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Intelligent Design? February 4, 2009

Posted by caseyww in Faith, science, Skepticism.
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Last week, in order to discuss the strategy of ‘academic freedom’ which intelligent design proponents are hiding behind, I introduced the evolution vs. intelligent design (ID) debate briefly.  Apparently, judging by the lack of push-back I got in the comments, it is a fairly safe opinion to hold here at Valence that ID has no place in public schools and that evolution should be taught as the factual scientific theory it is.   A fantastic discussion of this exact discussion was on These Day KPBS on Tuesday; I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen.

That being said, I have had some extremely interesting conversations offline (thank you to those who e-mailed me this week) about the soundness of intelligent design.  I’d like to take to the time this week to explore the central tenants of ID a little further and explain why I believe they hold little to no merit.

While ID parades itself as a new modern scientific theory it is fundamentally just a restatement of the age old Teleological Argument for the existence of God put forth by thinkers as early as Aquinas and Cicero.  Simply put, there are components of the natural world which appear to be designed by their sheer complexity.  In the same way that the existence of a pocket watch implies that there exists a watchmaker, natural systems which appear designed imply the existence of an ultimate designer, that is God.

Here’s a rather humorous example of the argument from design (yes, this is serious):

By the way, I’m not trying to paint all believers with the same brush here.  Ray Comfort is arguably a poor representative for believers seeing as how he’s a… well an idiot.  Admittedly, there are design arguments that aren’t so embarrassing, though I’m not sure that at their heart they don’t struggle with the same logical fallacies.  By assuming it immediately follows that any system which appears designed must have a supernatural designer (a false dichotomy and a non sequitur) we ignore the possibility that natural causes may also affect systems to organize in complex or intricate ways.

In fact, natural causes do often result in complex and intricate systems without the intervention of a divine being.  Less controversial examples would be the self organization of snowflakes or diamonds and next week we’ll explore the grand-daddy of intricate systems resulting from natural causes, Darwinian Natural Selection.  Ohh, I can’t wait!

Intelligent design specifically looks to put a modern spin on the teleological argument by setting it the context of modern biology.  The buzz phrase that ID proponents have coined to describe biological systems which they insist must have been designed is irreducible complexity.   Irreducible complexity is the idea that any biological system which must be completely whole in an advanced intricate form in order to function could not have evolved since natural selection couldn’t operate on a more primitive and thus non-functional organ.

Like the fantastic and candid scientist he was, Darwin was actually the first to note that his theory of evolution by natural selection could be falsified by the existence of just one proven irreducibly complex system:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. (On the Origin of Species)

The main advocates of ID (namely Michael Behe, William Dembski and Philip Johnson among others) claim that they have indeed found such cases that Darwin could not.  Perhaps the most popular example (and certainly the easiest to explain here at Valence) is the supposed irreducible complexity of the eye.

ID claims that if you remove any portion of the eye (ie the lens, cornea, the photo receptor cells or even the molecular proteins that trigger the neural relays to the brain) then the eye ceases to function.  Evolution implies that modern eyes are the result of modification from less complex eyes in our ancestors.  But if those less complex eyes weren’t functional, how did natural selection favor increased performance?  This seeming paradox is where ID insists that supernatural intervention is required.  To further bolster their claim that a designer is necessary they often cite the impossible odds of a complete system like the eye coming together by chance.  Anyone up for the proverbial tornadoes building 747′s or chimps typing Shakespeare?

As we’ll see next week, the example of the eye as irreducibly complex (and similar systems) and the appeal to impossible odds really betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of natural selection as a mechanism on the part of ID proponents.

Behe in Darwin’s Black Box focuses further attention on cellular (bacterial flagellum) and molecular (blood clotting cascade) examples which are a bit more advanced but still essentially the same claim.  For all you A students out there, quality discussion of each can be found here and here.

For the rest of us, let me just note that no irreducibly complex system proposed by ID has actually been shown to be irreducible.  In fact evolution researchers have thoroughly debunked each of ID’s concerns and ID has produced no recognized scientific research to back up their claims.  That is, there is absolutely no reputable argument about whether the eye (for example) is irreducibly complex.  It’s not.  Multiple researchers have time and again provided compelling evidence for the natural evolution of proposed irreducibly complex systems like the eye.

Behe himself, as he testified in Kitzmiller vs Dover, admitted that many of his initial critiques made in Darwin’s Black Box have been answered and that in the 20 years of ID research not one peer reviewed ID article has been published in a respected scientific journal.  (For you A+ students, NOVA did a great special on the Kitzmiller trial that I highly recommend.)

That being said, it is perfectly valid and probably even healthy for the scientific process to be challenged by the problems that IDers have noted.  Science thrives on challenges and grows by having people try to falsify its theories.  However, there is an intellectual dishonesty in clinging to those initial critiques of evolution after a preponderance of evidence has proven you wrong.  This kind of dogmatic persistence actually hinders scientific progress.

Bringing the issue back home.  What confounds me is, if ID research is so inflated and paper thin (which is the case I’m making), why does the majority of the religious community still hang our hat on their theories?  There are the few scientists like Ken Miller and Francis Collins who strive to reconcile an adherence to strict evolution with Christian faith but I think we can agree they are in the minority here in America.

For the most of us, we seem content to largely ignore the formidable case for evolution by concentrating on the fringe dissent that is ID, that is if we think about the evolution at all.   But is this really an honest treatment of the issue or is it a case where the religious community has subconsciously (or consciously for that matter) predetermined which research it will back based who is arguing for God?  If intelligent design is shown to be untenable, what are the responsible implications for our faith?

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Comments»

1. Matt - February 4, 2009

“That being said, it is perfectly valid and probably even healthy for the scientific process to be challenged by the problems that IDers have noted.”
I agree. What bothers me is that this is immediately following a paragraph where you refer to a court case. Now, I’m probably flying off the handle here, but it really irks me when I see stuff like this – that is, science being debated in the courts. Scientific process should be debated – but it shouldn’t happen in the courts. It should happen in the journals and books.
I’m probably attacking a straw man here, and I apologize if that’s the case. But what I’m inferring is that some people didn’t like a particular scientific result and tried to squelch it via the courts. And that is…(I’m trying to be calm here)…very irksome to me.
“If intelligent design is shown to be untenable, what are the responsible implications for our faith?” – Well, this is the meat of the post, right here. (I think you’re being very generous, here, too – perhaps disingenuously so. “If intelligent design is shown to be untenable…”? Isn’t this post, perhaps this whole blog, predicated on the assertion of that untenability?)
I think we’re at a period in history similar to that which occurred when we realized we’re in a heliocentric solar system – the Church is going to eventually get on board the evolution train, but until then, it’s going to say a lot of stuff for which it will have to apologize for the next, oh, say 400 years. (I said “it’s” in that last sentence, which is how I feel about it; but I have to say “we’re”, since I’m a Christian. Argh. What was it Gandhi said? “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians; they are nothing like your Christ.”)
To be clear, there are Christians who have already begun work on the implications or evolutionary origins for life on Christian faith. (Like, you know, the entire Roman Catholic church).Casey, you mentioned Collins; he references several others in The Language of God. There’s that Russian Orthodox guy….oh, Theodosius Dobzhansky (“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”). I haven’t read his stuff yet, but I have been reading some stuff by The Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, and it’s pretty interesting stuff. I recommend it.
-Matt

2. Bill - February 4, 2009

Being just a little older than most of the readers and commenters here, I can honestly remember sitting in churches in the early 60′s and listening to pastors declare that dinosaurs did not exist, could not have existed because they were not mentioned specifically in the bible. And the whole time period being proposed by science for their existence was utterly and miserably false teaching. The fossils that were being found had to be hoaxes, or that science was delibrately conspiring to offsett creation “truth”…a few years went by, a new song started being sung from behind the pulpit…dinosaurs became Satans animals! And although this was not the “center” sentiment of christian churches in the 60′s, dinosaurs were still a mystery to christian fundamentalist during that time frame and their subjects were rarely broached on Sunday mornings. And never in Sunday School did you see a picture of Adam and Eve covorting with a Brontosouraus.
I bring up that whole issue to show that we do not have to go all the way back to a “flat earth” church teaching, or back very far at all, to show the dissconnect between “known truth” and “implied truth” from the churches perspective.
In fact to this day in 2009 you will still find in old die hard fundamental denominations a dissconnect from reality on the existence of dinosaurs and their time frame in history. In fact most mainline religions will not except carbon dating for the age of objects and fossils, it goes against their old-school creationist time line…A great question for any pastor of your choice…”how old is the earth?”…watch them squint!
I liked Matts comment and thought that said something to the effect that eventually the church community will have to grapple very long and hard with their stance on evolution. And yes, a new song will eventually have to be sung. It is very hard to sing a song though when your head is stuck deeply in the sand? (I went the head in the sand route rather than the head elsewhere).
It does my heart good to see the next generation arise behind me, and deal with some of these issues.
As for what should and shouldnt be taught in the public school system….perhaps we should learn from our friends the Japanese whose literacy rate seems to be far surpassing ours in all grade levels and subjects, without the argument of creation.

Matt…thank you for reminding me of Gandhi’s statement, man can I relate to that.

Bill

3. Bill - February 4, 2009

Oh..and to the guy with the bananna. If that is the perfect design for the perfect food, created by a God who had our three creased fingers in mind (puke, puke, puke)…who the hell made a pumpkin!

