Archive for April 19, 2009
Some anti-theists say, “Is belief in God not a little antiquated? When people were still ignorant, they used to attribute all natural phenomena to the activity of a God. But surely this time is past? We now have the laws of nature to explain everything that is happening in the universe.”
This was one of C. S. Lewis’ pet peeves. He answered the objection on numerous occasions, even writing a fictional dialogue about it in which he talks to a friend.
“Miracles,” said his friend. “Oh, come. Science has knocked the bottom out of all that. We know now that Nature is governed by fixed laws.”
“Didn’t people always know that?” said Lewis.
“Good Lord, no,” said his friend. “For instance, take a story like the Virgin Birth. We know now that such a thing couldn’t happen. We know there must be a male spermatozoon.”
“But look here,” said Lewis. “St. Joseph—“
“Who’s he?” asked his friend.
“He was the husband of the Virgin Mary. If you’ll read the story in the Bible you’ll find that when he saw his fiancée was going to have a baby he decided to cry off the marriage. Why did he do that?”
“Wouldn’t most men?”
“Any man would,” said Lewis, “provided he knew the laws of nature—in other words, provided he knew that a girl doesn’t ordinarily have a baby unless she’s been sleeping with a man. But according to your theory people in the old days didn’t know that nature was governed by fixed laws. I’m pointing out that the story shows that St. Joseph knew that law just was well as you do.”
“But he came to believe in the Virgin Birth afterwards, didn’t he?”
“Quite. But he didn’t do so because he was under any illusion as to where babies came from in the ordinary course of nature. He believed in the Virgin Birth as something super-natural. He knew nature works in fixed, regular ways: but he believed that there existed something beyond nature which could interfere with her workings—from outside, so to speak.”
“But modern science has shown there’s no such thing.”
“Really,” said Lewis.
“Which of the sciences?”
“Oh, well, that’s a matter of detail,” said his friend. “I can’t give you chapter and verse from memory.”
“But, don’t you see,” said Lewis, “that science never could show anything of the sort?”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because science studies nature. And the question is whether anything besides nature exists—anything ‘outside.’ How could you find that out by studying simply nature?”