Book: Miracles: How God Intervenes in Nature and Human Affairs
Author: C.S. Lewis
Macmillan, NY, pp. 186
Excerpt from Introduction:
In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.
For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we will always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to the experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.
If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less, can history do so. Many people think one can decide whether a miracle occurred in the past by examining the evidence “according to the ordinary rules of historical inquiry.”
But the ordinary rules cannot be worked until we ave decided whether miracles are possible, and if so, how probable they are. For if they are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred.
If, on the other hand, miracles are not intrinsically improbable, then the existing evidence will be sufficient to convince us that quite a number of miracles have occurred. The result of our historical enquires thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.
Excerpt from Book:
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.
There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion — an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” The fitness and therefore credibility, of the particular miracles depends on their relation to the Grand Miracle; all discussion of them in isolation from it is futile.
Table of Contents:
1. The scope of this book
2. The naturalist and the supernaturalist
3. The cardinal difficulty of naturalism
4. Nature and supernature
5. A further difficulty in naturalism
6. Answers to misgivings
7. A chapter of red herrings
8. Miracles and laws of nature
9. A chapter not strictly necessary
10. “Horrid red things”
11. Christianity and ‘Religion’
12. The propriety of miracles
13. On probability
14. The Grand Miracle
15. Miracles of the old creation
16. Miracles of the new creation
Appendix A: On the words ‘spirit’ and ‘spiritual’
Appendix B: On ‘Special Providences’