Mere Christianity: The Lie of the Clockmaker

When I was a freshman at Methodist College, I decided to take some Religion courses and get them out of the way. Well, of course they always give freshmen the early classes and the ones where they’re having trouble filling seats. By those virtues, I was assigned to take REL106 – Religion in an Age of Science.

I remember a handful of things about that class. I remember Dr. Lloyd Bailey showing us hours of Carl Sagan videos and referring to my beloved Bible as “a myth.” (Which, in case you’re reading this, Dr. Bailey, I’m still offended by.) And I remember Dr. Bailey telling us about a theory of God as a “Clockmaker.” That God merely “wound up” the world at the beginning and that the world now continues to spin in the midst of space without intervention—or care—from the creator.

Just in case you were wondering…

That’s not the God that I know.

I’ve struggled a little bit with the first four chapters of this book. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed Lewis’ thoughts. It’s not that I disagree with him. It’s not even that his writing requires about 475% more concentration that most of the material I read. It’s that at this point his whole focus has been on Law and when you don’t use it right, Law will absolutely crush you. (I’m referring to legalism, but won’t really go that direction here and now, though you can feel free to discuss it in your comments.)

I do recognize that we’re still early in the book and that I’ve only read part of Lewis’ argument and so I’m not judging the whole work here. I’m just explaining where it has affected me.

For me, I’m always seeking the relational aspect of God. And I just can’t accept that theory from Dr. Bailey’s class that God was a “Clockmaker” that started us out and then left us alone. Lewis almost begins to touch on that here.

“If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside of the universe—no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way.” (Lewis, 33, emphasis mine)

For those of us (most of us) who have control issues, let’s put that aside right now. We’re not talking about a cruel, heartless despot here that wants to control us for his amusement. We’re talking about the powerful, loving Father that created you in the palm of His hand in the workroom of Heaven. Who loves you infinitely more than you’ve ever loved or been loved before. Who wants the absolute best for you and knows what actually is good for you even when you don’t.

This is the power that created us. It’s the power of love. And this is the strong, soft lover that wants to whisper to you in the deepest, darkest hours of the night. He knows your heart and wants to heal it. And He wants to help you to live a full life, in that healing, sharing that love and healing with others.

If you want me to believe in God, don’t show me a cathedral or a pulpit or even a Bible. Don’t show me liturgies and traditions. Don’t tell me about religion. Open your heart and let me see what He’s done inside of you. How has He changed you? Made your life better? Made your life worth living? That’s what I’ll believe.

With Easter coming up, I’m reminded of a hymn that many churches will sing this coming Sunday or the next:

I serve a risen Savior

He’s in the world today

I know that He is living

Whatever men may say

I see His hand of mercy

I hear His voice of cheer

And just the time I need Him

He’s always near

He lives!

He lives!

Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me

And talks with me

Along life’s narrow way

He lives!

He lives!

Salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives—

He lives within my heart!

The name of this chapter is “What Lies Behind the Law?” The answer is: a big, loving heart of a big, loving God.

This post is part of the regular Wednesday book discussion on CS Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” that Jason Stasyszen and I are having on our blogs. A bunch of our friends are joining us and everyone is welcome to participate whether they’re reading along or not. If you’ll hop over to Jason’s site, you can read his take on the chapter and you can add your link to the widget if you’ve written about the chapter. Otherwise, please just hop around and make yourself at home!

About Sarah Salter


  1. I love that hymn!
    While my heart is touched by many of the things you mentioned (Bible, tradition, liturgy), I do see what you are saying. It is how these things touch us and affect our relationship with God that matters, not these things in and of themselves.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Helen, that’s exactly it… Without the relationship in place, the things themselves really don’t mean much. Thanks! 🙂

  3. We used the same passage this time! I don’t think that’s happened since we’ve started the book club. 🙂 I know what you mean, I find that I can’t casually read this because it’s so packed with points. I have to apply myself and think about it harder, but it’s good for me, I know. Great points too. Thanks Sarah.

  4. I used part of the same passage as both you and Jason this week.

    I love what you have to say here, Sarah, and understand it is in no way an insult to Clive, who most likely would agree with your words.

    “And this is the strong, soft lover that wants to whisper to you in the deepest, darkest hours of the night” Perfect†

  5. You and I had different experiences with our professors – even though they likely believed the same thing.

    I love your description of God.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, Karin, & Glynn- Thanks you guys! 🙂

  7. lewis does seem to be inching forward, making me think.

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