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Home Forums Evidence for Biblical miracles Naturalistic vs. spectacular supernatural Reply To: Naturalistic vs. spectacular supernatural

  • Thomas Donlon

    January 10, 2021 at 5:27 am

    Hi Deborah, I just woke up from a nap and before getting up I spent a few hours (it seems) pondering questions like miracles and varying degrees of whether or not they were spectacular, or highly significant, and whether they might have natural causes or truly required a more radical set aside of natural law.

    A more undeniably supernatural type description of an event in the Bible is when God gave Moses the ability to throw down his staff and have it turn into a serpent. In the Bible account though, the miracle was only mildly impressive. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing with there magic arts. The scriptural account can either be seen as cute story inserted into a legend or this minor “miracle” shows God at work, also allowing a high level spiritual adversary (Satan?) to do powerful work in this world. It is a little cute little story in the Bible (“The Battle Of The Staffs?”) and this requires acceptance of the idea that the universe we are in is just a part of a larger picture, larger forces and larger powers outside what we typically see and personally observe through our senses. Yet again, it is a rather mundane miracle in the overall scheme of things. Perhaps it is just powerful enough to allow Moses to keep having an audience with Pharaoh whenever he chooses.

    A powerful miracle in the Bible is Elijah building/(repairing?) an altar on the top of a hill and pouring water all over and around the offering and then fire falling from heaven consuming it all. Yet we think top of hill? Where would lightning strike? And like Hezekiah we might think something like “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go forward ten steps, rather make it go back.” Though lightning is spectacular to our modern way of thinking it certainly wouldn’t be considered miraculous. We know about lightning and even any number of comet or asteroid remnants could explain such a fall of fire from the sky.

    Sampson having super strength might be considered miraculous. Jesus healing people and the apostles healing people… while considered miraculous to modern humans aren’t really typically the target of Biblical and anti-supernatural critics because we have all heard of various stories of healings and even read about dead people coming back to life if they weren’t dead too long.

    Jesus cautioned or greatly criticized against miracle mongering. “A wicked and adulteress generation seeketh after a sign and none will be given it…”

    I’m not saying that is what is going on here in this discussion. Most of the motivation for the conversation we are having here is just to see if the Bible account is reasonable in various contexts.

    Some of the super-long lifespans of the lineage of Adam through Jacob are startling. I’ve wrestled with that question and I now tentatively accept the earlier long life spans of humans from Adams line. From a scientific standpoint would just a longer chain of something called “telemeres(?)” and maybe another genetic modification or two be sufficient to explain such a thing? The problem with being a deep thinker is that I can make a powerful case either way. Working from Joseph and Jacob backwards through Abraham I can kind of see the long life spans in scripture continuing back. When Jacob was introduced to Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked about how old he was and Jacob answered that his days were “few” compared to his ancestors. Yet I was also prepared to see the round numbers in the early genealogies and its rounding of numbers to hundreds, tens and fives and the other numbers obtained by just adding a seven onto a number that ended in five or zero. That is statistically improbable. I’m not saying it is wrong, just that it could be genre thing. And various uses of the number seven in scripture appear to be imprecise. I think there was a scripture somewhere saying David was the seventh son of Jesse. Yet he really was the eighth. In the story of Samuel coming to anoint on of Jesse’s sons it says that Jesse brought his seven sons before Samuel and Samuel told him “The Lord has chosen none of these. Do you have another?” I don’t want to get too bogged down about all this. When the scripture later mentions David being the seventh son … there could be all sorts of explanations and it really isn’t important to me. What is important is that some issues can’t be easily answered. Some things would be nice to have nailed down. For example if I could nail down the date of the Biblical flood perhaps the earth’s orbit could be fixed to where it was at that time and it could be determined if it also happened to be crossing the dead center of a dangerous meteor stream, which is beginning to be believed to have many dangerous possible impact objects. On a related note, slowly and steadily the idea of comet impact on the North American ice sheet roughly about 12,850 years or so (if my memory is correct) is gaining traction. Several critics of the theory have flipped to embrace it. Other critics lament that the theory is like a zombie theory. The critics who boast they have killed the theory then keep seeing it coming back from the dead. Hence some of them have ridiculed the theory as “zombie.” This theory called The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis is now being pushed or supported by over 50 scientists in different scientific disciplines. I’m not saying this was the cause of Noah’s flood. Way too many directions for this conversation to go in here. If the Historical Faith Society continues to grow in numbers and if a certain number of people with a particular interest in “really early history” have an interest in the topic and want to participate maybe a separate group could be spun off. This topic would be more than looking backwards in time to astronomical or special events in scripture it could also look forward. Much of the book of Revelation deals with what now can be seen through a scientific lens. The book Comets of God is highly researched, but also has a tone of high redundancy and is a bit boring. Yet it has some high reviews by knowledgeable people for its content.