4. Matt - February 4, 2009

@Bill,
Glad you liked the Gandhi quote. However, I’m not sure I should have posted it, because, frankly, it sounds mean. And in the context in which I wrote it, it sounds like I’m being judgmental, which is never a good idea. I’m sorry I sounded that way – for me, that quote is a reminder to be like Christ. But I don’t know that I should ever apply it to other people.
-Matt

5. Adam Heine - February 4, 2009

Re: Bill, #2. I remember being taught the no-dinosaurs theology in the 80′s too.

I also remember reconciling the dinosaur-vs.-Genesis problem for myself around 5 years old. It wasn’t hard. Dinosaurs were real (they were too cool not to be) and Creation was real. The only answer was that when the Bible said “a day” it did not mean a literal day. On the fifth “day”, God created animals (including the dinosaurs), and some of those animals didn’t make it to the sixth day.

(I’m not saying that’s the answer. I’m saying that it’s not hard to come up with a possible explanation that satisfies both science and religion. I’m saying science and religion are not diametrically opposed.)

I think I said this in response to the last post. The only aspect of faith that hinges on ID is a literal interpretation of the Bible. And such an interpretation is really hard to justify even without science mucking things up.

6. Emmet - February 4, 2009

I didn’t comment on the last post because I don’t know enough about the specifics (or care for that matter) to have justified a statement. It was more indifference than agreement that motivated my silence, sorry for the confusion. That said, here are some comments:
1. I have no problem with creationism being taught in schools, as long as it isn’t in a science class. As for ID in the science class, my only connection with it is your blog and the documentary ‘Expelled’ with that Ben Stein guy from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, it didn’t go into the science all that much, which was unfortunate, but a chunk of the ID-ers who were interviewed weren’t idiots or religious which makes me think that there is more going on than just the church vs. science.
2. As to the “more going on”, I believe that debate between evolutionists and ID-ers is heavily influenced by politics, at least within the scientific community, maybe not to the same extent as the whole global cooling… I mean holes in the ozone… I mean global warming… I mean climate change debate is (watch ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ if you want to be entertained), but I figure it still plays a bigger part than the rest of us know.
3. from the little that I have heard, and let me stress “little”, even the most militant evolutionists don’t know where the initial spark of life came from which enabled the existence of the first single celled organism, and when their confessions of “well no one knows” is preceded by “not God” and followed by “perhaps it grew on the outside of an expanding crystal” and “there is the possibility that it was seeded by an intelligent life form from another part of the universe” I am left with the impression that the christians aren’t the only ones approaching the debate with preconceived notions that must be defended and situationally closed minds.
But other than that, I don’t have anything to say.

7. bear - February 4, 2009

My biggest issue is that ID-ers don’t even focus on the argument that Emmet states here…”Initial spark of life,” they instead seem to focus on the idea that God isn’t good enough to create it all–not wise or powerful enough to create systems that are complete, so instead he decides to pick and choose “gaps” to demonstrate his intercessory powers in the world. (Please note sarcasm). I mean, at least let God be God if you are going to believe in the whole thing and stop making up fake science to serve as a vehicle to drive your fake theology around in. Wow…I am feisty right now…:)

Bear

8. Matt - February 4, 2009

Emmet –
It’s funny you mention “initial spark”; the initial spark was probably something like what was demonstrated in the Miller-Urey experiment. I don’t know what happened after that; but as to the initial spark, it was probably a lightning bolt. ;)
There’s more information on this stuff at the abiogenesis link on wp.
-Matt

9. caseyww - February 4, 2009

Matt- (RE: Comment #1)

I’m interested in your frustration with science being ‘decided’ in the courtroom. In the case of ID and the Kitzmiller case this was not a judge stepping in and supplanting the role of scientists. Instead there was a genuine establishment clause issue at stake which needed a lot of science information to make a relevant judgment. If you have time I would recommend the NOVA special again to you specifically. I think you would find it really interesting judging by your comment.

2nd thought on science in the courts is actually a positive one. In the case of ID, the scientific debate has broken down because IDers are no longer playing by the rules of intellectual honesty which would require them to modify their theories when those theories aren’t supported by evidence. Public debate with creationists is often not fruitful because the IDer can often bandy about too much garbage to be refuted in one sitting. Ever heard of the Gish Gallop? What the courtroom does is it requires a slow methodical consideration of the evidence which can be devastating when you don’t have any.

By the way I have read some Polkinghorne…Quarks Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion…perhaps more to come on him?

10. caseyww - February 4, 2009

Adam- (RE: Comment #5)

You said:

The only answer was that when the Bible said “a day” it did not mean a literal day…(I’m not saying that’s the answer. I’m saying that it’s not hard to come up with a possible explanation that satisfies both science and religion. I’m saying science and religion are not diametrically opposed.)

I think I said this in response to the last post. The only aspect of faith that hinges on ID is a literal interpretation of the Bible.

I’m not sure I agree. It seems to me that the entire Christian faith is under girded by the belief in a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans. Literal biblical interpretation or not this doesn’t seem to jive with naturalistic explanation that our existence on this planet can be explained by evolution without supernatural intention. I have a hard time believing that the denial of an intelligent designer doesn’t change faith a bit more than you’re letting on. Can you help me understand where you’re coming from?

11. Emmet - February 4, 2009

Hey Matt, I heard that the electrical charge/lightning bolt experiment, though initially promising, ultimately flopped and the evolutionists have since moved on to other avenues of explanation. That could be old or incomplete knowledge on my part, or I may just be an idiot, I’ll try to check your link tomorrow.

12. caseyww - February 4, 2009

Sorry for the multiple posts in a row…

Emmet- (RE: Comment #6)
(Thanks for the comment but I’m not going to be as nice as Matt since I know you like the rough stuff now and then!)

1. You brought up Expelled…which I can’t let go because it is a big collection of horse-shit and xylophones. It was produced with an express religious motive and is so chock full of credulous lies I will be forced to include multiple links to cover my disgust. See Roger Ebert’s Review and Expelled Exposed.

2. Your right, the ID argument is a political one. That’s because there is zero science to support ID so they must make their arguments in the political sphere instead of basing them on research and evidence. However, the support of evolution is not a political stance (at least it shouldn’t be). This is like saying that those who support the Germ Theory of Disease must do so because their liberals…nope it’s just the evidence.

3. This is a common misconception and a bit of a straw man. Evolution makes no claims about the origins of life itself, but instead is a framework for explaining how the diversity of life can arise and grow in complexity once life has begun. Evolution concerns itself with showing how speciazation can occur by natural processes of genetic mutation followed by selection after life is established. This is in no way a concession to Intelligent Design, but instead is a recognition that Evolutionary Theory is simply a different branch of science than Abiogenesis.

13. bear - February 4, 2009

Casey, when you say,

It seems to me that the entire Christian faith is under girded by the belief in a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans

do you really think this? Or is this what you are saying the creationists claim?

14. hicks - February 4, 2009

Tangent Comment (which I’ll probably repent for later)

Reasons I Laughed REAL Hard at that Video
1) I had to read a book by Ray Comfort in my DTS.
2) Kirk Cameron anybody?
3) I’m pretty sure it was Hume Lake green screened (badly) in the background, where I went to summer camp every year.
4) Comments from YouTube like: “WOW. God must have created my DICK for your mouth too!!”

Thanks Casey, I’m definitely going to show it over and over again in the office tomorrow.

15. bear - February 5, 2009

Hicks=sinner :)

16. Adam Heine - February 5, 2009

Casey (#10). Fair enough. I’d think I’d become accustomed to throwing fat statements out in these comments, because nobody’s been calling me on them ;-)

Let me try and represent your argument (if I misrepresent it, I apologize and please correct me):

Given: (A) There is a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans.
1. If A, then (B) humans were created unique from all other created things.
2. If B, then (C) humans did not evolve from any other species, but are their own completely unique thing.

This, I think, is the traditional argument of most (or at least, the loudest) Christians. The presumption by both sides is that if C can be refuted (i.e. if it can be proved that humans evolved from another species), then B and A are likewise false. Therefore, no God.

Let me try and explain where I disagree with the logic.

I believe in A, mostly, but I don’t believe that it under girds the entire Christian faith. Specifically, I don’t believe Christianity requires a God who designed the world for the express purpose of “his pet project, humans.” (A God who designed the world? Yes. A God who loves humans especially? Yes. But if someone proved that humans are not the express purpose of Creation, it wouldn’t bother me.)

Inasmuch as I believe A, I agree that it implies B. However, I disagree in the traditionally assumed methods by which humans are unique. Which leads me to…

B -> C. Growing up, I learned that God spoke, and there was light. He spoke, and there were animals. He formed and breathed, and there was man. There were no in-betweens, no processes, no natural phenomena; it was like magic.

I realize now that is a huge assumption. Why would we assume that God is “speaking” and “breathing” at all like we do? Seriously. If God can speak electromagnetic radiation and breathe supergiant stars, can we claim to know anything about how he “speaks” and “breathes”?

Which is to say I don’t believe B necessarily implies C. Why can’t evolution be the means by which God made man? Or, if not evolution, why not some other natural phenomena?

To make it a little more general, if something has a naturalistic explanation, does that automatically mean God didn’t do anything? Scientists (not me, you’ll note ;-) understand all the natural processes that went into my son being created and born, but it doesn’t mean his existence isn’t some kind of miracle.

