Re: [asa] Dowd, Miracles, and ID-TE/ASA-List Relations

From: dawson wayne <>
Date: Sun Apr 26 2009 - 09:54:51 EDT


Perhaps lately, I don't post so much. However, I have commented from time
to time in the past on this list. As an ASA member, I will speak for

Yes, you raise a significant issue. One that serious scientific types like
myself wrestle with constantly. Being a theoretical physicist in the
biosciences and currently working on theoretical problems in that field,
I basically have to struggle with this question starting every morning when
I pray and going on throughout the day. It is not like I have not been
questioned by colleagues (the majority of who purport themselves to be
religion free) and it is not like I have not had something that they could
focus on.

As a Christian, I have to accept that the bible has proclaimed miracles that
I cannot explain with my craft. There may be theological grounds for
rejecting the claims or pointing out that the purpose of a Biblical text
(such as Jonah) was not intended to be read literally. Certainly, some of
the arguments are persuasive though some might chose to call that
"compromising". I am not a theologian, and must defer to them at some
point. There may be instances where there are plausible scientific

In a big way, it would seem that ever since St Augustine (and St Paul)
first propounded a theology salvation of grace through faith, we all should
find ourselves having to cross an enormous gap that cannot be supported by
anything other than that act of God reaching down to us while we were lost
in the depths of sin. So if you really examine your faith, you will have to
admit that you didn't arrive on some rock solid intellectually irrefutable
grounds. You have accepted Jesus on shaky ground; personal experience, some
miracle that you perceive as God's act of grace or mercy, some event as it
were that made you repent and believe.

As we grow in our Christian faith, we only come to see even more how God had
to go out of his way to reach us and how little we reached for him. I think
we often forget why we wear that cross. It is not to remind ourselves about
about how we would never do "that", rather it is to remind ourselves just
how capable we are to _do_ just "that". "That" being whatever bad things
you see in the world. This is what scientists who proclaim themselves
religion free seem oblivious to. It would be very nice if we could blame
all the evil in the world on people who were well on the road to perdition
with a long resume to prove it. Born evil and prodigiously endowed with
nothing but evil thoughts. Too often, it starts with well meaning people
who intended to do good. How does that happen? Have you ever asked
yourself that? Think about how it has happened with yourself, possibly even
as a Christian. If you have lived much of any time at all as a Christian,
you come to see that that relationship with Christ is _all_ you have between
the narrow path and perdition.

Therefore, I wager that it is very easy to sit in an armchair in a
comfortable room and say how one should address these matters when bullets
are whizzing past his head. It is another thing to know what one will
really do when bullets are really heading his way.

Now, to get to your question. It is not wrong to assume things that don't
have experimental proof of existence. It does, however, put one in a
tenuous situation. I can say I believe in miracles, but I can hardly say I
can prove them. Am I supposed to lie and say "it's a scientific fact that
miracles happen"? What evidence can I present? If you have some
measurement of miracles, lay it down on the table for everyone to see;
including the atheists and doubters. Are you so sure you would not
disappoint them and send them away finding Christians dishonest. Sure, we
can argue a case for the Resurrection, we can argue a case for the Exodus,
but the last step is certainly an act of faith. We trust that God interacts
with the world and may have intervened in the past, and may even
occasionally intervene now. We trust it based on accounts in scripture.
But in the final analysis, we base our belief in scripture on trust (faith
as it were). There is no getting around that.

I would like to sound like some preacher and claim that "the Bible is
True". But it isn't like I have not had to examine myself and my craft and
recognize that when I do theoretical physics, I am doing something different
than when I believe in Jesus. It is to some extent, a form of metaphysics.
There are some things such as in theoretical particle physics where people
will believe things such as strings and unobserved particles that may or may
not be true. But metaphysics has even less connection to experimental
verification than theoretical particle physics, though in some specific
examples, some could argue not much difference. That is a different story.
 Particles physics does have an out in that such particles are
_theoretically_ testable for; even if in fact, they are utterly untestable.
On the other hand, metaphysics is largely untestable, because we really
don't understand it and it would be presumptuous to try.

