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Questions and Answers From Children About God

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Theodore: Hello, Matt! Isn’t it a beautiful day?

Matt: It sure is. Amazing, when you come to think of it.

Theo: What do you mean?

Matt: I mean, when you think of all the innumerable processes that have to go on—all the varying combinations of atoms that go into making up the sky, the trees, the rocks, and all the rest of it—and then the workings of our DNA that enable us to see it all and appreciate its beauty; it’s all so complex that it’s unbelievable.

Theo: Quite. But it’s real.

Matt: It is, strangely enough, and it makes you realize just how lucky we all are. You know, if you took the same stuff back to the Big Bang and did it all over again, you wouldn’t get us here again if you tried a million zillion times. Wouldn’t even get the most basic forms of life, let alone beautiful ones.

Theo: Well, of course I wouldn’t. God still would, though. He knows everything about life, down to the most exact equations needed to keep the right balance in His Creation.

Matt: I guess. But that doesn’t help explain how we got here.

Theo: Why, I should like to know what else would, in that case, Matt?

Matt: Well, Theo, you know I believe in keeping religion and science separate. After all, if you don’t, they invariably come into conflict. So if you want to believe that God knows everything about everything, spiritually speaking, I don’t mind that. But that doesn’t mean you can bring Him in to explaining anything in the natural world.

Theo: If you’re going to try and keep the natural and spiritual realms completely separate, you’ll never get very far in understanding anything, Matt. Everything that happens in the natural world—birth, death, growth, invention, discovery, war, progress of every kind—it all has its roots in some kind of deep desire for something that cannot be explained in natural terms. Science works in terms of laws—of logical patterns. The Greeks saw this as being a form of beauty. Well, beauty is not something natural; it’s spiritual, although it requires natural forms of expression. The natural and spiritual are necessarily interlinked. And in the Incarnation: God became man, in the closest link ever between the spiritual and natural worlds. Evidently that is what God intended, when He created the universe.

Matt: I think we’re talking a bit at cross-purposes, Theo. I don’t think that beauty is spiritual. I think it’s scientific; we just haven’t discovered the gene that explains what causes us to notice it yet.

Theo: Even if you could explain our ability to notice and evaluate beauty in terms of our genes, it wouldn’t explain the concrete existence of such abstract ideas as beauty, affection, virtue or even the desire for scientific discovery and understanding that enables us to find out scientific facts. Scientific research depends on a spiritual desire to know more about God’s Creation; there’s no other reason to explain it. A mere random collection of atoms would feel no desire to understand the processes by which it had been created—any more than a character in a novel wants to know why its author has given it a certain kind of personality and life story. Even the cleverest and most advanced creatures, humans, can’t give the machines we create the ability to wonder or worship. It follows, then, that the means by which we humans were created must have been a much more powerful Designer than ourselves—and One who wanted to endow His Creation with spiritual as well as natural abilities.

Matt: Well, I don’t know. Maybe all our abstract ideas are just the result of chance reactions of atoms that cause us to hallucinate the existence of spiritual beings that don’t really exist. Doesn’t sound very appealing, but it’s possible.

Theo: I don’t think it is, Matt. Even when people see mirages of water in the desert or otherwise imagine that something exists when it doesn’t, that something always has a counterpart in the real world, just not in that place at that time. Philosophers like to talk about “the unicorn in the back of the room”; well, if I imagined a unicorn was there, it wouldn’t be, of course; but I wouldn’t have been able to fancy it was if such things as horses and horns didn’t really exist and I had seen them and was able to put them together in my mind. The fact that people believe in spiritual realities doesn’t mean that every spiritual creature anyone has ever come up with in mythology exists, but it does mean that there must be some spiritual realities that their ideas were based on.

Matt: Hm. You make a very strong case for your point of view, Theo.

Theo: And there’s another angle on it that is even more significant. Even if abstract ideas could be physical hallucinations, every human being still possesses something else that could never be explained in natural terms.

Matt: What is that?

Theo: Our moral sense: that which tells us the distinction between right and wrong; our conscience, you might say. Now, as C.S. Lewis has explained, there is no possibility that “the Moral Law … [has] been developed just like all our other instincts,”1 because it asserts authority over all our natural impulses as human “animals.” “If two instincts are in conflict, and there is nothing in a creature’s mind except those two instincts, obviously the stronger of the two must win. But at those moments when we are most conscious of the Moral Law, it usually seems to be telling us to side with the weaker of the two impulses…clearly we are not acting from instinct when we set about making an instinct stronger than it is. The thing that says to you, ‘Your herd instinct is asleep. Wake it up,’ cannot itself be the herd instinct.”2

Matt: I see what you mean. But couldn’t the Moral Law just be the strongest instinct we have?

Theo: But if that were the case, it would always have to win out over our weaker instincts, and we would always behave righteously. But the fact is that we don’t. As Lewis put it, “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 that way.”3 If virtue and moral law was a human invention, of course we could keep it as long as we wanted to. But even when we want to be good, as the apostle Paul wrote: “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19). So the only possible explanation is that we were created by a good and holy God, and so we remember the Moral Law since we have been created in His Image; but we can’t keep it on our own because we didn’t create the Moral Law ourselves. Only God can create.

Matt: I’m beginning to think you might be right about that. However, I still maintain my point that started off our conversation, all the more under the created circumstances: the world we’ve been given is amazing, it’s unbelievable, and it makes you realize just how lucky we all are.

Theo: Or blessed, if we were to put it in spiritual terms!

Ask your children

What do you think about Theo’s answers to Matt’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give if someone asked them a question like Matt’s.


1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 50th Anniversary ed. (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002), p. 9.
2 Ibid. p. 10.
3 Ibid. p. 8.

C.S. Lewis Institute

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