Should we stop using the word 'supernatural'?

I am not following the attribution of the concepts involved in distinguishing the natural and supernatural as originating from David Hume. I can find the same basic concepts in both Aquinas and Augustine at least…

Thomas Aquinas: Those events then are properly to be styled miracles, which happen by divine power beyond the order commonly observed in nature. Of these miracles there are several ranks and orders. Miracles of the highest rank are those in which something is done by God that nature can never do. What is entirely subject to established order cannot work beyond that order. But every creature is subject to the order which God has established in nature. No creature therefore can work beyond this order, which working beyond the order of nature is the meaning of working miracles.

Augustine: There is no impropriety in saying that God does something against nature when it is contrary to what we know of nature. For we give the name ‘nature’ to the usual and known course of nature; and whatever God does contrary to this, we call ‘prodigies’ or ‘miracles.’

Hume’s unique (and rather questionable) contribution was in styling miracles as a violation of nature. But the distinction between the normal course of nature (or what nature can do on its own), and what God can do “above” or “beyond” (or even “against”) what nature alone is capable of, certainly long predates Hume, originating from Christian theologians, no?

1 Like

[quote=“Marshall, post:87, topic:40322”]
This is a really interesting example. Not only is wind described as blowing in the quail, a strong east wind also blows apart the sea to make a path for the Israelites to cross (Exodus 14:21). By this criteria both the provision of quail and the parting of the sea become “natural” events. But “wind” is even more interesting than that. In Hebrew (and other semitic languages), the same word underlies “wind” and “spirit”, two concepts that to our minds occupy different categories of natural and supernatural. This is why there’s debate over whether Genesis 1:2 speaks of the “spirit of God”/“Spirit of God” hovering over the waters or a “mighty wind”/“wind of God” blowing over the waters. In English and our culture, we feel the need to reduce these terms to something that clearly falls on one side or the other of the natural/supernatural divide. Yet the very practice of doing so shows our distance from the worldview and language of the Bible. So was it a strong easterly wind that drove back the sea or a mighty spirit from the east governed by God? Perhaps seeing wind as something not animated by a spirit – as if it must be either natural or supernatural – shows we live in a different world than the authors of Scripture.[/quote] could be both

all of the above?

through as yet undetected so called spiritual forces god can reach out and manipulate the weather patterns on earth

God in heaven has “weather manipulation capability” on planet earth so to speak

What? Do you know what a worldview is? All humans have one. God on the other hand is omniscient and his knowledge is not inherently shaped by his experience; God doesn’t have a worldview or a culture. You could argue Jesus did, but I would say that was because he limited some of his divine attributes to fully experience embodied humanity. Having the mind of Christ is about being Christ-like in your character, not about seeing the world like a first century Jewish male.

The OT reveals God’s truth. But it reveals God’s truth through Hebrew lenses.

Your question doesn’t make any sense and shows you don’t seem to understand what the word “worldview” means. Our worldview is formed by our experience in our social world as those experiences are given meaning by our culture and language. We don’t get our worldview from the Bible.

Well remember what the Romans say about translations

The term is not an English term. It’s Greek and the Greek term is Theotokos, meaning “bearer of Divinity”.

For a Christian there’s no way around that. John one verse one.

“In the beginning. The word was with God. And the word was divine.”

Jesus was conceived miraculously? The word of God became Incarnate from the conception on. Such that Mary did in fact carry. The word God in her womb, and give birth to the word of God Incarnate.

If you accept John one verse, one as scripture you are forced to that conclusion.

1 Like

From Wikipedia:
Christian worldview (also called Biblical worldview ) refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it. Variousdenominations of Christianity have differingworldviews on some issues based on biblical interpretation, but many thematic elements are commonly agreed-upon within the Christian worldview. A common theme is the distrust of secular authority.

If we are going to have the mind of Christ, we are going to react with the world the way Christ did. A worldview is not a dogmatic statement. It is an evolutionary process from birth to death. I am not seeing how technology has much to do with a worldview. The way humans think and interact with each other is not that much different century after century. If your world view is just based on knowledge and understanding would you not want to have an advantage from God’s point of view? I guess we could separate knowledge from truth. Knowledge then, could just be learning and never finding truth at all.

I am not saying to look at the world through the lense of 1st century knowledge. Although I think that is how some interpret the NT. If the Bible is God’s Word and timeless, the truths in it are also timeless. That is why it is not used as a science or historical textbook. It was not meant for us to see 1st century science and history. We have other sources for history and science of that time. The NT does show how Christians did interact with the secular world around them.