17. Matt - February 5, 2009

RE: #9;
Casey, my frustration was due to the (possibly incorrect) assumption that ID’ers were trying to circumvent a scientific discussion by appealing to legal resorts about religious freedom or something. As I have not seen the Nova special, nor do I know the details of the case(s) involved, I could be way off; sorry for speaking out of my nether regions.
As to whether the courts are a good place for science or not: we have reached a point in human understanding where no single person can be expected to know even a fraction of what is known. Put another way, we have reached a point where expertise is required to do almost anything non-trivial in a given field. I don’t know that it does science any good to have non-experts in science (e.g., judges, whose realm of expertise is disjoint from that of biologists) making decisions about science. So: that was the point I was trying to make. But as I said in the first paragraph of this comment, that might be irrelevant to the cases at hand, and I should know more about them before speaking on them.
I didn’t understand your response to Adam’s post: “[T]he belief in a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans…doesn’t seem to jive with naturalistic explanation that our existence on this planet can be explained by evolution without supernatural intention.” Could you elaborate on this?
-Matt

18. caseyww - February 5, 2009

Those asking about my statement:

“[T]he belief in a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans…doesn’t seem to jive with naturalistic explanation that our existence on this planet can be explained by evolution without supernatural intention.”

I’m not sure I understand where the disconnect is here (except that the term ‘pet project’ may be bit cavalier). I don’t think I’ve exaggerated typical Christian belief in a personal God who has created humans and loves them enough to care about their individual salvation. Is anyone disagreeing with this statement? If so, help me understand what you see as foundational for Christian faith.

If not…I suppose your question might be then, why do I think this belief in personal, loving God can or should be affected by evolution’s explanation of life? This is the question I’m asking with the post…so I’ll re-ask it to you guys: Should evolution affect or threaten tenants of Christian faith?

I think yes, but admittedly I don’t have a rock solid explanations just yet for why. Mostly I believe there are consequences to faith for the idea that I share an ancestor with Bonobos and an even more distant ancestor with Platypus. The human species is not the pinnacle of evolution…we are not the focus nor the darlings of creation. No matter how much I remind myself that the Bible need not be read literally I can’t escape that this is a fundamentally different story than that told by the Bible.

This brings me to Adam’s comment (re comment #16). Fist, I liked the comment so thanks for explaining. Where I take issue is that we seem to be arguing the issue backwards. The strategy of saying that God created us through evolution is well and fine but it also allows us insulate ourselves (I think unfairly) by just adopting whatever scientific theory is in vogue and claiming “That’s how my God did it!” No matter how much un-like the God of the Bible the science is we can claim that the Bible isn’t literal anyways and our faith need not be threatened. But this seems to be having our cake and eating it too.

Also, you’ve come awfully close to equating God with natural laws, which by the way, is fine with me. However, I think this is a major shift from placing God in the supernatural. Natural laws don’t hear our prayers, care about which gender we are attracted to or promise to punish us with eternal damnation for worshiping in the wrong temple. That is, I don’t know if we really have a justification for appealing to supernatural miracles from natural phenomena.

This brings up a very sticky question which you phrased well but I suspect we disagree on:

To make it a little more general, if something has a naturalistic explanation, does that automatically mean God didn’t do anything? Scientists (not me, you’ll note understand all the natural processes that went into my son being created and born, but it doesn’t mean his existence isn’t some kind of miracle.

What is a miracle and what do believers mean by the supernatural (seems to be the ultimate grey area)? Parsing this one out may have to be done in long form in a post sometime soon. But for now: The birth of your son was certainly awesome and beyond my personal understanding, but was it a miracle? Did God suspend the laws of nature in order for you to have a child? I think this may be stretching the definition a little too far.

Thoughts (from everyone)?

19. bear - February 5, 2009

Casey, thanks for all of the clarification: I think the issue with the statement you made is more about tone: I did not initially read it like you explained it here. At first, it felt abit like bitterness–or “Only fools believe this.” But that is more my interpertation of tone in writing. Your clarification really helps. This comment that you make,

“The human species is not the pinnacle of evolution…we are not the focus nor the darlings of creation.”

I would agree with this. Exept I would say that we are, in fact, the darlings of creation, but that we are one of many darlings–it is our knowledge of good and evil that sets us apart from all the other darlings, and biblically speaking, that was not the original intention (for us to know this). The Bible is the story of Man, and God, and their relationship. It is our story, and it may seem to be the dominant story because of our own self-centered natures. I would argue–and will if need be I suppose, that if each creature–each species–had its own bible, it would say that it had been made in God’s image. Life is a community, and this community has rules and laws that keep it alive, structured, and coexisting. Human beings are the only ones who break these laws–but that again goes back to our knowledge of good and evil.

As far as evolution threatnening the tenants of christian faith? I am less dipomatic here. It should not. I think it only threatens the faith of a belief that is focused on Man as the pinnacle or even the principle of creation. For me, not being the ultimate doesn’t lessen the value of my story with God if God has stories with other aspects and parts of his creation.

20. whytey - February 5, 2009

I’m a bit confused as to how to approach this particular thread because I think the fact that we’re having this debate in the first place is interesting. From what I understand of the last post, the post and the commentary argued at length at the invalidity of including discussions of the supernatural and metaphysics in the science classroom. If this is the case, should the reverse be true? If the former does not dictate the latter can the latter be used to dictate the former. That is, if God is a supernatural entity and his work of creation is a supernatural event, from what I understand, it occurred on a level outside and above the natural laws. The natural system is the product of that supernatural event. What would the fingerprint of that act be? Could we measure it? quantify it? I agree with Casey in post #18 that we shouldn’t say “that’s how my God did it” because if God is truly the supreme sovereign, the beginning and the end, then I don’t know that we will ever fully understand or even slightly understand “how God did it.” To me, it seems a bit ridiculous to think that I can measure God.

So, in response to Casey’s question, does evolution threaten the tenants of the Christian faith? I would say that I don’t know how it could. If my faith is a faith in a natural construct, I don’t know that I would call that faith at all, I might call that understanding or even wonder, but not faith necessarily. My take on faith is this, the created world is a ridiculously complex, intricate, wonder inducing natural state that I believe was set into motion by a supernatural event governed by a supernatural actor. I have no idea how it happened and I don’t know that it’s my job to explain it. I fully expect that it would be outside my understanding. Thereby, understanding how the natural system functions today or projecting how it has worked in the past does nothing to change my understanding of the supernatural system, only the natural one.

21. Adam Heine - February 5, 2009

Casey #18. I like your response too. You’re making disagreement fun!

I agree with Bear’s response (19). In particular, I really liked this line: “I would argue… that if each creature–each species–had its own bible, it would say that it had been made in God’s image.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that. We’re pretty self-centered, and that may be where some of the bad Christian logic comes from.

To your last (and larger) question, Cas, you’re right; it’s really sticky. Essentially, how much does God “interfere” with the natural order, and how much does he just let the natural order do its thing? Furthermore, at what point is something a “miracle”?

(Aside: Have you read C.S. Lewis’ Miracles? Because it covers exactly this, although I need to read it again because I’ve forgotten a lot of it.)

First, it depends how we define miracle. If a miracle is something amazing, that we don’t understand but take as a blessing (i.e. something good), then miracles happen all the time in the natural order. If a miracle must expressly be supernatural interference in the natural order – that is, a breaking of natural laws – then the question is how often does this happen?

In both cases, but especially in the latter, the answer to “What is a miracle?” depends on our understanding of natural laws. Is that right though? I think we have this idea that a miracle is a miracle no matter how much you know, but the truth is that what we think of as a miracle is greatly affected by how well we understand the natural laws involved. What if Jesus’ resurrection could be explained by natural laws we currently know nothing about, for example?

God didn’t suspend the laws of nature for my son to be born. We know that, because we understand the laws involved. But everytime I look at him and think that he is a whole, real person, and that he simply didn’t exist 3 years ago, I think he’s a miracle. In this case, I think the natural laws God made are, in fact, miraculous.

So in addition to the definition mess 3 paragraphs ago, there’s the idea that the natural laws, created by God himself, are perhaps miracles in and of themselves.

Finally, the real question isn’t “What is a miracle?” but “When we ask God for miracles, will he really do anything?” If it’s all natural laws, then asking God for miracles presumably gives us nothing. Yet it can’t be all God interference either, because many “miracles” of the past and present can be understood by natural explanations.

At this point, I don’t have a good answer for this. I struggle with this myself every time I ask God for anything. I suspect the only real answer is “faith,” but I’d be more than happy to explore it in a future post/discussion. Especially since (in re-reading my comment) I’ve raised more questions than answers here.

