I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity several times but I’ve never read his second essay (“Miracles”) in the collection, God in the Dock, until this afternoon. It was a “sermon” he preached on November 26, 1942.
It far out-powers what I remember of Mere Christianity, and it is, no matter what Van Til said about Lewis or any other mistakes Lewis might have made, Presuppositionalist.
The collection also contains a column he wrote for the Coventry Evening Telegraph, published on January 3, 1945. It is chapter 7: “Religion and Science.” Written to be more popularly accessible, Lewis promoted some concepts that he had also argued for in “Miracles” in the form of a remembered conversation with a skeptic.
But he also added one: that there was a conspiracy of disinformation behind the widely held belief that the ancients were ignorant about nature.
“These are rather niggling points,” said my friend. “You see, the real objection goes far deeper. The whole picture of the universe which science has given us makes it such rot to believe that the Power at the back of it all could be interested in us tiny creatures crawling about on an unimportant planet! It was all so obviously invented by people who believed in a flat earth with the stars only a mile or two away”
“When did people believe that?”
“Why, all those old Christian chaps you’re always telling about did. I mean Boethius and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante.”
At which point Lewis pulls Ptolemy’s Almagest off his bookshelf and read that first paragraph of Book 1, chapter 5, which indicates Ptolemy, who was the authority throughout the Middle Ages, know that the stars were an unimaginable distance away.
“Did the really know that then?” said my friend. “but — none of the histories of science — none of the modern encyclopedias — ever mention the fact.”
“Exactly,” said I. “I’ll leave you to think out the reason. It almost looks as if someone was anxious to hush it up, doesn’t it? I wonder why.”
And then Lewis emphasizes the point in his conclusion.
The real problem is this. The enormous size of the universe and the insignificance of the earth were known for centuries, and no one ever dreamed that they had any bearing on the religious question. Then, less that a hundred years ago, they are suddenly trotted out as an argument against Christianity. And the people who trot them out carefully hush us that fact that they were known long ago. Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people.