Every culture integrates Christianity with their cultural worldview. The Bible challenges different cultural perspectives in different ways. I completely reject the idea that a single “biblical worldview” exists. The Bible teaches some timeless truth and the Holy Spirit shapes character and those truths and that spiritual formation affect your worldview and the way you make sense of the world; but they don’t replace your cultural worldview in a wholesale way. When we talk about the worldview of the OT or NT, we aren’t talking about timeless truth or spiritual formation, we are talking about their cultural perspective, which affected their framing of God’s truth.

1 Like

I am not sure then how we know what God’s truth is and what secular truth is.

I’m familiar with the concept of “God’s truth” - I pursue it; sometimes run away from it - but it’s always there.

But what in the world could “secular truth” possibly be? I have no concept or category for that, and you’ll have to help me know what you even mean by it - or even persuade me that such a thing exists. Because I’m pretty sure it doesn’t (unless outright atheism should prove to be true.)

I’ll guess, that you’re responding to Christy’s assertion that there is no singular Christian worldview and that you’re concerned then to know what can be teased apart as God’s timeless truth vs. being “merely” a certain culture’s worldview. If so, then here is one way to see it. God’s truth, revealed in and by Christ, subsumes all of our disparate worldviews - without obliterating or replacing them (though certain elements may certainly end up being replaced.) If my worldview involves me hating my neighbor and taking advantage of him every chance I get, then certainly that part of my daily life is in for some demolition - or overhaul at the very least when Christ enters into my life. But the thrust of the incarnation is that Christ comes to us where we are and redeems us and our culture that it should be brought into the service of his kingdom. One should not expect all converted Christians to suddenly look like each other (even when they are from the same culture, much less geographically disparate ones). But one can hopefully and expectantly look for Christians to look like Christ entering into their own particular culture. If culture A sees hugs given as a perfunctory kindness even between strangers then a “little Christ” will dole out hugs where needed. If culture B sees such hugs as a creepy thing and the respect of personal space as the expected kindness, then a “little Christ” in that culture will practice that. The enculturated practice of love is the variable. The love behind the practice in the first place is the timeless truth part.

Added: If culture C practices regular beating of their spouses - such a practice is headed for a collision when Christ invades their culture; and he will/does. The practice probably won’t change over night, much to the horror of outside or later critics who themselves never practiced it or culled it away generations ago. All of our cultures will have such collision points. So while it is okay to feel loathing of such past practices, it is delusional for anybody to think they are fully emerged and now finally above any practice that might merit the same kind of loathing from yet more refined sensibilities of future critics practicing their own self-righteous horror in turn. So we’d better rejoice that there is no despicable depth that is beyond Christ’s reach. And we’d also better be aware that Christ doesn’t magically transport any of us into our “final perfection state” (contra the naive expectations of some anti-religionists), but works on us where we are instead.


Actually, that isn’t entirely so. Here in the East (I live in Japan), there are occasional atheists who resent such a “stupid idea” as we were “descended from monkeys” (their words). The don’t believe in God, and don’t really believe their cultural religion particularly either, but never this evolution thing either. Evolution is a great equalizer; it demolishes our distance from the animals and, coming from Africa (with 96% of the human genome still there), it means we was all once black (horrors, perish the very thought). … and we best be careful about calling each other Neanderthals too.

Yes, those people who we love to hate tend to use evolution as a cudgel, but if you read Ecclesiastes, you’ll also notice that the teacher does a pretty good demolition job on most of our ill-thought-out notions of the world.

I do believe that God was somehow involved, but …

It seems that we are smoking opium to think that science can do much of anything to prove God. It doesn’t mean that science is necessarily inconsistent with the existence of God, it’s that God is so much bigger than the universe, multiverse, or whatever notion we can grasp, that we cannot set up a laboratory experiment that can test whatever the whole thing means. Moreover, what would be the point of proving God (even if it were possible) other than our own selfish ambitions to be able to wamp other people over the head with our religion?

I think God won’t let us have our proof because God knows exactly what we would do with it. Would we actually fall down and worship Jesus, listen in our quiet time to his words, follow him faithfully and become more and more like him? Would we become humble servants in God’s plan? No! We would rationalize our own sinful desires and we would soon be out there busting heads with self-righteous satisfaction.

We worship and envy the imprimatur stamp of science far too much. We have become a culture that worships of facts and knowledge and certainty. These are surely not bad things in of themselves; however, facts and knowledge and certainty won’t save us. In fact, they can even lead us down the wrong road, as history shows in its worst examples. Only the word of God written on our hearts and humility to listen to the heavenly kingdom will bring us to true wisdom that is of any lasting good. There is only one place you can turn to for that, and that is held up by only a prayer.


