Re: [asa] intervention

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat Mar 07 2009 - 08:35:46 EST

...a response to both Keith and George,

George maybe 99% of the "big point" gets missed, yes, but the big point
at the moment, for the disciples was that Jesus was doing something
astonishing. Peter wanted to come out and play too. In order to be
an effective sign pointing to the larger message you give, it apparently
has to be something like that. And our scientific mindsets today get
fixated on the physical feat itself just as the original disciples
were. Hence the modern suspicion that you are trying to "spiritualize"
(in a modern pejoratively intended use of that word) an event in order
to avoid a grudging admission to a skeptical audience that, yes, you
think this literally happened. But you indulged that fixation here
which may be the wise thing needed to move us beyond our fixation to
begin to pay attention to what the sign is pointing towards.
(corollary question: so how can we help folks move beyond their
fixations when we DON'T agree that they are literally true ---like a
young earth...)

So on to the character of God, which Keith suggests is a more central
question. Is it in God's character to be calming storms and what you
call "the chaotic forces that threaten creation"? I can definitely see
this applied Spiritually (used non-pejoratively here). He first gets
our attention with a physical demonstration, then moves us beyond that
to faith --at least that would seem to fit his modus operandi elsewhere
in Scriptures. "But that you [all] may know that the son of man has
authority to forgive sins .... rise, take up your mat, and go
home." from Mark 2. There Jesus started with the forgiveness of sins,
but the incredulous audience needed more. So he backed up and gave them
a physical demonstration. The trouble is, "chaotic forces" seem to be
woven in to the fabric of creation. Storms (both physical and emotional
ones) seem to be necessary for healthy long term growth. Perhaps this
moves towards the evolutionary paradox in which, George will no doubt
remind us, the character of God is effectively hidden and suffers with
us. Yet we don't want Jesus to sink in the boat with us. We want him
to calm the storm. ...the paradox lives on...


George Murphy wrote:
> I began a sermon on Mt.14:22-33 a few years ago by saying "There's a
> mistake in my Bible." I quickly added that it was not the text that
> was in error but the heading the NRSV had put on this passage, "Jesus
> walks on the Water."(NIV & in fact the UBS Greek do the same thing.)
> The text doesn't speak of Jesus walking on _water_ but on the _sea_
> (Vv. 25-26 - /epi ten thalassan/.)
> Does that make a difference? A huge one! The point of the story is
> not just that Jesus can somehow be supported by a water-air interface
> (as some insects are because of surface tension) but that Jesus is the
> presence of the victor over the chaotic forces that threaten creation
> - i.e., God. (Cf. e.g. Ps.89:8-10, Job.26:12-13, Is.51:9-10 &
> numerous other OT texts.) Like many of the other NT miracle stories
> its value is as a _sign_ (the word consistently used in the 4th Gospel).
> But if Jesus walked on the sea, doesn't that mean that he would have
> had to walk on water? Yes, but about 99% of the significance of the
> story is lost if we leave it at that.
> Shalom
> George
> <>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Merv Bitikofer" < <>>
> To: "Keith Miller" < <>>;
> < <>>
> Sent: Friday, March 06, 2009 6:55 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] intervention
> >
> >
> > Keith Miller wrote:
> >> Nothing prohibits God from doing whatever God wants to do. The issue
> >> seems to me to be one of our understanding of God's character, not of
> >> God's capability. So one question would be why would God create the
> >> physical universe in such a way that God had to break chains of
> >> cause-and effect in order to accomplish God's will? Why would God
> >> create in such a way as to frustrate God's creative will.
> > Just to push you a bit on this, Keith: So was Jesus' little
> > constitutional on the water just a continuation of the created natural
> > course of things? We all agree that literal occurrences of folks
> > walking on deep water is not common or typical, whatever else it may
> > be. So didn't God create gravity and water to cause the denser things
> > to sink? While I agree with your sentiments and response below,
> surely
> > folks could be forgiven for thinking of such events as "interventions",
> > even if we don't fully understand nature to be making judgments on what
> > is 'out-of-bounds', (if indeed anything is), and what isn't. (Your
> > points below are well taken.) But we do know enough, as they did then
> > too, to recognize an astonishing thing when we see it.
> >
> > --troublemaker Merv
> >
> >>
> >> Another perspective is that God never acts in a way that violates the
> >> created capacities of the creation. This may include events that seem
> >> to us to violate patterns of cause-or-effect and look to us as
> >> interventions. However, this perception may simply be an artifact of
> >> our very limited perception of reality, and our profound ignorance of
> >> some aspects of the nature of created reality.
> >>
> >> I think that the whole project of trying to define "intervention" is
> >> an unproductive one. The practical reality is that some events and
> >> observations in the natural world are currently explicable in terms of
> >> known cause-and-effect processes, and others are not. The enterprise
> >> of science is devoted to the effort of trying to expand the limits of
> >> the explicable. If we keep attentive to the truth that all of the
> >> natural world is creation and under God's direct providential control,
> >> then this pursuit should not pose a conflict with Christian
> >> theological claims.
> >>
> >> Keith

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Received on Sat Mar 7 08:32:07 2009

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