God - Natural or Supernatural?

(Bill) #1

I’ve listened to quite a few of Dr. Collins’ audios. I also have his book, “The Language of God” on order and look forward to reading it. I appreciate Dr. Collins’ work. But I have a question concerning his approach to the veracity or existence of God. He insists, in a number of his talks, that God is outside of nature i.e. beyond scientific study or proof because science only deals with the natural realm. The problem that I find with this statement is that the Judeo-Christian God is not relegated to only the supernatural realm (which would indeed make God inaccessible to science). The Judeo-Christian God interferes with or intervenes in nature (usually through miracles, which don’t usually happen). So, IMO, it is not the case that God is completely outside of nature, because the Judeo-Christian tradition insists that God does, in fact, muck about in nature from time to time. If this is the case, then when God does interfere or intervene in nature, these instances should be able to be witnessed and verified by science. For instance, if God does a miracle and restores an amputee’s arm, medical science should be able to verify that, yes, this was, in fact, a supernatural event because this does not happen in the natural realm. So I question Dr. Collins’ notion that because God is supernatural, God is, therefore, hands off to science. As soon as the supernatural God interferes with nature, science should be able to verify God. If God is beyond science, then God, IMO, falls into the same category as fairies, leprechauns, and other mythological creatures who may indeed exist in a supernatural realm, but are believed in solely by blind faith. If the supernatural God affects the natural world, then science should be able to verify this.

(Christy Hemphill) #2

Whether or not God’s activity in the world is verifiable is the $10,000 question. Jim Stump has an ongoing series that deals with this topic of God’s intervention in nature lately, maybe you’d be interested. He has had several different authors approaching the subject from quite a few angles. Here’s the intro: http://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/introducing-the-divine-action-series

(Bill) #3

Thanks, Christy, for that link. I’ll give that blog a read! :slight_smile: I have an appreciation for the deistic view of God which usually holds that when God works in this world, God works through the laws of nature which he created. This view stands in contradistinction from the religious view that says that God’s main evidence for his existence is that he breaks the laws of nature. In this sense, I’m like Dr. Collins in that when I pray, I’m asking God what I should do rather than asking God to do something. To me, God doesn’t go around giving people parking spots at Wal-Mart or helping quarterbacks get touchdowns. I tend to think he works through the laws he has made, not against them. Those laws can be tested by science for results. But the way supernaturalism works, well, it seems to count the hits and to ignore the misses.

(George Brooks) #4

It’s important to remember that as many denominations that exist regarding God’s will and providence… there are just as many views and scenarios for exactly what God does for work, what God does in his spare time, and what God does once in a blue moon.

I’m being a little cheeky here … but I’ve seen many a discussion get de-railed by someone who takes an inter-denominational dispute (which have been with us BEFORE the birth of Jesus) and attempts to de-rail the entire discussion of Evolution with the uncertainties.

BioLogos is attempting a very challenging (but noble) thing: to discuss in a broad range of ways, how God could be involved in the process of Evolution - - depending upon one’s denominational stance.

There are some PRESUMPTIONS that define the results of these various working scenarios:

  1. If God does ALL THINGS lawfully, then it is possible for God to design a Creation of the Universe with specific goals at each point of the chronology of the Universe. This is not a Deist scenario as soon as conscious beings arrived which spoke to God and God spoke back.

  2. If God does SOMETHINGS lawfully, and OTHER THINGS by SUSPENDING NATURAL LAW, then God design a Creation of the Universe which includes additional planned interventions throughout the timeline.

I have had a difficult time articulating a THIRD position that really isn’t just a re-working of one of these first two positions. Maybe someone could try their hand at it.

The Dinosaur-Killing asteroid is a great example of either two positions:

If God wanted to eliminate dinosaurs to permit the evolution of humans, did he plan the arrival of the asteroid from the very beginning of Creation?

OR … did he CREATE the asteroid and send it on its way in the middle of the timeline ? The middle ground would be God picking an asteroid he already had created lawfully, and then sending it on its way.

(Bill) #5

As someone who believes in a Creator (but not the all-controlling deity of Christianity), I believe the Creator created the laws of nature which lead to physical creation and to life. In this sense, all of creation has built within it a certain amount of randomness and free-will. Therefore, the creation is not androcentric, it is not - contrary to the Genesis account - created just for humanity. So while I believe that a Creator is the source of life and all that is, I don’t see the Creator as a personal protector who is there to guarantee our survival, either in this life or in an afterlife.

(George Brooks) #6


I understand EXACTLY what you mean.

But as you can imagine, your position is not likely to ENDEAR you to Evangelical audiences…

(Bill) #7

True that, George. But I made up my mind a few years ago that I was going to pursue truth, no matter where it comes from nor no matter where it leads, rather than try to be popular.

(Albert Leo) #8

Isn’t this speculation a little bit misleading? In the first place, why would it be necessary to eliminate dinosaurs for humans to evolve? After all, scientists believe that warm-blooded birds evolved from dinosaurs, and some, like the African Green parrot evolved a ‘voice box’ that can articulate sounds quite well. If that bird just had something thoughtful to say, we might think it was human. Dolphins and elephants are capable of communication (probably at a higher level than we know) and they experience human-like emotions such as empathy. The creature whose brain reached the point it could be programmed into Mind need not have been a hairless primate that first developed a sense of Self, that desired to know: ‘What am I?’ ; “How did I get here?”; “Who created me?”

