This “meaning crisis” conversation will eventually come to a natural law ethic, or it will never resolve.
As noted in my opening post on this matter, I am wanting to more fully and directly make this connection – the connection of the meaning crisis to the violation of a natural law ethic, and why restoring the natural law ethic is the only solution to the meaning crisis.
Again, while I call the previous post my opening post, in reality it is what I have been working through for a few years, but have decided I now need to try to pull it together in a concise form.
It has been a month since I published that opening post, “Nature, According to Our Purpose.” Almost from the time I published it, I have kept getting pulled to C. S. Lewis’s book, the Abolition of Man. The more I have thought about it, the more I have come to conclude that the answer to my dilemma is all in this book. Lewis wrote of the problem and solution almost eighty years ago.
I have written about this book in the past. My previous posts can be found here:
What I believed would be the case, and as I have started to re-read the book has turned out to be true, is that my thought has developed significantly since the time I wrote these earlier posts almost three years ago. There are many parts that didn’t catch my attention the first time that now seem tremendously relevant. So, I can’t take a shortcut and just say “read these old posts for the answer.” Parts of it will be there, to be sure. But I don’t think it ties together the way I hope it will today.
So, why The Abolition of Man? Why do I believe the entire answer will be found in this short (less-than-forty-page) book? Lewis quickly summarizes why we, as human beings, require objective values if we are to live as human beings.
Now, consider that last sentence carefully: we require objective values if we are to live as human beings. If he is right, then the clear implication is that if we do not have and hold to objective values, we cannot live as human beings.
Hence, if we cannot live as human beings, our lives have lost meaning as human beings. We can live as something else, but not as human beings. Would this not result in a crisis of meaning, to live as something other than what we are – to not live as we are meant to live?
Lewis covers all of this. Now, he begins with an example that seems quite quaint to our ears; a seemingly small little slight, an almost unnoticeable ounce of meaning stripped from a large inventory of stock. It will be worth beginning by examining how far we have fallen since the time he wrote these words – from a small little gap in maintaining objective values to the chasm we now live with today (and we know the limits of widening this gap have not yet been reached).
The cost of the one little slight noted by Lewis at the beginning of this book can be understood if one understands the quote from Confucius with which Lewis begins his work:
The Master said, He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.
Just one strand out of place – in a different order, one not belonging to the whole – and the whole is ruined. Once the unraveling begins, there is no end to it. Once the principle is given up or compromised, there is no natural (principled) place by which one can say “it stops here.”
What is the fabric that is so delicate that one wrong strand, one strand out of place, will destroy the whole? Lewis answers the question:
This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.
Throughout the book, Lewis, for convenience, uses the word Tao when he speaks of this point. I will, as Lewis has made clear is appropriate, use the term Natural Law whenever he uses Tao, in order to be quite clear to Western ears what Lewis is speaking of.
It is this that Lewis explores – the loss of a Natural Law ethic and the costs associated with this – and this is why Natural Law is the key to resolving the meaning crisis. It is the fabric that has been destroyed because man has been working on a different strand. It is derived from the objective values on which man depends if he is to have a meaningful life.
It is this that I will explore, through Lewis, in several subsequent posts.
This is great stuff. I have only read Lewis' fiction. His space trilogy is a must read but probably the least read of his writings.ReplyDelete
It really helps to know that natural law wasn't just a Thomas Aquinas thing being a Protestant. Seeing someone as recent as Lewis discuss the topic sets it more in the mainstream for someone of my theological bent.
Thinking about it, natural law, even though this group doesn't call it that, is a part of Reformed presuppositional apologetics. Natural law is the fundamental presupposition in that system.
I think Lewis' space trilogy is his best work - and I have read many of his books.Delete
I have not read Tolkien's Middle Earth books and my wife I should read them. I told da wife that I will read Tolkien if she read the Lewis' space trilogy. She agreed. I enjoyed Tolkien and she got scared when reading That Hideous Strength.
