Creation full of miracles?


(Mary) #1

I came across this quote today: "Albert Einstein said, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ " Unfortunately, a quick search on line tells me that it probably wasn’t Einstein who said it! - but it got me thinking. I think some of the hostility from YECs and others towards BioLogos is that they think we are removing the miraculous from creation - kind of explaining why God isn’t necessary. Whereas, my take on the BioLogos view is that we are seeing God’s hand in the whole of creation, everywhere! and ongoing! So basically miracles everywhere (although many of them conform to a pattern, so some would no longer consider them as miracles). Is our belief in the continuous action of God in creation something we need to stress more?


(Jay Johnson) #2

Frequent poster @Jon_Garvey has a discussion on his blog about [“creatio continua”] (http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.uk/2017/03/27/metaphysics-creatio-continua-etc-again/#more-5021) that you should check out. A similar discussion of three traditional Christian approaches to miracles – “conservationism,” “concurrentism,” and “occasionalism” – here should interest you.

As for your question, yes, we do need to stress God’s intimate involvement in creation, both from the beginning right up to the present moment.


(Mary) #3

Thanks for that. As soon as I had posted I realised that I don’t actually want to say that God directly caused every mutation - because some of them are completely bad, and saying he caused all of the mutations except the bad ones is not very satisfying! So there has to be a middle ground. The discussions you site give names to those views! So thanks.


(Scott koshland) #4

How do we know what a miracle is? Is it something improbable? Unlikely? Impossible? What does it take that we call it a miracle?

It seems that the creation of life is at the least an improbable and not inevitable occurance. Would this not be a miracle?


(Jay Johnson) #5

Good gosh! You’re asking me to think!

I agree with the general direction of your questions. In fact, I usually try to avoid using the words “supernatural” and “miracle,” but it’s hard to break a habit without slipping on occasion. The Bible itself never uses the terms. The vocabulary is that of “signs” and “wonders,” and the category of “supernatural” doesn’t even exist in the biblical vernacular. Most of the philosophizing and theologizing about miracles and the supernatural thus start from a faulty premise.

Do we define “miracle” by modern everyday usage? The way that we use actually use the word, it can mean everything from improbable to impossible. Do we define it by philosophical definitions, such as David Hume’s? I can define “signs” and “wonders,” but “miracle” has become so devalued as to be indefinable and worthless. Was the creation of life a miracle? I would simply call it an act of God. Beyond that, it depends who you are talking to and what definition of miracle they are carrying around in their head.

A sorry reply, I know.


(Scott koshland) #6

Thank you. That is actually quite interesting and thought provoking to me. Even though we could eventually possibly explain creation of life from non life matter we are still presented with an improbable (low probability) event. Is our God not a God of the gaps but a God of the improbable?


(Mary) #7

It is interesting how this thread is going! I come from the background of a church that sees healing happen quite frequently, so God doing the improbable is normal to us. That means that I equally don’t have a problem with the idea of God directing a process of creation that happens over billions of years, with a constant hand in the process. We might question about whether a single mutation is a “miracle”, but the overall effect of moving from one life form to another and increasing in diversity and wonder, not to mention the beginning of life, is surely all in God’s hands and part of “The Creation”? Sometimes when we get into the details of how much God is directly involved and how much he leaves us with choices and how much he directs or allows pain, we end up confused - because we are not God! But I believe the important thing for us to communicate to others is that we don’t believe in a God who says one word, makes it all and then sleeps more or less (bar a few blips where he might create another kind). We believe in a God who is continuously transforming things. It is just that he often does so through similar processes which we can describe with science. But the fact that we can describe them doesn’t mean God is not involved.


(Scott koshland) #8

I do see what I think are miracles in many ways in the world. Events and occurances that seem to be improbable and not random. Our Lord Jesus performed miracles so that we would know to believe in Him. Creation is certainly a miracle and the will of God. It is an improbable event or sequence of events as considered by science and yes whether it occured in a moment or the span of billions of years that is but a blink of the eye of the Lord.


