CS Lewis – Miracles – Book Report

Those who wish to succeed, must ask the right questions.

Seeing is not believing.

Whether miracles occur cannot be solely described by experience.  Experience alludes to the idea our senses must feel, see, taste, hear or touch the miracle.  We are victims of the illusion that we must experience a miracle.  Experience depends on our philosophy, whether we believe the Supernatural can intervene in the natural.  We must determine whether miracles are

1. Impossible.

2. Possible but improbable.

3. Not improbable.

We begin from the negative.   CS leads a discussion to say that this is the reverse of the correct view of miracles.  Possibility or probability of the miraculous, depends on perspective.

He begins by saying there must be something supernatural to have created natural.  The system simply, is what it is, as bobby would say.   Even in the solely natural perspective, there must be something that exists in its own right.  One thing that has caused all other things to be.  Naturalists say, independence to all.  The supernaturalist says, independence to One.  Here CS says he will only discuss the view where there is One God, not the multi-possibility, because one must exist outside all.  Naturalism cannot support a point of view where a God stood outside of nature and created it, it implodes the theory.  “The supernaturalist believes that one thing exists on its own and has produced the framework of space and time and the procession of systematically connected events which fill them.”  It may or may not be the only reality.  He might allow selected events in the one to produce results in the other.  Here is a breakdown:

Naturalism:

-Nature is everything.

-Miracles are impossible.

-God could exist in nature but not out.

-Miracles could appear, but only as a result of the system of nature as a whole.

-What will happen will happen.

-All is explainable.

Supernaturalism:

-If anything occurs outside of nature, it is supernatural.

-Miracles are possible, but could not be a part.

-God exists, but could possibly never interfere.

“If Naturalism is true, every finite thing or event must be explicable in terms of the Total System.”

If anything exists that could not be explained, then Naturalism is in ruins.  It is the glory of science to progress, so we go back to Supernatural, because everything is unexplainable.  Because there are things presented which I cannot accurately predict or control, the more I investigate the more regular a thing appears, I must be part of some system, and something outside of myself, which leads us to more detailed conclusions.  Then all possible knowledge depends on the validity of reasoning.  If the feeling of certainty of knowing is a real perception, it must be true, but if it falls into the regard of feeling, it must not be a genuine insight into the realities.  We must now explore right thinking and wrong thinking. Reasoning reduces ourselves to a level of humility that we can no longer support Naturalism.  “the implication is that if causes account for a belief, then since causes work inevitably, the belief would have to arise on whether it had grounds or not.  This brings us back to Creation, reasoning ourselves to being implodes in upon itself, reasoning to knowing, and knowing implodes reason.  There would be no truth or reason and no falsehood, yet we know in our spirits otherwise.  We would be locked in a system of inference to training to assumption to expectations to experience.   Which leaves us no room for belief.  You may then give up all claim to knowledge of truth, however, you may concede, there is something Supernatural, something higher.

In naturalism, “nothing exists except this.”  This allows a step to admittance and acceptance of a divine reason.  Reason exists to explain a rational cause.

Human thought is not God’s, nor God’s thought human, but we could allow that some thought is “God-kindled.” Supernatural reason is like a beam of light that allows light to show a principle or organization to which has been developed by God.  Again back to Creation, the belief that God created Nature.  And we are faced with the problem of evil, could God exist and yet allow something outside himself to exist.  The Sovereignty of God. “I do not maintain that God’s creation of nature can be proved as rigorously as God’s existence, but it seems to me overwhelmingly probable.”

Besides reasoning, men make moral judgments.   When we do this we are not using our own reason, but employing some different power or we are using reason.  Neither is provable, or irrational, but because they are self evident, all proofs depend on this.   We either discredit moral judgments, or by some means allow them as something outside of ourselves, whether right or wrong. Ie. The human impulse to conform.  But one would hope we could agree a noble cause to live or die for the good of the human race.  Which by some means creates a humanistic view. This leads to the conscience of man is not a product of Nature, but can be valid only if it is an offshoot of absolute moral wisdom.  This leads to the knowledge of a supernatural source for our ideas of good and evil.

“The lie is the only defensive weapon of a child.”  This leads us to the argument of language, where only knowing one language, as many Americans do, we forget the outside nature of the world and the imposition of English grammar on any other language falls incredibly short in explaining the system.  The supernatural is not inherently remote and obtuse, it is yet inherent in every daily affair, from the rising and setting of the sun, to waking and falling from sleep. The supernatural is not remote or abstruse, it is a matter of daily and hourly experience as intimate as breathing.  Denial of it depends on a certain absentmindedness, for good reason, because you do not wish to think about windows when looking at gardens or eyes when reading.

