Monday, January 18, 2016

Book review - C.S. Lewis' Miracles

I just finished my second full reading of C.S. Lewis' Miracles. Like all of Lewis' books, the more you read, the more you discover the brilliance of this Brit's pen. The question lurking throughout the book is, "Are Miracles Possible?" Can and does an outside Agent invade the normal natural ordering of the universe to convey information or turn events and hearts according to His design and purposes?

One of the compelling arguments I picked up on in this second reading is found in chapter 3. Basically, Lewis argues that if Naturalism is true, then (1) human reasoning itself is doubtful or (2) if reasoning appears to exist, it should be doubted. (Alvin Plantinga brings these ideas home in his "evolutionary argument against naturalism.")

(1) Human reasoning itself is doubtful. If Naturalism is true, then the universe's beginning is one cosmic heap of nothingness or possibly some sort of pre-temporal power, awaiting the right combination to bring forth a Big Bang. But how could rational thought arise from non-rational nothingness? The mere ability to reason is doubtful.

(2) Thus, if reason appears to exist, it should be doubted. More likely, the events going on in our brains are hapless synapses firing nonsensical information. In our under-evolved state, we might think we're thinking, but something the result of non-rational causes should be extremely doubted. We might think we are bright scientists, philosophers, and physicists, but surely it's possible, we're more like caged lab rats upon our wheel with a more evolved species looking in going, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, they think they are going somewhere."

Isn't it more likely, the highest form of life is a highly intelligent, uber-powerful, personal being, capable of creating lesser things and persons with similar abilities for reason? Likewise, if such a being exists, and brings forth creation, He would have power to invade His creation when He thought it appropriate to steer history and his free-willing (and sometimes free-wheeling) creatures along his providential purposes.

Another dilemma for the pure Naturalist is the expression "ought" has no place. Oughtness suggests moral rightness, but how is that possible in a world that is, and is necessarily so because of blind chance? You cannot turn this indicative world into a world of imperatives. Now if behind the natural stage, there is a great theater of supernatural and moral Personhood, then moral directives (similar to the directions from a script or director's chair) are quite possible.

Moving ahead in the book, Lewis addresses the claims of Christianity. Particularly, the incarnation (God the 2nd member of the Trinity, entering the world as the human Jesus Christ) and the resurrection (Jesus dying physically and resurrecting in a new and better body). The belief of an incarnation within the religion of Judaism is quite fascinating. First century Judaism (in a similar vein to modern day Islam) would find it repugnant to depict God in human form, to bow before any graven image, or to give allegiance to anything or anyone but the One true God. What had to occur for first century Jews to begin worshipping the human Jesus as the God of the universe (see John 20: 24-29; Colossians 1:15-20; and Philippians 2:5-11)?

So too, Lewis writes, "Why should the only religion of a 'dying God' which has actually survived and risen to unexampled heights occur precisely among those people to whom, and to whom almost alone, the whole circle of ideas that belong to the 'dying God' was foreign?"

These beliefs seem possible only if the miraculous events exist in real space-time history--if Jesus is who Christianity has always claimed him to be. How else could the 1st century Nazarene's words be considered some of the richest teachings on morality ever uttered? How else could Jesus speak so shrewdly and effectively in every and all situation? Either Jesus is the Son of God or a very crazy (or worse evil) person with uncanny luck to dupe hundreds and thousands in his lifetime (and billions to follow).

What's more miraculous? The truth claims of Christianity or the blind chance, spontaneous, irrevocable, unplanned forces that culminated in the writing of this book review? And how would we know if we're just caged rats running along on our wheel?

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