Tag Archive | Miracles

Does science disprove miracles?

Does science disprove miracles?
Are miracles possible? Does science disprove miracles?
 
We must first ask, ‘What even is a miracle?’ We must also consider our assumptions as we ask the question. Then we’ll be in a better position to consider miracles.
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What is a Miracle?

David Hume, a skeptic philosopher believed a miracle is a violation and even a transgression of a law of nature. That view assumes the impossibility of miracles at the outset. It makes sense that someone who doesn’t want to believe in God, or God’s interference with our affairs, wouldn’t want to believe in the possibility of God’s intervention.[1] So, I understand where he’s coming from. 

His view, however, is not the only option. People have explained what miracles are differently. And not all of them think miracles violate the laws of nature.
 
C.S. Lewis said a miracle is “an interference with nature by supernatural power.” Lewis’ approach allows for the possibility of miracles. Lewis explains that when God performs a miracle He does not suspend “the pattern to which events conform” but instead feeds “new events into that pattern.” Just as an airplane does not violate the law of gravity but instead nullifies its effect with its power.[2]
 
Though it seemed impossible for a long time to a lot of people we know now that airplanes can fly. And airplanes do not violate or momentarily do away with the law of gravity. Instead, they in a way ‘overpower’ gravity. Airplanes don’t suspend gravity but exert force to overcome the effects of gravity.
 
It seems to me to make sense that God can “interfere” with or “overpower” the regular operation of the world. It would seem God is able to affect His own creation since He is simply, as Lewis said, writing in “small letters something that God has already written… in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature.”
 
Some people object that they’ve never seen a miracle or that miracles don’t agree with what we know about the universe in which we live. John Frame says, “In almost all our experience, things happen in regular patterns, to some extent describable by scientific law.” That is true. “But,” Frame goes on, “there is nothing in this experience to persuade us that irregularity is impossible, or that everything always behaves naturally and regularly. Experience tells us what is happening; it does not tell us what is or is not possible, or what ‘always’ happens. We have not seen what everything always does, for we have neither seen everything nor seen things always.”[3]
 
So, different people think about miracles differently. Augustine, instead of saying a miracle was a violation of nature or contrary to nature, said miracles were something outside our knowledge of nature. Thomas Aquinas explained that a miracle is not contrary to nature but goes beyond the order that is typically observed in nature.
 
Why do people think about miracles so differently?
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The Importance of Starting Places

If you start with just nature you end with just nature. If we start without God, we end without God. And if God is not, then He’s not able to act in the world we live in. So, if all there is, is natural, there is no supernatural. No miracles.
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Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe? How we answer that depends upon the assumptions that we have before we answer. Our starting place matters.
 
If God is, then He is not constrained to rigid patterns but is free to carry out His intentions.[4] Who or what is there to constrain the Creator? As Peter Kreft has said, God has more power in one breath than all the winds of war, all the nuclear bombs, all the energy of all the suns in all the galaxies.[5]
 
The laws of nature beginning in space and time are limited and finite. God, however, as the Creator of space and time and the laws of nature is infinite and unlimited. God certainly is not limited by His creation. If God made the Big Bang bang, He can certainly make miracles.
 
If, as Greg Bahnsen has said, the “God depicted in the pages of the Bible actually exists, then it would be preposterous to try and rule out the possibility of miracles.”[6]
 
Also, if a person believes in a competent Creator that is wise and involved, then it makes sense for them to believe in the consistency of the laws of creation. If, however, that is not one’s belief about the Creator, then it doesn’t seem like it makes sense to expect that consistency. Instead, profound surprise would be in line. Why is the world controlled, not chaotic?!
 
For a person that believes in a competent Creator, it would also make sense that they would believe that the Creator could intervene with the laws of nature. Again, if that’s not one’s belief, it would not have to be intervened with for things that seem out of the ordinary to happen because in that case, there wouldn’t be reasons to believe in ordinary. If there are no laws of nature, no ordinary, then how could one have an idea of what a miracle would even be? If there are laws of nature, wouldn’t it make sense that the Law Giver could supersede those laws?
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Is Science able to Disprove Miracles?