22. Matt - February 5, 2009

Hey! It’s me, your friendly neighborhood pedant! I think you all mean to say tenets when you write tenants.
-Matt

23. Adam Heine - February 5, 2009

Are you sure, Matt? I thought we were discussing those who rent and occupy the Christian faith ;-)

24. Matt - February 6, 2009

@Bear, Adam
I have to disagree with you. “I would argue–and will if need be I suppose, that if each creature–each species–had its own bible, it would say that it had been made in God’s image.” This sounds very nice, but it removes all meaning from the phrase “made in God’s image” to say that everything is made in God’s image. That phrase connotes distinction. I would agree that all of creation is beloved by God, but I don’t think that it necessarily follows that it’s all in His image.
@Whytey
Well, for one thing, we’re not in a science classroom now. And for another thing, I think that a progression from a scientific discussion to a metaphysical discussion is pretty much unavoidable. But I also think that’s a good thing! I think we all should be willing to have metaphysical discussions; my frustration (which I’ve shared with Antony and Casey at different times) is that I’m very uneducated when it comes to philosophy. I think most of the people who comment here are (not you, Antony). So we’re probably going to spend a lot of time reproducing historical metaphysical dead-ends. Or what’s worse, one person will run circles around the rest of us (being a one-eyed man in the land of the philosophically blind).
@Casey
I’m still pondering your clarification. I think I’ll post again later, but it might be tomorrow (Saturday, Pacific time).
-Matt

25. bear - February 6, 2009

Matt, this does not say that everything is made in God’s image–but i can see how it might sound like that. I am not implying pantheism–but in a sense–I am saying that each creature that God has made has their own story (relationship and history) with God–we don’t get to know everythings’ story–we get to know ours. What is clear from Faith–for me–AND from science–is that Human beings are part of the community of life that God has created. HE is the center–we are not–though we like to think we are–and by this logic alone–I feel a lot of relief.

Bear

26. whytey - February 6, 2009

@Matt,

I totally agree… but that wasn’t really the point of my post… i just thought the juxtaposition of the two posts was kind of an eyebrow raiser for me…

…and that wasn’t really the main thrust of my post anyway…

I think that there are inroads into metaphysics in science and visa versa… i just don’t know that those inroads represent any real threat to faith for the reasons stated above…

27. Emmet - February 6, 2009

Casey #12

Ah the rough stuff, you know me so well… Oh and your face is jacked… BOOM, you’re roasted!

As to the other stuff,
1. I hear what you are saying about ‘Expelled’, but the main reason why I brought it up is because, seemingly contrary to what all the reviewers seem to think and what it may have in fact been intended to be, it didn’t seem to me to be a scientific defense of ID but was rather calling attention to the way in which the scientific community ostracizes seemingly legit scientists who simply want to allow for the discussion. This seemed relevant to your initial post about should it or shouldn’t it be taught… and I still like Ben Stein.

2. I continue to plead ignorance on the bulk of this topic, especially when it comes to the specific science backing up or lacking from either or any position (this was my initial justification for not commenting originally). I just know that science is driven by money and that the undergirding of the community is full of politics which allows me to treat any blanked statements with a touch of skepticism. This isn’t some argumentative point just an explanation as to where I am coming from, which is that regardless of what impact they have on what will ultimately be defined as the truth, politics play.

3. Thanks for your clarification here, I realize that I am more interested in abiogenesis and how that event/structure impacts what comes after, rather than simply the “what comes after”. Sorry for being the slow kid in class.

Oh and your hair is short… BOOM, you’re roasted twice!

28. Emmet - February 6, 2009

Okay, so I thought I was done but then I realized that I must not have a clue as to what the ID position really is. Up till now I thought that on the most basic level, ID didn’t dispel evolution but rather put someone at the wheel of a car that was rolling down a hill. Here is a very ugly “for-instance”: You know me, and through the laws/rules of psychology, sociology, survival instinct, etc. it makes sense to you that I am the person that I am today (this is without taking into account my parents “porking” and popping me out 9 months later or any of their involvement in my life after that, that being my biogenesis and the continued impact which that system had on me). So I am me, and I fall within the parameters of the rules that govern human development (granted I’m on the extreme fringes of those parameters). My parents don’t need to figure into the discussion, because how I initially came about is a different topic and their existence isn’t needed in order to explain my development, regardless of how “convenient” it would be to pass it all off on them.
But what happens when you get to know my parents? All of a sudden, I make more sense. How I got to be me goes from a random series of events that are unlikely (by the standards of a Vegas book) but plausible, to the natural result of intentional guidance. My parents didn’t break any rules and turn me into a fish or a rock, but rather they operated within the rules to make me into the best possible me that they could influence.

Now within the broken confines of this example, how is it different from the basic ID position? If it isn’t that different, then why do evolutionists consider it incompatible?

I can explain the world without God, but knowing God makes the world make more sense.

29. Adam Heine - February 6, 2009

I’m sorry, Emmet. I stopped reading your comment after “porking.”

30. Emmet - February 6, 2009

I knew it to be a risk

31. Paul - February 7, 2009

Whytey I’m a bit confused by your post here:

“That is, if God is a supernatural entity and his work of creation is a supernatural event, from what I understand, it occurred on a level outside and above the natural laws. The natural system is the product of that supernatural event. What would the fingerprint of that act be? Could we measure it? quantify it? I agree with Casey in post #18 that we shouldn’t say “that’s how my God did it” because if God is truly the supreme sovereign, the beginning and the end, then I don’t know that we will ever fully understand or even slightly understand “how God did it.” To me, it seems a bit ridiculous to think that I can measure God.

So, in response to Casey’s question, does evolution threaten the tenants of the Christian faith? I would say that I don’t know how it could. If my faith is a faith in a natural construct, I don’t know that I would call that faith at all, I might call that understanding or even wonder, but not faith necessarily. ”

To me, you have given an explanation of god more like a Deist than a Christian. It seems your argument steps extremely far back, makes the valid claim that maybe we just don’t really know God and maybe his “fingerprint” is the natural world as we see and observe it today. But this argument is specifically not a Christian stance. A Christian stance requires not just the belief that there could be a supernatural being that started it all… it forces one to believe that god is all loving, all knowing, had a son that died for your sins and was ressurected. The problem with this to me it seems is that there are a few steps in between A) maybe there is some supernatural occurence (we’ll call god) that started the known world and B) I don’t see how evolution can alter my Christian faith that are not being addressed.

Bill’s anecodote is probably the best example of this because it again dissects most faiths as believing in miracles or supernatural occurances outside the natural world when there are perfectly good evidentual answers for them. I know I’m not explaining myself properly here, please forgive me but it seems if one can agree that evolution is the proper theory for how all complex life is created then it should give one pause in believing that supernatural acts actually do occur at all just because of how we historically have treated all natural phenomena as some form of miracle or divine intervention. I cannot see how one can believe in the tenets of Christianity and agree with evolution without at least expressing how improbable that belief is to begin with.

I hope that makes sense, not sure it does.

32. Adam Heine - February 7, 2009

Paul, #31. You said: “I cannot see how one can believe in the tenets of Christianity and agree with evolution without at least expressing how improbable that belief is to begin with.”

The tenets you presented are thus: “A Christian stance requires not just the belief that there could be a supernatural being that started it all… it forces one to believe that god is all loving, all knowing, had a son that died for your sins and was ressurected.”

First of all (or rather, tangentially), a Christian stance is a set of beliefs; it does not “force” or “require” anything. Christians sometimes force or require things, but not the Christian stance.

Secondly/primarily, none of the tenets you mention (all of which I agree with, btw) have anything to do with how the world or humans were created, and therefore have nothing to do with evolution. That is to say, I see no direct connection between the tenets you (accurately) stated and a belief or disbelief in evolution. (Personally, I don’t think there is a connection unless one requires a literal interpretation of the Creation story, but now I’m repeating #16).

I think what makes a belief in both possible (and perhaps what Whytey was saying) is this: evolution is an explanation of natural laws, and believing in God means believing that he created all the natural laws.

This is where the majority (or at least the loudest) of the Church is getting things wrong. Evolution is a scientific explanation of the natural, it is not saying (and cannot say) anything about the supernatural. Because it’s science, if it’s wrong, then the only way we’ll figure that out is based on more science, not rhetoric or theology.

If it’s right, however, then the Church needs to accept it as they have (ultimately) accepted everything else science has figured out over the centuries. (As Matt pointed out in #1, this is a historical problem that Christians – that we – have).

33. bear - February 7, 2009

Casey, I can’t shake it, so I need to ask it: where does this info come from? When discussing ID you say,

“why does the majority of the religious community still hang our hat on their theories? ”

This seems like a Hasty Gerneralization.

34. whytey - February 7, 2009

Paul,

I’m certainly not a Deist, I wholeheartedly believe in a loving God who sent his one and only Son to die for me on the cross. That this loving act is the path that I am invited to take to be reconciled to Him.

All that being said, the point I’m trying to make to Casey is this. I believe that God is most definitely a supernatural being. As such, even the most complete understanding of the natural system will fail to encapsulate all that he is (a very A.W. Tozer-ish sort of idea that it is a form of blasphemy when people believe that the completely understand God, he is beyond our understanding). We are given a window into who He is through what He has told us, but that does not mean that we have the capacity to understand all that He is.

Evolutionary theory is a projection, it makes observations of current events and systems, gathers data, runs experiments, explores the fossil record and makes conclusions as to what makes the most sense. Even if our understanding of biology is complete and unflawed today (and given the way that science advances, I doubt that’s the case) it’s still just an explanation for the natural system. My point is this. When God set everything into motion, I have no idea what impact that had on the natural laws, I have no idea what evidence that would have left behind, but I am fairly certain that, because it is by definition supernatural, I can’t measure it in any way. So, for that reason, understanding the natural system does not deepen or understanding or invalidate our understanding of the supernatural one.

To be clear, (and to separate myself from Deism) I don’t think God set things into motion and then let go… I think he continues to control, to guide, to interact, but I do think that there isn’t any possible way to scientifically measure God when He does act outside or even within the natural laws. If God is acting supernaturally, He can’t be measured naturally.

Am I making any sense?