The limited and particular inquiries of language cause us to ignore our own thinking and concentrate on the object, wherein lies the problem.  We know our language so well that we don’t even know that it exists.  Therefore, the most obvious and primary fact, the one through which we see all other facts is the one most easily forgotten.

The supernatural element is apparent in every rational man.   It is the very nature of nature to suffer miracles in general, such as the miracle of thinking in the rational man. Thinking, reason and morality, all align with this idea.  “Nature as a whole is one huge result of the supernatural:  God made her.  God pierces her wherever there is a human mind.  God presumably maintains her in existence, however the question is whether He does anything else to her.”

The case against miracles consists of a two-fold approach.  By no means, MUST miracles occur:

1. It might be contrary to God’s Character to perform miracles.   The character of God excludes.

2. He might have made nature such that it cannot be added to or taken away from.  The character of Nature excludes.

Misunderstandings often occur.   Which Cs calls Red Herrings.

-Red herring #1. Granted that miracles do occur, they must be experienced, but experience cannot tell us whether a thing is possible or not.   So then we must experiment, experiment finds out what is true in Nature, the rule to which she works.  Miracles would then suspend this Nature, and allow interaction of the Super.   Miracle, by definition is an exception.  Many people across the world say they have experienced Miracles.  We cannot prove them true of false, due to the nature of experience.  However we must first discover if a thing is possible, then prove the probability.

Miracles excite fear and wonder, for the supernatural has invaded the natural.   Nothing can seem extraordinary until you find what is ordinary.  If you begin by ruling out the supernatural, you will perceive no miracles.  If you have not observed the sun rising in the east, you will find nothing miraculous about it rising in the west.

When a thing at the outset professes to be miraculous, increasing the knowledge of Nature cannot make it more or less credible, ie. Mermaids, or fire-breathing dragons.   Virgin birth or any other miracle allows the modern man who believes in God to accept the miracle as easily as St Joseph did, for nature does not send babies to women who ‘know not a man.’

-Red herring #2.  They could believe in miracles in the olden days because they had a false conception of the universe.   It seemed reasonable that a Creator intervened in nature for His benefit.  Now that we know the immensity of the universe, it becomes ludicrous for us to believe them any longer.  We’ve discovered our significance and God cannot be worried in such petty affairs as our lives.

If from the vastness of the universe and the smallness of earth, we conclude Christianity must be false, we must ask what universe we should have expected were it true?   We treat God as the policeman in the story treated the suspect, whatever He does will be used as evidence against Him.  Man is also a finite being, inherent. But we are also a derivative, of our parents, or of the character of nature, or of God- man’s existence lies not only in himself, we can admit.  No man was ever so mad as to assume that man, or all creation, filled the Divine mind.  If we are a small thing in space and time, we are also a small thing to God.  Christianity comes to simplify the impression of our nothingness, and intensify our belief in one who is something.

“Christianity does not involve the belief that all things were made for man.  It does involve the belief that God loves man and for his sake became man and died.”  CS cannot conclude why the size of the universe has anything to do with this doctrine.   The question as to how God came down would be embarrassing if we knew. “Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefore loves infinitely.  What does the size of a world or a creature tell us about its importance or value?   Size tells us nothing other than a relation which in rationality, is just a mirage against the absolute consumption.

The material universe derives its power to overawe us.  “As a Christian, we do not say it is wrong to tremble at a shadow, for I believe it to be a shadow of the image of God.”

Every event is an event in itself, and not some different event.  Laws which we have observed today will be obeyed tomorrow.  We have no reason to believe otherwise.  The sun will rise.  But we have no certainty that it will not be otherwise.   The question whether miracles occur is just the question as to whether Nature is ever doctored.  The likelihood of an event in Nature is just that, a law.  If billiard balls are interfered with by a cue ball, a result will happen. The interference does not disprove the law, it proves it.  Not that the law is false, but that the law is true. The more certain we are of the law, the more clearly we know that if new factors have been introduced the result will vary accordingly.  Could the Supernatural be one of the factors?

If the laws of nature are necessary truths, no miracle can break them: but no miracle needs to.  It is with them, as with laws of arithmetic. The necessary truths of the laws, far from making it impossible that miracles occur, makes it certain that if the Supernatural is operating they must occur. The better you know two and two make four, the better you know that two and three don’t. p.93

The laws never caused any event, they state the pattern to which every event must conform.  Laws cover the nature of all space and time.  A miracle needn’t break the laws of nature. God intervenes, then the laws of nature take over.  The moment He intervenes He must obey all the laws of nature.  Wine intoxicates, Miraculous conception leads to pregnancy, inspired books suffer the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread digested.

People mistake Nature as being the whole reality.  We mistake a partial system within reality to be the whole, they are backward interlocking.  To find relations in the present, we must digress to the much larger reality. “Everything is connected with everything else, but not all things by the short straight roads we expected.”  The demand that all reality should be consistent and systematic

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