Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Speaking of Lewis and Higher Laws

For who can suppose that God’s external act, seen from within, would be that same complexity of mathematical relations which Nature, scientifically studied, reveals?  It is like thinking that a poet builds up his line out of those metrical feet into which we can analyze it, or that the living speech takes grammar as its starting point.   But the best illustration of all is Bergson’s.  Let us suppose a race of people whose peculiar mental limitation compels them to regard a painting as something made up of little coloured dots which have been put together like a mosaic.  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.  Their labour will not be in vain.  These regularities will in fact “work”; they will cover most of the facts.  But if they go on to conclude that any departure from them would be unworthy of the painter, and an arbitrary breaking of his own rules, they will be far astray.  For the regularities they have observed never were the rule the painter was following.  What they painfully reconstruct from a million dots, arranged in an agonizing complexity, he really produced with a single lightning-quick turn of the wrist, his eye meanwhile taking in the canvas as a whole and his mind observing the laws of compositions which the observers, counting their dots, have not yet come within sight of, and perhaps never will.  I do not say that the normalities of Nature are unreal.  The living fountain of divine energy, solidified for the purposes of this spatio-temporal Nature into bodies moving in space and time, and thence, by our abstract thought, turned into mathematical formula, does in fact, for us, commonly fall into such and such patterns.  In finding out those patterns, we are gaining real, and often useful, knowledge.  But to think that a disturbance of them would constitute a breach of the living rule and organic unity whereby God, from His own point of view, works, is a mistake.  If miracles do occur then we may be sure that not to have wrought them would be the real inconsistency.   C.S. Lewis, Miracles, Chapter XII, “The Propriety of Miracles”, p. 97

The nice thing about a blog is that sometimes you run across something that you would not have remembered otherwise, like Higher Laws, wherein I also quote Lewis, but this time from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
”It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. …”
The foundation of the Christian faith is that the basis of human life is redemptive, and on that basis, God performs His miracles (Oswald Chambers).
What I said then I must need to be reminded of today:

Paul says it himself – it is foolishness to the perishing. A vast universe, eons of time, billions of years of life and death and mud and blood, millions of species passing into oblivion, and it is all to bring us to an insignificant little knoll beside a dusty road on the edge of a squalid town in a backwater country. It is laughable. Yet the alternative is not just that Jesus died for nothing, but that man lives, in anything more than a purely physical way, for nothing. Either we are sons of God being redeemed from enslavement to the material and temporal, or we are self-deluded animals driven by forces we cannot control even if we should understand them.

[B]ecause God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom -- those who accept the redemptive basis of human life find that there has been an amazing pattern running through their lives. Like pieces of a puzzle falling into place, what made no sense suddenly fits in the picture. There was an accident that seemed to be a mere inconvenience but revealed a truth about myself. There was a chance meeting with an old friend that reinforced a good decision. There was a disaster that opened many hearts to God’s comforting presence. Some will question: Does God allow death and destruction merely to get people’s attention? Why doesn’t He just speak directly to us or give us a sign instead? Not attention, redemption. 
…and on that basis, God performs His miracles. The miraculous serves the redemptive. I believe in miracles, but I do not believe that God ever violates the laws of the cosmos. It is that the law of redemption is higher than any other law, even in this world. Turning stones into bread at the devil’s behest is a conjurer’s trick, and Satan’s hand must be in it. But feeding a multitude by multiplying bread is the hand of God operating through the law of redemption. 



John Lien said...

Both those passages were very interesting. (C.S. Lewis' and I.M. Mushroom's.)

Never considered the redemptive aspect of what constitutes a miracle.

I had an experience around Christmas 2012 that I considered 'miraculous' but I don't want to call it that because, well, it lacked that redemptive aspect. It was strictly material but highly improbable. So, not a miracle but an undeserved gift.

Short summary, it had to do with finding a tailstock for a 70 year old lathe. It's the details that were so highly improbable. I'll post about it some day.

Thanks for recycling that post.

mushroom said...

That would be an interesting one.

It's not so much that a given miracle has direct redemptive value. Our lives are all part of a vast redemptive history. God steps in with a miracle in your life specifically because your life has a meaning beyond your material existence.

Signs and wonders -- sometimes it's a sign; sometimes you just wonder.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...