35. Antony - February 7, 2009

The problem with not joining the conversation until 30-something is that there are too many things that I find interesting and want to talk about…

First, I have to say that I agree with Casey’s statement that he had to clarify:

“[T]he belief in a loving, creating, personal God who designed the world for His pet project, humans…doesn’t seem to jive with naturalistic explanation that our existence on this planet can be explained by evolution without supernatural intention.”

BUT I agree only up to a point. I probably end up near the Deist end of the spectrum, the way that Paul took Whytey to be expressing. I’m not sure I’m all the way there, but I tend in that direction.

I think that for Casey what is at stake in the evolution-ID argument is not the existence or nonexistence of God, but this idea of ‘supernatural intention.’ If we could explain the world as we know it without incorporating any supernatural intention (which covers everything about God being personal and loving us in an active, relational way), then we lose one of the foundational expressions of God’s intentional love for us – that is, he created us specially and gave us responsibilities in relation to himself and the rest of his creation.

At such a point, we have to resignify the Genesis stories of Creation, which as Adam says seems pretty easy to do. But again, I have to side with Casey, I don’t think it’s that easy. What happens in Genesis 1 & 2 has more than merely allegorical implications. It sets up what our special role on this planet is. If it’s not true and we are merely somewhere in the midst of natural selection, then it has serious implications for our place in creation and our purposes for existing.

Where I think I disagree with Casey is that I’m not sure that our relationship to Genesis 1 & 2 necessarily decides whether or not we are Christians.

When debating evolution and ID, it seems people immediately move to the natural-supernatural argument, and then faith comes to be defined by a series of beliefs about the supernatural and science as those about the natural. But this is a seriously maimed understanding of faith.

Faith is not about holding a particular set of beliefs about the supernatural; it is about a set of PRACTICES that determines the shape and character of one’s life.

There are thousands of books that try to pinpoint the essentials of what it means to be a Christian, and that they are so numerous and diverse shows my point – I don’t think that there is a core kernel of the Christian faith. For every tenet that people claim to be essential other Christians have done without. Does this change the fact that they are all Christians? Good question (the Catholic church certainly thought so – ah, the Spanish Inquisition). I don’t.

So to wrap this up (it’s already too long), I want to suggest that Casey is right – evolution is a challenge to faith, to the extent that faith derives its meaning from assumptions about the supernatural (and our relationship to it). But as I said, I think faith is more about the practices of living. Doctrine is an ever-changing and secondary concern when reckoning with what the truth of a faith is.

36. bear - February 7, 2009

Antony, awesome post–but I still do not see how evolution interrupts, transcends, or takes the place of the supernatural?

37. bear - February 7, 2009

Also, when i read this in #35…

“”Faith is not about holding a particular set of beliefs about the supernatural; it is about a set of PRACTICES that determines the shape and character of one’s life.”””

I used to believe this, but it just is not true. certainly the PRACTICES may determine the authenticity or even the success of one’s faith. The PRACTICES certainly indicate to others that their fatih may be real, but ultimately, Judeo-Christian faith (or others for that matter) rest in the belief of a supernatural God–in Christianity–you just aren’t a christian if you don’t believe in that whole ressurection thing–you are especially not a christian if you don’t believe that Jesus is God. Now if those aren’t core, supernatural beliefs, than I don’t know what are. Maybe these two are a good place to start with regard to discussing supernature. Then again, I have been playing cars with my kids all day–so I may be making little or no sense.

ID is wack!

Bear out

38. Antony - February 7, 2009

Bear,

I have to disagree with you. I think you are probably right to say that it is central to most contemporary Christians that the resurrection happened and that Jesus is God. I can’t say about the resurrection (without doing some research), but I know that there have been many Christian sects that have believed a range of things about the nature of Jesus. For some he is divine and part of the Godhead (Trinitarians) but for others Jesus is not divine. This is the case for Unitarians. Jesus is the best of humanity – he is transcendent, but not God. (I know that there are others who also call themselves Unitarians who identify Jesus with the one person of God).

And the only reason that most Christians are Trinitarians is because the Catholic church went out of its way to label all non-Trinitarians heretics and persecute and badger them out of existence. But, that doesn’t mean that they were not Christians. They just found themselves on the wrong side of politics.

All of which is to say, I’m ready to defend my position – faith is first and foremost a set of practices – because I’m not really sure I’m right, and in the end faith might look like know more than a set of ethical principles (a.k.a. a philosophy). So bring it!

39. bear - February 7, 2009

Antony, this sounds like fun: I always learn a lot from you.
Over beer is better, but lets start here.

I suppose there is the slippery slope that is ever present that leads us into the discussion of..”What makes a christian.” This leads us into the discussion of, “who was Christ,” then we have to look at scripture. Then we get to talk about the validity, interpertations, manipulations, contextualizations, exegesis, hermanutics, and geriatrics–not really that last one–I am just getting old. I say this because for most of my life I made arguments like you did about the Catholic church etc. I actually agree with you for the most part. I suppose to keep this volley simple I would say that” most christians assume scripture to be the story of Jesus. I would also say that most christians can tell the story many ways. They do so, and then we have the denomination wars. (See C.S. lewis foundation for some healthy discussion on reconciling these). Having said all of this…in all my studies (and I am considered extremely liberal in my faith by many) Mainly because I wasn’t raised in it–I have found that the parts of scripture where Jesus claims his divinity are clear enough. Because of this I would say that those who do not believe that Jesus was divine are not Christ followers in the true sense of what he meant according to scripture. Yuck–because out of context I sound like some kind of preacher, but what I am trying to say is that if you don’t believe what Jesus said–according the very souce where people claim to understand him from, the scripture, then why bother? This has nothing to do with politcs on either side.

I can follow Martin Luther King. he as a transcendent human. So was Ghandi. I actually think some of my friends are the best of the humanity. If they start claiming God hood–or even Messiah status as Jesus did, (by the way–I am well versed in the meaning of messiah in an ANE context). I would start thinking wth concern about them.

Having said THIS: I do want to agree with you regarding the importance and priority of practices as faith. It is the lack of practices that destroy the perceptions of faith–it did for me. I guess what I am saying is that for me, faith means nothing without a source (god) because before I believed in god–I would probably argue that I was living by a set of practices that were judeo-christian–but no way could I wake up one day and say I was a christian without aknowledging the supernatural source and motivator for those practices. Why would I have? Maybe though I don’t truly understand what you mean by faith being a set of practices because as I write this I start to think…uh oh….maybe I DO agree all the way….and by the way….woohoooo Saturday nigh blogging…we are wild.

Bear

40. Adam Heine - February 7, 2009

Phew. And when I read Casey’s original post I thought this would be a quick-and-easy discussion. Here we are at #40.

Antony (35). I agree with Bear (36): awesome post, but I still don’t see the necessary connection between evolution and the supernatural.

You wrote: “What happens in Genesis 1 & 2 has more than merely allegorical implications. It sets up what our special role on this planet is. If it’s not true and we are merely somewhere in the midst of natural selection, then it has serious implications for our place in creation and our purposes for existing.”

I hope I didn’t imply that Gen 1/2 was at any point wrong or untrue. I think it’s absolutely true, but not literally so. I don’t think the Bible was ever written as a scientific reference for us. It is historical, poetic, and (towards the end) instructional. But even where it is historical, I don’t think it is as painstakingly accurate as we try to make our histories today – people just didn’t write history that way back then.

So try this as a possible explanation – not meant to be airtight, but simply a possibility. The “days” of Genesis are not literal days, right? On “Day 5″, God made all the animals and everything. Maybe he started it with a spark, from a single cell, and let it grow and evolve over billions of years. Maybe he interfered along the way to create certain species, but why would he have to? Being an all-powerful God, could he not have setup the natural laws and initial conditions such that things turned out the way he intended?

“Day” 6. The Bible says he made man in his own image, breathed life into him. I think we can agree that humans are unique from other animals in a number of ways. Perhaps “Day 6″ is the time at which humans achieved sentience. Moses had no word for sentience, for the uniqueness of humanity, so maybe he characterized it as the breath of God in man (or maybe he had the words, but characterized it this way anyway).

Heck, why does it have to be a single point in time anyway? That’s another problem here. We talk about God “starting it off” then “letting it go”, as if God was constrained to our timeline. If God is outside nature, he is likely outside time as well. From our point of view, God is ever-present at all points in time. He is forever remembering the past, experiencing the present, and hoping for the future all at once and at the same time.

If that last sentence doesn’t make sense, there’s a reason. If there is a God – and he is outside nature, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc, etc – then he is completely beyond our understanding, or even our potential understanding. Like an ant inside an airplane on its way to Cairo, trying to understand the purpose of the Pyramids of Giza.

41. bear - February 8, 2009

Antony–just a thought–when you say…”faith is first and foremost a set of practices…” if you were to substitute the word, “religion” for the word faith–would you statement mean the same thing?

Okay–much to respond to I suppose..

Bear

42. Antony - February 8, 2009

Bear,

Alright, two main responses to what you said. By the way, I’m enjoying this. It forces me to articulate some things that I’ve been dancing around for awhile.

1. Many Christians do take the scripture to be the testimony about Jesus. But there’s a problem with that. First, not everyone has agreed to the canonical texts, but I will say that most do. But this is what the quest for the historical Jesus is about because quite frankly the Jesus of Mark is not the Jesus of John’s gospel. And in the synoptic gospels there are not really any clear claims to Jesus’ divinity (his messianic qualities, yes, but as you know that didn’t traditionally mean divinity – it appears the conflict was spiritual or political – which for the Jews is a blurry line anyway).

