Ocean Mist

26 Jun 2009

The Law of Human Nature

Posted by Phil


I find that after reading a good book I am unable to remember many of the details, especially after some time.  When I just need something to jog my memory, it is too much to re-read the book in its entirety when often just a few key points will bring everything back.  So I will break up the standard devotional posts with some that summarize whatever book I happen to be reading.  Hopefully this will become a great resource for those who have read the book, and an encouragement to pick it up for those that haven’t.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – Book 1 Chapter 1: The Law of Human Nature

In this chapter C.S. Lewis sets the foundation for the remainder of Mere Christianity.  For the rest of his analysis to stand these two key points from Chapter 1 must stand:

[H]uman beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way… [and] they do not in fact behave in that way.

In quarrels, the argument is never just that one person’s behavior does not please the other, but that some kind of standard has been broken.  Each man expects the other to already know about this standard even though they may not have discussed it beforehand.  When confronted, the other person does not completely disregard this unspoken standard.  Rather, he tries to show how it does not apply in this situation or how there is a special exception to the rule in his case.

Every person is subjected to many laws, but there is only one law that can be broken.  A person does not have the liberty to decide when they will follow the physical laws of nature (gravity, biological laws, etc.).  They are always in effect.  However, the Law of Nature, the moral law appealed to in quarrels, can be disobeyed.

People can certainly be mistaken about what is right and wrong.  But, as with getting a math problem wrong, just because people can be mistaken does not make the moral law any more subjective than it makes the math problem subjective.  There is still only one correct answer, and there is still only one correct moral law (Law of Nature).

The second, and final, fundamental point is that none of us are really keeping the moral law.  It isn’t just that we can choose to always follow or to not always follow, and we choose to not always follow it.  It’s that none of us actually keep the moral law all the time, even if we choose (or try to) always keep it.

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