You write “man has been working on a different strand.” Could that be Christianity? We non-Christians are at a disadvantage in the universe according to Christian scriptures, no matter how many decades we may have devoted to intense spiritual training and discipline. We are the damned. The fact that the Spirit pervading the universe has been present on earth for billions of years before Baby Jesus, totally devoid of any interaction with any man-made religion, and the fact that we who have tapped into that divine source have nourished ourselves on it for our entire lives without the need of religion, does not save our souls according to the man-made doctrines ofr Christianity. We remain the damned. Christians will not give an inch on this issue. Tao excludes no individual nor group from innate natural divinity. For billions of years the Way (Tao) has functioned perfectly throughout the universe, and in every crink and cranny on earth – except for civilized societies who have found other ways than the Way. One of them is Christianity.ReplyDelete
There was something perfect and
formless before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name I call it
– Lao Tzu
The "different strand" is the strand that fights against or attempts to strip something from the Tao or natural law. For goodness sake, the quote is from Confucius.Delete
You write an anti-Christian comment as if your sole purpose is to look for a fight.
There are many reasons why the ultimate expression of natural law or the Tao was found in the Christian West, but this has all been discussed in other posts.
Interesting question Anonymous, Christianity has become a label with as many meanings as there are Christians who claim the label. Some aspects may seem quite judgmental while others seem to embrace open rebellion against God with impunity. The label doesn't really tell me anything. It is the fruit produced which reveals who is the true follower of Christ. However, I don't see where the Tao invites individuals or groups because when there is only the Tao, there are no such things as separate individuals or groups/casts/etc. All separate identities are lost or subsumed in the Tao, e.g. "deny yourself", "not me, but Christ in me"; "the father is in the son, and the son is in the father", "when you have seen the son, you have seen the father" etc. All are one in the Way.Delete
"For billions of years the Way (Tao) has functioned perfectly throughout the universe, and in every crink and cranny on earth – except for civilized societies who have found other ways than the Way. One of them is Christianity."
So only the uncivilized tribesman were in congruence with the Tao? Modern man has no hope unless he tears the shirt off his back and runs naked into the woods? Sounds like the opposite of the objectively human way of living.
"Christians will not give an inch on this issue."
I will give you the following, although you hardly deserve it.
"With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God." - Mark 10:27
"For he that is not against you, is for you." - Mark 9:39
This is more or less how I feel about all the non-Christian liberty lovers out there. God can save however He chooses. He is not bound by the Scriptures. But as for me, I'm not going to take any chances. I choose everyday to live a life of gratitude to my Creator and Savior, as best as I can approach that given my moral and intellectual shortcomings, rather than one of taking these precious gifts for granted.
Natural law is a heretical dead end. Did you not learn anything from Gary North - he fought against it all his life. Bahnsen never taught Natural Law as a presupposition to presuppositional apologetics. Never.ReplyDelete
God never tells His people to return to natural law in order to turn aside His judgment: "O My people return to my natural law!"
Romans 1 and/or Romans 2 have nothing to do with so-called natural law. They speak of Natural Revelation, which reveals God's power, judgment and creativity, but are wholly inadequate to build any system of Natural Law/Natural Theology based on man's fallen reason.
These General Revelation are intended by God to drive us to the Specific Revelation of His revealed Word for salvation and law.
Fawning after Natural Law is one more version of Satan's temptation to Eve: "hath God said? eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and "ye shall be as God knowing good and evil."
From God's perspective Natural Law is just one more version of "the statutes of Omri" and "the works of the house of Ahab," and "their devices." They lead only to death and destruction.
"The statues of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab are observed; and in their devices you walk. Therefore, I will give you up for destruction ..." (Micah 6:16).
If you'd spend a fraction of the time studying and promoting God's law as you do so-called natural law, perhaps we could divert the judgment of God on this nation.