Personally, I don’t think God micromanages events in his universe–even some that could cause extinction to forms of life that has pleased him. I do hope that humankind, who are striving to become _imago De_i, are an exception!
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #9


You have doubts about this? The largest mammal that ever emerged during the age of dinosaurs was about the size of a badger.

Giraffes, elephants, relatively “generalized” primates like gorillas or lemurs, only became prevalent in the relative SAFETY of a dinosaur-free world.

If you doubt this, just think about this:

Reptiles emerged in the Carboniferous period…about 310 million years ago. And these creatures grew to be huge … huge plant eaters … huge meat eaters… until the planet-killing asteroid arrived 66 million years ago.

That’s 244 million years of time. The first mammals, small ones, emerged 225 million years ago (85 million years after the arrival of reptiles). And they stayed relatively small right up until the dinosaurs were obliterated - - - 160 million years of existence… and they just don’t seem to be getting any bigger.

But once the dinosaurs are gone, mammals started to get bigger, occupying food chain niches that had been filled by the large dinosaurs. The first large mammals, the Pantolambda, appeared just 3 million years after the dinosaurs vanished!

It’s really just a common sense conclusion … the asteroid arrived on earth … and made it possible for un-horned, un-clawed, slow-running primates to evolve without becoming snacks for the giant dinosaur meat-eaters!

(Christy Hemphill) #10

I thought you swore off discussing badgers forever.

(George Brooks) #11


Gosh … I think I was just being Ironic…

I LOVVVE badgers !

(Christy Hemphill) #12

So, you are officially recanting your renunciation, huh?

(George Brooks) #13

I’m a little fickle it would seem…

(Albert Leo) #14

You missed the point I was trying to make. Reptiles were evolving ‘towards’ warm blooded types. Instead of the tiny arms of T.Rex, they might have evolved arms that could manipulate things and brains that made them conscious and self-aware. In other words, the ‘humans’ that could be seen as imago deo could have been reptiles, if the Chicxulub event had not occurred.
Al aleo


Birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, and many birds today are highly intelligent.

Why the tiny arms on T. rex? btw, over time, the arms of its ancestors grew smaller as its jaws grew more massive and heavy, so the animal could remain balanced on 2 legs. It used its massive teeth to crush the bones of its victims.

(Jamie) #16

I’ve heard atheists Rail against Christians who claim God help them find their keys. But here’s the thing. God and nature are not separate. God upholds the natural order. If you remove God, there is nothing left. No universe. No people. God sustains the universe as well as creates it.

So if I get a parking spot at Walmart, or I find my keys, or I improbably survived a horrible disease, I should give thanks to God. Because not only do I owe God my very existence in the first place, but everything that happens to me at everything that will happen to me is Part of God’s plan. Nothing catches God by surprise. No one survives disease if God did not want them to survive. No one loses their arm if God does not allow it to happen. Many times it seems that the things that happen to us are not something that a loving God would allow to happen, but God has an eternal perspective. The suffering that we endure in this life can point us to something better. And through faith we can have joy In the worst of circumstances because we are citizens of heaven and nothing that happens to our bodies can harm our soul.

If you try to define God in terms of the physical, you put God in a box. And if you try to test God With science, you will fail. Do you think you can trap God? Do you think that God cannot work a miracle without science being able to detect it? God created the rules, everything we perceive comes from God. You trust your senses, but you shouldn’t. The Bible says do not put the Lord your God to the test.

For the record I believe in free will. God has full control over everything, but we have free will. Because God can see the future, God knows what we will choose before we choose it and can therefore plan accordingly. If I could see into the future, I would always guess the outcome of a coin toss correctly, despite having no control over the outcome itself. By giving us free will God allows us to choose heads or tails for ourselves, but no matter what we choose we cannot escape God’s plan.

(Albert Leo) #17

Jamie, if, before he created me, God knew I was going to sin so badly that he would have to cast me into hellfire, why on earth did he create me in the first place? Is there a simple way to reconcile this belief with the belief that God is Love? Simple enough that even I can understand it?
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #18


Romans 9 has just such an explanation… but nobody seems to be willing to accept it:

Romans 9:13-23

[God does not treat all humans the same.]
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?

God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

[God exercises his mercy as he chooses, to display his glory.]
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that
I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

[Re-statement that God does not treat all humans the same.]
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

[The objection regarding God’s dominion.]
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

[Humanity has no standing to complain about God’s behavior.]
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed
say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

[There is a purpose even for those things that are made for unclean purposes.]
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make
one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

[God patiently endures all these injustices.]
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured
with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the
vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory…"

(Albert Leo) #19

@gbrooks9 Since exposure to the Bible in my Catholic education was through passages subjected to exegesis, I am not familiar with Romans 9:13-23. How do we know that Paul is referring to God when he uses “I” and “he”? I think the odds are good that Isaac preferred Esau to Jacob and Rebecca’s preference was just the opposite. But where was it written that God hated Esau? Surely Paul did not make this up out of thin air.
Al Leo

(George Brooks) #20

If Paul says “as it is written” - - I presume that he saw it written somewhere, but it seems to have been in some scroll lacking in the same gravitas as the Biblical texts … In any case, he uses the example of Pharaoh … which certainly IS written in the Bible.