Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann (fwd).... The Enlightenment, supernatural, and miracle

From: Joel Cannon (
Date: Wed May 21 2003 - 15:00:23 EDT

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    In being so candid in front of a predominantly evangelical crowd,
    Howard has once again shown that he is not afraid to unfurl a red flag
    in the middle of a crowd of bulls. I anticipate my inbox will be quite
    full when I return tomorrow. Ironically, in rejecting a tenet of
    the evangelical Christianity held by most on the list, Howard in at
    least one way may be closer to biblical Christianity than many

    I understand that the terms natural and supernatural are terms that grew
    out of the enlighentment (I believe supernatural was unknown before
    that) with the goal of placing boundaries on God's (or what could be
    God's) activity. The terms imply a quasi-deistic world in which God
    is usually not active, but occasionally intervenes to set things
    right. Similarly, I suggest that our enlightenment conciousness has
    affected our view of miracles---we see miracles as "supernatural
    acts." (what else could we mean?). In some sense, like Creationists we
    read the words of the Bible as if they must fit one-for-one our
    contemporary meaning. My understanding is that there was not such
    distinction in the mind of the Palestinian Jews of Jesus' time
    although they did speak of what is translated as "mighty works." (I
    recognize the word "miracles" is in the new testament. The question is
    what did it mean in the context in which it was written?)

    If this is the case, Howard, in rejecting supernaturalism, may be in
    an ironic sense closer to the unified mindset of the Jewish (including
    the early Christian) people. For both there is no distinct boundary
    between God being active and not-active. However, speaking with all
    the authority of a 21st century physicist about what 1rst century Jews
    thought (not to mention what is in the mind of another 21st century
    physicist) it seems to me that it could be said that the 1st century
    Jew saw miracles in everything (although some acts like turning the
    water to wine or healing people) were particulary powerful, Howard
    sees what he might call the wonder of natural processes working in
    everything (he sees miracles in the sense most people understand in

    > Howard,
    > Given your generalization in the name of consistency, what is your theology
    > of Jesus's birth, death and resurrection? Were those supernatural, and if
    > not, how would you articulate an overall Christian theology? Whatever
    > other signs and miracles in scripture and redemptive history we can
    > "theologize" in various ways, to most of us it seems impossible to get
    > around the resurrection as being a "plain fact."
    > Very respectfully,
    > Douglas Hayworth

    Joel W. Cannon | (724)223-6146
    Physics Department |
    Washington and Jefferson College |
    Washington, PA 15301 |

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