This may also hit on why it is that ID can be questioned theologically
(which you raise in a different post). It is basically another attempt at
proving God. If God could be proved, there would be no need for salvation
by Grace through Faith. Just present the straight facts, and anyone who
refused to believe in Jesus would be well deserving of damnation. Not even
a reprobate. Deserving! Simple as that. But even St Augustine in his time
recognized that salvation is not coming through intellectual efforts or any
other way for that matter. St Paul saw that too. That was not the age of
Enlightenment and science and reasons. The founding fathers of the Church
saw that God even has to give us the faith which he extends by His
Grace; long before any of the current issues with science arose.

To sum up, it is not necessarily that I don't believe the miracles of the
bible. The issue is that I cannot beat people over the head with them;
claiming them as proven facts. I can sometimes offer plausible scientific
examples on what might have happened, I can sometimes conjecture, but
finally, I don't know what happened and have little way to find out. It
doesn't mean they didn't happen, just that I don't have any way to
evaluate. If I could measure one irrefutable miracle, that would open the
door for others, but that does not appear to be how God runs things; and it
would not be consistent with the long tradition we know of grace through
God give sight to those who know they cannot see, and makes those who claim
they can see blind.

It is true that modern science has made us distinguish between what is faith
and what is fact, but if anything that should make us hold on the Jesus even
more, because we can only realize just how much more we are sinners saved by