Thus, I think that it’s reasonable to question the theology of John. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the idea of Jesus’ divinity does not originate with his teachings but with those of his followers.

And can one ask for more than reasonable? So while you might believe that those who don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity are not ‘Christ followers in the true sense’ – are you so certain of your beliefs that you are comfortable EXCLUDING those who differ from you on this point from being called Christians? As your next sentence suggested, that looks problematic, no?

2. Okay, you’ve hit on what separates me from Casey (and probably from you as well). The relationship between belief, motivation, and practice. Being more concerned with the political – that is, with practices – I tend to discount motivation in that set. I guess my first question would be is it really the supernatural tenets that motivate your practices? While I understand that one’s faith can be justified by the authority of God – is it really the supernatural aspect that motivates one to act in a certain way? Shoot, I’m not being as clear as I want to be…does that make any sense? I’m trying to distinguish between our conceptual justifications and our immediate motivations. For example, do you do good to secure eternal life? Is that what motivates you? Etc.

3. Lastly, no ‘religion’ would make it mean something else. I think faith is a set of practices because I understand a person to have a faith in something when they act as if that’s the case. So faith is individual in a primary sense, and religion is a political word designating the thing we create together. A religion is a set of practices that resembles faith, but it is not personal. This is why many are uncomfortable with ‘organized religion’ though they don’t lack faith.

43. Antony - February 8, 2009

Adam,

Thanks for the response. Okay, this is going to be one of those more questions than answers type of comment…

1. Evolution-Creationism. I think the conflict between them has to do with our place in creation itself. I think there are very different implications to saying we were made specially (God intervenes by breathing spirit into us) and are the pinnacle of his creation, and saying that we were the first(? only?) to cross the ‘sentience’ line, which is the point at which an animal can actually develop a sense of self as self and therefore can posit something of a concept of god.

And I know, we can circle around this because God can do anything…no matter the claim, the fallback can always be maybe God set it in motion that way. But this, I think, just avoids facing the question. I think that living life is about facing the world that we live in (including the history that brought us here and the future we hope see and leave for other generations). And I think, if we can explain who we are without reference to God (that is, strictly naturally), then I think our relationship to him changes. We don’t need him in the way that we might if he was so personal as to have breathed into the nostrils of the first man (that is beautiful poetry by the way).

2. All of this is wind back to your claim that Genesis 1 & 2 are ‘absolutely true, but not literally so.’ I’m wondering what you mean. I agree with your claims about writing in the ancient world – history means something very different to us. So in what sense is Genesis true?

3. And lastly, you’ve brought this up before (I think) about God as outside of time, and thus everywhere at every moment at once. I think it’s interesting because it really does throw a wrench in the way that we talk about the ‘beginning of the world’. But I think that it goes both ways. What does it mean for God to intervene in the world, if he is outside of time?

44. Eric - February 8, 2009

First: Wow. This discussion has been a great read.

Now: I want to go back to something Whytey wrote in #34, which I think comes up again in the discussion among Antony, Bear, and Adam in the comments that follow. Here’s what Whytey wrote:

I don’t think God set things into motion and then let go… I think he continues to control, to guide, to interact, but I do think that there isn’t any possible way to scientifically measure God when He does act outside or even within the natural laws. If God is acting supernaturally, He can’t be measured naturally.

The part of this that I’m specifically interested in comes up again most clearly in something Adam wrote in #40:

If there is a God – and he is outside nature, all-knowing, all-powerful, etc, etc – then he is completely beyond our understanding, or even our potential understanding.

I don’t quite understand how God can be completely outside nature, beyond our (potential) understanding, unmeasurable, etc., if He is “all-powerful” and “continues to control, to guide, to interact” with the natural world. The only way this can make sense to me is if God’s continued interactions with the natural world are confined to (a) ones that are indistinguishable from what is expected to happen based on natural laws (to the extent that we can measure the effects of such laws and attribute those effects to those laws, of course), or (b) ones that involve affecting the wills of (human) beings, which is (at least in our present state of knowledge) not measurable. Is that right?

45. Nancy O. - February 8, 2009

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33: 3-4

Just thought I’d insert one of my favorite scriptures!
:)

46. Adam Heine - February 8, 2009

Eric and Antony: great responses. I’m loving this discussion. Like Antony said, it’s helping me articulate (and in some cases, realize) things that I hadn’t bothered pinning down before.

I want to respond to two things. First, Antony you mentioned something very much like what Casey said in #18: that my implied claim that God can do anything (even evolution) is too easy or avoids the real question.

I’m honestly trying to face the real question. If I’m avoiding it, I don’t realize it myself yet, so sorry. I’m looking at it like this: (1) Science (not religion) is the expert on the natural. This is because science is, in one part, a process designed to be as objective as humanly possible, while religion is largely subjective (Antony and Bear’s discussion on what is a Christian highlights this). I think for the most part science succeeds in this objectivity, therefore is science says something about the natural, it is probably right. (2) Religion (not science) is the expert on the supernatural, but this comes with the caveat that religion is subjective and, if there is a supernatural, it is something we cannot totally comprehend. We can understand parts of it, but not the whole. The best religion can say is, “This is one possible explanation, but the truth is we just don’t know.” One thing we do know(?) is that whatever natural laws there are, God made them.

What that means is that if science is pretty sure about a natural law, then what needs to change is religion’s interpretation. The problem, historically, has been that religion thinks it understands something, then science realizes that understanding is wrong, but religion refuses to accept their (objective) reasoning and insists on an ultimately unsupportable platform. It means that, pretty much whatever science says, religion should be saying, “Oh, I guess that’s how God made things.”

I hope that makes sense. I’m not trying to avoid the question. Rather, I think this is how it must be. God made the natural laws, but religion has very little to say on what those laws are – that’s science’s territory.

The second thing I want to respond to is how God intervenes in the natural, if at all. Antony said, “…I think that it goes both ways. What does it mean for God to intervene in the world, if he is outside of time?” I don’t have an answer yet, other than, “Yes, exactly!” It changes a lot of the discussion.

And to what Eric said at the end of his comment, again I don’t have a short answer (this is a great response, isn’t it?). I want to think about this more, discuss it more. I think God does intervene – otherwise what’s the point in praying, and what the heck was Jesus doing in Galilee for 3 years? But can every “miracle” be explained by natural laws (in some cases, laws we don’t understand yet)? And does that make them any less miracles?

I don’t think understanding how a miracle works makes it “not God” or “not a miracle”. But then what makes it a miracle if not the obvious supernatural aspect of it? Is it the fact that we can’t reproduce it? Is it simply the fact that the “miracle” was exactly what was needed at the right time? (E.g. if I hand out meals to poor families, some of them will call that a miracle, though there is (seemingly) nothing supernatural about it).

More questions than answers, I know. I’m still working this out.

47. bear - February 8, 2009

Antony, I am not sure I have the heart to argue for the divinity of Jesus while I am writing on this blog. I will say that I hold pretty firm, based on the elaborate study I have done—can always do more, and the forbidden topic of personal experience (at Valence) I would conclude that Jesus himself claims his divinity. I am not sure that I would pick and choose scriptures in the way that you are describing…you make a great point by the way, one that leads me into a deeper topic (deeper for me) about why the scripture is authentic, but that is a different post. I do think we must question all the theology set by these bible stories, and then we must look at the story as a whole, and then mix it with the stories of the lives around us. It is a messy and usually annoying concept that cannot be escaped.

As far as exclusion: I don’t exclude anyone from the Kingdom. I am talking about people who say they are Christians. I am basing this on the previous premise that I stated that Jesus is divine—self proclaiming—following him then means that you are believing in who he says he is, and that you can do what he says to do—which mainly consists of casting out demons and healing the sick, but it also includes loving your neighbor and God as the core values. The poor and all the rest get thrown in too. If you don’t believe these parts, then why bother saying you’re a Christian. I have no problem with someone saying that they see Jesus as a role model, or a transcendent human, but such a belief—speaking from the experience of most of my life—is not the whole package of Jesus from a Christian perspective. So I am simply saying that as far as choosing ASPECTS of Jesus to follow—I don’t understand why someone would follow him in just one part of his recorded history—it is not as if one part of the history or story is more valid than the other. Does this make sense? I do think that contemporary Christianity and religious doctrines have worked hard to create separation where there was to be none at all. I think that there are also movements of extraordinary inclusion into the Kingdom of God that are breaking in all over the world—especially in places that are without doctrine holding it down.

I totally agree with you about religion.

Let me work backwards from your last point. When you say, “

For example, do you do good to secure eternal life? Is that what motivates you? Etc”

No. I totally believe in grace. This is the exact reason I DO believe in a supernatural God. Common sense always told me…do good and it will come back to you. I would strive in my life to do well and be good, but when I had the crash in my life that ultimately led me to encounter a supernatural God…suddenly, all of the concepts of good made sense to me. I do good because God is good. Because he transformed my life, and I believe that he can transform the lives of others. I believe that God rescues people from their supposed goodness, or he honors and amplifies who they already are….

So for me, Faith is the belief in a supernatural God who came to us in a form we could truly understand, and he taught us how we ought to live. I believed it, I tried it, and I have never been the same. Ding!!! Another stereotypical testimony.

Bear

p.s. Eric and Nancy-O good to see you both.

48. Nancy O. - February 8, 2009

Bear,

You have a beautiful writing style that is objective, sensitive, and reveals a genuine heart for Christ. I want you to know that I am blessed by what you share and how you share it.

