06/08/2012

Miracles (by CS Lewis)

I'm a big fan of CS Lewis's writing - both his fiction and non-fiction. It's all is written from a Christian worldview, albeit somewhat low-key in the fiction works. But his non-fiction writing is mostly theological, expressed in a clear and convincing style.

I have most of his popular books on my shelves, and was surprised to find that it's at least twelve years since I last read 'Miracles'.  It's not a long volume but is fairly heavy, content-wise, although quite comprehensible if taken reasonably slowly. While the topic is, obviously, miracles, Lewis's first few chapters present some logical arguments for the existence of the supernatural, and - eventually - for God as Creator. Lewis 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.

He is of course correct and I can see why he began that way. On the other hand, I think 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 my 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 does look at various kinds of miracles - the huge miracle of the Incarnation, those he calls 'miracles of the old nature' and those of the 'new nature'. One thing I remembered from my previous reading, which made quite a big impact on me, is 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.

While reading this time, the thought which struck me particularly and which I expect will remain with me for a while, 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. Obvious when I think about it, but apparently not to everyone who talks about God doing miracles.

I read a few pages of this book every day for the past 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. It's very abstract with few personal anecdotes.

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. First published in 1947, it's still in print on both sides of the Atlantic 65 years later, and is also available for the Kindle.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th August 2012

No comments: