Lewis: A Meaningless Play of Atoms in Space & Time?

C. S. Lewis 7C. S. Lewis makes good use of “what if” questions. What if, for instance, there is nothing at all supernatural in the universe and that Nature is everything? “Let us suppose,” he says, “that nothing ever has existed or ever will exist except this meaningless play of atoms in space and time.”

If that is what one considers to be the essence of being, that humans are the result of an accidental collision of atoms and even our own consciousness of ourselves and all things around us is simply part of a “whole meaningless process,” what are we to do with this life we seem to have stumbled upon?

Lewis provides three possibilities, given the mindset of pure naturalism, and none of them is satisfactory:

(1) You might commit suicide. . . .

(2) You might decide simply to have as good a time as possible. The universe is a universe of nonsense, but since you are here, grab what you can. Unfortunately, however, there is, on these terms, so very little left to grab—only the coarsest of sensual pleasures. . . .

(3) You may defy the universe. You may say, “Let it be irrational, I am not. Let it be merciless, I will have mercy. By whatever curious chance it has produced me, now that I am here I will live according to human values. I know the universe will win in the end, but what is that to me? I will go down fighting.

Lewis notes that most people with this worldview “adopt a more or less uneasy alternation between the second and the third attitude,” but neither provides a real answer to why we are here at all. “All Naturalism,” he correctly explains, “leads us to this in the end—to a quite final and hopeless discord between what our minds claim to be and what they really must be if Naturalism is true.”

Faced with the utter meaninglessness of life from this viewpoint, a person may then be led to the borderlands of what is actually true:

It is when one has faced this preposterous conclusion that one is at last ready to listen to the voice that whispers: “But suppose we really are spirits? Suppose we are not the offspring of Nature?”

Once that question is asked, one may be on the path to the One who is the only Way, Truth, and Life.