I am not talking about culture though. That is why I used “secular”. If we believe a lie, and recognize it as truth, that does not make it truth. Nor do I think we would be comfortable referring to some of our knowledge as lies. In our view what we believe seems true to us, even if it is not.

I am not even claiming to have all the answers, and the subject matter sometimes cannot even be considered philosophy or science. Nor is it friendly to go around calling humans liars. Thus secular truth seems proper.

I was not sure if the exchange had gotten to the point where there could even be a difference. I do not think that humans can totally embrace God’s truth. That is not an attack on each individual person. That is the nature of the human condition. If there was full agreement, there would be one church body, and not major religions and thousands of denominations. Nor do I see any where in the Bible, that all of humanity are sons of God, and all will be reconciled to God. I think that humans are genetic offspring, but just as sin is not genetic, neither is a spiritual connection. But how that all works is beyond my knowledge, not that I am dettered in getting to the actual truth.

1 Like

Agreed. And I think I now understand more of your attempted distinction: you want it recognized that no particular partisan has a monopoly on “God’s Truth”, hence the suggested “neutral” term: “secular”. Fair enough. I have no need to always go around calling all true things “God’s truth” since (to me) the phrase is redundant. Let’s just say “truth” and be done with it then. As long as it actually is truth at physical and/or spiritual levels, I’m happy with my own private recognition that of course it all belongs to God, and I have no need to noise it around as such where that would cause offense.

1 Like

I absolutely do not agree! We are capable, because God made us that way. If we do not embrace God’s truth, then it is our choice not a lack of capability! Yes our sins get in the way, but those are part of the choices we make.

But I agree there – big difference between “can” and “have done so already.” Eternal life if is a parent-child relationship with an infinite God. There is no end to learning from Him. Otherwise I don’t see how I could call it eternal life.

Not only that, but it is misleading and sounds an awful lot like that articles of remonstrance justification for entitlement with its claim that good works don’t count unless you are Christian. Truth begins with God probably boils down to truth doesn’t count unless your a Christian.

1 Like

Actually what the attempt is: is to forgo the notion we can be wrong. I am accused of being wrong because I reject the notion that all humans are equal in their acceptance of what is truth. I guess that is post modernism. Modernism claimed humans can have their own truth. Now that “our truth” is the only truth? I doubt that very much. I agree the line between truth and fiction is very blurry these days.

Entitlement is a strawman. I never claimed to be entitled or know things unknown to others. Did humans use that in the past? Of course, but why throw me into a heap of disposed ideology, other than to make me look bad?

Why would anyone ever want to forgo that notion? If I can’t be wrong, then also precluded is the possibility of anyone ever being right. To insist that everyone’s map is equally valid is to repudiate the existence of any real map. While being shown to be wrong is no fun, it’s a lot better than the alternative: merrily proceeding down some false way. Give me the real map any day. I want something I can be wrong about.

1 Like

Not to drag science into it, but the scientific method seems to me to be a way to get rid of everything that is not true. I could be wrong. I feel the same way equally about religion. Religion does not negate what is false in search of the truth. Religion points out to me that humans do seek after the truth. Finding it is a different point altogether.

Personally, I do not want to fall into either trap where using science or religion as a tool to get to the truth is the same thing as actually knowing the truth. There has to be a point where all human understanding has to be reconciled to God. It does not have to be reconciled with what we find using the tools of science or religion. Since God gave us both tools as part of who we are, we are allowed to think we have arrived to some understanding, and has nothing to do with capability, it has to do with personal interpretation and the choices we settle on. There is no tool or method whereby we can remove all doubt and the need to trust God.

To the extent that you seek humility in this regard to truth knowledge, it is commendable and I want to cultivate that in myself too.

But when you write:

This makes it sound like you want to endorse some kind of permanent “seekerhood”, which has the appearance of humility, but is not. If one rules out up front the possibility that some people might actually have some truth - whether by science, by intuition, by revelation, by some other wisdom… then they have revealed that they were never really seeking. Because one does not truly seek for something that they’ve already decided they will, on principle, refuse to find.

So yes - we will always have our epistemic challenge of sorting out truth from non-truth, but what we must not do is decide that none of it is allowed to be truth just because of our doubts.

1 Like

I find it amazing that you can make things all about you when someone isn’t even talking to you. Now that fabrication of an accusation is a real strawman!

You could have simply spoken to what was actually said and made your stand with regards to the articles of remonstrance. Entitlement isn’t a strawman it is a fact of historical Christianity and those articles make that attitude quite loud and clear.

It is a typical tactic of intolerance to simply declare any recognition of diversity as equal with such an absurd extreme as “post modernism.”

But there is a middle ground in recognizing that while some truths are the same for everyone it doesn’t follow that all truths and all parts of all maps must be exactly the same. Sometimes the difference between people and their circumstances are rather profound. That is why salvation must come from God alone.

