Evil as Evidence for God: Part 2

*This is the second post of a three-part series discussing why the existence of evil is strong evidence for the existence of God. In the first post, we defined evil as anything that “ought-not-be” and concluded that it makes the most sense to view evil as an objective reality. 

C.S. Lewis’ 3-Fold Morality

C.S. Lewis, a philosophical giant of the 20th Century, argued that morality was made up of three parts. Using this three-fold morality will provide a better understanding for why evil is objective in nature. Why will understanding morality help provide a view of objective evil, and therefore point us toward the existence of God? Because, as Lewis put it, most people’s objections to God come from their own idea of fairness and justice.[1]

Lewis himself held this view when he was an atheist. He writes:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my arguments against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply it did not happen to please my private fancies…Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.


Lewis came to the conclusion that morality had to have a certain standard for all people. He believed it was given by God and evident in our very nature. He likened nature to a machine designed to work a specific way:

In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.[2]

So then, if this moral machine is functioning within us, we now have an objective view of evil, of “what ought-not-to-be.” What evil would be, then, would be anything that happens due to a “breakdown” or “malfunction” of the moral machine that is built within our being. Lewis says that our moral machine breaks down in two different ways. First, it breaks down in our relation to each other, which causes things such as cheating or bullying. The second is an internal breakdown, meaning our faculties, desires, and other inward aspects interfere with each other.[3]

This leads us to discovering two of the three parts of morality that Lewis believes exists in the universe. We will call them “man to man” and “man to self.” The third aspect is what we will call “man to Maker” and will be discussed later.

Although there are three aspects in Lewis’ morality, he makes the grim observation that “modern people are nearly always thinking about [man to man] and forgetting the other two.”[4] People always speak of having moral values, even Christian values, such as kindness and fair play between individuals and groups of people. There is the classic defense of a person’s actions that says “It’s only wrong if it hurts someone else.”

Lewis gives us another analogy to explain this, using the picture of a ship. “You can get the idea plain if you think of us as a fleet of ships sailing in formation. The voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and, secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. In fact, you cannot have either of these two things without the other. If the ships keep on having collisions they will not remain seaworthy very long. On the other hand, if their steering gears are out of order they will not be able to avoid collisions.”[5]

It is understandable, Lewis says, that a person’s first thought about morality is how he treats another person. After all, our moral relations to one another is what we see, or don’t see, every day that lead to the very discussion of morality.[6] However, where people get into trouble is by ignoring the “man to self” morality; and ultimately “man to Maker.” It is also in these last two realms that the idea of objective morality, and therefore objective evil, becomes more clear.

It’s also worth noting that in reality, if “man to man” is the only morality we are concerned about, what is the reason for morality at all? Lewis says:

But though it is natural to begin with [man to man], if our thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well not have thought it at all. Unless we go on to the second thing – the tidying up inside each human being – we are deceiving ourselves…What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behavior, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them?[7]


Lewis says that the only way it is even possible for a society to have good “man to man” morality is if people individually decide to have “man to self” morality. Without a person examining himself, deciding not to adhere to something immoral, society will not be free of immorality. Lewis writes that “as long as men are twisters and bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society.”[8]

So, then, if society is only going to have a good morality if individuals decide to be moral, where should we find this morality? This leads us to the third and final part of Lewis’ morality. This will also lead us to our ultimate reason why evil is objective, and therefore evidence for God.

Lewis conceded that even by focusing morality on each individual, there is still a chance for a subjective view of the world based on each person’s own beliefs. Lewis is now venturing into a religious view of morality, which can cause conflict, but he believes it will be helpful in understanding the nature of morality. “Remember that religion involves a series of statements which must be either true or false.”[9] Lewis then returns to his ship analogy for his final point:

[The captain] quite understands that he must not damage the other ships in the convoy, but he honestly believes that what he does to his own ship is simply his own business…Does it not make a great difference whether I am, so to speak, the landlord of my own mind and body, or only a tenant, responsible to the real landlord? If someone else made me, for his own purposes, then I shall have a lot of duties which I should not have if I simply belonged to myself.[10]

This is what ultimately leads us to conclude that evil is objective. If God is real, then He would be the ultimate determiner of what is right and wrong. Therefore, evil would be objective. “What ought-not-to-be” would be something that God says should not be.





[1] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins. 2002. pp. 65-66.

[2] Mere Christianity. pp. 65.

[3] Mere Christianity. pp. 66.

[4] Ibid. pp. 67.

[5] Ibid. pp. 66.

[6] Mere Christianity. pp. 67.

[7] Ibid. pp. 67-68.

[8] Ibid. pp. 68.

[9] Mere Christianity. pp. 68.

[10] Ibid. pp. 68.


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