Saturday, 8 January 2011
In The Problem of Pain, C S Lewis wants to make the distinction between 'miracle' and 'nonsense': 'What is the meaning of God's Omnipotence? Can he do whatever He pleases? Yes, except for the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him but not nonsense: nonsense remains nonsense even if we talk it about God.' This is a by-the-way point for Lewis, as he moves on to his larger thesis (that pain is a logically necessary component of a world of the free communion of souls, regardless of the omnipotence of that world's creator). But it strikes me in ways Lewis evidently didn't intend. Because in a particular sense, 'nonsense' is an exact synonym for 'miracle'. Generating bread and fish from thin air makes a nonsense of the laws of physics. The resurrection makes a nonsense of mortality. Two possible and divergent intellectual possibilities develop from this insight. Either we commit to a universe that makes sense, and banish the miraculous, as science suggests we do -- almost certainly correctly. Or else we embrace the notion that religion is inherently nonsensical; and not in a merely pejorative sense. Holy fools are still holy, after all.