(George Brooks) #9

Miracles are very subjectively viewed…

Fortunately, the BioLogos mission statements allows for as many miracles as one might perceive in connection with God-directed evolution.


(Jon Garvey) #10

“Improbable” means simply that something doesn’t happen regularly. It doesn’t mean that it happens on its own.

For example, I get up every morning, but have only got married once in my life. Both are rational, and even normal, results of my choice, and the latter is only “improbable” in the sense of being unrepeated in my life. Of course, if, if I’d married the Queen of Faeryland and produced 7 daemon daughters some other word like"miracle" might have to be used. But if I hadn’t made a choice, neither my getting up nor being married would have happened on their own.

Now, traditional (and biblical) Christian belief is that God is ultimately behind all the events in his Creation (with voluntary acts by humans or angels being a rather special case we can ignore here): it’s not important in this context whether God works directly or through secondary causes. The point is that nothing happens on its own - the idea that “probability” might cause something either commonly, rarely, or not at all apart from some act of God’s will is to make a mere description of frequency into a cause apart from God.

Do we see something in creation happen predictably every day? We might describe that as “natural” - but what does that mean, other than that God is causing it to happen regularly either by some decree we call a “law”, by creating things with regular “natures”, or just by being faithful in what he does himself. The result is the same - “natural” means “God’s regularity.”

Do we see something that can’t be fully explained by “natural (ie regular) causes”, either because it’s so rare there’s no pattern, or because we can’t know enough to see if there are patterns at the scale of individual events (eg chaotic events, events we happen not to measure, quantum events or something apparently unique like the origin of life)? Then God is causing it to happen irregularly, one way or another. “Natural” means very little in that context - certainly it can’t mean “regular and repeatable”. And “improbable” is equally meaningless, because nothing would happen on its own apart from God anyway.

I agree with Jay that “miracle” would be an unhelpful word too for such things, first because it would leave you without a word for things God that does in order to teach or reveal his power (like Mazza’s frequent, but not routine, healings). But also because the Creation is chock full of unrepeatable happenings that can’t be reduced to patterns: the whole world would be a miracle. If they are not signs of God’s activity, then there’s another god called “Probability” with his brother “Improbability” involved in making the world. One God (in three Persons) is enough for me!


(Bill Wald) #11

Most 21st century “miracles” are highly improbable events. Most people don’t understand probability.


(George Brooks) #12

@bill_wald

The mission statement of BioLogos is perfectly happy with miracles.


(Scott koshland) #13

I do believe that God is in control and that God has acted by the forces and laws that He has created. However, I think it comes down to probability and selection. It seems a little more difficult to say that God created life by a miracle and then let evolution develop life. It all is related to probability. We know that Genetics follows statistical probability. The probability of genotype/phenotype formation. The creation of life is a highly unlikely event or sequence of events but it is possible. Once the biological systems of life have been created the evolutionary events can be considered as a probability to occur over time. Then the different genetic variations formed can be selected over time.


(Jon Garvey) #14

Scott, this - in my view - is the misapprehension that impacts creation doctrine with a falsehood. The truth is that genetics follows specific (and largely unknown) causes that result in a probability distribution. Nothing ever follows probability: rather caused events create it.

A probablity distribution is merely a human device for us humans to get some general information from the totality of a system whose individual causes (whether the interactions of particles obeying laws of nature, or the individidual purposeful acts of God - or even teleonomic “physiological” acts on the part of organisms) are unknown to us. “Unknown” is the only legitimate scientific meaning of “random”, and therefore of the drivers of probability.

When one says God “lets” evolution occur, one asserts either that “evolution” is an alternative intelligent agent independent of God (a Platonic of Gnostic demiurge, in other words), or that there is a power called “chance” in the Universe, which when God steps aside, continues to work in its own right - and logically must be greater than God, because it always works where he does not.

A “soft” alternative is that, for reasons which amount to little more than gambling, God “built” statistical chance into the world so that stuff he didn’t particularly intend would happen. This amounts to his abstaining from creation, for which the main biblical idea (cf John Walton) is the bringing of the order and function of the world together, more than it is simply bringing the universe into existence.