As we think about science and miracles there are a few questions we should ask. What science could disprove miracles? How? By what proof?[7]
 
Science can neither prove nor disprove miracles. “Science is unable to investigate unique events. Because science depends upon repeatability, and unique events don’t have repeatability, science is, in a certain sense, powerless to prove the presence or absence of a miracle.”[8]
 
“Science does not tell us what always happens. It certainly does not tell us what can or cannot happen. Science’s laws are only generalizations from our observations of how nature usually works. They do not forbid exceptions. Miracles do not contradict the laws of science any more than a gift of extra money contradicts a bank balance. It is an addition, not a subtraction… Supernatural events do not contradict natural events.”[9]
 
Therefore, no. It seems science does not rule out the possibilities of miracles.
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Should we Believe every Miracle Claim?

Although airplanes can fly, we still know that it is not the regular pattern that objects fly.
 
No. We should not believe every miraculous claim. Just because science does not disprove the possibility of miracles doesn’t mean they’re common. The existence and effectiveness of science in some ways prove that miracles are uncommon.
 
Christianity gives us reasons for both believing in miracles and being hesitant at claims to miracles. Christianity gives us reasons for believing in the incredible even while making us only believe things if they’re credible. How so?
 
First, the Bible gives actual reasons for believing in incredible things like Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. You can count the reasons. And it doesn’t say we should just have faith in random outlandish things. Second, we should only believe things that are credible because many people, and certainly the wicked one, would have us blinded to the truth. So, we should only believe things if they prove to be credible. Faith is never to equal foolishness.
 
In the time of the Bible, people didn’t just willy-nilly believe everything without question. Jesus’ first followers often doubted Him and had to be shown proof. Things in that day seemed too fantastical to believe too. Even if they didn’t have the scientific method as we know it today, it doesn’t mean they had no sense of the way the world typically worked.
 
Jesus’ followers knew it was not typical for a person to die and rise from the dead. They didn’t expect to see a person walking on water. There were a whole host of things that were confusing and unexpected surrounding Jesus.
 
Yet, if Jesus was truly God as the Bible states, then it makes sense that miraculous events accompanied Him. Jesus’ original followers had doubts. I sometimes have doubts too.
 
One of the most difficult things for me to believe is that God is going to remake the world. He is going to fix every wrong and make everything right—physically, emotionally, spiritually. That’s hard to fathom. But, that’s what the Bible says (e.g. Revelations 21). 
 
Yet, as I think of what God must be capable of if He made and sustains the world, it bolsters my faith.
 
It may blow a one-year-old’s mind that after they eat and wildly enjoy one “smash-cake-cupcake” I can pop another one out of the fridge and into their face. They certainly don’t have categories for how I could do that, but just because they, with their limited capacity cannot comprehend, does not mean that I cannot do it.
 
In the same way, I honestly cannot comprehend how God could rework and remake the world and fix every wrong and make everything right—make a new creation, a new heaven, and a new earth in which perfect rightness just always is. But, I’m the equivalent of a little baby with a happy birthday bib on. So, it makes sense that it doesn’t make sense to me.
 
God, I have to believe, is capable of more than I can fathom.
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Does Science Disprove Miracles? 

So, no. Science certainly doesn’t disprove miracles.
 
Honestly, for me, I think it proves God is certainly capable of intervening. He is always upholding the very laws that allow for the very existence of science. If there weren’t typically regularity, we wouldn’t possibly even notice irregularity. It wouldn’t exist.
 
If God didn’t uphold the laws of the universe with His power, randomness would reign. In which case, we wouldn’t observe miracles but instead complete unpredictability. Sometimes light is X speed, sometimes light is Z speed. Sometimes gravity is crushing, sometimes we float off into an endless void. 
 
Science is actually more and more showing the vast extent that is required for intelligent life to exist in the universe. Thus, if anything, science is showing us that God has been intervening the whole time.
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Notes

[1] See e.g. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, 51.
 
[2] Michael F. Bird and James G. Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin?: A believer and non-believer examine the evidence, 22.
 
[3] John M. Frame, Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2015), 146-47.
 
[4] Frame, Apologetics, 73.
 
[5] Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, 105.
 
[6] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith ed. Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996), 226.
 
[7] Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1988), 64.
 
[8] Ian H. Hutchinson, “Miracles and Science” 6 in The Dartmouth Apologia: A Journal of Christian Thought [2019 Spring Edition].
 
[9] Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith, 65.
Photo by Casey Horner

Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?

Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?

Can an outside hand reach into the fishbowl of our universe?

Newton, a scientist that also happened to be a fish, was a keen observer of the ecology of the fishbowl. He was surprised to observe regular patterns in his fish universe. But he did. 

