Book One – Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

Chapter One – The Law of Human Nature

As we dive into the first chapter of this book, Lewis begins by laying the groundwork of the ‘Law of Human Nature’. I will select a few quotes and comment on them. If you are also reading along, please feel free to comment on what rings your bell! I just love a good book discussion, especially on one so rich!

Lewis begins by explaining that when one man wrongs another, “he is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about“. Rarely will the one who is in the wrong argue against the standard, but rather why in this instance he is excused from living up to it. He will argue why he is entitled to someone’s seat he has taken, or deserves to be treated in a certain way because he has treated others fairly.

Can we agree that no matter how different a culture, or the diversity of the religion or lack thereof, that there is a certain behavior we expect from one another? No one has ever been proud of betraying a friend or shoplifting or neglecting a child. Let an atheist tell you there is no right or wrong or God, but then take his wallet. If he truly believes in what he has just said, he will have no problem with your taking what is his. There is no such thing as wrong remember? But if he objects, he appeals to a Law of Human Nature which says we should not break this standard of not stealing from one another. Where does this innate sense of Right and Wrong begin? Our God of course! Lewis says it this way: “He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson.” Oh, the wit.

“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplcation table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, I apologise to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left..”

The ordinary human beings, that would be where I belong. Not keeping to the standard which we all agree to either consciensely or not. I fail all of the time in ‘practicing the kind of behavior I expect from other people.’ Oh, I have my excuses. Just like Lewis points out, if we do not believe in decent behavior, why make an excuse for not behaving decently?” What I find most fascinating is the next point:

“It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.”

Isn’t that the truth? Let me act like an idiot and I’ll give you a thousand reasons why and beg you to excuse me. Let me behave in a right way and I’ll pridefully and privately think of the reasons why I really did such a grand thing. Oh, I hope I’m not the only one.

Completing the chapter:

“These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature, the break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the Universe we live in.”

This is the key in understanding human nature and the basis for any argument of morality you will ever encounter. These simple yet profound truths have shaped the way I share Jesus especially in the instance where people will argue against the existence of God or Right and Wrong. I hope this book discussion will help you also to open your eyes to the people in your midst who have subscribed to the Post Modern culture and idealism. Girls, the world is smart, and they will bring you lofty arguments. Let’s be ready!

I’ve added a Mr. Linky if you would like to place your comments on your site. If you are just joining us, click the ‘CS Lewis Rocks’ label to see the previous posts. Hope you’ll join me!