C.S. Lewis and God’s Revelation Through Desire
Finally! I actually feel like a true American Evangelical Christian! Currently, I am reading my way through the many works of C.S. Lewis and I must confess that this is the first time I’ve really read Lewis seriously. In the time I’ve been spending with Lewis it doesn’t come as any surprise that he has been very helpful in my pursuit of theological inquiry. As many undoubtedly understand, Lewis has an uncanny ability to take a potentially complicated subject and attach to it an ingenious analogy of mythic proportions so that the reader is able to consider the issue from another angle; and it helps tremendously. Honestly, I believe that if I could learn to preach as Lewis writes, I’d be a complete man of God! Hopefully God will develop that skill in me someday.
However, though Lewis is an astounding writer, the focus of this article is to discuss, what I believe to be, a very profound argument that Lewis provides in his Mere Christianity. Often described as, “The Argument from Desire”, Lewis’ formulation, if taken with Scripture in mind, makes a wonderful case for belief in God based on desires. At length, Lewis concludes,
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthy pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.“
What is so interesting about this argument is that, while it’s a very subjective one, it touches the heart of who we are fundamentally as human beings—we are creations who display the revelation of God. This is a reason why we possess desires that nothing in this world can satisfy. All through the history of Christian thought, a huge emphasis has been placed on showing how the created universe argues in favor of God’s reality. We are constantly bombarded by arguments from cosmology, teleology, and the like, but how often do we ever consider arguments in favor of God’s existence by looking to ourselves? After all, are we not part of that same creation which boldly proclaims God’s glory (Psalm 19)? If we can look and see that the heavens proclaim the majesty of God, we most certainly ought to be able to look within ourselves to reach the same conclusion.
I believe that the great Genevan reformer, John Calvin, had it right when described the Sensus Divinitatis in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
“That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him or consecrate their lives to his service.“
So then, the argument from desire that Lewis espouses fits quite nicely with Calvin’s sense of the divine. We have desires that nothing in this world can satisfy because we are not products of a closed system; we belong to an absolute personal being who has created us in His image. With Lewis the apologist in mind, I’ll conclude with Scripture having the final say on the matter. The Apostle Paul states,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Romans 1:18-23 ESV).”
We should therefore conclude with Scripture that the knowledge of God has been revealed in all of creation, and this leaves us without excuse in our denial of Him. We were created Imago Dei which means also that we were created for Him, our desires and all. So then, in agreement with Lewis, we must conclude that we were created for another world.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952.
 I immediately realize that this statement is loaded. However, it’s a discussion for another time.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 120.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008).