49. bear - February 8, 2009

Antony and everyone who might be reading this. I consider it grace—but not miraculous  that I remembered a point I wanted to make regardingthe necessity of the Supernatural and Christ. It is simply this: even if you take the divinity out of Christ—which is a discussion worth having—Jesus himself was dedicated to the Adonai-the Almighty God of the Hebrews, and by this, he was a believer and worshipper of a Supernatural God. Those who follow Jesus must at least accept this as the core motivator for the one they follow, and therefore can not logically just do away with it. I hope this is clear—I don’t feel very clear at the moment 

50. Antony - February 9, 2009

Adam.

I appreciate your willingness to keep turning these ideas over and I also appreciate that your post (like mine) ended up being a series of questions. You know I don’t think you’re avoiding or dodging the question purposefully. I think that the set of assumptions about the nature of God short-circuits this type of discussion. Because he is God, then anything is possible for him. This is used dishonestly in “God of the gaps” theories, but I think in the end, it always appears when discussing the intersection of God and the natural world. Maybe it’s unavoidable…

By the way, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the claim that religion is the expert on the supernatural. See above, my problems with institutional religion. But I’ll let it slide this time :)

And Bear.

Ah, my friend, I agree with you: I don’t have the energy to actuallly argue the divinity of Jesus here as a personal issue. I have opinions about it and would love to have this discussion (breakfast soon?), but I brought it up not as central to this discussion because I wanted to highlight the strong diversity of those who self-identify as Christians. Even something that seems so central to many Christians (the divinity of Jesus) is actually an issue that those who self-identify as Christians disagree on.

Now, I must push you a little on your willingness to exclude people who self-identify as Christians. If faith is a subjective experience in which none of us can make claims to certainty about who God is, then on what grounds can you pick who really is or is not correctly identifying themselves as Christians? (Casey and I have this argument pretty frequently).

And lastly, I can’t let you get away with this sentence. I’m hoping it’s a typo :) You said, God “rescues people from their supposed goodness.” C’mon! It seems for that to even make sense you have to claim that goodness does not just refer to a set of practices but also has to include a particular motivation (that God is good and granted us all grace). So, two people spend their whole lives caring for the sick and poor – one does it because God is good, the other because she her heart aches when she sees others suffer. Can you really claim that the former is good while the latter is only ‘supposedly good’?

51. Antony - February 9, 2009

PS Bear, post #49 is really interesting. I think Unitarians would agree with that statement.

52. bear - February 9, 2009

Antony, in response to:

“If faith is a subjective experience in which none of us can make claims to certainty about who God is, then on what grounds can you pick who really is or is not correctly identifying themselves as Christians? (Casey and I have this argument pretty frequently).”

I am not excluding anyone—I don’t ultimately know what God decides—so I am a little uncomfortable with being referred to as exclusionary—I will say that I can understand how you might read that, so I will try again. Of course, it ends up being a question rather then a statement. Why would someone identify themselves as a Christian—as a follower of Christ—and not believe in the supernatural aspect of God when all the texts about him either demonstrate, insinuate, proclaim, explain (I sound like Jesse Jackson) supernatural acts, and the holiness of God? For a long time, I would tell the world that I wanted to follow Jesus, that I did the things that he said to do. The thing is, why would I call myself a Christian—that would have meant having to believe the rest of his argument for the kingdom which included—in some gospels, clear proclamation of divinity, messianic calling, and supernatural events. I am not, and I would say that few if any are in a position to say which scriptures are the right ones…which ones are wrong. True scriptural study in our day tends to focus on the stories that most closely align with the consistent gospel message—so for example—while the Gospel of Thomas isn’t canonized because I tends toward exclusion and Gnosticism, it is still widely used and accepted by scholars. My point is that I am just not sure why someone would go to all the trouble to say they are a Christian and then not really believe in what the Leader says. It kind of reminds me of the late nineties when everybody became a Buddhist simply because they started to have a little more reverence for life—and they wanted peace. Luckily, Starbucks came along soon after and crushed this tranquility with a big-ass shot of caffeine.

As far as supposed goodness. Not a typo, but definitely needs explanations, (sorry bout that) and I am not sure I can do I without a) getting choked up b) telling lots of personal stories c) boring the rest of the readers. My summary is this. I have done lots of things in my life that I thought were good, but they were not good because in the end, they were motivated by self. Actual goodness is the goodness that comes from serving God. Our eyes come off of ourselves at last. Many are born with this kind of sensibility—which I would call a gift from God.

Hope that clears it up at least as theory.

Bear

53. Adam Heine - February 9, 2009

Re, Antony: “By the way, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the claim that religion is the expert on the supernatural. See above, my problems with institutional religion. But I’ll let it slide this time :)”

Fair enough. I think by my own arguments, nobody can be an “expert” on the supernatural anyway. I guess my point was that the findings of science do not speak to the supernatural one way or the other. Maybe relatively religion might be considered the expert, but I mean that as a broad qualifier.

54. caseyww - February 9, 2009

Dang, I take one day away from Valence and I’m totally behind. I can’t leave you guys alone for a second. That’s awesome. Great discussion. A couple of points I found interesting:

Adam, in #40 you said:

I hope I didn’t imply that Gen 1/2 was at any point wrong or untrue. I think it’s absolutely true, but not literally so. I don’t think the Bible was ever written as a scientific reference for us.

I’ve found this line of reasoning a lot lately and so want to prod you little further…You then went on to give a possibility that perhaps Genesis is referring to millions of years instead of literal days. True, that’s a possibility, but I’m having a hard time figuring out its utility aside from protecting the Christian faith and trying to add a modern scientific underpinning to an ancient myth. Is this really a more viable theory than admitting that an ancient desert tribe didn’t know anything more about their origins than the Mayans or Romans and that they invented a story? I almost think it’s a matter of respect towards the authors of these myths to think that they meant exactly what they were writing instead of trying to stretch a possible interpretation to fit our modern context. Let me ask this: Hypothetically, what evidence would convince you to toss out the Genesis account of creation all together?

To rely on non-falsifiable claims seriously handcaps our ability to wrestle with truth. We could just as easily claim that God created you and I and Valence and all the evidence on earth and our memories of our lives… just 2 seconds ago for it to all look like it’s been here for billions of years. This too, is a possibility. But not a constructive one. I think (Antony said this earlier) we need to work with the evidence we’ve got and with its implications for our belief without claiming that no matter what evidence is available it confirms our belief. This just sets us out to a very relativistic sea.

Also, I’m not particularly comfortable with the implications for what the “God did it but it just looks natural” line of thought says about God’s character. This is to say that we are subtly implying (for the evolution example) that God created species on earth in exactly the way that for anyone looking just at the evidence they would assume a completely natural process. Did God create things to “look” like He had nothing to do with creating them? There is a maliciousness this adds to God’s character that I think most believers over look.

There has also been a lot said about our inability to comprehend the supernatural. Most of it has fallen into the NOMA type of argument where we are trying to completely separate the spheres of science and religion. While I quite agree that science is only equipped to comment and inform us of naturalistic events and therefore not able to exclude to possibility of the supernatural, I do think it’s unreasonable to not to consider that religions do make material claims. For these material claims at least, we should be able to use science to see if our belief is on the right track.

55. Antony - February 9, 2009

Bear,

Hey, sorry if I came across as accusatory. I don’t know you to be an exclusionary type of guy really, which is part of the reason I pushed on it. Framing it as a question goes a long way to remedying that. But I think one of the things at issue here and why many find different reasons to self-identify as Christian is that many (including you and I) probably don’t agree on what it is that Jesus said and, even more importantly, what he meant by what he said.

Also on the last point about goodness and God. I agree that there are many who do ‘good things’ but really have at the center their own selves. I think one can make a good argument that these people are not really good people (depending on the day, I make this argument).

But I’d argue that there is something between acting for the self and acting for God. I meant my example to point towards that – to act from a motivation of caring for others. In this sense I think we can be (relatively) selfless and need not justify ourselves by God’s goodness.

56. bear - February 9, 2009

Antony, thanks for your response. After reading what you wrote, it felt like deep sigh. Like he rest of it, the meaning of a deep sigh is fairly relative to the sigh-er and the those who witness the sigh. ergo…I feel like this, so I am going to leave my argument here for now, and let’s take it up in a face to face? Good?

Bear

57. Adam Heine - February 9, 2009

Casey said, “Hypothetically, what evidence would convince you to toss out the Genesis account of creation all together?”

That’s a fantastic question. I don’t know if I have a good answer. Offhand, it would have to be something that could not be explained with the Genesis story. Like we were created by an alien race or something. Though even then, it may be possible to come up with an explanation that would fit both the scientific reality and the story of Genesis.

I admit that this sounds “too easy” or like I’m “protecting the Christian faith and trying to add a modern scientific underpinning to an ancient myth,” but I’m looking at it the other way around. In my opinion, the Bible does not say how, in a scientific sense, the world was created. Therefore, with few exceptions I can think of, science can say anything and we should be able to say, “Oh, so that’s how God did it.” Because he never told us how he did.

The problem is that, off and on for centuries, we (Christians) have assumed things about the natural world based on what we read in Scripture. We read “the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved” and assumed it meant the Earth didn’t move through space. Then to make matters worse, when science said, “It does move through space, here’s the evidence,” instead of saying, “Oh, I guess we were wrong about that passage,” we said, without any contrary evidence, “No it doesn’t, you big science poopy-head!” (paraphrased).

