By Arthur Kettelhut

            Many of C.S. Lewis’ apologetic positions made in his time are still analogous today. While Lewis wrote at the close of World War I, we find most of his observations increasingly apparent today. Culturally in western society, we still live in an increasingly secularized, subjective political realm. Post-modern subjectivism has extended itself to the point that previously rational scientific conclusions regarding person and gender have been questioned.

            The abortion debate still rages on, with one side taking the subjective rally cry of “My body, My rights” while failing to see the compromised logic in determining the terminal fate of another’s body, however young in development. Like Lewis, we can observe the pernicious tendencies of subjectivism growing from seeds in the epistemological embrace of positivism and emotivism[1].

The Culling of Humanity

            The culling of humanity continues to be an issue of constant debate, whether culling for traits or convenience. The rationality for trimming humanity can now easily be justified via DNA testing, which puts us all under the actuarial judgment of our potential health issues. The quality and quantity of possible life are presupposed to quickly. Kreeft offers us a prescient point on the right to live by quoting Bonhoeffer in “the right to live is a matter of the essence.[2]

            In Lewis’ time at the close of World War II, political extremes were well known globally. Fascism under the guise of socialism and budding communism in the post-war period offers a demarcation from classical liberalism to social justice liberalism. We have gone from liberalism, meaning tolerance and the rights to civil liberties, to the issue of the equitable distribution of resources[3]. Logically it seems to follow that Lewis would approve of equality of opportunity but not equality of outcomes.

Logic and Emotion

            Mixing logic and emotion is the common thread connecting Lewis’ time and mood to our own. Political figures use emotional pleas or sound bites to produce the desired response in their constituents.  Emotional responses are not necessarily incorrect. They can be appropriate, but now, like Lewis’ time, we must watch for when “ordinary human feelings” are set up as “contrary to reason,” in such cases, we are on dangerous ground[4]. How can humanity advance culturally while preserving the soul? The answer lies in God’s gift of discernment using both our logic and emotion with tempered reason.

            A crucial detail that Kreeft points out is that in modernity, everything in principle can be commodified[5].  This critical distinction removes intrinsic value from anything under evaluation. This position of value judgment remains flawed as it finds no rational basis. We can find no better example than the abortion issue or the closely related selection of viable embryos based on genetic profiling. In genetic selection, “what seems to matter is not the dignity of each and every human life but rather goals like “the preservation of the species.[6]” We can’t commodify the value of a child, regardless of their potential physical disposition at birth.

            Our modern culture both tends to place the self as both holy and wholly unaccountable. Our individual choices are held as sacrosanct, but our collective options are emotive and irrational.

C.S. Lewis as a Harbinger

            Lewis spoke into his context, the context of his contemporaries as a harbinger of cultural and ethical issues to come. At the point weren’t merely Christian morality and ethics but the steerage of humanity as a whole organism. How humankind, particularly in the west, viewed their daily choices is always under deep consideration. Not merely for finding a rational basis for the conclusion but to examine the illogic of emotive decisions and drag them out of the dark. By bringing to light and calling out humanity on their flippant or unobserved positions, Lewis shines the light back in our eyes, allowing us to examine the source of our collective decisions.

            When C. S. Lewis 1944 wrote “the abolition of man,” he meant the end of humanity as we know it[7]. If society continues past the point of genetic engineering and selection, will our humanity follow us? Humankind must have a root basis in an objective source of good for their intentions. We cannot trust our future decisions on what is best for our progeny when it finds a basis in economic or actuarial factors. Our values cannot be relative. Lewis’ “extreme rationality” calls to attention the danger of whose values that succeed will be those with the most overwhelming will-to-power[8].

Our Place in the Universe

            It is helpful to duplicate Lewis’ method of speaking to his context. Just as Jesus used parables to disguise the underlying meaning of his teachings thinly, we use comparisons to illustrate our points. As technology progresses, we will find the issues of robotics, genetic engineering, and cloning that will increasingly call on humanity to evaluate the ethical considerations. This evaluation has to include the context of our role and place in the universe as naturally changing beings.

            In consideration of our place in the universe, we are also encouraged to define our purpose in life along with humanity’s ultimate goal. The view that we aim to love God and ultimately return to paradise to commune with him remains relevant for even the modern Christian but in fewer numbers. So to speak of our place is to talk of things that count.

            The author Allan Parrent notes that Meilaender captures the understanding of a significant theological conviction in his essay, The Meaning of the Presence of Children, “we are not just free spirits, free to make of ourselves what we will. There is, in part at least a “givenness” to our existence that limits us.[9]” This givenness is ours to fulfill and our primary task in our faithful lives with an emphasis on what “enables and requires us” to be and to do[10]. When we consider the issues of personal responsibility and accountability for our lives, little has changed since the writings of Lewis. What has changed is the almost universal acceptance of the post-modernist view of total subjectivism. Feelings rule now more than ever, and in the discussions of our place in the world as humans, we must include an objective source to be resolute.

See also: CS Lewis and the Moral Argument


              [1] David Baggett et al., eds., C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Second edition. (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Press, 2017), 78

              [2] Ibid

              [3] Gerald F. Gaus, “ON JUSTIFYING THE MORAL RIGHTS OF THE MODERNS: A CASE OF OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES,” Social Philosophy and Policy 24, no. 1 (January 2007): 84–119, accessed July 30, 2021, https://www.cambridge.org/core/product/identifier/S0265052507070045/type/journal_article.

              [4] (Bagget, 80)

              [5] Ibid, 81

              [6] Ibid

              [7] Ibid, 84

              [8] Ibid, 85

              [9] Allan Parrent, “Things That Count: Essays Moral and Theological,” Sewanee Theological Review 45, no. 1 (2001): 103, accessed July 30, 2021, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fthings-that-count-essays-moral-theological%2Fdocview%2F214708354%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D12085.

              [10] Ibid