Gary North wasn't right about everything.Delete
And yet bionic has written whole articles about natural law using nothing but Scripture as the content. The statutes of Omri is not in any way natural law. That is a purposeful misunderstanding.Delete
There is a post to be written inspired by the original comment by anonymous. I will work on this in the coming days.Delete
Anon, I thought I was tracking with your previous comments up until you say this: "These General Revelation are intended by God to drive us to the Specific Revelation of His revealed Word for salvation and law." What distinction are you making between these two laws, and why do you think your point applies to natural law, but not this law you just mentioned?Delete
Funny, I look at it in the exact opposite way - I respect the religious who acknowledge the existence of objective reality and attempt to reconcile it with their spirituality, after all, spiritual questions are themselves part of reality.Delete
On the other hand, those who claim to know the will of God and demand total submission to it, even in defiance of reality, seem to me little different from radical Progressives or Muslims in their attitude towards the world. An attitude that leads to conflict and hypocrisy, because applying it consistently would be suicidal.
Either reality is an extension of God's immutable will, and therefore there is such a thing as a natural law that is compatible with that will, or reality is contingent and may change on God's whim.
My understanding is that one of Christianity's greatest contributions to mankind was a shift away from this "whimsical deities" worldview. It's surely no coincidence that it was in Christian Europe, of all places, that the ideas of human liberty and scientific inquiry flourished in spite of power's universal inclination to forcefully shut down dissent and criticism.
Maybe I'm silly to be concerned about the preservation of this legacy; maybe I should stop worrying about man's state in this fallen world, and simply obey God and trust in Him. But if that's the case, I'm afraid I can't comply. I must foolishly go on trying to figure out how nature works, and what is man's rightful place in it. And I'm willing to put my foot down when it comes to my right to do so.
I'd say belief in Natural Law precedes belief in God, let alone belief in God's Law. Scripture itself (Romans 2:14-15) lends credence to this view.Delete
I have a moral sense. It seems innate. Did a Supreme Being plant the seeds in me? Did He leave a deposit of faith and moral law for me to explore?
Tony, you are right along what I thought when I read shnarkle. He probably is not a Christian, though.Delete
What is this subtle distinction between natural law and God's law? I don't see Paul making any effective distinctions between the two so why do people keep presenting them as separate or different?Delete
It never ceases to amaze me how one may observe two similar, if not identical positions, yet choose to add a label that a thousand self-identified Christians can't agree upon its meaning.
What is the difference between civil and criminal law?Delete
What is the difference between Moses' civil and ceremonial laws?
"Either reality is an extension of God's immutable will, and therefore there is such a thing as a natural law that is compatible with that will, or reality is contingent and may change on God's whim.
"My understanding is that one of Christianity's greatest contributions to mankind was a shift away from this "whimsical deities" worldview. It's surely no coincidence that it was in Christian Europe, of all places, that the ideas of human liberty and scientific inquiry flourished in spite of power's universal inclination to forcefully shut down dissent and criticism."
Excellent and succinct. Two big thumbs up.
I don't think Lewis is properly defining the Tao. The Way is not the value judgment. The value judgement is the strand that unravels the whole. There can be no value judgements without knowledge of what is good and evil, and therein lies the crux of the problem.
The law is not the Tao, but a witness of the Tao. Jesus doesn't give us value judgements. He comes not to point out that we're on the wrong thread, but to show us the Way, and there are no value judgements in the Way (e.g. "I came not to condemn, but to save that which was lost").
