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Miracles

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

Miracles

Postby Paul F. Ford » 24 Jul 2008, 23:49

A few days ago I received this request:
I was wondering whether you have written anything about Lewis' argument in Miracles, Chapter Three; or read anything about it that you found quite helpful. Thank you for any advise you may be able to afford me.


Here is how I replied:
Miracles is undeservedly understudied, so I applaud your willingness to undertake it (how is that for compiling negatives in one sentence?!). Perhaps you will undertake such a study as your senior project or your master’s thesis or even your dissertation?

In which case you will want to read:

George MacDonald, The Miracles of the Lord (Lewis’s “source” for Chapters 14, 15, and 16)

Arthur Balfour, Theism and Humanism (Lewis’s “source” for Chapters 2 through 13)

Part One of the Sermons of Samuel Ogden (1716–1778) published in 1780 in Cambridge and printed by J. Archdeacon, printer to the University. Someone needs to follow a line of research on “special providences” (Miracles, Appendix B). Lewis comments that Samuel Johnson brought this book with him on his trip to the Hebrides and both he and Boswell were particularly impressed by Ogden on special providences.

You’ll also want to read Lewis’s popularizations of many of his book’s themes in essay in God in the Dock, specifically “Miracles,” “Dogma and the Universe,” “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” “Myth Became Fact,” “‘Horrid Red Things,’” “Religion and Science,” “The Laws of Nature,” and “The Grand Miracle.”

However, as to your question, there has been much attention lavished on the third chapter. Walter Hooper’s entry (342–356) in his C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide and Bruce Edwards’s entry on the book in The C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia will tell you the main story.

A theology student of mine wrote the following: http://www.pford.stjohnsem.edu/ford/cslewis/documents/notes/Carter%20MIRACLES%20outline.pdf

If you are philosophically inclined, you should consult these two:

Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason (Inter-Varsity Press).
John Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (Revised and Updated: Prometheus Books).


What else should I have recommended to him?

Gratefully,
Paul
Paul Ford—self-appointed president of the "245-3617 Club" and proud member of the "245-6317 Club"; author of the Companion to Narnia and the Pocket Companion to Narnia.
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Postby Sven » 25 Jul 2008, 20:03

Perhaps the edition information so your correspondent could compare the original version to the revised Miracles.

If chapter 3 is his main interest, he might want to read Elizabeth Anscombe's rebuttal from the Socratic Club debate in volume 2 of The Collected Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe.

If his interest in less for research, and more focused on modern discussions of the topic, perhaps James Beilby's Naturalism Defeated as a starting point?

Ms. Carter's outline was well done. Nicely summarizes the book.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Miracles

Postby Patterner » 14 Dec 2009, 01:50

Well, it's been more than a year since the posts in this thread were made. I hope people stop by occasionally. :D

Short introduction... I'm an agnostic. When I see enough evidence for a creator, I'll believe there is one. So far, I haven't seen any. I'm not remotely unsatisfied with my beliefs, or the lack thereof. I do, however, think religion in general is something to look into a good deal more than many other subjects. Even if the fact that the overwhelming majority of humans throughout history have believed in a creator isn't evidence for a creator (not saying it isn't, just not sure it really qualifies), I think it's a good idea to try to understand the majority of humans throughout history. Therefore, I read about it and talk to people. I think Conversations With God, Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power, and Eknath Easwaran's introductions to his translations of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita are absolutely amazing works. Filled with beauty and wisdom, even if I don't have reason to believe they represent the truth of existence.

So, while debating various aspects of our beliefs online with an Orthodox guy, he suggested Miracles. And, lo and behold, Chapter 3 is what I'm here to ask about. I don't understand something, and I don't see how to go on before I do. Maybe someone can help me. I'm not sure what Lewis means in his paragraphs about the word because. If I do understand him, I disagree with him. It seems he's saying we gain knowledge by way of Ground and Consequent. "Grandfather must be ill today because he hasn't got up yet (and we know he is an invariably early riser when he is well)." But we don't gain knowledge in that way. That's something that makes us suspect something - that gramps is sick. But we learn - we gain knowledge - whether or not he is via other methods. And even if it is proven that he is, indeed, sick, the Ground and Consequent that made us suspicious in the first place is not any part of the proof.

