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April 3, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Best quotes from “On Miracles” by CS Lewis

Reflective Questions in CS Lewis Miracles (for personal or group study):

1) How are God and nature related for Lewis?
2) How does Lewis define concrete? And how or in what way should we think of God as concrete?
3) What is the problem with pantheism for Lewis?
4) How do mainline Christians risk pantheism for Lewis?
5) What is the problem at the heart of materialism for Lewis? (*****)
6) How are we to think about Gods creation?
7) How are we to think about miracles? (this could use some specificity)
8] What criteria does Lewis adopt when examining miracles?
9) What lines of reasoning does Lewis use to prove miracles exist?
10) What is his argument? Is his argument convincing?
11) Are there arguments he should have developed more?
12) What are the red herrings Lewis speaks to? Why are they unconvicing to him?
13) What criteria should we avoid? Whats the problem with Humes criticism of miracles?
14) What metaphors or examples work the best in Lewis’ Miracles?
15) What quotes from Lewis most re-frame or change your perception of God, nature, or faith?
16) What are the dangers of literalism? How can metaphors be abused?
17) What are your (biggest) questions about Miracles or Lewis’ explanation of miracles?
18) What does this say about God’s upside-down kingdom?
19) How does the view of the Bible contrast with the usual philosophical view of life (ie. Thomas Hobbes)?
20) What are the types of miracles in the Bible?
21) How is the God of the bible unique from other so-called gods?
22) How is Lewis’ theology consistent or inconsistent with yours?
23) How would you criticize Lewis’ understanding of faith, God, or miracles?
24) What is New Creation? Describe life in New Creation. What role does New Creation play? How does it fit in the bible and/or Christian worldview?
25) Connect Lewis’ thoughts with specific verses in the Bible.
26) Do we experience miracles today? Have you ever seen, experienced, or heard of a modern day miracle?
27) What other questions or issues does Miracles by CS Lewis raise or answer?
28) What does Lewis implore his readers to do after reading On Miracles? Why do you think?
29) What wrong headed assumptions does Lewis identify and critique?
30) What is Lewis’ point?
31) What questions would you ask lewis about the book? Miracles? faith?
32) What does Lewis say about suffering? About natural selection and evolution? About inequality?

Quotes from “On Miracles” by CS Lewis

“The world is full of stories of people who say theyve experienced miracles.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 73).

“That is, I believe that the primary moral principles on which are all others depend are rationally perceived…If we cannot prove either axiom, that is not because they are irrational but because they are self-evidence and all proofs depend on them. Their intrinsic reasonableness shines by its own light. It is because all morality is based on such self-evidence principles that we say to a may, when we would recall him to right conduct, ‘Be reasonable.’” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 54)

“The Naturalist thinks that the pond (Nature–the great event in space and time) is of infinite depth–that there is nothing but water however far you go down. My claim is that some of the things on the surface (ie in our experience) show the contrary. These things (rational minds) reveal, on inspection, that they at least are not floating but attached by stalks to the bottom.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 45)

“Human minds, then, are not the only supernatural entities that exist. They do not come from nowhere. Each has come into Nature from Supernature: each has its tap-rot in an eternal, self-evidence, rational Being, whom we call God Each is an offshoot, or spearhead, or incursion of that Supernatural reality into Nature.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 43)

“But that is a question for further consideration. If we decide that Nature is not the only thing there is, then we cannot say in advance whether she is safe from miracles or not. There are things outside her: we do not yet know whether they can get in. The gates may be barred, or they may not.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 14).

“Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldone: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my believes are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” (Possible Worlds, p.209) (Quoted by CS Lewis in Miracles on p. 22)

“This account may (or may not) explain why men do in fact make moral judgements. It does not explain how they could be right in making them. It excludes, indeed, the very possibility of their being right.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 56).

“A nations moral outlook is just so much of its share of eternal Moral Wisdom as its history, economics etc. lets through. In the same way the voice of the Announcer is just so much of a human voice as the receiving set lets through.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 62).

