Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lewis responds to a liberal critic (part 3)

C.S. Lewis’ “Rejoinder to Pittenger” was published in a November 1958 issue of Christian Century in response to the October article, “A Critique of C.S. Lewis” by Dr. Norman Pittenger.

MiraclesI turn next to my book Miracles and am sorry to say that I here have to meet Dr Pittenger’s charges with straight denials. He says that this book ‘opens with a definition of miracle as the “violation” of the laws of nature’. He is mistaken. The passage (chapter 2) really runs: ‘I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power.’ If Dr Pittenger thinks the difference between the true text and his mis-quotation merely verbal, he has misunderstood nearly the whole book. I never equated nature (the spatiotemporal system of facts and events) with the laws of nature (the patterns into which these facts and events fall). I would as soon equate an actual speech with the rules of grammar. In chapter 8 I say in so many words that no miracle either can or need break the laws of Nature; that ‘it is... inaccurate to define a miracle as something that breaks the laws of Nature’; and that ‘The divine art of miracle is not an art of suspending the pattern to which events conform but of feeding new events into that pattern.’ How many times does a man need to say something before he is safe from the accusation of having said exactly the opposite? (I am not for a moment imputing dishonesty to Dr Pittenger; we all know too well how difficult it is to grasp or retain the substance of a hook one finds antipathetic.)

C.S. Lewis, “Rejoinder to Dr Pittinger,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 178-179.

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