I Want Demonstrative Proof to Believe!
This is an extract from the book A Severe Mercy. It begins with the ‘seeker’s’/author’s questions and is followed by C.S. Lewis’s insightful response…
Why does God expect so much of us? Why does He require this effort to believe? If He made clear that He is - as clear as a sunrise or rock or a baby’s cry - wouldn’t we be right joyous to chose Him and His Law? Why should the right exercise of our free will contain this fear of intellectual dishonesty?
I do not think there is demonstrative proof (like Euclid) of Christianity, nor of the existence of matter, nor of the good will and honesty of my best and oldest friends. I think all three are (except perhaps the second) far more probable than the alternatives. The case for Christianity in general is well given by Chesterton; and I tried to do something in my Broadcast Talks. As to why God doesn’t make it demonstratively clear: are we sure that He is even interested in the kind of Theism which would be a compelled logical assent to a conclusive argument? Are we interested in it in personal matters? I demand from my friend a trust in my good faith which is certain without demonstrative proof. Hang it all, the very fairy-tales embody the truth. Othello believed in Desdemona’s innocence when it was proved: but that was too late. ‘His praise is lost who stays till all commend.’ The magnanimity, the generosity which will trust on a reasonable probability, is required of us. But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn’t deserve. Your error would even so be more interesting and important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?