“But Devonshire is none the less something more than ‘where Cornwall ends’, and Reason is something more than cerebral biochemistry.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 63).

“The Supernatual is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience: as intimate as breathing. Denial of it depends on a certain abscent-mindedness. But this abscent-mindedness is in no way surprising.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 65).

“But mere experience, even if prolonged for a million years, cannot tell us whether the thing is possible. Experiment find out what regularly happens in Nature: the norm or rule to which she works. Those who believe in miracles are not denying that there is such a norm or rule: they are only saying that it can be suspended. A miracle is by definition an exception.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 72)

“Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known. We have already seen that if you begin ruling out the supernatural you will perceive no miracles. We must now add that you will equally perceive no miracles until you believe that nature works according to regular laws. If you have not yet noticed that the sun always rises in the East you will see nothing miraculous about his rising one morning in the West.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 75).

“If miracles were offered us as events that normally occurred, then the progress of science, whose business is to tell us what occurs, would render belief in them gradually harder and finally impossible.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 75).

“Thus in one sense the laws of Nature cover the whole field of space and time; in another, what they leave out is precisely the whole real universe–the incessant torrent of actual events which makes up true history. That must come from somewhere else. To think the law can produce it is like thinking that you can create real money by simply doing sums” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 93 – 94)

“Christ did not die for men because they were intrinsically worth dying for, but because He is intrinsically love, and therefor love infinitely.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 82)

“We are inveterate poets.”

“God’s creative freedom is to be conceived as the freedom of a poet, the freedom to create a consistent, positive thing with its own inimitable flavour.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 103)

“In the same way and for the same reason, only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn around, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature’s current.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 104).

also 105

“It is therefore inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of Nature. It doesn’t…If God annihilates or creates or deflects a unit of matter He has created a new situation at that point. Immediately all Nature domiciles this new situation, makes it at home in her realm, adapts all other events to it.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 94)

“It reminds us that miracles, if they occur, must, like all events, be revelations of that total harmony of all that exists. Nothing arbitrary, nothing simply ‘stuck on’ and left unreconciled with the texture of total reality, can be admitted. By definition, miracles must of course interrupt the usual course of Nature, but if they are real they must, in the very act of so doing, assert all the more the unity and self-consistency of total reality at some deeper level.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 97)

“It seems that much more likely that human thought is not God’s but God-kindled.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 44)

“The reason why the modern literalist is puzzled is that he is trying to get out of the old writers something which is not there. Starting from a clear modern distinction between material and immaterial he tries to find out on which side of that distinction the ancient Hebrew conception fell. He forgets that the distinction itself has been made clear only by later thought.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 122).

“In the same way its quite erroneous to think that man started with a ‘material’ God or ‘Heaven’ and gradually spiritualized them.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 123).

“As long as we are trying to read back into that ancient unity either the one or the other of the two opposites which have since been analysed out of it, we shall misread all early literature and ignore many states of conciousness which we ourselves still from time to time experience. The point is crucial not only for the present discussion but for any sound literary criticism or philosophy.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 124).

“Those who make religion their god will not have God for their religion.”
Thomas Erskine of Linlathen (Quoted in CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 129)

“God is basic Fact or Actuality, the source of all other facthood. At all costs therefor He must not be thought of as a featureless generality. If He exists at all, He is the most concrete thing there is, the most individual, ‘organized and minutely articulated.’” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 145)

“Confusion between spirit and soul (or ‘ghost’) has here done much harm…But Spirit, if pictured at all, must be pictured in the very opposite way.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 147).

“Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
So it is sort of a Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 150).

“In reality, of course, every one of them is there for a purpose and breaks the superficial regularity of the metre in obedience to a higher and subtler law: just as the irregularities in The Winters Tale do not impair, but embody and perfect, the inward unity of its spirit” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 153).
“In other words, there are rules behind the rules, and a unity which is deeper than uniformity. A supreme workman will never break one note or one syllable or one stroke of the brush the living and inward law of the work he is producing. But he will break without scruple any number of those superficial regularities and orthodoxies which little, unimaginative critics mistake for laws.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 153).