by Grace we proceed,
Wayne (ASA member)
2009/4/21 Cameron Wybrow <>

> Regarding Dowd, assuming Bernie’s characterization of him is correct, I
> would not rush out to the store to buy his books. But in his post, Bernie
> makes a remark which has application to ID-TE relations.
> Bernie suggests that it would be un-Christian not to believe in the
> Resurrection. I assume that Bernie means a real, historical, physical
> resurrection. This raises the more general question of whether there is
> some minimum core of miraculous events that one must accept in order to be a
> Christian.
> I have no rigid view on this, but I have noticed that it tends to be a sore
> point, not only between YECs and TEs, but also between some ID people and
> TEs, and between some ID people and the ASA list generally. So I think
> it’s worth exploring.
> It’s my perception, from watching some of the back-and-forth in recent
> months, and in some of the archived ASA discussions, that the topic of
> miracles keeps coming up, but that the level of specificity in the
> discussion of Biblical miracles is usually quite low, and that the
> relationship between TE and historical miracles is generally left quite
> nebulous.
> There seem to be various reasons for this. One of them is that some
> posters here prefer to turn the conversation away from the facticity of, and
> toward the possible theoretical explanation of, purported miracles, so that
> the discussion tends to become: “If a virgin birth occurred, it might be
> accounted for in naturalistic terms by means of a genetic anomaly such as
> ...”; “If the Red Sea parted, it might be explicable naturalistically by a
> quantum-statistical freak”; etc. Rarely do people (though I know Ted
> Davis is an exception, and I believe there are one or two others) say clear
> things like: “I believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead, and
> that the Red Sea actually parted in 1290 B.C.” And in the rare cases
> where someone just bluntly asserts the historical fact of a miracle, it is
> rarely any miracle other than the Resurrection. It is almost as if some
> here think that the Resurrection is the only “required miracle” of the
> Christian faith.
> Would I be misconstruing the “sense of the list” in saying that a large
> plurality, if not a majority, of the people who post regularly here, are (a)
> very doubtful about the historical nature of most Old Testament miracles;
> (b) doubtful about the historical basis of a considerable number of New
> Testament miracles?
> I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not condemning anyone for not
> believing in any particular miraculous event; nor am I passing
> theological judgement on which miracles must be believed by Christians. Nor
> am I denying that some Biblical stories may cry out for a non-literal
> interpretation. Rather, I’m making a point that may help certain ASA
> list-members to understand where some very intelligent conservative
> Christian proponents of ID are coming from.
> It’s my perception (which is subject to correction) that the majority of
> proponents of ID are Protestant Christians, and that the majority of those
> are fairly conservative (not necessarily fundamentalist) Protestants. As
> such, they tend to take Biblical miracles literally, on the whole. This
> does not mean that a literal reading of certain passages, like the stopping
> of the sun (i.e., of the earth’s rotation), are insisted upon; it does not
> mean that a 6,000-year-old earth is insisted upon; it does not rule out the
> possibility of literary amplification in, say, the Flood story; it does not
> rule out mythical elements in the Garden story; nor does it mean that poetic
> passages (about, say, God stitching someone together in the womb) need to be
> understood literally. But it does mean, for most Christian ID proponents,
> that the core events of “salvation history” were meant literally. Thus,
> for such people, God literally parted the waters of the Red Sea and spoke
> the Ten Commandments in audible form; Elijah literally did all his miracles;
> the Biblical prophets did predict some details of events which took place
> after their deaths; Jesus literally walked on the water (not on a freak
> sheet of ice that forms under rare conditions on the Sea of Galilee, as some
> have proposed); Jesus literally fed five thousand people with seven items of
> food; Jesus healed all the people he is said to have healed (in some cases
> instantly); Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered; not only Jesus but
> Lazarus rose literally from the dead – not from a coma or deathlike state,
> but from the unambiguously dead.
> Now if it’s true that many of the regular posters here have serious doubts
> about quite a few of the aforementioned miracles, then it should not be a
> mystery to TEs and others here why certain ID-Christians have accused people
> here of being “liberals”, of being sell-outs to the Enlightenment, of being
> willing to re-write Christian theology to avoid being ridiculed by higher
> critics or evolutionary biologists or what have you. Again, in saying
> this I am not making theological judgements, but describing what I see as
> the genuine motivation of some Christian ID critics of the views that have
> been expressed here.
> So here is the tough question, which may require some soul-searching: have
> a number of people here, on more than one occasion, given Christian ID
> proponents good reason to generalize about TE or the ASA list in this way?
> Have a number of people here been vague or evasive when the question of
> miracles is brought up? Has there been too much deflection of the issue
> to discussions -- in the subjunctive mood -- of quantum theory and chaos
> theory and Hebrew symbolism and many other things, discussions which give
> the strong impression that the participants don’t really want to say which
> miracles, if any at all, were actual events?
> For most ID Christians, I think there would be a good deal less hostility
> toward TE and toward this list if the contributors here, especially but not
> only those who endorse TE, would give a ringing endorsement of the facticity
> of a large number of Old and New Testament miracles, and to actually name a
> few examples beyond the Resurrection. In that way, they would make ID
> Christians more confident that the difference between ID and TE is not over
> the factual trustworthiness of the Bible, but solely over the metaphysical
> or theological explanation for the miraculous events. This would
> certainly generate some good will. As long as this is not done, as long
> as many people on this list continue to be nebulous, vague, evasive,
> theoretical, etc. about the occurrence of major miracles in the Biblical
> “salvation history”, the atmosphere of distrust between ID and TE/ASA-list
> Christians is likely to endure.
> Again, I judge no one. If someone here says that the whole Bible, from
> Genesis through Revelation, is “just symbolic”, I am not going to start a
> fight about it. But I do think it would be better for ID-TE communication
> if, whenever miracles were discussed on this list, everyone were much
> franker, more direct, and more detailed. I’m not suggesting that everyone
> submit a list of miracles that they do and don’t believe in. But I am
> stressing that this is a sore point, and that (to be blunt) TE/ASA-list
> nebulousness has made it a sore point. If everyone here believes
> unhesitatingly in all the miracles that Martin Luther, John Calvin and St.
> Augustine believed in (and from what Ted has told us, that Robert Boyle
> probably believed in), then why on earth wouldn’t they just say so, in order
> to silence Christian ID critics? What is the difficulty?
> Cameron.

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Received on Sun Apr 26 09:55:02 2009

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