No one can be "lost" if there are no value judgements.Delete
Being lost is not equivalent to what it means to be lost, or the value one may attach to it. Ultimately, these attachments never stick because they die with those who hold them. Plenty have no idea that they're lost until someone points it out to them. They're quite lost before this happens, yet they and others around them may have no value judgments whatsoever. What they think doesn't necessarily dictate who they are. Prior to the fall there is no value judgement. There is no epistemology of good and evil. God points out that all that he's created IS good. He doesn't go into any details as to why this would be the case, and no one need validate, verify, or know this for it to be the case.Delete
It’s difficult to side with someone who makes heavy assertions but is light on arguments. This isn’t necessarily a fault, except you persist (for years!) in equating assertion with proof by sending those who disagree with you on to your wholly assertive (without any convincing arguments) previous articles. In the same way it’s difficult to side with someone with whom Dr. Block thought worthy of co-publishing a paper and refused. Please understand that this comment is coming from someone who agrees with pretty much all that you assert (so there’s no enmity) except for your endorsement of the CS Lewis view of Christianity as a hallway with many doors (The true universal church isn’t a buffet or a whorehouse).Delete
However, no matter our agreements, I think they only suggest that your instincts are correct but that you’re still lacking arguments to defend them. I read at some point in the past that you’re a lawyer. Given your lack of arguments I’m beyond astonished.
CaProf, what does Dr. Block have to with with anything in this post or in these comments?Delete
As to what I write or how I write or with whom I write, you may take it as it is or not. Your choice. It doesn't make any difference to me.
FYI - https://biblescienceforum.com/2016/06/09/lupus-occultus-the-paganised-christianity-of-c-s-lewis/?msclkid=ce358328c57411ecbe8b8eda0c984d97ReplyDelete
The following is from my "A General Theory of Financial Relativity". I think that it is on point here - Actually I know that it is - I just hope that others can see it too.ReplyDelete
1. Humans are highly cogno-linguistic. We perceive reality largely by the language that we use to describe it. Most everyone believes and presumes that you have to be able to think something before you can say it. The more dominant reality is that, above a certain base level of perception and communication, you have to have the words and language / syntax by which to say something before you can think it. Whosoever controls language - controls the mind.
2. The world is ever-increasingly controlled and administered by people who genuinely believe whatever is necessary for the answer they need. Administrative agents of the entrenched-money-power have solved the criminal-law enigma of mens rea or guilty mind by evolving or devolving (take your pick) into professional-schizophrenics who genuinely believe whatever they need to believe for the answer they need, and who communicate among themselves subconsciously by how they name things, and by how things are named for them. They suffer a cogno-linguistically-induced diminished capacity that renders them incapable of perceiving reality beyond labels.
3. Their core business model or modus operandi is the systematized delusion:
“A “systematized delusion” is one based on a false premise, pursued by a logical process of reasoning to an insane conclusion ; there being one central delusion, around which other aberrations of the mind converge.” Taylor v. McClintock, 112 S.W. 405, 412, 87 Ark. 243. (West’s Judicial Words and Phrases (1914)).
The "false premise" that underlies the systematized delusion is directly analogous to the one aberrant thread that causes the unravelling of the tapestry. Hope it helps. Tim.
The discussion reminds me of something I have mentioned in an earlier post regarding a colleague's experiences with Orthodox Jews collaborating with activist Catholics in opposition to abortion. "Why," asked the Jews "do you bring up natural law when it is enough to know that G-d (sic) disapproves of abortion?" That question goes back to the inquiry in Plato's Euthyphro : is something good because the gods will it as such, or, rather, do the gods will it because it is objectively good? In Christian terms, is the Good anchored in God's will or in His intellect? (knowing that such a distinction is ultimately not tenable but an accommodation to the limits of our human intellect). Surely, though, God would not have given us an intellect if its function were unnecessary for human happiness. And our human reason requires, I suggest, answers regarding the grounding of moral imperatives, since curiosity about such is not perverse or sinful but rooted in our species's nature. The concept of Natural Law is an important attempt to satisfy that curiosity, and, in satisfying it, to actualizing our species's potential, i.e., to assist us human beings in becoming happy here as a preparation for the more substantial happiness of the hereafter. Natural Law, that is, inquires into the metaphysical grounding of the moral imperative, inquiring, that is, about the comprehensive order of being, as far as we can know such. Faith, that is, need not be blind.ReplyDelete
On the Abolition of Man: That Hideous Strength works out Lewis's concerns through fictional imagery. Who can doubt Lewis's prescience when the World Economic Forum explicitly views trans-humanism as essential to the Great Reset?
