Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Unless you live near a railway, you will not see trains go past your windows"

I've been reading quite a bit of CS Lewis recently - Perelandra, The Weight of Glory, Miracles etc.

Miracles is particularly striking as an apologetic that really gets into the world of those who presuppose that miracles are impossible before even considering the issues and questions and evidence involved. I may post in future on much of the argument which I think I need to re-read several times, but this is from the end of the book:
"You are probably quite right in thinking that you will never see a miracle done: you are probably equally right in thinking that there was a natural explanation of anything in your past life which seemed, at the first glance, to be "rum" or "odd".
God does not shake miracles into nature at random as if from a pepper-caster. They come on great occasions: they are found at the great ganglions of history - not a political or social history, but of that spiritual history which cannot be fully known by men. If your own life does not happen to be near one of those great ganglions, how should you expect to see one? If we were heroic missionaries, apostles, or martyrs, it would be a different matter. But why you or I?
Unless you live near a railway, you will not see trains go past your windows. 
How likely is it that you or I will be present when a peace-treaty is signed, when a great scientific discovery is made, when a dictator commits suicide? That we should see a miracle is even less likely... Miracles and martyrdoms tend to bunch about the same areas of history - areas we have naturally no wish to frequent." 
-- CS Lewis, Miracles p171-172. Fontana.
Makes sense. At first glance this reads as a warning that though miracles are entirely 'reasonable' (as he has argued for 170 pages) we're still not to expect them too much. I wonder however whether he's being a bit playful in the way he writes. Playful in a way he'd embrace fully as he turned to write his Narnia books...

In classic Lewis style he draws us in, enough that before we know it the door might just slam behind us... something in us wants to be at those significant moments... the peace-treaty moment... the points of history that really matter... the days of martyrs and miracles.

The arguments are reasonable and thorough, and not just intellectual (though they are that too), but existential - though we opened the book dubious about miraculous occurances, we fold the pages back together actually wanting them to happen... longing to live near a railway, as it were...

1 comment:

  1. I liked Miracles too. But it's definitely one to re-read.

    How did you like Perelandra by the way? And have you read Out of the Silent Planet?