By Bernard James Mauser, Ph.D.
Humanity is inundated with a flood of fads and fascinations. At our fingertips in seconds we can find the latest movie clips, how to survive the zombie apocalypse, along with a host of other obsessions both good and evil. In this melee of entertainment one can find serious news stories as well. One that has recently gained popularity concerns the state of Indiana’s new law promoting religious tolerance. We should recognize the overlap between the serious and the entertaining. C.S. Lewis can be a guide to help to this end.
Now one may have only known Lewis from his Chronicles of Narnia. He also has a more serious work that is about the role of education in shaping morality. This book is called The Abolition of Man. In it he takes to task English teachers who, in the guise of teaching English, actually teach moral lessons. How can The Abolition throw some light on the overlap between the serious and less-than-serious?
Lewis points out and defends the truth that Paul expresses in Romans 2. What is known to everyone is that there is a moral law written on the heart by which people recognize good and evil. This view is opposed in our society by those identifying as relativists. The creed of the relativist is that there is no right or wrong. This allegedly frees them to pursue any pleasure they choose without a guilty conscience. However, this relativistic credo betrays them. No person is a full-blown relativist. While they may say there is no right or wrong, the relativist thinks when you do something to hurt them in any way it is wrong.
This moral law is the basis for virtue and for judging anything to be good or evil. This is why we can judge any law to be good or bad. The moral law, sometimes referred to as the natural law, stands over all laws mankind makes. This is why all people can chime in about the morality of certain laws like those allowing religious freedom.
People always talk about the goodness or badness of movies, laws, and the like. When they do so they are saying that people can recognize these qualities. If morality is nothing more than preference, like tastes, then all these statements are meaningless. However, we recognize by our reactions to clear examples of immorality that there is a reality to the moral realm. Our moral judgments about right and wrong actually refer to reality and we all know it.
Those that deny this truth will have to bite the bullet. Lewis posits an argument that shows the implication of rejecting the universal moral law. “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”[i] The denial of natural law leads to immorality, irrationality, and true intolerance as all these concepts are meaningless without it. Embracing the truth of the existence of this universal moral law frees us to be coherent when we judge between virtue and vice, good and evil.