C.S. Lewis on Reason


Or more specifically, his Argument from Reason, one of his four arguments against the naturalistic world view, which are:

  1. The Argument from Natural Beauty: Nature’s cruelty was balanced by its creativity and beauty.
  2. The Argument from Morality: If the universe is thought to be cruel, where do we get that standard?
  3. The Argument from Reason: Reason doesn’t fit in a naturalistic world view that says human reasoning has non-rational causes. Lewis reasoned that assuming intelligence came from unintelligent causes is ir-rational.
  4. The Argument from Functional Complexity: Evolutionists sometimes point to technological development as an illustration of evolution producing order and complexity from disorder and simplicity. Lewis called such thinking an “optical illusion.” As we must go outside the sophisticated and complex mechanical and electronic systems that we see to find their originators, we must go outside nature to find its Originator. “An effect cannot be greater than its original cause,” or, “a copy cannot be better than the original.”

Lewis’ arguments from reason and functional complexity are really the same idea: order from disorder is the opposite of Einstein’s Third Law of Thermodynamics, a ridiculously simplified version of which is: A closed system goes from a state of order or complexity to a state of disorder or simplicity. Since this piece’s title is, “… on Reason,” I’ll do the reasonable thing and focus on reason.

My Definition of Reason

The Thinker

A human’s ability to connect the dots is what we call, “the process of reason.” We don’t know that it’s unique to humanity, but the higher reasoning functions probably are—cetaceans possibly excepted.

With that bit of vagueness, let’s further analyze reason, which is the faculty for logical or rational thought. Reasoning is applied reason. Reasoning is like what goes on in a relational database, which compares bits of data for relevance to a query term, then sorts the hits according to numerous numerics and selects the last datum standing.

Pretty smart, eh? What a wonderful product of evolution that is, to have come about through random processes and natural selection! I’m sure the coders who first invented relational databases would agree.

Reason and Religion, a True Oxymoron

Like evolution, reason is a process, and not an entity. It can’t respond, favorably or unfavorably, to ideas and propositions based on preconceptions. It’s simply a tool for arriving at conclusions based on analysis. It takes brilliant human beings to skew those conclusions based on our preferences and prejudices. That’s the purview of religion in all its guises. If you’re curious about “religion’s” definition, I’ll tack it on the end of this ridiculously long post.

“But,” you might respond, “God gave mankind the ability to form rational thought. How can religion be ir-rational?” Though you probably didn’t respond that way, it makes a great entry point to my next thought.

Nothing about God is religious. Humans invented religion, hoping to please God, or the gods, with our religious observances. In the process, as with most human endeavors, we got it wrong. That’s why Jesus came to set us right by taking sin’s penalty for us. But as usual, we turned Christ into a religious icon, rather than our Savior and Master. That’s what I mean by religion’s irrationality.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, God indeed gave mankind the ability to form rational thought; which is just one of the resemblances we have to him. His Word, the Bible, is perfectly rational, but at a higher level than we humans can usually grasp. I personally take that truth by faith, but my observations of his works help that along considerably.

God’s Word

First, I know God communicates with humanity. He uses his Word, which isn’t the ink-on-paper Bible, but what his Holy Spirit does with those words in our hearts. He also uses his creation to show us something of himself. And occasionally, but very occasionally, he uses special revelation when he really needs to get his message through our thick skulls.

Second, when I fail to understand something in God’s Word, it’s my failure, not God’s. When that happens—which is more often than my pride would like to admit—I pray for his Holy Spirit’s enlightenment on the issue. Though that doesn’t always (translated, usually) happen on my timetable, I refuse to fret about it; I just relax and meditate on the passage, using Bible study tools to help clarify it. If it still doesn’t make sense, I just shelve the issue and go on to more fertile ground. Thing is, I know that if any Scripture passage is important to me, God will throw his light on it in his good time.

Religion’s Definition

What you see below I copped from Mirriam Webster dot com.

re·li·gion noun \ri-ˈli-jən\

  1. the service and worship of God or the supernatural
  2. the commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
  3. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Definition number four is the most general, and the one I prefer, as it applies to all three previous definitions. By that definition, both dogmatic creationism and dogmatic naturalism are essentially religious belief systems. In case you didn’t catch that, dogmatic is the common element in both systems. I’ve tried on numerous occasions to rationally point out that fact to atheists, usually earning their irate reaction.

Reason is a beautiful thing, which is only natural because the beautiful God shared it with us, along with our human spirit, originally patterned after his Spirit. Without reason and our human spirit we’d be just another species of bipedal primates. Yes, yes, I know that’s the story we get from atheistic naturalists, but they’re just religious fundamentalists, after all.

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