This weekend, my book club met to discuss Miracles by C.S. Lewis. Our group has read most of Lewis’s major works (and some of his more obscure works), and we agreed this is one of his hardest!
The reason this book was so hard was because it took Lewis forEVER to get to the point. I entered the book as a believer in miracles, but he does not assume this is true of all his readers. He spends several chapters establishing the philosophical grounds of whether miracles are possible. He describes two world views: the Naturalists, who believe the natural world is all that exists and that everything that happens is bound to happen, and the the Supernaturalists, who believe there is something beyond the natural world.
He hinges his argument toward Supernaturalism on the fact that people can think rationally. People have acts of insight. He argues that Reason (of the Supernatural) must come from an intersection between itself and nature. Here is a handy picture I drew to help me process this concept.
Finally, at the end of chapter six, he asks the big question: Does God introduce events which are not “the working out of the general character which He gave to Nature as a whole in creating her?” In other words, does God perform miracles?
In chapter 8, Lewis introduces a concept about miracles that makes a lot of sense. The actual miracle is a quick blip; a divine interruption. Then Nature takes the miracle and reacts to it using her ordinary laws. “Miraculous wine will intoxicate, miraculous conception will lead to pregnancy, inspired books will suffer all the ordinary processes of textual corruption, miraculous bread will be digested.” He will later call these Miracles of the Old Creation.
Lewis develops another insightful principle in chapter 12. That is miracles do not happen randomly or willy-nilly. “If they (miracles) have occurred, they have occurred because they are the very thing this universal story is about. They are not exceptions (however rarely they occur) not irrelevancies. They are precisely those chapters in this great story on which the plot turns.”
In chapter 14, Lewis discusses what he calls “The Grand Miracle.” I assumed the Grand Miracle was the Resurrection, but according to Lewis it is the Incarnation. Not just the virgin birth, but the idea that God came to earth as a man. He spends some time talking about the theme of death and rebirth seen in the folklore and mythology of many cultures, but strangely absent from Jewish writings. He concludes that the Judeo-Christian stories don’t need a shadow of this idea in their writings, because they contain the real story. Jesus descended to earth and reascended to heaven, and likewise he went in to the grave and resurrected.
In chapters 15 and 16 he distinguishes between what he calls Miracles of the Old Creation and Miracles of the New Creation. Miracles of the Old Creation are events like turning water into wine (water can always be turned to wine, but usually goes through the grape first) and multiplying bread and fish (grain and fish can multiply through natural processes; Jesus just sped it up).
Miracles of the New Creation are precursors to the Resurrection. Examples are Jesus and Peter walking on water, the raising of Lazarus, and the Transfiguration. In all these examples, Nature did not simply take its course after a quick interruption. Nature obeyed God in a new way.
He does differentiate between the raising of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Christ. Lazarus’s death was simply reversed. Lazarus went back to a normal, human life. But with Christ, six weeks after his resurrection, he withdrew “into some different mode of existence…. He is about to create that whole new Nature which will provide the environment or conditions for His glorified humanity and, in Him, for ours.”
He wrote SO much more in this book (Pantheism, red herrings, his view of Nature as a created thing with a personality), but what I wrote here is the basic essence of the book. It was definitely challenging, and I don’t know if I would have persevered through it without the date of the book discussion looming.
Miracles is going on my 5×5 challenge under my C.S. Lewis category. This category will include at least one more Lewis book, and hopefully and few books that influenced Lewis as well.
2 thoughts on “Review of Miracles by C.S. Lewis”
I have a C.S. Lewis category this year too. I’m reading the Narnia Series with my daughter along with Planet Narnia. I just started The World’s Last Night and other Essays. I wasn’t planning or reading Miracles but it sounds like another good one!
Ooo, I am curious to hear about The World’s Last Night.