C.S. Lewis: Miracles (Outline, part 1)

Miracles By C.S. Lewis

 

Flow of the Argument

 

Chapter 1:

I.  The Big Idea:  Before we can argue for Miracles, we must answer the philosophical

question as to whether miracles can exist.

            a.  They either do exist or they do not.

            b.  If they do exist, we must also ask if they are likely or not.

II.  Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  What is your presupposition about miracles?

                        1.  If you don’t believe they exist, even if you are confronted by one you

will explain it away.

                        2.  If you believe that they are possible, but unlikely, you will also explain

them away even if confronted by one.

            b.  Because historical data is recorded by the observation of people with

presuppositions, historical inquiry cannot prove the miraculous unless the

initial philosophical question is answered.

 

Chapter 2:

I.  The Big Idea:  Defining the terms Miracle, Naturalism, and Supernaturalism.

            a.  Miracle:  “an interference with Nature by supernatural power” (5)

            b.  Naturalist:  Those who believe that nothing but nature exists (5-6)

            c.  Supernaturalist: Those who believe that there exists something in addition to

nature that is outside of nature (6)

II.  Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  Given the broad definition of a miracle, the naturalist must, by definition, deny

that miracles are possible

            b.  The Supernaturalist accepts the possibility of miracles by Lewis’ definition,

though the supernaturalist does not necessarily think that miracles are

probable.

            c.  For the naturalist, nature must be the “whole show” and include whatever there

is.

            d.  What is “nature” or “the natural state”?

                        1.  the state that something would be in without outside interference

                                    i.  the dog would be unkempt and have fleas

                                    ii.  the wilderness would not have roads or houses in it

                                    iii.  “The natural is what springs up, or comes forth, or arrives, or

goes on, of its own accord: the given, what is there already:

the spontaneous, the unintended, the unsolicited.”  (7)

                        2.  As everything must be explainable in terms of the whole system

                                    i.  nature must be cause and effect

                                    ii.  any spontaneity and originality is reserved for the whole

                                    iii.  Nature exists in its own right with nothing outside of it

                                    iv.  Nature is independent and depends on nothing.

           

e.  The Supernaturalist

                        1.  Agrees with the naturalist that there must be something that exists in its

own right

                        2.  this self-existing reference is the “Starting point for all explanations”

                        3.  Supernaturalist does not identify this self-existing entity with nature,

and nature is seen as being derivative from that one thing

                                    i.  “The one basic Thing has caused all other things to be.  It exists

on its own; they exist because it exists.  They will cease to

exist if it ever ceases to maintain them in existence; they

will be altered if it ever alters them.” (9)

            f.  the God of the naturalist

                        1.  a naturalist need not be an atheist if the naturalist’s god is understood to

be within or part of nature, much like the gods of Ancient Greece

and Rome or the Gnostic perspective

                        2.  the naturalist cannot accept a god who is outside of nature or one who

made nature

            g.  the Naturalist view is a view that all things exist within the framework of

nature, the supernaturalist holds that God created the framework within

which nature operates

            h.  the possibility of a plurality of “Natures” as long as they are not interconnected

in any way, nor do they influence one another.

            i.  a speculative view of a plurality of natures opens up two kinds of miracles

                        1.  God bringing two natures together for a time

                        2.  God interfering with one or both natures

 

 

Chapter 3:

I.  The Big Idea:  Naturalism rules out reasoning.

II.  Flow of Reasoning: 

            a.  By definition, Naturalism must be explainable in terms of the whole system

—no heeltaps

            b.  Anything found outside of the system ruins the naturalistic argument

            c.  This rejects science by statistics—everything must be calculable

                        i. “The movement of one unit is incalculable, just as the result of tossing a

coin once is incalculable:  the majority movement of a billion units

can however be predicted, just as, if you tossed a coin a billion

times, you could predict a nearly equal number of heads and tails. 

Now it will be noticed that if this theory is true we have really

admitted something other than Nature.  If the movements of the

individual units are events ‘on their own,’ events which do not

interlock with all other events, then these movements are not part

of Nature.” (19)

            d.  The knowledge we have of any information is observation + inference, thus all

possible knowledge depends on the validity of reasoning.

