If God is a Blackguard, then He Isn’t

C.S. LewisTucked away in this fabulous little essay by C.S. Lewis on the problem of the “futility” or pointlessness of the universe, is the crux of one of his more famous arguments against the problem of evil:

But there is a real difficulty about accusing it of anything. An accusation always implies a standard. You call a man a bad golf player because you know what a bogey is. You call a boy’s answer to a sum wrong because you know the right answer. You call a man cruel or idle because you have in mind a standard of kindness or diligence. And while you are making the accusation you have to accept the standard as a valid one. If you begin to doubt the standard you automatically doubt the cogency of your accusation. If you are skeptical about grammar you must be equally skeptical about your condemnation of bad grammar. If nothing is certainly right, then of course it follows that nothing is certainly wrong. And that is the snag about what I call Heroic Pessimism–I mean the kind of Pessimism you get in Swinburne, Hardy and Shelley’s Prometheus and which is magnificently summed up in Housman’s line ‘Whatever brute and blackguard made the world’. Do not imagine I lack sympathy with that kind of poetry: on the contrary, at one time of my life I tried very hard to writ–as far as quantity goes, I succeeded. I produced reams of it. But there is a catch. If a Brute and a Blackguard made the world, he also made that very standard in them whereby we judge him to be a Brute and Blackguard. And how can we trust a standard that comes from such a brutal and blackguardly source? If we reject him, we ought also reject all his works. But one of his works is this very moral standard by which we reject him. If we accept this standard then we are really implying that he is not a Brute and Blackguard. If we reject it, then we have thrown away the only instrument by which we can condemn him. Heroic anti-theism thus has a contradiction in its centre. You must trust the universe in one respect even in order to condemn it in every other.

De Futilitate, in Christian Reflections, pp. 65-67

So, if you want to accuse God of being a Brute and a Blackguard, if you think your complaints are just and true, and not simply your own preferences about things, then he isn’t a Brute and Blackguard.

Soli Deo Gloria


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