C.S. Lewis on Miracles - page 5


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Knowing & Doing

From the Fall 2004 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

C.S. Lewis on Miracles

by Art Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute

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  This whole method of adding evidence (from natural law) rather than weighing evidence (for each reported miracle claim) has not been sufficiently explored. Addto this that even natural laws (as understood in a particular period) have had to be revised by anomalies that needed a better explanation. If there is no way of recognizing exceptions to laws, no way to believe others (or your own) direct observation of a miracle, no way to alter the natural law, then you might wonder if you had a defective view of probability. Establishing a natural law and evaluating miracles’ claims are different kinds of things, but not the same thing.
  Another one of Hume’s arguments is that people from earlier ages were uneducated and uncivilized and therefore easily duped by miracle claims. I suppose that there is truth in this, but if true, it would not mean everything they report was false. People of earlier ages knew that the dead do not normally rise and virgins do not normally have babies. In fact, Joseph was ready to break his engagement with Mary when he heard of her pregnancy. He was under no illusions that virgin births regularly happen. Joseph was only persuaded otherwise by a supernatural encounter.


  Yet another of Hume’s arguments is that various competing religions make miracle claims to establish contradictory views. Lewis’s approach to this is first, to admit the possibility that some of these claims are true and second, to argue for the unique “fitness” or appropriateness of miracles within Christianity. In Miracles Lewis says:

I do not think that it is the duty of the Christian apologist (as skeptics suppose) to disprove all stories of the miraculous which fall outside the Christian records…. I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for pagans or never permitted created supernatural beings to do so….

Perhaps God could heal someone in a pagan religion not to establish that religion’s claims but merely out of compassion.

Lewis went on to say:

But I claim that Christian miracles have a much greater intrinsic probability in virtue of their organic connection with one another and with the whole structure of religion they exhibit.

  For instance, in Hinduism, the principle of non-distinction (All is One) rules out any validity to the distinction between natural and supernatural. Since all is “maya” or illusion, how can it be important to demonstrate power over the illusion? Granted, there have been claims of gurus levitating or healings in New Age circles, but within the system of thought how important are these “illusory” acts?
  There are stories in late Buddhism about the Buddha doing miracles. But since he held that nature is illusory, why would he be concerned with miraculous demonstrations on the level of nature? One early story contains a discussion of Buddha with a man who was sitting by a lake meditating so that he could walk across on the water. Buddha’s advice was to take the ferry. Lewis comments:

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