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Miracles by C. S. Lewis

Miracles (original 1947; edition 2001)

by C. S. Lewis

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Authors:C. S. Lewis
Info:HarperOne (2001), Paperback, 304 pages
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Miracles by C. S. Lewis (1947)

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This is a fairly heavy book, although quite comprehensible if taken reasonably slowly. Although the topic is miracles, Lewis's first few chapters present his clear and logical arguments for the existence of the supernatural, and - eventually - for God as creator. He explains that, without this philosophical background and an openness to something outside the natural world of our senses, then any discussion of miracles is pointless.

I can see why he began that way, although it's doubtful whether an atheist or committed materialist would bother with a book on this topic; moreover, I could see a few holes in his arguments even from a Christian perspective, so while I agree with his conclusions I suspect that many wouldn't. Still, it made interesting reading.

The latter part of the book discusses various kinds of miracles - the huge miracle of the Incarnation, those he calls 'miracles of the old nature' and those of the 'new nature'. It's been at least twelve years since I last read this, but I did remember something that made quite a big impact on me last time: the idea that in the 'old nature' miracles, God works by speeding up a process that would happen naturally over time (water into wine, for instance, bypassing the growth and harvesting and fermenting of the grapes).

This time, the thought that will remain with me is the idea that miracles, once impinged upon the natural world, continue to obey its laws. They have no 'past' - by definition, they happen outside of normal events - but are then absorbed, so to speak. Miraculous wine can still lead to hangovers.

I read a few pages every day for about three weeks, and mostly enjoyed it. The style feels dated, unsurprisingly, although it's clear and extremely well-written. But I found my mind wandered far too easily if I attempted more than about half a chapter at a time.

Lewis fans will almost certainly have this on their shelves; for those who haven't read any of his theological works, this isn't one of the best introductions, in my view. I think Mere Christianity', or even 'Surprised by Joy' would be more accessible.

Still, it's well worth reading for anyone interested in the topic. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Hardest of the CS Lewis books I've read! But if you can fight through it, there's some great stuff about the relationship between body and spirit. ( )
  ylferif | Aug 1, 2014 |
The first four or five chapters of C. S. Lewis' Miracles are an excellent analysis and discussion of the differences between Naturalism and Super-naturalism, from which he begins to tackle the question whether miracles have historically occurred. Lewis does this admirably and he presents an interesting and cogent argument not only for the historical occurrence of miracles but the Super-natural Deity behind them. For the Christian reader, this book is an excellent resource for tackling discussions on Naturalism, and for investigating and supporting the argument for historically-occurring miracles. Lewis starts by addressing the Incarnation and thence to all the other miracles Jesus performed. Even if one is not a Christian, this book is worth reading for the first five chapters alone, but the intrepid reader should progress further to analyse their own beliefs about miracles and investigate them without the pre-existing Naturalist bias present in all of us. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
This book presents a philosophical case for the rationality of a belief in miracles, and a support for a Christian world view. I've previously been impressed with C S Lewis's works due to his sound use of logic, however there are oversights in reasoning here that significantly weaken the persuasiveness of some of his arguments. This is not to say that the final conclusions are no longer supported, but that a better case could have been made. Either way, a reader who has understood the case presented in this book, what is wrong with it, and how it could be amended, will not be convinced that miracles do or have occurred, or that they are probable, only that a belief in their possibility is rationally defensible within a coherent worldview. In this way, Lewis achieves at least in part what he set out to do.

In the opening chapters, Lewis describes the difference between Naturalist and Supernaturalist world views, defining the former as a belief that the material world is all that there is, and that everything could in theory be understood from a knowledge of material causes and the observable laws of Nature. Presented as an alternative is what he defines as the Supernaturalist word view, that something exists apart from the material, and that this is useful to explain certain things such as the origin of the universe, and the existence of reason and rationality. Specifically, Lewis presents an argument in favour of the Supernatural world view based on his claim that rationality and human reason could not result from causal material laws alone and that instead they must be given to us from God. This is the biggest error in the book, and several further arguments are based on this conclusion. While part of this reasoning is correct (that material causes alone could not lead to the formation of rationality), his definition of Naturalism is too narrow, as he overlooks the existence of necessary mathematical truths that would be present in any given universe (Naturalist or Supernaturalist), and which are clearly not part of the material universe per se but would always accompany it; that these necessary truths are eternal and uncaused, and that their effects on any logical material universe is inevitable (minds would only evolve in a universe which was logical, where the laws were broadly consistent, as there would be no advantage to having a mind in a situation where nothing was predictable).
There are then two broad ways in which these necessary mathematical and logical truths could have been dealt with: either within a Naturalist world view (expanded beyond Lewis's definition), or within a Supernaturalist world view (for example as their incorporation into God as what the Neoplatonists called the Logos, or what modern Christians might translate as being the co-eternal Word of God). Either of these could be logically consistent, but neither are considered by Lewis. Instead, he takes the ability of humans to think rationally as being a support solely for the Supernaturalist world view. If we leave the argument at this point we are agnostic, being unable to decide in favour of the Naturalist or Supernaturalist world view. The bulk of the remaining ammo left to Lewis then for his apologetics is the origin of the universe (Creation), and the scriptures themselves.
The case he then makes using these and other arguments is somewhat better. While he might not convert a staunch Naturalist, it will at least expose several presuppositions that are held without evidence and lead to further questions. The possibility of miracles is reconciled with a universe that acts according to scientific laws, and several other barriers to an acceptance of their possibility are removed. For all its flaws, what is left of this book is a considered and coercive argument for having an open mind on the matter of miracles, but not a definitive answer one way or the other. Much of the logic deployed throughout this book is fine, and used to good effect, and overall this provides a good philosophical introduction to the topic of Miracles for the inquisitive. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Apr 17, 2014 |
  saintmarysaccden | Mar 12, 2013 |
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In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060653019, Paperback)

An impeccable inquiry into the proposition that supernatural events can happen in this world. C. S. Lewis uses his remarkable logic to build a solid argument for the existence of divine intervention.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:57 -0400)

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Cites varied cases which substantiate belief in the supernatural acts recorded in the Bible.

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