RE: God and nature; miracles

From: Debbie Mann (deborahjmann@insightbb.com)
Date: Thu May 15 2003 - 12:39:09 EDT

  • Next message: Jim Armstrong: "Re: God and nature; miracles"

    And herein is the logical gap, the gulf, the enormous chasm that is an
    obstacle in the way of so many. Why can we JUDGE certain 'miracles' to be
    small enough and physicsally (pertaining to physics - if there is a real
    word, please tell me) unchallenging enough to accept while rejecting others?
    If we reject the flood, how do we accept the wine? If we accept the wine and
    the resurrection and reject the sun failing to move, do we accept the
    healing of the man born blind and the raising of Lazereth? What law, rule or
    basis of judgement is there that says 'cut this out' but 'leave this in'?

    Is all the world a dream and the people merely dreamers with the reality
    being whatever God says? Are we in a world akin to that of Matrix, or of
    Gosse, or of the holodeck where the reality is something unconceived of and
    the program is interruptible by the will of God or Man?

    It's the problem of Jim, of my brother-in-law, of my daughter - How can a
    man Judge God? And if Jesus is God and Jesus is the Word, is that not what
    is being done?

    -----Original Message-----
    From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]On
    Behalf Of George Murphy
    Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2003 8:47 AM
    To: Robert Schneider
    Cc: Ted Davis; asa@calvin.edu
    Subject: Re: God and nature; miracles

    Robert Schneider wrote:
    >
    > Ted, here are the first four chapters of book XXVI of Augustine's _Contra
    > Faustum Manichaeum_. In the first two chapters Faustus is conceding that
    > Jesus might have died but, but good Docetist that he is, argues that Jesus
    > did not. Augustine answers in three and four.

            ............................

    > Bob's comment: In chapter three Augustine seems to be arguing that
    what
    > appears to be contrary to nature according to human experience is not
    > contrary to nature as God knows nature, being the Author of nature. To
    > repeat Augustine:
    >
    > "There is, however, no impropriety in saying that God does a thing
    > contrary to nature, when it is contrary to what we know of nature. For we
    > give the name nature to the usual common course of nature; and whatever
    God
    > does contrary to this, we call a prodigy, or a miracle. But against the
    > supreme law of nature, which is beyond the knowledge both of the ungodly
    and
    > of weak believers, God never acts, any more than He acts against Himself."
    >
    > So, could God have stopped the rotation of the earth without tidal
    > forces tearing it and us apart, just as Christ turned water into wine? I
    > suppose one could argue theoretically (or theologically) that in general
    God
    > as omnipotent can do anything. But, to repeat your point, *did* such a
    > thing happen? I'm much more ready to believe, as I do believe, that
    Christ
    > oversaw the transformation of six jars of water into the best wine at the
    > wedding feast, than I am that God suspended a whole passel of natural laws
    > to enable the Israelites to defeat the Amorites in battle. Christ did not
    > move mountains, but with the power of God he did perform small acts of
    great
    > purpose--of healings that restored nature, or acts that pre-enacted the
    > messianic banquet. Perhaps where this conversation ought to go is, Can
    > acceptance of miraculous acts recorded in Scripture be judged to be
    > historical events or symbolic stories, on the basis of what appears to be
    > their purpose?....................................................
            One way of understanding this is to say that God has made creatures so that
    they are "naturally" (i.e., in accord with their natures) capable doing
    things that are
    never, or very rarely, observed. One expression of this, that I've probably
    quoted here
    before, is in the rabbinic tractate Aboth:

            "Ten things were created on the eve of Sabbath between the suns at
    nightfall:
            the mouth of the earth, the mouth of the well, the mouth of the she-ass,
    the
            rainbow, and the manna and the rod and the Shamir, the letters and the
    writing
            and the Tables [of stone]. Some say also: The evil spirits and the
    sepulchre
            of Moses and the ram of Abraham our father. Some say also: The tongs made
    with
            tongs."

    I.e., the various marvelous things of the OT were in fact created as part of
    the 6 days
    of Gen.1 & perhaps hidden away somewhere until God wanted to make use of
    them. The
    basic idea is interesting though we'd have to reformulate it today - it
    doesn't work to
    say, e.g., that Balaam's ass was hard-wired into the universe 14 x 10^9
    years ago.

    Qualifications:
            1) This needn't mean that _everything_ is in accord with the natures of
    creatures. I think, e.g., of the point that C.S. Lewis made: Jesus turned
    a little
    bread into a lot of bread but not stones into bread.
            2) One should assume that such rare events, like ordinary ones, occur by
    God
    acting with & through creaturely agents, not by those things acting
    autonomously.
            3) Such a view needn't mean that God couldn't act in a way contrary to, or
    beyond, the natures of creatures, but simply that miracles don't have to be
    understood
    as such actions.
            4) & of course, as Bob points out, an important consideration about
    stories of
    miracles in the Bible has to be whether or not those stories are to be read
    as accounts
    of history /wie es eigentlich gewesen ist/." Before we start thinking about
    how God
    might have enabled Elisha to make an ax head float, we should ask whether
    the text &
    context of the story are such as to make us think it actually happened.

                                                            Shalom,
                                                            George

    George L. Murphy
    gmurphy@raex.com
    http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/



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