Re: How do we escape the enlightenment terms natural and supernatural

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Mon Oct 08 2001 - 18:57:42 EDT

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    At last a useful discussion to increase the signal to noise ratio!

    I too have struggled with trying to avoid the "enlightenment" (was there ever a movement that was more misnamed?) categories when thinking about divine action.

    The Biblical categories are "sign", "wonder", and "mighty acts". As I understand it these categories apply to events that point to God, in particular His character, events that inspire worship, and specific acts of grace, salvation and providence. Whether or not these events are
    explicable through natural processes or whether they are supernatural (the enlightenment definition) is irrelevant. Some events (crossing of the red Sea) seem to have "natural" event events, others are described as being at least partially natural (the flood, destruction of Sodom), while
    yet others appear to be transcendent (the Resurrection).

    What is interesting is that not all events that enlightenment thinking would define as "miraculous" are in these categories. Some "miracles" seem trivial, and are passed over without comment. Elisha's axe for example. They are not signs, wonders or mighty acts. Perhaps they are really
    in the same category as the miracle stories attached to the child Jesus.

    The important lesson for today that needs to be said over and over again is that signs, wonders, mighty acts, and providence are all God at work. God is no more present in any of these an in another. Perhaps if this lesson were learned then a lot of the angst between progressive
    creation, mediate creation, evolutionary creation, etc. would disappear. Once Christians get this message then maybe we can hope for the enlightenment children getting it too.

    One question however. This is a very modern discussion. How would a serious post-modernist regard this issue?



    bivalve wrote:

    > >the terms natural and supernatural come from the enlightenment...Having become conscious of the inappropriateness of these terms, I am finding that I lack a vocabulary with which to replace them. How do we construct a more Christian way of looking at and speaking about Creation?<
    > One traditional way of describing things (e.g., Westminster Confession of Faith, V, 3) is to refer to the use of means or ordinary providence, as opposed to other ways in which God works.
    > The proper use of the term miracle is debated. R. C. Sproul advocates limiting it to Biblical events in which means are set aside, rather than calling everything miraculous. It's about like evolution-define it before you use it and hope your reader pays attention to your definitions.
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