I think we’ve done the same thing with the Creation story (obviously, since it’s all I’ve been saying in this whole thread).

Casey also said, “Did God create things to “look” like He had nothing to do with creating them?”

Another great question. What about this: what would it look like for God to interfere in the natural realm in a way that was obviously supernatural? What would a “true miracle” look like?

It would have to break the natural laws, obviously. But our understanding of natural laws is incomplete. So almost any miracle (Creation as well) could, theoretically, have a natural explanation. We could always say, “It doesn’t necessarily break natural laws. It may simply be following laws we don’t understand yet.” I think an atheist scientist, when faced with something “miraculous” would say exactly that.

That means either there are no miracles or anything could be a miracle. Not a very satisfying answer. To direct it to your question, Cas, what if it all “looks” natural because that’s just the way it has to work? What kind of God creates a world where he has to interfere all the time just to make it do what he wants?

To repeat myself a little, if he’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and outside of time itself, then why would he have set up rules that had to be broken in order for him to interfere? I know that’s a huge question, and I’d be interested in hearing people’s answers, because I don’t know that I have any solid ones myself yet.

58. Bill - February 9, 2009

leafing through a book the other day in the public library on Astronomy…quotes from great minds on their beliefs, or lack of, in a
God….stumbled across this one (paraphrased from my memory)…”If all was created out of nothing but chaos, what kind of accident would have to of happened that created a race of beings so consumed by purpose”. It caused me to think long and hard.
Adam, you ask a great question right here on the end of your last input and entreat others to answer. Why would He set up rules that He would have to break in order for Him to interfere? Seems quite simple….He wouldnt.

59. caseyww - February 9, 2009

Adam-

also Bill (Who am I kidding…) Pops-

The question is:

what if it all “looks” natural because that’s just the way it has to work? What kind of God creates a world where he has to interfere all the time just to make it do what he wants?”

I come back to the point that this is definitely a possibility but not a falsifiable possibility. There is no evidence that could ever actually inform our decision on this point because the way you are structuring the claim “all” evidence no matter what it is or could ever be supports your theory. If you were to debate a Hindu they could make the exact same argument for Vishnu and you would have no justification for disagreeing with them.

Also, I can’t help but continue to point out that claiming that God would not have to break the laws of nature to exercise His will is a far cry from the God of the Bible who is constantly breaking in and intervening. Whether it be by the earth swallowing up those who worshiped a golden calf or by needing to take on human form and die in order to redeem sins…these are interventions…fixes.

Now could we argue that God had planned a natural earthquake at the exact moment the Israelites needed punishing from the beginning of the universe knowing that if the big bang was just so, and the earth cooled just so, and the ocean floor was just so and the tectonic plates moving just so and an asteroid hits here and mammals evolve there and sentient beings form a society over yonder who then enslave another society who then track into an arid region and get desperate enough to plead with a heap of atoms each with 79 protons all shaped to resemble another a sentient mammal with multiple stomachs that I almighty God will be offended…wait for it…riiiiight here! And bang the earth opens and I am sated.

A miraculous event that looks natural but was guided the whole time by God? The problem I have here is that this is not the God of the Bible who is claimed to be interacting and reacting supernaturally in real time with people. I really don’t see how the inconsistencies with the Biblical narrative and physical evidence are resolved by your claim without seriously skewing who the Bible claims God to be.

60. Adam Heine - February 10, 2009

I think the problem you and I keep bumping up against is that I’m not trying to prove anything. I think most of what I’m saying can’t be proven, certainly not with science.

So why bother talking about any of it? Because what I am doing (for myself and anyone who finds themselves agreeing with me, even if only in part) is presenting logical alternatives to the pseudo-scientific claim that there is no God – to show that there can be a God and science can be true, and neither belief is compromised. In fact, they could be strengthened.

My intend is to show the possibility, but not prove it beyond doubt. I imagine if someone could do that, then we’d have nothing to talk about.

To your awesome naturalistic explanation of God’s miraculous earthquake, why the heck not? Oh, because that doesn’t fit with what the Bible says about the earthquake, nor with the idea that we can ask God for miracles and he will deliver.

Well two things there. The first is that your explanation is written from the point of view of an eternal, supernatural, incredibly intelligent observer, while the Bible was written by someone of far less education, who was there at the moment of the earthquake and knew nothing about the rest of it. Moses wrote what he saw and believed. Even if God spoke to him, do you think he’d tell him all that went into the earthquake? Or simply that, “I sent the earthquake because they disobeyed me”?

That raises the question, if God inspired the Bible, why didn’t he say all that stuff? Why let us believe that he just sent it? Probably because the Bible is not a scientific textbook, among other things. The importance of that passage is not how God did it, but that God did it and why. I know you and I care about how, but it doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t told and don’t know.

Which is basically my second thing: I don’t know. I don’t know how God interferes (or not) when I ask him to heal someone or for a safe trip or to bless my family (what does that last one even mean? yet I continue to pray it). Is it something he set up in the “beginning” such that things would come about in a certain way? Is there perhaps some natural law I’m not aware of where the faiths and beliefs of people can actually change reality?

And yet I think none of these answers, nor the lack of them, would skew who the Bible claims God to be. I’m thinking of Job 38-41, where God basically says, “Who are you to question me?” along with sufficient evidence that we are, in fact, in no position to even think about questioning a God as big as he claims to be.

The bottom line, of course, is that it’s a matter of faith – either to believe in a God or to believe there is no God, it’s an assumption we bring to the evidence set before us. My only purpose (at least I hope it’s my only purpose – I get pretty arrogant sometimes without realizing) is to show that a belief in God is a logical and justifiable assumption to make.

61. Adam Heine - February 10, 2009

I also want to say that I appreciate you continuing this discussion with me. Looking at my comments, I am much more long-winded than I intend to be (and there’s lots more I want to say!), so I appreciate you (and Antony and others) taking the time to read what I say, take it seriously, and respond thoughtfully.

Also, this discussion has actually been really good for me. A lot of this stuff I haven’t thought about for a long time, and 5 or 10 years ago I don’t think I would’ve been able to express these ideas in this way. Now that I am being challenged and forced to think about why I believe what I believe, I find my faith being strengthened for the first time in a while.

So thank you, Casey, for creating a place online where that’s possible, where these sorts of debates can be had with vulnerability and respect.

62. Bill - February 10, 2009

Post #58 I end with…”He wouldnt”.
Post #59 Casey (Hey Son!) includes me in his answer to Adam….

Just to clarify….my “He wouldnt”..was really more of an existential pondering than the black and white “He wouldnt”. It really was more of a “He wouldnt set up rules”, “He wouldnt break rules”, “He wouldnt interfere”, not so much that He couldnt…it is because that He “isnt”, or is He?

So much more clear to me now.

63. caseyww - February 10, 2009

Adam-

Thanks for the comment. Your sentiment expressed at the end of #61 is really encouraging and actually the exact reason I wanted to start Valence. I want to work out our/my struggles and doubts in community. I may not necessarily agree with you on some of these implications for faith but I do find the discussion essential. We both get a chance to really dig into an idea and be challenged and sharpen our arguments…and maybe even change our minds. I quoted Hume in an e-mail to Matt the other day, “Truth springs from argument among friends.” I love that…so thanks back at you for challenging me too.

That being said, here’s a thought on #61. I think we both agree that ‘proving/disproving’ God’s works or presence is a zero sum game. Either way, you are right, no one is going to have the silver bullet that puts this one to rest. (Which is kinda good because the rest of the blog posts would be pretty boring that way.) However, I think haggling with the evidence or lack of is still valuable for deciding what we let inform our beliefs. Also, I don’t agree with you when you say, “…I’m not trying to prove anything.” You certainly are trying to prove something…if it’s not the existance of God Himself you are still trying to prove,”…that a belief in God is a logical and justifiable assumption to make.” I think you are right that this is the rightful frame for our discussion but I also think physical evidence or the lack of informs this side of the discussion a lot more than you seem to concede.

Anyways, looking forward to many more conversations.

64. Adam Heine - February 10, 2009

You’re right, Casey. Some time after I posted the comment, I realized I am trying to prove exactly what you say. Shouldn’t have said, “I’m not trying to prove anything.”

Love the Hume quote too.

65. carrien (she laughs at the days) - March 31, 2009

Forgive me if someone has already mentioned this, I haven’t read all of the comments.

Adam and Casey, when you are discussing the nature of miracles it seems that you are forgetting a fundamental point. According to the Bible, creation is broken, the earth is broken, it was our job to subdue and bring under God’s will the whole earth and we failed at that, we failed to subdue the whole earth and bring it into obedience to God by our own obedience to him. Just as when Jesus was on the earth the signs and wonders that he performed were an extension of the message that the kingdom of God is at hand so I suspect is any mighty deed or “miracle”. If creation is broken and not obedient to God’s will, if our bodies are broken and not obedient to God’s will, than a miracle is what we perceive when those things are brought into obedience to the will of God. A healed body is a body that is obedient to the will of God. A storm that is calmed on the sea is a storm that is brought into the kingdom of God by obedience to his will. For isn’t that what the kingdom of God is? Where His will is done? If His will were always done, if the earth were truly healed of it’s brokenness, if we were truly healed of our brokenness, these things would be the natural course of things. As it stands, they are evidence of the kingdom of God breaking into to the brokenness of the earth and transforming it into God’s kingdom.

Does that make sense?


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