“Studying the brushwork of a great painting, through their magnifying glasses, they discover more and more complicated relations between the dots, and sort these relations out, with great toil, into certain regularities.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 154 & continues onto p. 155)

“Probability is founded on the presumption of resemblance between those objects of which we have had experience and those of which we have had none; and therefor it is impossible that this presumption can arise from probability.”
Hume, Treatise of Human Nature

“Most stories about miraculous events are probably false: if it comes to that, most stories about natural events are false.” (CS Lewis in Miracles. p. 159)

“Unless nature is uniform, nothing is either probable or improbble.”

Criticism of Humes Critique of Miracles:

No study of probabilities inside a given frame can ever tell us how probable it is that the frame itself can be violated….If we stick to Hume’s method, far from getting what he hoped (namely, the conclusion that all miracles are infinitely impossible) we get a complete deadlock. The only kind of probabilities he allows holds exclusively within the frame of uniformity. When uniformity is itself in question (and it is in question the moment we ask whether miracles occur) this kind of probability is suspended. And Hume knows no other. By his method, therefore, we can say that uniformity is either probable or improbable; and equally we cannot say that miracles are either probable or improbable. We have impounded both uniformity and miracles in a sort of limbo where probability and improbability can never come. This result is equally disastrous for the scientist and the theologian; but along Hume’s lines there is nothing whatever to be done about it.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 164-165)

“Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 169)

“Theology offers you a working arrangement, which leaves the scientist free to continue his experiments and the Christian to continue his prayers.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 170).

Whitehead, Science and the Modern World

megaquote on p. 178


another quote on p.150

“He inhabits eternity: He dwells n the high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture. One day He will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 185)

“He is not a nature-God, but the God of nature–her inventor, maker, owner, and controller” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 185).

nature as selective (p. 188)

“We get really drunk in the worship of Dionysus and lie with real women in the temple of the fertility goddess.” (p. 192)

“[I]t is the same all the way p; that hierarchical inequality, the need for self surrender, the willing sacrifice of self to others, and the thankful and loving (but unashamed) acceptance of others’ sacrifice to us, hold sway in the realm beyond Nature. It is indeed only love that makes the difference: all those very same principles which are evil in the world of selfishness and necessity are good in the world of love and understanding. Thus, as we accept this doctrine of the higher worlds we make new discoveries about the lower world. It is from that hill that we first really understand the landscape of this valley….Nature is being lit up by a light from beyond Nature.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 194)

“Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is (if at this moment the night sky conceals such. The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death the brighter the rebirth. And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures and those who have never fallen will thus bless Adam’s fall. (CS Lewis in Miraclesp. 198).

“Where a God who is totally puposive and totally forseeing acts upon a nature which is totally interlocked, there can be no accidents or loose ends, nothing whatever of which we can safely use the word merely, Nothing is merely a by-product of anything else. All results are intended from the first. What is subserviant from one point of view is the main purpose from another. No thing or event is first or highest in a sense which forbids it to be also last and lowest.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 200 – 201).

“The partner who bows to Man in one movement of the dance receives Man’s reverances in another. To be high or central mean to abdicate continually: to be low means to be raised: all good masters are servants: God washes the feet of men. The concepts we usually bring to the consideration of such matters are miserably political and prosaic. We think of flat repetitive equality and arbitrary privilege as the only two alternatives–thus missing all the overtones, the counter-point, the vibrant sensitivies, the inter-inanimations of reality”
(CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 200 – 201)

“Books on psychology and economics are as continously metaphorical as books of poetry. There is no other way of talking, as every philologist is aware” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 155)

Examples & Metaphor:

1) Pond (p. 45)

Sorry, there are still some scrappy notes among the quotes….I need to fix that. I hope this is still useful for those who want to read & think about “On Miracles” by CS Lewis.


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