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More Thoughts by Lewis on the Incarnation and Resurrection

March 29, 2013

ResurrectionC.S. Lewis made comments on the Incarnation and Resurrection in several writings over the years. Last Easter I just shared an excerpt from “The Grand Miracle,” but this post (while including that one) notes additional places he wrote on the topic.

From “Christianity and Literature” (found in Christian Reflections):

To believe in the Incarnation at all is to believe that every mode of human excellence is implicit in His [Jesus’] historical human character. . . . But if all had been developed, the limitations of a single human life would have been transcended and he would not have been a man; therefore all excellences save the spiritual remained in varying degrees implicit.

From his book Miracles (chapter 14):

The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation. There is no question in Christianity of arbitrary interferences just scattered about. It relates not a series of disconnected raids on Nature but the various steps of a strategically coherent invasion—an invasion which intends complete conquest and “occupation.” The fitness, and therefore credibility, of the particular miracles depends on their relation to the Grand Miracle; all discussion of them in isolation from it is futile.

Also from Miracles (chapter 16):

The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.

In The Screwtape Letters (letter 23) the enemy admits:

The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single historical doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had . . . against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law.

In a sermon Lewis gave on April 15, 1945 entitled “The Grand Miracle” (and later published in God in the Dock):

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 is 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.

 

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What to read more about C.S. Lewis?

Visit EssentialCSLewis.com for a daily quote, fact and quiz about Lewis. There are also several other features and you can signup for email notification of new posts.

 

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