Some have claimed that only God is good. Isn't the Good anchored in the very being of God, and his will and intellect proceed from that anchor? I'm not convinced that God even needs to know the difference between good and evil to begin with.Delete
The Genesis account of Adam and Eve seems to suggest that the intellect isn't necessary for human happiness. If they have no knowledge of good and evil, and are already in Paradise, why would they need to know? They have a direct connection with God. There is no additional mediator necessary between them and the Good. As you say, reason requires answers to ground moral imperatives. This can't be the case when one is connected directly to the Good. No vows, oaths, or swearing by the very God one is directly connected to are ever going to be necessary. The curiosity can only be due to entertaining ideas that are contrary to that direct connection. There is no need to actualize what is already there. All potential is in God.
I could be wrong, but I don't see how all inquiries into being can ever arrive at that far shore due to the fact that whatever epistemology one may come up with can never be what one knows. Simulations can never be what they represent. Ultimately, they're all works of fiction. Furthermore, God would never descend to the roundtable of human morality so these epistemologies can never begin to approach a comprehensive understanding of morality, being, truth, etc.
Deacon: "And our human reason requires, I suggest, answers regarding the grounding of moral imperatives, since curiosity about such is not perverse or sinful but rooted in our species's nature. The concept of Natural Law is an important attempt to satisfy that curiosity, and, in satisfying it, to actualizing our species's potential..."Delete
Consider the word or term "human being"ReplyDelete
a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.
"Species" is a man-made categorization...
Why would a man consent to identify as such?
What if a man chooses to create his own specie, and then lives as such?
Which is natural?
Anonymous, those with the power to articulate speech, create mental images, thoughts, and ideas are not human beings, but human doings. Humanity is given the ability to categorize, and yet we're told Adam is created in God's image, and God certainly cannot be subject to categorization. Humanity does have the power to name, or identify and live within those definitions. How does one identify with the indefinable, ineffable and transcendent? What if man were to live life that transcends categorization?
This anon comment is not mine.Delete
Trying again . This anon comment ain 't mine.Delete
Dr. Mattias Desmet is a Belgian psychologist who has written about alienation and mass formation psychosis, specifically as they relate to the near servility of the public under COVID-19 restrictions. He points out that Belgium, with a population of 10 million, consumes 300 million antidepressants per year.ReplyDelete
Meanwhile, Belgium has almost completely de-Christianized over the last fifty years. If this doesn't point to a meaning crisis, I don't know what does.
RE "mass formation"Delete
The official framing of this "phenomenon" is misleading and wrong. The false hope-addicted psychologists and their acolytes want you to believe this is "just some temporary occasional" madness by the masses that has been going on since only about the 20th century when it is but a spike of a CHRONIC madness going on for aeons with "civilized" people --- https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
One of these mainstream psychologists who have been spreading this whitewashed reality, Dr. Desmet, also fails to see that the Covid Psyop is a TOTALLY deliberate ploy because he doesn't think it's ALL intentionally sinister. This makes him witting or unwitting controlled opposition.
Worst of all, perhaps, the mass formation/mass psychosis notion frames the problem as the public being a mere unaccountable non-culpable victim in this phenomenon. Nothing could be further from the truth (see referenced source above)...
I agree that the public is responsible because when what they see doesn't match the mainstream narrative, they all have a choice to believe the narrative or their lying eyes. It's just easier to believe the narrative because it implies that they're not responsible when the reality is that they've ignored their responsibility to seek out the truth. The stupor they adopt is the result, not the cause of the problem.Delete
It seems to me you summed this up very well. Words and how their meaning changes. Rather than write a long post ,here is two pages that go into the subject and also give the Solution.ReplyDelete
Oops, Those anonymous comments are mine.ReplyDelete