    The Bible predicts some really spectacular things to happen … which until now probably sounded fantastic. Now so many scriptures that seemed impossible to fulfill can … with just one disrupted Centaur entering the inner solar system in an earth crossing orbit create havoc. Typically in the past I might read in Isaiah about the whole world reeling like a drunkard and not understand it … but it can really happen. A good thump from a significant size object from out of space will create shaking around the whole earth. I’m not going to get too deep into all that here.

    Some miracles like Moses throwing down his staff will just to have to keep being thought of as miracles. Some miracles end up being understood in a scientific context. Maybe we just have to be careful not to put God in a box. We who tend towards embracing science may need to allow that God can act in ways that break physical laws. Those who tend towards wanting to see things in a more spectacular display of God’s power may need to see that God has already displayed his power and can use the laws he has already set up. In the Psalms the “works of the Lord” includes things like storms coming and going and weather patterns changing and switching up well-watered areas and previously dry areas. I’m stressing this latter point because some don’t want to examine God’s role in things that appear mundane. Young Earth Creationists are often good at pointing out the marvels of some very complex life forms. (Now maybe some evolutionists do this too … but likely most of them don’t give explicit credit to God.) Some evolutionists (I think) don’t want to talk or write too much about miraculous features of life because it is difficult to explain the origin of this and fear it might give support to some version of creationism or intelligent design.

    These are the type of comments I can get away with making in this rather quiet backwater on the internet where I haven’t encountered excessive hostility from anyone to anyone else. Yes, a little bit of stuff was thrown at you Deborah a while back, but it wasn’t horrid.

    Yet as time goes on remarks like the one I just made will start getting pushback from people who have had wonderful teaching/learning experiences with teachers who were fully secular and enjoyed pointing out the marvels of the universe, even if they didn’t see or realize God was behind it. Or maybe someone had in their spirit a sense of God, but swapped that aspect out for something else or put a new label on their spiritual thoughts due to some indoctrination. Also, I’m not entirely confident how accurately I’m understanding the current state of teaching or if I’ve been more indoctrinated by a prior background of listening to Christians belittle evolutionists in one way or another.

    You referenced the (politically?) polarized atmosphere of America in something you wrote. There are a lot of topics that people have strong and one-sided opinions on. There is a scary context in which discussion seems not to be allowed. Now people are using the term “Cancel Culture.” Is it though much different from certain Christian circles? One scholar who you had a disagreement with seemed to be from such a background … and though I can’t quote exactly what he said – the idea was that no such questioning of a teachers authority (or rather his/her specific teaching?) was allowed in his educational circle. Maybe I’m overstating it — and hopefully I am. But whether or not I am, charity to those with different opinions is going to be needed. I’ve been a prolific commenter (on just a handful of blogs) over the years. And I’m greatly aware of the need for accuracy and balance in making comments. And you Deborah have got decent skill in making comments and I’ve enjoyed the various bits of knowledge that you’ve shared. And by no means am I saying “decent skill” in a demeaning way. So far this Discussion area of HFS has been a nice quiet backwater. (I got my start online in an entirely uncensored religion/science oriented forum where anyone could share views. Became kind of a long-time pen pall of one of the atheists there and married one of the few Christian women who participated there. )

    I look up at all I wrote and understand it might be too long, and probably too wordy. What I write I understand others will read and for that reason this comment may be triple the length it would be if I was just writing for an audience of one. I apologize for any laziness or unwillingness yet, to start segmenting my thoughts by starting a separate comment. A while back you remarked to me about how the replies can get complicated. (It was in the context when I hadn’t mentioned Doug’s name when I failed to put my reply in the screen under his comment.)

    Yet, now that I’ve gone up above and edited my writing a bit and added just a few things, I feel less apologetic now. I have frequently over the years composed long posts or comments and then just dread what I wrote, or find I’m unsure anything good will come and I just trash it. Usually, I have fair amount of enthusiasm about posting but I sometimes get to a stage where I find 8 or as many as 13 straight posts I have worked on that I just delete without posting and I think God is giving me a hint to stop this. Even this particular comment has taken me hours to complete. Around 36 years ago I was in a Spokesman Club and had to give a speech introducing myself. I was quiet and my sister told me, “You should tell them you don’t say very much.” I sporadically write a lot. I finally got The Red Sea Crossing Collectors Edition Volume 1. Right near the end they had about a five second clip of you and Tim. It was perhaps a teaser clip or a bridge to transition to part II. This very topic was mentioned by you as you questioned him back. Sometimes David waxes a bit poetic in the Psalms. And was it Mirriam’s song that referenced walls of water? Was there any optical effects at the time of the crossing that looks like walls of water? Some scriptures are human centric. Two great lights in the sky. One actually isn’t a light, but merely reflects. Lots of things are really brighter, but they are far away. Being overly literal with the Bible isn’t always the best answer. “This is the last hour.” Yes, it is perhaps true literally if you stand at the edge of a blackhole and the intense relativistic affects of super strong gravity bring time to a near stop. But I doubt John had that in mind when he wrote that. Maybe I’ve spent four hours writing this comment. Let me leave this comment as it is…