of our sins. The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God.

***
LEWIS: "We learn that Christ was killed for us, that his death has washed out our sins and that by dying He disabled (spiritual) death itself. That's the formula, that's Christianity." That is not to say that we are free to sin and act pridefull because Christ has made this ultimate sacrifice. The unrighteous must dig out from the hole he created. LEWIS: "In other words, the fallen man isn't simply an imperfect creature in need of improvement: he's a rebel who must lay down his arms..." This surrender is called repentance.

***
Repentance means killing a part of yourself. LEWIS: "Only a bad person needs to repent and only a good person can repent... now we need God's help in order to do something which God, in His own nature never does at all - to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all... God can only share what he has: this thing, in His own nature, he has not"

***
What if God became a man? What if our human nature which can suffer and die was joined with God's nature - then we could receive God's help. God through Christ sacraficed and died which is something He himself needn't suffer at all. The perfect surrender: Perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man.

***
We can follow Christ through repentence and live a Christ-life where we are not expected to be perfect, for only He is perfect, but through the power of the Holy Spirit which Christ places in you. You carry a piece of Christ with you that will help steer you straight when you get off course. LEWIS: "This repentence, this willing submission to humiliation and kind of death, isn't something God demands of you before he'll take you back... it's simply a description of what going back to him is like." The unrighteous must die (spiritually) and be reborn to go back to God. To simply ask for forgiveness without going back and starting over is getting there without actually going there, it's impossible.

***
Through belief, baptism and communion we begin the process of reconciliation with God. Belief is obvious, but what about baptism and communion? Baptism is the process in which the Holy Spirit enters into you, a part of Christ. You are accepting the Christ-life. (That's why even as a Catholic I believe in adult baptism or reaffirming baptism at every Christening of a baby.) Communion, Mass, the Lord's Supper reflects our phyical being - we are not simply spiritual creatures, we are made of matter - and our physical selves need Christ's nourishment as well to protect the Christ-life inside us.

In Conclusion

Being what I like to call a born again Catholic I say this: while I consider myself Catholic I am a Christian first and foremost. I know this flies in the face of "The Church" teachings but I can and will live without the Catholic Church if I have to, but I will not live without Christ. There are many wonderful things about the Church and it's catechism but the Roman Catholic Church is a human institution and therefore is infected with Satan. There is evil in the Catholic and all other denominations and faiths (uh hem Islam) so my loyalties are between me and Jesus.

I think C.S. Lewis would also agree with that as he noted that the various theories of exactly how Christ died and rose from the dead are secondary to the fact that Christ died for our sins, paid our debt in advance. We don't necessarily need to understand something perfectly to know it is good.



CW

1 comments:

Carrol Harris said...

Craig Willms, I enjoyed your blog and CS Lewis is my favorite uninspired author.

I rejoice at your conclusion re: denominations. There is a church that claims to be undenominational in nature and practice, that is merely Christ's church. Not some invisible body, but one visible, one that has the characteristics of the church of the New Testament.

Feel free to email me if you like.

Carrol Harris,
Wiesbaden, Germany