For example, Newton observes that food daily falls upon the surface of the water at the same time each day. It is a law of nature. It’s just the way the world is. 

Newton observes other natural phenomena like the temperature of the water. He further notes that each death of a goldfish results in a distant flushing noise and then in reincarnation of that goldfish. Newton, awestruck by his discoveries, publishes his findings in his magnum opus entitled Fishtonian Laws

Many read his groundbreaking work and are convinced that the laws of the fishbowl are unassailable. After all, the patterns observed have always been that way and so always will be that way. No outside source can act within the fishbowl. The reality is food appears every day and as a goldfish dies, a new one appears. That is the unbroken chain of events we observe. That is the way it’s always been. How could it be different? Who or what could act on these laws of nature? 

We are in a closed system; the aether of the universe—in which we live, move, and have our being—is constrained by an invisible force. There is an unknown unobservable wall that keeps us from knowing what is outside nature, what is outside the physical universe. There is no way for us to know the metafishbowl

In the post-Fishtonian world, there were still whispers of the metafishbowl—of the supernatural hand of God—but most of those stories were dismissed as baseless dreams. After all, even if there were a God that set up the fishbowl, he no longer acts in the fishbowl. Such a being is wholly other and transcendent and would not care about lowly fish. 

Everything just goes on swimmingly by itself. We shouldn’t expect an outside hand, right?… There is no reason to think an outside being or force could act within our world. 

Or, does something smell fishy about this story?

The Work of the Spirit | pt. 6

You can see the previous post in the series here.

There is no exegetical reason for believing the gifts have ceased. Ninth, despite what many believe, there is no convincing exegetical argument for the cessation of the grace gifts.[1] 1 Corinthians 13:10 plays a prominent role in many cessationists’ arguments. It did for me when I was taught as a kid. There is another hermeneutical issue, however. Thomas R. Schreiner says,

To see ‘the perfect’ as referring to the New Testament canon is an example of anachronism…

Instead of referring to spiritual maturity or to the canon of the New Testament, ‘the perfect’ most likely refers to the second coming of Christ, the end of the age. The perfect is equivalent with seeing God face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).[2]

John MacArthur says although many “scholars [e.g. B.B. Warfield, Richard Gaffin, Robert Thomas, Thomas Edgar, Simon J. Kistemaker] disagree on the identification of the ‘perfect,’ they all reach the same conclusion—namely, that the miraculous and revelatory gifts have ceased.”[3] He goes on to say that “we must look elsewhere than 1 Corinthians 13:10, to passages like Ephesians 2:20, where Paul indicated that both the apostolic and prophetic offices were only for the foundational age of the church.”[4] 

Many, such as John MacArthur, Richard B. Gaffin, along with Schreiner, end up making the argument that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased because they claim, otherwise, the canon of Scripture would be in jeopardy.[5] That, however, is rather a different issue than if the gifts of the Spirit continue or not. For one, the canon of Scripture, as well as the very existence of the Church, has been in jeopardy since the outset. The way to defend Scripture, as well as the church, is a more robust understanding of what Scripture teaches, not fear.

Read More…

The Work of the Spirit | pt. 5

You can see the previous post in this series here.

Gifts of the Spirit confirm the gospel. Fourth, the gifts of the Spirit serve to authenticate the gospel message (e.g. Rom 15:18-19[1]) and that is still necessary especially in certain contexts but that is not the exclusive reason that God gave the gifts of the Spirit. D.A. Carson correctly points out that just “because miraculous signs have a distinctively attesting role in some instances, it does not follow that this is the only role they play.”[2] Although some assert that the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the closing of the canon they make that claim without biblical warrant. As Carson says, “There is no exegetical warrant for thinking certain classes of the Spirit’s manifestations cease once the crucial points of redemptive history have passed.”[3]

Gifts of the Spirit are poured out in the last days. Fifth, the gifts of the Spirit are part of what it means to be in the last days and we are in the last days.[4]

Cessationists who claim that the healings of Jesus and the apostles where merely authenticating signs of their status as bearers of canonical revelation misunderstand Jesus’ own explanation of them. For Jesus, they are rather expressions of the liberating reign of God, bursting into history, and it is as such that they attest the message of the kingdom.[5]

The gifts of the Spirit are to be expected because they indicate the presence of the Kingdom in the last days. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a sign of the new covenant.

Read More…

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