I think I disagree with more in the next several paragraphs, but, until I'm sure what he meant there, I can't say for sure.

Can anyone help?
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Re: Miracles

Postby Patterner » 16 Dec 2009, 17:05

And I see the guy I mentioned is a member here. Hey, rus! :snow-smile:
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Re: Miracles

Postby rusmeister » 19 Dec 2009, 13:22

Patterner wrote:And I see the guy I mentioned is a member here. Hey, rus! :snow-smile:


Hi there! :snow-smile:
Honestly, I've faded out of here to a degree since last summer, when certain changes were made on the site that I think inconsistent with the name of Lewis or an endorsement by his heir, D. Gresham. I think those changes are also a reason why you did not get half a dozen replies within 24 hrs as you would have a year ago - some of the people more inclined to and capable of answering your question, and these kinds of questions in general, have left. If I get more time over the next week or so I'll try to deal with it; but since I have two other posts of yours "in line" to get to, I'd really hope that somebody here would get to it first. But by posting here, I can put this one in my "line".

I'm actually glad to "see you" here, by the way! :snow-smile:
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Re: Miracles

Postby arowhena » 19 Dec 2009, 19:03

Paul,

While, as far as I know, Lewis was not a Catholic; but with a subject matter concerning the Miraculous I suggest the source itself.

A good start would be, “Catechism of the Catholic Church;” and as a backup only, for ideas and all the (gory) details, “Butler’s Lives of the Saints.”
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Re: Miracles

Postby archenland_knight » 20 Dec 2009, 19:48

Patterner,

Welcome. I have not yet read "Miracles", so I can't comment on your specific post. However, since you mention that you're an agnostic simply wishing to investigate religion, I would think reading "Miracles" would be a little specialized for what you are looking for. As far as Lewis' works go, have you read Mere Christianity yet? It covers a little bit broader spectrum of topics and viewpoints. I would definitely recommend it.
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Re: Miracles

Postby Patterner » 01 Jan 2010, 04:39

Hi Knight.

Yeah, I read Mere Christianity. And I don't agree with him on his basic premise. Heh. But rus thought maybe Miracles would be worth trying. I just want to be sure I understand his point in that section. Being in the beginning of his line of reasoning, it's tough to go on if I disagree with it. I'd already know I disagree with all that comes after, after all, eh? I tried that with MC. I read well past the point where I first disagree. Now, a couple years later, I've started rereading it, to see if I'd changed my feelings on it. Which I haven't. Which makes me think it's not too likely I'll agree with him on this, either. Still, I thought it was worth finding out. :D
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Re: Miracles

Postby Adam Linton » 04 Jan 2010, 03:35

Patterner wrote:I'm not sure what Lewis means in his paragraphs about the word because. If I do understand him, I disagree with him. It seems he's saying we gain knowledge by way of Ground and Consequent. "Grandfather must be ill today because he hasn't got up yet (and we know he is an invariably early riser when he is well)." But we don't gain knowledge in that way. That's something that makes us suspect something - that gramps is sick. But we learn - we gain knowledge - whether or not he is via other methods. And even if it is proven that he is, indeed, sick, the Ground and Consequent that made us suspicious in the first place is not any part of the proof.

I think I disagree with more in the next several paragraphs, but, until I'm sure what he meant there, I can't say for sure.

Can anyone help?


The latter part of December is one of my busiest times; even more so this year--so sorry for the delay in response. I need to check again for myself--and it's unlikely to change your opinion of Lewis' broader argument--but I don't think Lewis would say that you've quite got the "abstract" right for his exposition of how we know.

