Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The God Who Intervenes

Some see God as Someone who sits afar off and simply observes what is going on and does not interfere. Many strongly oppose the idea that God can really intervene in history. There are two ways you can go with this. You can so identify God with His creation that He is seen as the total of all the things that exist. Or He can also be seen as Someone who merely starts everything in motion to continue without His interference. Now the Christian God is different. God created everything (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3; Revelation 4:11), and not out of something that already existed (Hebrews 11:3; Psalms 33:6-9; 148:5,6). He sustains it in existence (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:24,25), but also transcends it (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1,2; 40:12,17). He is also willing to intervene as the occasion demands (Matthew 8:23-27; John 9:1-7; 11:38-44), particularly in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-20; Romans 1:4). But can this be sustained?

One of the great objections to this is that it is contrary to the laws of nature. This was one of the first objections against Christianity made by the physician Galen. The problem with this, as C. S. Lewis points out, is that the laws of nature tell us what will happen if no one interferes. But they cannot tell us whether there is Someone beyond the laws who can interfere. One would expect an orderly God to produce an orderly universe. We, as human beings, also need order to be able to function. But that does not mean God cannot intervene to communicate with us or make a point. In fact, it is hard to see any other way He could do so.

I think there are a couple of reasons people object to this. We think the physical laws are the necessary result of something simple and unchangeable and therefore cannot be set aside. But everything we know would suggest (we still do not have it all figured out) that the basic physical laws are incredibly complicated and beyond our full understanding.  But even if they are not, it is difficult to see why the One who made the laws could not intervene if He chose to. I think there is also the idea that a miracle is a sort of deux ex machina, something introduced at the last minute to make things work out the way God wants them to. Like introducing an elf at the end of a standard whodunnit to bring the story to the right conclusion. But it is the Christian claim that the miracles are the heart of the story, the thing that makes it make sense. For if there is a personal God who made intelligent beings, it makes sense that He would want to communicate with them in order to explain to them what their life is about. The real issue is what understanding of the world you start with. 

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