Thursday, September 9, 2010

Violating the Laws of Nature

Miracles have been held to be impossible because they are violations of the laws of nature. But the laws of nature are generalizations about how things happen if nothing interferes. If I jump out of an airplane at a high altitude, the law of gravity will cause me to accelerate until I reach terminal velocity, which, when I hit the ground, will result in my death. But if I am wearing a parachute and open it, I will have prevented this. Have I violated the laws of nature? No, it is the laws of nature which say that if I do something to change the original situation, I will get a different outcome.

The real question in terms of miracles is whether there is a God beyond nature who created the laws and can interfere with them to accomplish His purposes. We are to obey the traffic laws. Unless there is a policeman there directing traffic. However, whether there is a policeman there cannot be predicted by the traffic laws. But even if God was subject to the laws (something I would categorically deny), could not an all-powerful, all-knowing God, working within the laws, produce what would to us be miracles? If human beings, with their limited ability, working within the laws can put people on the moon and fly through the air, could not a God of unlimited power turn water into wine?

It has been claimed that people in earlier times were ignorant of the laws of nature and that is why they believed in miracles. But miracles presume an understanding of the laws of nature. If you do not know how things normally happen, how can you spot the exception? When Joseph found his fiancee was pregnant, he decided to divorce her (Matthew 1:18-25). He knew where babies come from, and he thought he knew where this baby came from. It took another miracle, a visit from an angel, to convince him otherwise. If people had thought it was normal for a man to lift his hand and calm the sea, they would not have said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matthew 8:23-27). If they had thought resurrections from the dead were normal, they would not have first doubted Christ's and then responded, "My Lord and my God!" when it was proven (John 20:24-29). One of the first objections made against Christianity was by the physician Galen. He said that miracles were violations of the laws of nature. To claim that miracles were accepted because no one had the idea of the laws of nature does not stack up historically.

The real truth is that the idea of miracles is not really in conflict with our science but with our philosophy. We want to believe that we, individually and corporately, are in control of our lives, and the idea that there might be someone who could interfere does not fit in with our plans. But does this mean it is not true?

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