I wrote about that kind of chance at length here.


(GJDS) #15

There is a great deal of misapprehension when people use phrases such as “God works through laws of science”, or “God uses chance” and so on. God does, and we may, perhaps, gain some limited understanding of phenomena and the outcomes of what God does. Theologically we use the phrase, “God sustains His creation”, because the act of creation and sustaining are not separate events. Philosophically we need to contemplate “phenomena” that is sensibly apprehended by human intellect. Scientifically we differentiate between reproducible events and the exact conditions required for such, and that of human enquiry and speculation.

Theological error is compounded when people accept erroneous beliefs that they think are derived from science. If we need to argue semantics, than one way is to say that the entire creation is a miracle. If we restrict our use of the term, we may argue that specific events have occurred (such as stated in the Gospels) that Christ brought about to teach His disciples and display God’s mercy to us.


(Scott koshland) #16

Jon. Thank you for your note and reference. I can see you have done extensive thought into these matters! Whether this is cause is not the issue that I am addressing. I agree God is in ultimate control. The Sun shines because of nuclear fusion as God directs. The issue Is that to us that life and evolution appear variable and outcomes based statistically on probability is not a cause of an event but more an ability to predict whether that can occur.

There is variability and probability and selection all through life. I agree It is not the cause but the design by which these systems adapt. Consider the immune systems use of recombination to form variable regions that form the binding region of antibodies. These are then selected by the antigen presentation process. This form of variation and selective adaptation appears to us how God often achieves his purpose.


(Jon Garvey) #17

Scott

Yes - an important set of distinctions. “Chance” in the “epistemological” sense (ie stuff happens that we can’t predict) can be analogously applied where the word “knowledge” doesn’t strictly apply. Thus a small insect poking its proboscis into holes in search of food is “unsure” where the food is, and so may be said to be orientated to chance, to some degree or another (and one could estimate the average probability of its finding a meal). That is an entirely different question from God’s using chance.

The immune system is a comparable example, indeed. As far as the system goes, it is hypermutating in every direction it can and will hit the effective defence “by chance”. At the same time, the fact that the system has evolved/is designed to search the possibilities so effectively is not at all fortuitous. Like a coin toss, one needs a very carefully constrained (ie designed) system to get the required result, even when the requirement is to cover the ground as widely as possible.


(Neal Heires) #18

I am replying to this string of thought on two fronts.

  1. Miracles - Most YECs think that miracles are in essence something created from nothing and that God can break the law of conservation of energy - energy cannot be created or destroyed. But biblically we know that God is Almighty, and that you cannot add to or take away from God. Since this is true, this also means God himself cannot create energy because he is already Almighty and needed to create more energy would mean he was not might enough already. You see where this is going? The conservation of energy is NOT just a scientific principle, it is a biblical one. If so, then how does God perform miracles. Now to the second point…

  2. Probability - In quantum physics indeed we humans cannot predict presence of quantum particles except with probability. However, God the Father who is timeless and see all things past, present, and future, can predict with certainty. The so-called uncertainty principle is not uncertain with God! So by observing the otherwise improbable, God maintains complete control over the universe and indeed even causes what we would call miracles which are extremely improbable events that happen in a way that is ordered by the will of God.

Does this make sense to anyone else out there?


#19

Since God created all matter/energy in the first place I don’t believe you can say He is not mighty enough to create some more.

God doesn’t have to “predict.” He sees all events past, present, and future. Tomorrow is yesterday to God. Someone said God exists in an eternal NOW.


(Scott koshland) #20

Neil and a Bill.

This is really a good point. I cannot really explain the world as God sees I can only try to view from our human perspective. Perhaps since we believe that God lives outside of time maybe events dont appear random or variable but He sees with absolute certainty. Maybe it is in the way that we see the world in a more condensed macro view even knowing that at a much more atomic and subatomic level quantum physics allows uncertainty and variability and that which appears to us is the predictable outcome of the world we know. Kind of like watching a movie You’ve seen before! I believe that there really isn’t any uncertainty to God just to us.