For processes that can be discerned in the world, yes. I would not go to the bible to learn astronomy or biology or physics. I would study modern textbooks.

Still, even with science, we should always keep in the back of our minds that all conclusions are somewhat tentative. Some more so than others, but we start with models and test them under very specific conditions to make determinations. In general, new discoveries tend to be reducible to the older model when proper simplifying assumptions are used, but new understanding can still do a major demolition job on how we understand the world. Quantum mechanics has been probably one of the stranger discoveries in that realm.

Science seems to be a very powerful methodology that has conquered many domains of questions we once though could never be explained, but I think it goes awry when we start asking questions about meaning.

How would we prove with science that “love thy neighbor” is actually better without importing non-scientific assumptions about what “better” actually is. We see plenty of examples of very nasty, self-centered types becoming very successful, and kind gentle folk being crushed and destroyed. Where does that expression “nice guys finish last” come from? Even the crucifixion is very difficult to get beyond because we tend to worship power. We expect the wicked to be crushed, but what did Jesus do? He died. To the worldly brain, it makes no sense. We understand it through faith, through reflection and quiet time, and through identifying with Jesus and following him.

I can basically agree. We are fallible, we can only do the best we can. Many of the people described in scripture had obvious strengths, but even those strengths became weaknesses under certain situations. We see it in our own character too. I guess the best we can do is keep listening, thinking and try to do better the next time.

by Grace we proceed,


The matter of Jesus’ birth was a matter of extensive (and probably frightful) debate in the early church. The view that largely won out was essentially the Apostle’s creed.

I notice myself conflicted maybe in somewhat the same way as creationist get about us scientific thinkers allowing the findings of science to dictate our reasoning about the first 11 chapters of Genesis. I’ve pretty much accepted the whole 9 yards of evolution (except for absolutely “undirected”) and treat most of the early chapters as mostly metaphor with possibly some literal truth. I think the shock of the Exodus forced the Israelites to reflect on their history and write something down that eventually took the form of Gen 1-11. They do provide great insight into ourselves, even as ancient texts. There is nothing new under the sun. We think Adam and Eve so silly until we are confronted with our own sin that anyone else can see as plain as day.

From science, we surely cannot explain a virgin birth. It takes two to tango.

I finally made my peace with creationist in that if I meet Peter at the Pearly Gates and he explains that the earth was actually 6000 years old, well, I guess God will have a very good explanation for why evolution seemed so sound and everything pointed to an ancient universe and earth. I guess the virgin birth is about equally hard to accept from a scientific perspective, so in that sense, science is more on your side. Barring getting in a discussion about the earth actually being young, my first question at those gates would probably be about God’s inaction (and even allowing) of the really wicked people on this planet, but not too far down the list would come the virgin birth.

I think it boils down to whether it matters or not. At least having made a choice to follow Jesus as an adult, my hunger is in seeking the right path. “Born of the Virgin Mary” is certainly something I confess when I take of the bread and the cup. If that were wrong, I have other things to consider, but it is part of the creed – unlike the 6000 year old earth. For me, I took the position that I cannot explain it, but maybe God can. The most important thing is to live out a life of repentance, and that only comes with quiet time, prayer, fellowship and daily reading. Hopefully whatever is needed will come of its own at the right time.

Grace and Peace

1 Like

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Plenty of times I have questioned my sanity, but I don’t think I was brainwashed by any humans any more than than a normal Catholic baptized into the church. Was I forced to accept the knowledge of Christ before understanding, perhaps*. I was walking shortly after a year, and left to myself for the most part, because I remember going places by myself a one year old is probably not allowed to go exploring. I don’t think any one person or ideology told me how to think, or even what to think. I do remember back in the early 70’s, there was an independent film out on “Hell”. I guess it was my first experience with how some viewed the Bible on the topic. After that my life pretty much fell apart, but I never went out of my way to prove God is wrong. The people chosen by God throughout history seem to be as messed up as I am.

*I was not baptized as an infant. My mom may have been overzealous in getting me to decide on something I knew little about.

I agree with all of this. However to clearify one thing. I pick on religion quite a bit. Not for it’s part that it gives human a path to seek, but more from the standpoint, most start out with a list of unchangeable statements that define who they are. Sounds to me as you put it they have stopped seeking, because they already have their core truths by which they rule out in their seeking all that does not adhere to these truths.

I am not worried about science. While it is not used to rule out what I accept, I do not see it as a means to rule out what seems to be established facts. We will just have to agree to disagree. Is it just because it does not effect my faith? I am not sure, but I am always curious on why it seems to contradict God’s Word.