An Epistemically-Focused Interpretation Of C. S. Lewis’s Moral Argument In “Mere Christianity” And An Assessment Of Its Apologetic Force -- By: Zachary Breitenbach

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 10:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: An Epistemically-Focused Interpretation Of C. S. Lewis’s Moral Argument In “Mere Christianity” And An Assessment Of Its Apologetic Force
Author: Zachary Breitenbach


An Epistemically-Focused Interpretation Of C. S. Lewis’s Moral Argument In “Mere Christianity” And An Assessment Of Its Apologetic Force

Zachary Breitenbach

Lincoln Christian University

C. S. Lewis’s moral argument in Mere Christianity is rightly lauded as an influential contribution to moral apologetics. Yet its structure, which Lewis never formalizes, is often misunderstood. I will first defend an interpretation of Lewis’s argument that views it as centering on moral epistemology. Although moral ontology plays a key role in his argument insofar as it affirms the reality of objective morality and a transcendent communicator of the moral law, many wrongly view it as making the further ontological claim that God must ground objective morality. I emphasize how Lewis’s primary aim is to show that a mind-like Guide is needed for humans to know the moral law. My other key objective is to evaluate the apologetic effectiveness of this understanding of the argument. Although I will show how he could have strengthened his argument—and his conclusion, which stops short of arguing for classical theism—in significant ways, I will contend that Lewis does offer a sound argument that carries much apologetic force.

Key Words: C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, moral apologetics, moral argument, moral epistemology, moral ontology

C. S. Lewis begins Mere Christianity with a five-chapter moral argument. Of all the moral arguments for God’s existence that have been put forward in the history of philosophy, Gregory Bassham asserts that Lewis’s is “probably the most famous and influential ever offered.”1 Similarly, C. Stephen Evans describes it as the “most widely-convincing apologetic argument of the twentieth century.”2 Despite Lewis’s argument rightly being held in such high regard, it is often misinterpreted; moreover, it stops short of arguing that classical theism is true. While it is clear that Lewis

aims for his moral argument to undermine a materialistic view of the universe and to point the reader in the direction of theism, the argument’s conclusion is an intentionally modest—but still valuable—one: that a mind-like Guide exists and has communicated an objective moral law to humanity.

This essay aims to achieve two primary objectives. First, I offer an interpretation of Lewis’s moral argument. I contend that his goal is chiefly to show that a mind-like Guide that transcends humanity exists, and I make the case that both epistemological and ontological moral evidences are key to Lewis re...

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