The problems with Miracles, at least for you in this stage of your working with Lewis, may be

1) in addition to its being one of Lewis' more demanding reads, it's a more specialized argument that assumes a specific background [one has to take care to get in mind Lewis' own field of debate] and

2) it is perhaps less specifically imaginative than many other of his works. Lewis was a master illustrator as a writer and a teacher--and he's usually at his best when notably tapping into that capacity.

This doesn't mean that Miracles isn't an important, worthwhile work. It is. But it is a work for which the secondary literature (Hooper, and such) is more helpful, for many, in an up-front way than is usually the case with Lewis.

I don't know the scope of your interests/debates. However, from my reading of your posts here I would suspect that either Pilgrim's Regress or Problem of Pain (perhaps, especially, Regress) might be of more substantial help for you in "getting" Lewis than Miracles will be at this point.

Welcome to the Wardrobe, by the way. Our style here certainly has become more measured, informational, and conversational of late; both more studious and more playful, I'd say--and specifically, deliberately much less of a debate instrument. Some regretted this change; most of us appreciate it.

The Wardrobe counts among its members some top ranked Lewis scholars--and many remarkably well-read students of his writings (and also many who enjoy him in less intensely thoroughgoing ways, as well!). In any case, sometimes--in the case of a specific question such as you had--my unoffical sense is that more rapid response can be had by starting your own new thread in the appropriate "C. S. Lewis" section.

All the best.
we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream
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Re: Miracles

Postby Nerd42 » 15 Mar 2010, 15:33

Patterner wrote:Hi Knight.

Yeah, I read Mere Christianity. And I don't agree with him on his basic premise. Heh. But rus thought maybe Miracles would be worth trying. I just want to be sure I understand his point in that section. Being in the beginning of his line of reasoning, it's tough to go on if I disagree with it. I'd already know I disagree with all that comes after, after all, eh? I tried that with MC. I read well past the point where I first disagree. Now, a couple years later, I've started rereading it, to see if I'd changed my feelings on it. Which I haven't. Which makes me think it's not too likely I'll agree with him on this, either. Still, I thought it was worth finding out. :D


I disagree with the above relegation of Miracles as a secondary work. I recommend to the sharpy critical intellectual enquirer that (s)he first reads The Abolition of Man before anything else, then either Miracles or The Problem of Pain or both, depending on what aspects of the whole idea of "religion" or "spirituality" or "Christianity" or "church" or "sin" or "hell" makes them uneasy. If (s)he's really concerned about "hell" then it might also be advisable to read The Great Divorce in addition. Then and only then should (s)he read Mere Christianity, because it contains "mere" summaries of the arguments of these other books, and I think it really goes rather too quickly, assuming the reader will agree with basic philisophical premises that are really fleshed out in these other books. In fact if these books weren't copyrighted, I'd compile an expanded edition of Mere Christianity that replaces and supplaments many sections with information from Miracles and The Problem of Pain and contains a warning telling people to read The Abolition of Man first and I'd give that to interested seekers rather than just telling them to read "Mere Christianty" as if that one book will, on it's own, change their whole view. Times have changed since the 1940s and issues that were once only issues for the academic elite have now become issues for the mass of high school grad and undergrad college level people as well, unfortunately.

Now, as to Patterner's specific objection: I believe you're coming at this from a wrong perspective ... All Lewis is explaining there is that cause and effect is different from ground and consequent, and that logical arguments use ground and consequent and shouldn't get confused with cause and effect. This is nothing new or novel by Lewis - he is not espousing his own particular theory of logic but is merely restating a theory that most people (except Hegel and company) have always believed for thousands of years, whether formally or informally. If you don't like the way he stated it, that's fine because as long as you know your classical logic, you're good to go. If you don't like classical logic, then as I've said you should read The Abolition of Man first and realize that everything else Lewis ever wrote on Christianity depends on that book's core argument for any validity whatsoever.

