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Miracles Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 21, 2015
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"I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiration."-- John Updike"If I were ever to stray into the Christian camp, it would be because of Lewis's arguments as expressed in books like "Miracles."-- Kenneth Tynan
From the Back Cover
Do miracles really happen? Can we know if the supernatural world exists? "The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this." In Miracles, C. S. Lewis takes this key idea and shows that a Christian must not only accept but rejoice in miracles as a testimony of the unique personal involvement of God in creation. Using his characteristic warmth, lucidity, and wit, Lewis challenges the rationalists and cynics who are mired in their lack of imagination and provides a poetic and joyous affirmation that miracles really do occur in everyday lives.
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This excellent book is probably the most difficult and dense of all Lewis's work that I've read. Its approach is philosophical, not biblical-exegetical, and it is not for the unprepared reader. While that unfortunately limits the range of people I can recommend it to, those unequipped to grapple with its metaphysics are less likely to struggle with the objections Lewis works to defeat. Some of his theological weakness also shows through in the book (viz., his comments on Jonah), but this is brief and almost completely obliterated by his characteristically stunning holistic view of God's work in the world. In this vein, the chapter on the glories of nature is particularly tremendous and stimulating.
For those looking for more, the series of letters published in Christianity Today between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens are illuminating and interesting (I can't link -- just google it).
Lewis answers in the affirmative- miracles do occur. Indeed a substantial portion of the book is an apologetic explaining how the miraculous can and does occur, despite the misgivings of philosophical Naturalism. For this purposes he initially sets up the proofs of a spiritual realm and of God. Ironically for a theoretical work, Lewis shows us how the miraculous is not contrary to the natural and physical world, but fits fully within it, or rather without. While not actually being part of the physical the miraculous partakes of the physical, or rather, the physical partakes of it. This is perhaps the genius of Lewis' book, that he shows how a miracle never suspends the laws of nature, but is fully what we would expect if there were laws of nature as well as a divine nature.
From here Lewis looks at particular miracles, particularly the greatest miracle of all, the Incarnation, and how this moment was what all of space and time leads up to and reflects upon. He also analyzes miracles and the different imports of various types historically recorded. Throughout he writes with his customary wisdom and wit, analyzing in common language what we had always somewhat already known, but never well enough to emerge into the conscious mind so that we could act upon it. For that, we need C.S. Lewis.
I found this book immensely illuminating. Though theoretical, it encourages the reader to embark on a journey beyond the mundane, to expand the horizons, to see the reality that is beyond all reality. Miracles exist for a purpose, Lewis tells us. They are not just dropped as a "God in the gaps", to fill a niggling problem that we cannot otherwise solve. They exist to reveal something greater, namely God. I was encouraged, overwhelmed with joy, as I read what Lewis revealed in new ways- the great miracle of the resurrection. But it doesn't end there. For just as miracles are part and parcel of the natural order, so is the resurrection. Above all the Christian religion can not be divorced from the miraculous. Nearly every other religion could survive without it- in Christianity, one particular miracle is so central that without it there is no meaningful religion. If Jesus is not God made man, and subsequently died and resurrected, there really is no point to believing the whole yarn.
And the resurrection allows for the resurrection of us all. Lewis has shown us that Christianity is not a mystical spiritualist religion, denying creation. Dualism of that sort was considered heresy millennia ago. Just as miracles could not deny the natural order without denying both science and the central doctrine of Christianity, so the resurrection mandates a resurrection of the physical as well as the spiritual. That's exciting news. Not just a new Spirit, but a new creation. Lewis forced me to contemplate that anew as he delved into what that might mean. What it fully means we can not this side of Eternity truly know. But it's going to be fun.
I wish he had stopped there. For his final page dampens the ardor of the book. There he discusses how miracles are unlikely to occur for the average person- they occur but rarely in history.
Ironically, Lewis seems to fall for the same problem he has been attacking throughout his book. He explains how the Naturalist is unable to accept the miraculous because they allow the natural mind to take control, rather than their reason, which itself is evidence of the supernatural. Lewis has not taken the time and study to look for the miraculous and to practice it in everyday life. For make no mistake, such requires time and study. It requires a willingness to be observant and attendant, and to practice, again and again. Not to make stuff up or assume the miraculous is present when it is not- Lewis is right in warning us against that error. But in an age of Naturalism, we have become attuned to not look for the miraculous, and we are all susceptible to this. Just so then we must needs train to see it again.
Secondly, I and others I know have experienced many miracles in life. They are rare, assuredly. But they do occur.
Lastly, Lewis does discuss these "everyday" miracles in his second appendix on Providence. He does a very good job of explaining there how predestination and free-will intermix to allow for the miraculous. But he would seek to reduce this to the natural order of things. God in all His foreknowledge determined the right order of events, incorporating our prayers, and answers to our prayers, within His divine plan. Well and good. But if this then denies the miraculous element of answers to prayers, it also strips away the miraculous from*every* event. For the miracles of Jesus would also then be simply part of His divine plan. Indeed, more so than any other, the Grand Miracle, of the Incarnation and Resurrection, are part of His divine plan, and therefore part of providence. Stating that an everyday answer to prayer is providence and therefore not miraculous cheats the miraculous of any power it has at all.
To find out how miracles can be every day, how they are freely available, how healing can be part of your life in a meaningful way, pick up another book, like those by Peter Wagner. To find out how miracles are possible, how their presence allows us to transcend this earthly plane by fully incorporating the earthiness of life, read and dive into this book.