Water to Wine to C.S. Lewis

February 9, 2009 — Leave a comment

cslewisJohn’s Gospel, chpt 2 is the miracle at Cana.  The Christ Church teaching and sermon investigation tool are posted at our website. In the sermon, I quoted from Lewis’s understanding of miracles.  Here are the larger quotes.

Lewis struck me as the most thoroughly converted man I ever met. Christianity was never for him a separate department of life…His whole vision of life was such that the natural and the supernatural seemed inseparably combined. -Walter Hooper

“…We must not say ‘They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.’ This is non-sense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he was ‘minded to put her away.’ [Matthew 1:19] He knew enough biology for that. Otherwise, of course he would have not regarded pregnancy as proof of infidelity. When he accepted the Christian explanation, he regarded it as a miracles precisely because he knew enough of the Laws of Nature to know that this was a suspension of them. When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened [Matthew 14:26, Mark 5:49, John 6:19]: they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception. If a man had no conception of a regular order in Nature, then of course he could not notice departures from that order: just as a dunce who does not understand the normal meter of a poem is also unconscious of the poet’s variations from it. Nothing is wonderful except the abnormal and nothing is abnormal until we have grasped the norm. Complete ignorance of the Laws of Nature would preclude the perception of the miraculous just as rigidly as complete disbelief in the supernatural precludes it, perhaps even more so. For while the materialist would have at least to explain miracles away, the man wholly ignorant of Nature would simply not notice them.
The experience of a miracle in fact requires two conditions. First we must believe in a normal stability of Nature, which means we must recognize that the data offered by our senses recur in regular patterns. Secondly, we must believe in some reality beyond nature. When both beliefs are held, and not till then, we can approach with an open mind the various reports which claim that this super or extra-natural reality has some times invaded and disturbed the sensuous context of space and time which makes our “natural” world. The belief in such a supernatural reality itself can neither be proved nor disproved by experience. The arguments for its existence are metaphysical, and to me conclusive. They turn on the fact that even to think and act in the natural world we have to assume something. In order to think we must claim for our own reasoning a validity which is not credible if our own thought is merely a function of our brain, and our brains a by-product of irrational physical processes. In order to act, above the level of mere impulse, we must claim a similar validity for our judgments of good and evil. In both cases we get the same disquieting result. The concept of Nature itself is one we have reached only tacitly by claiming a sort of super-natural status for ourselves.”

“In the second place, many people confuse the Laws of Nature with the laws of thought and imagine that their reversal or suspension would be contradicting in terms-as if the resurrection of the dead were the same sort of thing as two and two making five…The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in large letters too large for some of us to see. Of that larger script part is already visible, part is still unsolved. In other words, some of the miracles do locally what God has already done universally: others do locally what He has not yet done, but will do. In that sense, and from our human point of view, some are reminders and other prophecies.
God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus ever year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. [John 2:1-11] The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.”

from God in the Dock

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