The Grand Miracle

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, 'freed' from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles--because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends--you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation. Now, if one asks whether that central grand miracle in Christianity is itself probable or improbable, of course, quite clearly you cannot be applying Hume's kind of probability. You cannot mean a probability based on statistics according to which the more often a thing has happened, the more likely it is to happen again (the more often you get indigestion from eating a certain food, the more probable it is, if you eat it again, that you again have indigestion). Certainly the Incarnation cannot be probable in that sense. It is of its very nature to have happened only once. But then it is of the very nature of the history of this world to have happened only once; and if the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of that history. It is improbable in the same way in which the whole of nature is improbable, because it is only there once, and will happen only once.

--C.S. Lewis

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas

Posted December 26, 2007 at 5:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Undergroundpewster wrote:

Send that to the AOC!

December 26, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
2. Knapsack wrote:

Hallo out there—would someone remind me where in the Lewisian corpus this quote appears?

Christmas season blessings,

December 26, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
3. Jon wrote:

Hi Jeff.  The quote is from the very beginning of an essay entitled “The Grand Miracle” which is in the essay collection GOD IN THE DOCK.  Glad you liked it—Lewis is a treasure and a blessing.

December 26, 9:48 pm | [comment link]
4. Knapsack wrote:

John—Thanks!  I started flipping through “Mere” and “Weight of Glory,” and then realized . . . “unleash the power of the blog!”

God is good . . . thanks again.

December 26, 10:06 pm | [comment link]
5. Jon wrote:

I think you might really love his essays.  They are just awesome.

Amazon has a nice hardcover that contains two big essay collections of his (CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS and GOD IN THE DOCK).  The hardcover is called The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis—an odd name since it isn’t all his collected works (that would be one very very big book).  Here’s a link to it:
link here

Some other wonderful essay collections of his:
*  THE WEIGHT OF GLORY (which includes the amazing title essay)
*  OF OTHER WORLDS (this is not for everybody)

Sounds like you may already have WEIGHT.  The other stuff is great too.

If you ever feel like you might want to try a work of fiction by him that most people are unfamiliar with, you might want to give TILL WE HAVE FACES a try.  Lewis said at the end of his life that he thought it was the best thing he ever wrote.  It’s an adaptation of both the book of Job and the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.  It’s amazing—and so much filled with the love of Lewis for the main character.

December 27, 2:04 am | [comment link]
6. Knapsack wrote:

Dittos on “Till We Have Faces,” John, to any lurkers out there; i need to track down “Of Other Worlds” and “God in the Dock” for sure.  Joyous reading i am sure, right for the season!

December 27, 2:14 am | [comment link]
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