I borrowed a C. S. Lewis book from the library this week – I really like the way he explains concepts in Christianity. This is a collection of his articles and essays which hadn’t been published together before. Short chapters with all the quintessential C. S. Lewis goodness. The second is ‘Miracles’, and aside from the excellentness contained therein, I noticed the similarities with what Mormon and Moroni share about miracles, the second of which I’d been reading also this week, in Moroni, chapter 7. Let’s start with Moroni’s rhetorical question in answer to the critics of the future that miracles no longer happen, or are not credible. (As an example, Methodist minister/leader George Whitefield, 1714-1770, said: “As for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, such as working of miracles, or speaking with divers kinds of tongues, they are long since ceased.”)
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God?
Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.Moroni 7:27 & 29
The situation is stated: miracles exist, and angels still appear to mortals. How do we know? Why can we be certain? Because it’s the pattern of how God works. If He once did miracles, then He still does them. Whether you see them or not isn’t evidence that they’ve ceased.
And now, all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a God who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed (the resurrection of all, the end of the world, and the Judgement), of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvellous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvellous works of God? Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created from the dust of the earth, and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many might miracles? And there were many might miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.
And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.Mormon 9:15-20
So, the problem, if you see no miracles, is not with God, but with you.
Moroni contends that everything in the world – everything that’s happened until now, and will happen – is a miracle. God is a powerful Being who performs marvellous works. He did these in the creation of the earth and of man, and those are ongoing. With these acts as a model, how and why would God not continue to perform such things? Why would His power have waned? If this is His pattern, then this is how He works. Still. Or He would no longer be God. He is, of course, still God; and so it follows that He still performs marvellous works.
C. S. Lewis explains this from the teachings of Athanasius:
There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say which men refuse to recognize. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speeed and on a smaller scale. One of their chief purposes is that men, having seen a thing done by personal power on the small scale, may recognize, when they see the same thing done on the large scale, that the power behind it is also personal – is indeed the very same person [or power] who lived among us two thousand years ago. The miracles are in fact a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
Then he describes perfectly how this works – how everything in our world is a miracle, really, and how the miracles Christ performed in His mortal ministry are so similar to the larger miracles of the natural and human world.
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 a juice that will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time to ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the [ancient] 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. The miracle only has half its effect if it convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or… a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase, and men, according to the fashion of their age, say ‘It is Ceres, it is Adonis, it is the Corn-King,’ or else ‘It is the laws of Nature.’ The close-up, the translation, of this annual wonder is the feeding of the five thousand. Bread is not made there of nothing…. A little bread is made into much bread. The Son will do nothing but what He sees the Father do. There is, so to speak, a family style. The miracles of healing fall into the same pattern.
If the natural means that which can be fitted into a class, that which obeys a norm, that which can be paralleled, that which can be explained by reference to other events, then Nature herself as a whole is not natural. If a miracle means that which must simply be accepted, the unanswerable actuality which gives no account of itself but simply is, then the universe is one great miracle. To direct us to that great miracle is one main object of the earthly acts of Christ that are, as He himself said, Signs…. These Signs do not take us away from reality; they recall us to it – recall us from our dream world of ‘ifs and ands’ to the stunning actuality of everything that is real.
I love that! Miracles aren’t really aberrations; to our physical senses, they are unusual and unexplainable; but if we were to see things as they really are, they would make perfect sense – and the things we think, in our limited range of perception, are real would appear as they are – just an interpretation from within that limited sphere. The really real things are what miracles hint to us at.
I like his ending as well:
Fix your mind on any one story or any one doctrine [of Christianity] and it becomes at once a magnet to which truth and glory come rushing from all levels of being. Our featureless pantheistic unities and glib rationalist distinctions are a like defeated by the seamless, yet ever-varying texture of reality, the liveness, the elusiveness, the intertwined harmonies of the multidimensional fertility of God.“Miracles”, in God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper, 1970/2014
Yes! This is how I see the Gospel. It’s what opens up to me when I ponder its principles, and consider its truths. Everything becomes something more, something quite amazing and unfathomable – and it gives me a feeling of such excitement and wonder. There is so much more, and that is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers. Everything. There is glory, beauty, excellentness; good things and wonders unfurling one after the other into the distance.
It’s such a good reminder, reading C. S. Lewis’s excellent explanation, that every single thing in the world around us, in us, in our lives, is a miracle. It’s a miracle we are here to experience it. That we can feel, whether pain or happiness, despair or joy. It is all a miracle – they have not ceased. The wonders done in Palestine aren’t confined to those blessed people; yes, it was nice they could experience them so directly and immediately, but miracles unfurl in my life and in our world still, and in the same way – just more slowly, usually. It is for us to see the connection between those, which we read of and wish for, and these – the larger, grander miracles of all creation, in which we and our lives, with all their own miracles, are all enfolded.
TRUTH, so far, in my book;—the truth which draws Through all things upwards,—that a twofold world Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things And spiritual,—who separates those two In art, in morals, or the social drift Tears up the bond of nature and brings death, Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse, Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men, Is wrong, in short, at all points. ... A mere itself, — cup, column, or candlestick, All patterns of what shall be in the Mount; The whole temporal show related royally, And built up to eterne significance Through the open arms of God. ‘There’s nothing great Nor small’, has said a poet of our day, Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve And not be thrown out by the matin’s bell: And truly, I reiterate, nothing’s small! No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee, But finds some coupling with the spinning stars; No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere; No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim; And (glancing on my own thin, veinèd wrist), In such a little tremor of the blood The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, And daub their natural faces unaware...
~ Elizabeth Browning; excerpt from Aurora Leigh