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Sunday, February 15, 2004

C.S. Lewis on Miracles

Of all the apologetical works of C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, published in 1947, was the last one I read, having purchased a copy only last fall and reading it over Thanksgiving. I was very struck by the book and find that it is my favorite of his works of non-fiction. I like it because it not only addresses the possiblity of miracles but is actually one long argument for Christianity, since as Lewis says Christianity is "precisely the story of a great miracle" and for that reason differs from other religons such as Buddhism and Hindusim which do not rest on the proposition that the supernatural intervened in human history.

In this and subsequent posts I'll briefly review Lewis' argument for Christianity in Miracles and bring out those points that to me were the most interesting and challenging. Lewis splits his discussion into four parts and I'll address part I below.

Miracles, Part I
In chapters 1 through 5 Lewis lays the foundation by discussing the differences in world views between supernaturalism and naturalism and the difficulties he sees in holding to strict naturalism or Naturalism with a capital "N". In a nutshell he views naturalism (the idea that nature is the "whole show", i.e. a fully enclosed system that fully accounts for everything reducing all phenomena to the movement of atoms) as wanting since it "offers what professes to be a full account of our mental behavior; but this account, on inspection, leaves no room for the acts of knowing or insight on which the whole value of our thinking, as a means to truth, depends." He therefore sees our ability to use reasoning as a primary evidence for the idea that there is something beyond nature. Rationality "is the little tell-tale rift in Nature which shows that there is something beyond or behind her."

He then goes on to indict Naturalism on the basis that it is unlivable. In other words, Naturalists will typically give intellectual ascent to the idea that there is no such thing as right and wrong and that no moral judgments are therefore "true" or more correct than another. However, when pressed, (i.e. is it ok to torture babies?) they will backpedal. As additional evidence, he cites the fact that many atheists paradoxically exhort people to non-religious morality such as conservation, education, and diversity, showing that they indeed make moral judgments as a matter of course.


Karla said...

I am rereading Miracles now and have been a fan of Lewis since childhood starting with The Chronicles of Narnia. I am finding Miracles to be a delightful read. I am currently in conversation with several naturalist/atheist and the material Lewis covers nails the issues in his wonderfully witty way. I just finished chapter 5. So far I am enjoying all he has said about the relationship of reason and nature and how reason must be outside of nature and dependent on greater Reason. I also enjoyed the chapter on morality stemming from reason which is based on God. I am familiar with these arguments, but to read them again is thrilling.

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