Miracles: A Preliminary Study by C.S. Lewis [REVIEW]



Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was a novelist, academic, medievalist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist who held academic positions at both Oxford University and Cambridge University. He wrote many other books, such as Mere Christianity , Problem of Pain , The Screwtape Letters , A Grief Observed , The World’s Last Night , The Abolition of Man , The Great Divorce , God in the Dock , Christian Reflections , etc.

He wrote in the first chapter of this 1947 book, “This book is intended as a preliminary to historical inquiry. I am not a trained historian and I shall not examine the historical evidence for the Christian miracles. My effort is to put my readers in a position to do so. It is no use going to the [biblical] texts until we have some idea about the possibility or probability of the miraculous. Those who assume that miracles cannot happen are merely wasting their time by looking into the texts; we know in advance what results they will find for they have begun by begging the question.” (Pg. 8-9)

He argues, “If we are to continue to make moral judgments… then we must believe that the conscience of man is not a product of Nature. It can be valid only if it is an offshoot of some absolute moral wisdom, a moral wisdom which exists absolutely ‘on its own’ and is not a product of non-moral, non-rational Nature… this leads us to acknowledge a supernatural source for our ideas of good and evil.” (Pg. 38-39)

He suggests, in [Christianity] the Miracles, or at least some Miracles, are more closely bound up with the fabric of the whole belief than in any other. All the essentials of Hinduism would, I think, remain unimpaired if you subtracted the miraculous, and the same is almost true of Mohammedanism. But you cannot do that with Christianity. It is precisely the story of a great Miracle. A naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically Christian.” (Pg. 69)

He gives his famous counter-argument to Hume’s argument against miracles [found in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , Section 10]: “There is, in fact, ‘uniform experience’ against Miracle; otherwise, says Hume, it would not be Miracle… It is always more probable that the witnesses were lying or mistaken than that a Miracle occurred. Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.” (Pg. 105)

He proposes, “We have … found… a criterion whereby to judge the intrinsic probability of an alleged miracle. We must judge it by our ‘innate sense of the fitness of things,’ that same sense of fitness which led us to anticipate that the universe would be orderly… Whatever men may SAY, no one really thinks that the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection is exactly on the same level with … how Mother Egarée Louise miraculously found her second best thimble by the aid of St. Anthony… Even those who think all stories of miracles absurd think some very much more absurd than others… The criterion which both parties are actually using is that of fitness. More than half the disbelief in miracles that exists is based on a sense of their UNFITNESS…” (Pg. 110-111)

He admits, “I am in no way committed to the assertion that God has never worked miracles through and for Pagans or never permitted supernatural beings to do so… But I claim that the Christian miracles have a much greater intrinsic probability in virtue of their organic connection with one another and with the whole structure of the religion they exhibit… Thus miracles are (in late documents, I believe) recorded of the Buddha… [But] The more we respect his teaching the less we could accept his miracles. But in Christianity, the more we understand what God it is who is said to be present and the purpose for which He is said to have appeared, the more credible the miracles become.” (Pg. 138)

This book is a true “classic” of modern apologetics, and more Christians should actually READ it, rather than just hear a few passages quoted or paraphrased.


So, dear reader, what do you think?

Are miracles real?


Do you believe more in chance, happenstance, serendipity & luck?

May I challenge you to read this book before giving your answer?


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