i.  our observation demands that we recognize something outside of

ourselves

ii.  when we recognize that which is outside of ourselves, then we are

reasoning

iii.  “It follows that no account of the universe canbe true unless that

account leaves it possible for our thinking to be real insight.  A

theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but

which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid,

would be utterly out of court.  For that theory would itself have

been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory

would, of course, be itself demolished.  It would have destroyed its

own credentials.  It would be an argument which proved that no

argument was sound—a proof that there are no such things as

proofs—which is nonsense.” (21-22)

            e.  If nature is explainable in terms of the whole system, it must, by definition,

imply a cause & effect universe—cause and effect all of the way back to

the beginning

            f.  In this view, then, reasoning must be nothing more than “one link in a causal

chain which stretches back to the beginning and forward to the end of

time.” (24)

            g.  Thus, mental events are caused by previous mental events and nothing more—

“knowledge” plays no role in the progression of these mental events—also

mental events came into being in the same evolutionary way that physical

events came into being—mental events to the naturalist, then are nothing

more than responses to stimuli.

            h.  Yet, the experience that things are always connected (fire burns you) is only of

animal behavior, Reason comes into play when you infer something from

the events

            i.  Nature cannot show how one turns sub-rational, animal instinct, into rational

thought, thus a break in the chain occurs

            j.  Knowing is more than mere remembering what happened last time, but of

inferring that what happened in the past will continue to take place in the

future.  Inference, then is determined by genuine knowledge, not by cause

and effect.

            k.  Inference and reason are the means by which we know and understand nature

and how we explain nature and cannot be explained by nature

           

 

Chapter 4:

I.  The Big Idea:  Acts of reasoning are not interlocked in the system of Nature as all

other items are interlocked with one another.

II.  Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  Reasoning is not interlocked with the system of Nature but is connected

                        1.  the understanding of a machine is connected with the machine but not

in the same way that the parts of the machine are connected with

each other

                        2.  My understanding of the machine is outside of the functioning of the

machine

            b.  Reasoning affects the cause-effect process, but it is a one-way street

                        1.  Nature is powerless to produce rational thought

                        2.  Rational thought produces actions which change nature

                                    i.  “Nature can only raid reason to kill; but Reason can invade

nature to take prisoners and even to colonize” (39)

ii.  “The walls, ceiling, and furniture, the book, your own washed

hands and cut fingernails, bears witness to the colonization

of Nature by reason: for none of this matter would have

been in these states if Nature had her way.” (39)

            c.  Asymmetrical relationship (A yields B but B does not yield A)

                        1.  (A) is the father of (B), the reciprocal cannot be said of (B) to (A)           

d.  Does not follow that rational thought exists absolutely on its own (rational

thought is not God)

                        1.  As above, rationality would become irrationality if it is dependent on

nature

                        2.  Yet, my reason stops at night when I go to sleep or when I am

unconcious                       

3.  Reason must come from something outside of nature that also exhibits

reason

            e.  Objection:

                        1.  Rather, then of saying, “I reason,” should we not say, “God reasons

through us.”

                        2.  “Reasoning does not happen to us; we do it.” (43)

                        3.  We also have false conclusions, which would be impossible if our

reasoning were only God reasoning through us.

            f.  Objection:

                        1.  Could this greater reasoning, be a part of nature, having emerged or

evolved as we do?

                        2.  Nature, by definition, cannot beget reasoning, thus that which begets

our reasoning must be outside of nature

 

 

Chapter 5:

I.  The Big Idea:

            a.  Moral arguments are a product of reasoning and not merely a result of societal

influences

II.  The Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  Many suggest that “morals” are merely a result of conditioning by society

            b.  but “ought”, “this is good” and “this is evil” are value statements, not

preferences

            c.  “If the fact that men have such ideas as ought and ought not at all can be fully

explained by irrational and non-moral causes, then those ideas are an

illusion” (56)

            d.  Yet, “A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you

will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionize,

liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.” (57)

            e.  the naturalist is inconsistent—his philosophy does not match his living

            f.  “If we are to continue to make moral judgments, then we must believe that the

conscience of man is not a product of nature.” (60)

 

 

Chapter 6:

I.  Big Idea:

            a.  Our reasoning is done through the medium of the brain much like we observe

through the medium of a looking glass

II.  Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  if the brain is impaired our reasoning is impaired (though the opposite does not

follow)

            b.  When we look at a garden through a window, we are not cognizant of the

window unless we intentionally look at it or it is distorting our field of

vision

            c.  “The naturalists have been engaged in thinking about nature.  They have not

attended to the fact that they were thinking.” (65)

            d.  The implication is that we ought to discover the looking glass through which

we view nature and understand his character

 

 

Chapter 7: 

I.  Big Idea:

            a.  Does nature, by its very nature, exclude the miraculous?

