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Is it Nature or Magic?

When God acts, what does it look like? Seriously, think through this question. This question is the real heart of the Creation/Evolution debate, and all too often both sides make the exact same mistake, and the fight begins.

Chew on this and discuss in the comment section for homework. Seriously.



  1. When you take a look at the miracles in the Bible it seems clear that some could not have proceeded through the natural laws. For example turning water instantly into wine seems impossible without a fundamental alteration of the laws of chemistry.

    On the other hand you could perhaps explain the parting of the Red Sea through the manipulation of the wind. But of course the very phrase "manipulation of the wind," raises an interesting question. It is clearly still magic if God suddenly gives momentum to a cluster of air molecules. In fact the only way for God to truly generate this parting through natural means is if he had orchestrated the initial conditions that would give rise to this wind from the beginning of time.

    So I guess my answer would be for sure magic and probably nature too. God can orchestrate his will by manipulating the initial conditions of the universe and then by holding physical laws in place, and He can also orchestrate events by directly interfering with the laws he created.

    To me it remains an open question whether God orchestrated evolution as the means of creation or created life in the same way he created these initial conditions...with magic.

  2. Excellent question.

    Miracles obviously stem from a supernatural cause.

    As for the creation of an entirely new species, I'm inclined to think God intervened fairly directly; that is why they sprung up suddenly (e.g. Cambrian explosion).

  3. Aren't establishing the laws of physics and raising Jesus from the dead both manifestations of the power of God?

  4. This is a comment submitted by DN through email:
    "Sometimes God acts in an instant and sometimes through a process and that is His
    choice. Both are biblically sustainable and neither is the humanly predictable pattern.
    That is the divine privilege of sovereignty, isn't it?"

  5. Another email comment by CR:
    "I do not imagine most of your readers would be interested in the following questions, so I am not expecting this to be posted on your blog. The questions do, however, seem to be of academic interest.

    Would it be more accurate to ask, what does it look like when we see something that we are ascribing to God acting in the world? There is no way to prove that God had anything to do with it. It seems that people who provide examples to your phrasing or my phrasing should attempt to add why they believe God had anything specific to do with the event. How could we be sure they are correct? If you did have proof, it may turn out that God only acted in half the cases.

    Another question that would follow is, what causes all the things that happen that do not look like anything that we would ascribe to God?

    You could generally categorize things that happen as good, bad or neutral. Does God cause everything good and bad? Does God cause everything neutral? Is it really that all things that appear neutral are either good or bad and we do not recognize them as such? Would we recognize a neutral event as something to ascribe to God acting in the world?

    Some people say: “If it is good, God did it because he likes us or likes what we did. If it is bad, God did it because he is testing us.” Most people either do not address the neutral event or they seem include everything in good or bad. If it is neutral, did God have anything to do with it? Is an event that is good for one person and bad for another person a neutral event to a third person? Do all three parties ascribe the event to God?

    Is it that most good events can have some bad aspects and most bad events can have some good aspects? Would most people only attribute the particular aspect of importance to them as an act of God?

    It seems to me that you have opened a question considerably more interesting and extensive than a mere listing of certain events.

  6. I have been working through the book of Daniel the last few weeks. One way that God clearly worked through the world would not be so clear in the eyes of the beholder. Simply put, God often uses "normal" circumstances to work his plans. Take but one example: In Daniel 5, Belshazzar was told that he was found wanting; his kingdom would be divided; the Medes and Persians would conquer Babylon. That very night, the persians toppled Babylon, with little bloodshed, and the Belshazzar lost his life. Now, if I were a news reporter, I would only see the conquest of an old world power by the new, and I would not attribute that conquest to God. However, Daniel, as a prophet, knew the "rest of the story." And recall the dream of Nebuchadnezzar that prophesied that the reign of Babylon would be followed by another kingdom (the "silver" in the vision). I think we can find many such examples where God works through what looks like "normal" circumstances to accomplish His purposes.

    Of course, God can - and does - the miraculous. I am convinced, however, that such actions are relatively few. Miracles really aren't miracles if they are commonplace.

    I think we can see the hand of God behind the common events of the world when we look with eyes of faith; the person who refuses to see will only see the common that can be explained by purely by the "normal".

    Saying that, we must also be careful not to read into normal circumstances more than is there. For example, I heard many say hurricane Katrina was God's judgment on New Orleans. If that was the case, He missed - the French Quarter, which most would agree is the most sinful section of that city, was largely untouched by the flooding and was the first part of the city up and running.

    Great question!

  7. I'm young and less knowledgeable about many of the questions/musings your readers have offered, but I wanted to offer my thoughts as well.

    I choose to believe that the way God interacts with our world has changed substantially. Historically, I think he used time and science to create our world. In response to one of the above comments: I choose to attribute the beginnings of our universe as a work of God. It's my choose; I cannot explain why. I believe he worked through the slow processes of science and therefore created an area where faith is a must. I cannot prove God 'created' anything. I believe it, though!

    I do believe God has stopped directly intervening like he did in bible time (miracles). Now, I think he lets free will, faith, and us, his servants, run much of our lives. Because who wants forced praise/adoration? He wants us to CHOOSE him.

    The difficult part for scientific thinkers is to stop thinking scientifically. God isn't science. Science cannot explain God, as one of the above writers eluded to. Faith says to believe when we have no evidence. As a scientist, that's tough. But who said life was easy?