If this week I put a thousand pounds in the drawer of my desk, add two thousand next week and another thousand the week thereafter, the laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I come to my drawer, I shall find four thousand pounds.
But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find only one thousand pounds, what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken?
Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken the laws of the State and stolen three thousand pounds out of my drawer.
Furthermore, it would be ludicrous to claim that the laws of arithmetic made it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention.
On the contrary, it is the normal workings of those laws that have exposed the existence and activity of the thief.
—Miracles, p. 62.
Is Lewis’s language of “intervention” problematic? Jack Collins (Science & Faith, 168-69) responds:
We should not say that a supernatural event has God more “directly” involved, while a natural event has him only “indirectly” involved. God is working directly in both kinds of events; in the natural, to maintain the natural properties, in the supernatural ones, to go beyond those properties.
Some people like to use the word “intervention” where I have used “supernatural event”; in such cases, they say, God “intervenes” in the working of his creation. Some theologians don’t like this way of speaking, because it makes God sound like an intruder, and because it suggests that God is not active in ordinary or natural events. C.S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, outraged some fussy souls by saying, “I use the word miracle to mean an interference with Nature by a supernatural power.”
I must admit that my mind is divided over this: if the terms “intervention” and “interference” really do give people the wrong idea about God’s work in ordinary providence, then let’s not use them. On the other hand, we have to recognize that the terms are analogies—it’s as if God were to interfere. And analogies have their limitations, as we’ve already seen; but they also have their strength, namely that they make their point vividly. I don’t think any believer wants to complain about the way the Bible puts things; but it constantly uses analogies for God’s action. Psalm 119:126 says, “It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.” Of course it’s using an analogy: it’s as if God were doing nothing, but he should do something now to show the world that he honors his own law. So maybe some people need to lighten up.