In the mid-twentieth century, C.S. Lewis is deeply troubled by the reductionistic efforts forming in society. Were men nothing but the sum of their physical parts? The Abolition of Man exposes the far-reaching effects on what this perception could mean for humankind.
The Green Book was a name he gave an elementary school book, showing changes in how we view human nature, presenting itself in educational theory and practice with subtle expressions, without immediate influence. Time would tell if his concerns were valid. He recognized that our insistence on seeing man as merely an animal (naturalism) might become so prevalent that we would loose the ability to function as more. Man’s uniqueness then becomes an illusion.
He explains that throughout most of history, man believed in the existence of objective value which separated us from animals. The doctrine of “objective value,” and the ranking of values perceived in the universe is expressed in the Tao.
The Tao states that virtue is natural to people. The creative mind of humanity is then credited to a Creator, and not merely as subjective. The scientific world-view removes the Tao, and insists nothing but the physically quantifiable can be real or objective. Lewis stated this rules out the central essence of human nature. The Tao could protect us from such ideas by finding a common, universal value of general beneficence.
The Green Book, on the other hand, produces what Lewis terms “men without chests,” or values that are mere baseless feelings. He feared this could foster barbarism. As he describes it, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.” His primary concern is that The Green Book would be the destruction of the society which accepts it by making men less than human, which could lead to disastrous consequences. He was indeed a prophetic voice unheeded.
C.S. Lewis was absolutely onto something in The Abolition of Man. The results of this philosophy shows up in today’s culture: relativism, hedonism, individualist sexuality, fatherless families, loneliness, isolation, etc.
We have an identity problem—humanity has lost its way, disengaging from relationship with its Creator. We now grope about in the darkness trying to determine the meaning of life… if there is any? Without a deeper purpose to life, what is the point of it all? CS Lewis was trying to steer the course of thinking back to a time when reason and faith intersected, bringing value to the human experience by recognizing we are more than just physical beings, as naturalism proposes.
If we taught on a deeper level to understand who human beings are, created for God’s glory, how could that not forge a pathway to revival? People are searching for meaning in their lives, and we need to help them to discover it. It is time, Church, to get back to the basics.