My Father Worketh

Science, particularly the physical sciences, can be thought of as a search for causes. We want to understand how things work, the interactions and interdependencies between events so we can better understand and predict our world.

When some particular behavior or event (effect) is observed there’s an implicit assumption it was caused. We call this the Law of Causality (Cause and Effect); it’s so fundamental to the rational mind that violating it is absurd. It’s not only true — it’s formally true by definition: an effect is by definition something caused.

However, as we pursue probable causes to find an initial root cause, especially when examining historical events which we cannot replicate, we inevitably go back in time until we reach an event or state where there seems to be no possible natural cause: we then deduce that there must be an uncaused Cause. We call this observation the Kalam Cosmological Argument; it is formal proof of God’s existence.

One need not go all the way back to the beginning of Creation to find God causing effects: God has continued acting since Creation. (Jn5:17) While we should not presume God is the cause when we don’t yet understand how something works (God of the Gaps logical fallacy), we should be willing to acknowledge God as the Cause (a miracle) when this is implied by science itself: when any other probable cause violates scientific law.

Certainly, if we conclude a miracle has indeed occurred, we might later develop further scientific understanding and be able to explain it naturally, but this does not mean concluding an event is miraculous is unscientific any more than if we provide a plausible naturalistic explanation which later turns out to be false. In either case, we are being reasonable and honest based on our current understanding of science.

For example, a personal friend was shot in the chest multiple times at point blank range and survived. In analyzing his wounds, the attending surgeon found multiple instances where a bullet track terminated at the surface of a vital organ and the organ was undamaged; there was no bullet anywhere in the track, nor any alternate route found where the bullet might have exited the body. How does one explain the cause of such an event?

We may deduce the following: either [1] the surgeon lied (or was careless in his examination, which seems unlikely given his expertise, character and willingness to document and testify of the result – the x-rays are still available), [2] bullets ricocheted off vital organs and exited the body through the same path they entered (violating the physics of bullets fired at bodily organs), [3] the bullets vanished (violating the Law of Conservation Energy), or [4] this is a miracle.

Once we eliminate [1] by having multiple, authoritative witnesses interview the surgeon and examine the x-rays (which should be done with rigor, given the significance of the event), we must either conclude the laws of physics have been violated or accept this event as a miracle. (Jn 3:2)

Refusing to acknowledge the miraculous based on an a priori presumption of Philosophical Materialism is dishonest and irrational (Jn 12:37-38); it is simply a stubborn, willful refusal to acknowledge evidence, which is unscientific. Such bias will eventually be exposed as enmity against God by God Himself and punished accordingly. (Ro 1:18-21)

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Signs and Wonders

A miracle is when God disrupts the natural order of Creation to cause an event with no natural explanation. When and why God chooses to perform miracles is a bit of a mystery, yet I expect we’d all love to see one; for many of us it would be a first. They’re indeed rare, and it’s quite natural to ask why God doesn’t do them more often, and put Himself on public display.

Yet a better question may be whether our desire to see a miracle or a sign from God is healthy and appropriate. God certainly does them from time to time, so there’s evidently good purpose in them when they occur, but is it ever right to ask God to perform a miracle or a sign to help us with our faith? or to be seeking signs and wonders, pursuing the miraculous as a manner of life?

As Christ rebukes Jewish leadership for their unbelief, some asked Him to perform a miracle or sign to prove He was/is the Messiah. Yet Christ dismisses the request, saying evil and adulterous people ask for signs. (Mt 12:38-39)

And as Zacharias asked how he would know if the prophetic words of the angel of God would be fulfilled, evidently asking for some additional proof beyond the simple angelic promise, he was questioning God’s character, so God rebuked his unbelief, striking him with dumbness for nearly a year. (Lk 1:18-20)

On the other hand, God didn’t seem to mind Gideon’s request for a sign that he’d be victorious in battle, asking for dew only upon fleece, and then only on the ground. (Ju 6:36-40) Evidently, there are times when our faith is weak, and it’s OK to ask for a little confidence boost.

Perhaps it’s related to our motive, what we’re struggling with. If we’re responding to all the light we have, if what we’re wanting to believe has little evidence to support it, and the personal stakes for acting on it are high, as in Gideon’s case, perhaps the request is reasonable. But if we’re just being stubborn and selfish, as the Jewish leaders evidently were, or if we’re putting God to the test, as perhaps Zacharias did, then this displeases God. (1Jn 5:10)

Asking for proof of God’s existence, when Creation itself proves it undeniably, when even atheists inadvertently prove God is real in the very delusion of denial, this is wickedness. Just like Pharisees asking for further proof of Christ’s Messianic claim in the face of countless miracles, unmatched in all human history (Jn 15:24), in light of the power, precision and holiness of His message (Jn 7:46) … not a good idea. (Jn 4:49)

Even now, those with reasonable access to the abundant witness of Christ’s resurrection (Ac 17:31) and message (Jn 12:48) will be held accountable for how they respond. Additional proof should not be expected here; it might do more harm than good. (Mt 13:58)

Our interest in finding proof where God has not provided it, desiring further miraculous witness when God is generally pleased to work merely through apparently natural means, may be problematic in itself. The very existence of the Tanach is more powerful testimony than a resurrection (Ac 16:31), and its prophetic content is more compelling than Christ appearing to us in person. (2Pe 1:19)

God provides sufficient witness to convince anyone who’s willing to see, but not so much that mercifully limiting the condemnation of unbelievers is unreasonable. (Ro 11:32) We should be thankful for the abundant testimony God has already provided, and trust that the amount and types of evidence He chooses to give us are perfectly suited to fulfill His ultimate purposes and glorify Himself.

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