As for your belief in the non-existence of a Creator, do you acknowledge the necessity of a first cause? And if so, what do you believe is wrong or inappropriate with the idea that "creator" would be an appropriate way to describe what this first cause might be?
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Re: Miracles

Postby paminala » 15 Mar 2010, 16:46

Nerd42 wrote: Times have changed since the 1940s and issues that were once only issues for the academic elite have now become issues for the mass of high school grad and undergrad college level people as well, unfortunately.


Why is it "unfortunate" that these ideas are available to a broader range of people, rather than just the "academic elite" now as opposed to in the forties? I would think this would be a good thing, that it would afford an opportunity for a wider scope of understanding and interpretation due to the influx of individuals into the process. Surely there is room in the conversation for all of us?
If not, perhaps you will kindly post the requirements one must meet before one is allowed to discuss literature in public?
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Re: Miracles

Postby Nerd42 » 23 Mar 2010, 18:26

paminala wrote:
Nerd42 wrote: Times have changed since the 1940s and issues that were once only issues for the academic elite have now become issues for the mass of high school grad and undergrad college level people as well, unfortunately.
Why is it "unfortunate" that these ideas are available to a broader range of people, rather than just the "academic elite" now as opposed to in the forties? I would think this would be a good thing, that it would afford an opportunity for a wider scope of understanding and interpretation due to the influx of individuals into the process. Surely there is room in the conversation for all of us?
If not, perhaps you will kindly post the requirements one must meet before one is allowed to discuss literature in public?
Oh, no. What's "unfortunate" isn't that people are now thinking when before they were not. Thinking is always better. What's unfortunate is a shift in people's basic assumptions. Before, certain philosophical ideas were considered so silly that you had to have a PHD to really believe in them, but now these ideas are the norm. The Abolition of Man wasn't required reading back then because most people accepted traditional standards of morality whether they believed in God or not. Not anymore. Before, certain parts of the argument could be skimmed over because they were familiar. Or, if not familiar, at least readily accessible when the call to examine one's assumptions was sounded. But now, in a largely post-Christian society, they are totally alien to most intellectuals and their real message has been negatively stereotyped into oblivion. Their alienation is the unfortunate thing.

If you wanted to look at it in semi-Freudian terms, people generally, without thinking about it, associate their view of God the Heavenly Father with their view of their earthly fathers established in childhood. (Yes, I know, as Lewis fans, we generally don't like Freud, but let's carry the argument on just to see where it leads) A society's rejection of the idea of God then, could be said to be partially a function of the divorce rate and the amount of child abuse, abandonment, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and so forth. Families tended to stay together alot more back then. Divorce was still considered somewhat scandalous. So people naturally had a much more positive view of God. But now, for every good and decent father, there's another either absent or rotten and irresponsible one, resulting in a generation that has a naturally negative view of God. That's the unfortunate shift. Not that people are now thinking when before they were not, but that their unthinking acceptance of current societal trends before they even begin to look at the arguments pushes them in a wrong direction where before it pushed them in a right direction, making the way easier.

There was a reason the British wanted Lewis on the radio during the war. In the '40s, Lewis was still trying to get you to zig where everybody else was zigging (He didn't think so, but I do, at least relatively, with the benefit of hindsight) but now to be a Christian is to zig where everyone else zags. Before, it was rebellious to be an atheist in most places besides academia. Now, it's rebellious to remain a devout Christian.
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Re: Miracles

Postby paminala » 24 Mar 2010, 14:39

It seems I owe you an apology for my somewhat snarky post. I read your remarks as a rather elitist attitude and I was wrong. In fact it seems that in many ways we agree on this point. Moral behaviour is fighting an uphill battle against the "Jerry Springer Generation"
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Re: Miracles

Postby Nerd42 » 30 Mar 2010, 23:56

paminala wrote:It seems I owe you an apology for my somewhat snarky post. I read your remarks as a rather elitist attitude and I was wrong. In fact it seems that in many ways we agree on this point. Moral behaviour is fighting an uphill battle against the "Jerry Springer Generation"
Oh well it's OK :) Your last sentence is basically the ghist of it, yeah.
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