Re: [asa] intervention

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sat Mar 07 2009 - 10:44:18 EST

Let me take this a bit further. If the things that Jesus did were to
function as signs pointing to the presence of the creator then there should
be some connection between what he did and what God is doing all the time as
creator (in the broad sense - i.e., not just originating the world but
preserving, cooperating with, & governing creatures). What Jesus did in
feeding the multitudes & turning water into wine was the same kind of thing,
dramatically speeded up & expanded, that God does every year in the growth
of grain & grapes, fermentation &c. Nothing original there - many will
recognize the idea from C.S. Lewis' _Miracles_. As he notes there, Jesus
didn't turn stones into bread (in the temptation stories) but turned a
little bread into a lot of bread.

& this suggests that what happened at Cana, e.g., was not something beyond
the capacities of creatures (a traditional & IMO much too limited definition
of miracle) but the use of some potentials in nature that come to actuality
so rarely that we are unable to get a handle on them scientifically, but
which are somehow related to the normal way in which water (& other
chemicals) get turned into wine. The one who does this is not some magician
who invades the world with a foreign bag of tricks but the creator of the
world who knows its possibilities far better than we can.

Caveats: I do not claim that all biblical miracles stories can be
understood in this way. Nor do I think that all the healings, feedings &c
that Jesus did were simply calculated attempts to leave clues to his
identity. The reason he healed the leper in Mk.1:40-42 is that he was
"moved with pity," & the reason he fed the multitudes was because they were


----- Original Message -----
From: "Merv Bitikofer" <>
To: "George Murphy" <>; <>
Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 8:35 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] intervention

> ...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...
> --Merv
> 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 10:44:39 2009

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