II.  Flow of Reasoning:

            a.  People of old believed in miracles because they were uneducated and knew no

better

                        1.  Joseph understood that virgins did not get pregnant, which is why he

went to send her away

                        2.  Bible presents these things as miracles, not as the norm

            b.  People of old did not have good enough science to know better

                        1.  Ptolemy taught that earth was point with no magnitude in comparison

to sun 1700 years ago

                        2.  Pythagoras (525 BC) calculated

                                    i.  earth was round

                                    ii.  earth revolved around a “Central Fire” (though the central fire

was not the sun, and only reflected the sun’s light.

                                    iii.  popularized base 10 mathematics

            c.  Thus, there is no reason to write off miracles because of our chronological

snobbery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8:

I.  The Big Idea

a.  Recognizing that there are regular laws within nature, How does God interact?

II.  Flow of Reasoning

            a.  3 conceptions on the “Laws of Nature”

                        1.  They are “brute facts” known only by observation

                                    i.  but observation cannot give us knowledge—knowledge requires

inference (reasoning)

                        2.  They are applications of the law of averages

                                    i.  yet, if the Naturalist is correct, there must be no law of averages

and all must be predictable down to the smallest element

                        3.  Fundamental laws of Physics are “necessary truths”

                                    i.  they provide meaning to the system of nature

            b.  Thus, God’s interaction is an interaction that in itself is a “cause” and effects

come from it—God as a “cause” from which effects come

1.  “a miracle is emphatically not an event without cause or without

results.  Its cause is the activity of God:  its results follow

according to the Natural law.” (95)

 

 

Chapter 9:

I.  The Big Idea

            a.  Recognizing a God, must he be the kind that acts and is nature any less real as

a result?

II.  Flow of Reasoning

            a.  this line of objection (that God would not wish to act) is a purely emotional

one

            b.  to say nature is unreal because a God has created her is nonsense

            c.  Every aspect of nature expresses the character of nature that God wished her to

express

 

 

Chapter 10:

I.  The Big Idea

            a.  We must understand the nature of this Supernatural God through Analogy

II.  Flow of reasoning

            a.  we cannot understand many finite things but through analogy (imagining

London)—analogies being imperfect notions

            b.  Yet even an imperfect analogy does not invalidate the results (horrid red

things)

            c.  3 principles

                        1.  Thought is distinct from the imagination that accompanies it

                        2.  thought may be sound even when false images accompany it

                        3.  anyone who talks of that which cannot be seen, touched, or heard must

inevitably speak of them as if they could be seen, touched, or heard

(analogy)

            d.  We must then use analogy to explain the supernatural, not to explain it away

 

 

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

18 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis: Miracles (Outline, part 1)

  1. How do you feel about the fact that Lewis–who is, by the way, my literary (and I’m almost scared to admit) Theological hero–equated Calvinism with devil worship in Miracles and several other of his works?

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    1. Jed,

      Yes, Lewis is one of my heroes, though not as much theological as apologetic (if that makes sense). Lewis certainly makes some digs against some Calvinist doctrines, namely that of Total Depravity, which I am guessing is what you are pointing to. Yet, it is interesting because in Miracles, right after he proclaims that the Doctrine of Total Depravity is devilish, he then goes on the explain the doctrine of Total Depravity as taught in scripture and affirmed it! What that means is that because he is not a trained theologian, something that he freely admits.

      Frankly, Lewis’ affirmation of a theistic evolution and his universalistic end to the Narnia books concerns me more than a knock on Calvinism.

      Blessings,

      Win

      Like

  2. Thank you so much for posting this thoughtful analysis. I’m reading Miracles for the first time and I’m only partially following the logical argument. I’m going to use this along with the book to analyze it myself.

    Blessings,
    Cindy

    Like

    1. C.A.,
      I am glad this was a help to you. Many blessings as you work through Miracles, it actually has become one of my favorites in terms of his Apologetic works. Blessings,

      win

      Like

  3. Thank you for the compact summary of Lewis’s miracles! His train of thought really needs concentrating at times – especially if your mother tongue is Finnish. I am preparing ‘a morning assembly’ that I should have at our school, and Lewis is really a person whose ideas can put high school students to think.
    J-L

    Like

    1. Glad this was helpful. And you are right, this can be a difficult book at times even if your native tongue is English, let alone Finnish. When I taught High School, I regularly put Lewis before the students as a model of how to patiently structure a logical argument. You might also find the Abolition of Man a useful read for your students.

      Blessings,
      win

      Like

  4. Regarding his knocks on Total depravity: I think he is clearly misunderstanding the doctrine. He mentions it in TPOP but his description of it matches the idea that the image of God has been totally destroyed in them and they lack any and all goodness whatsoever

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