Sometime ago I began a review of The Language of God by Francis Collins. I concluded that review with some of the following thoughts:
What makes us clearly think we can think clearly?
Faith is required because scripture tells us that no matter how much we don’t like or that we want to deny that our very brains and logic systems are ultimately flawed by sin. Our minds are clouded and must be cleared by the light and love of God. Only then can they function as they were intended to.
In addition, because of sin, our consciences are corrupt. Our thinking is flawed. We see partially. Our motives are impure and skewed. No matter what the observation of our natural world and the methods that we use, our conclusions and interpretation of data are flawed, obscured and, according to scripture, even set against the knowledge of God.
I wanted to continue my thoughts about Collins’ book by looking at his approach and belief about miracles. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s imperative to recognize the lens through which you view reality in this ongoing discussion about evolution. There are significant presuppositions that we all bring to the table in our dialogues. Let’s not pretend we are not embracing “truth” when we use science as a our lens. Science, after all, is man’s attempt to discern reality through means and methods that may be tainted with subconscious bias or creational brokenness.
About the Miraculous
Collins agrees that man is a miracle. His belief is that God superintended the evolutionary process to get us where we are.
Collins has some strange thoughts about God’s miraculous interventions, however. He wants to empirically define what is and isn’t a miracle. “Whatever the personal view, it is crucial that a healthy skepticism be applied when interpreting potentially miraculous events, lest the integrity and rationality of the religious perspective be brought into question.” (p51)
It’s sad that his a priori for miracles is so low. Who says miracles must be submitted to scathing skepticism? The intimacy of God’s involvement in creation in Matthew 6.25-30 reveals that birds are fed and flowers watered by the loving care of the Father.
Throughout Collins’ book, he appeals to “laws” of nature, physics, and biology. However, what if these laws are not such at all? What if man claims these observable laws to avoid contemplating that there are higher laws and even commands that demand our subservience and obedience? What if these little “laws” we are so addicted to defining and presuming to define reality are not laws at all? They may be only guardrails to keep the children from falling off the cliffs.
That’s why Collins and others have issues with miracles. They are interruptions and upset the apple carts of observation and scientific method that have led to the publication and adherence by man as laws.
Another perspective is that “miracles” are not extraordinary occurrences. Rather, they are normal expressions and routine manifestations of a reality that supersedes ours. They’re only extraordinary because we give such rare attention to their prevalence.
From Collins’ perspective though, “in order for the world to avoid descending into chaos, miracles must be very uncommon.” (p53)
So things get out of control of God when He performs too many miracles? This would be true only if God is subject to natural laws. Collins points out that even C.S. Lewis says miracles should be scarce. As much as I like Lewis, I disagree with that conclusion. What do we define as miracles? Are they only what defy empirical proof and are noticed by us?
Even the most acknowledged miracles in scripture are targets of empirical derision today. All is explainable in terms of natural laws, some would say. So why limit the miraculous to the “big” stuff? Is this to make us seem less superstitious and more rationally acceptable? We claim to believe in a God who loves us. Let us press on to believe that this self-revealed, loving Father will intervene in our lives constantly to answer wild and desperate prayers and to spontaneously demonstrate His glory! Whether it’s parting the Red Sea or leading a person to salvation, miracles abound!
But Collins stubbornly insists on rarity for miracles. He quotes John Polkinghorne, “Miracles are not to be interpreted as divine acts against the laws of nature (for those laws are themselves expressions of God’s will) but as more profound revelations of the character of the divine relationship to creation. To be credible, miracles must convey a deeper understanding than could have been observed without them.”
What is the reason for limiting the existence of definition of miracles? And why would one tell God how He must work within the “laws” that we are confined to? It makes perfect sense in this broader discussion of evolution. Is God strong and powerful enough to have created the world in seven literal days? Is He strong and powerful enough to have intimately directed an evolutionary process that last billions of years? The answer to both are yes, and to believe in God, we must believe in this-reality-distorting activity and intervention on His part. However, choosing the latter puts one at odds with what orthodox Christianity claims is the Word of God. Both the Old and New Testaments point to God’s creation of Adam and Eve as a literal event.
As far as miracles are concerned, the primary miracle that every true Christian must adhere and proclaim is the resurrection of a man from the dead. The miraculous is required for the Christian’s lens. So, if God is able, what thought process will we embrace? One that limits the existence of miracles or one that proclaims God’s goodness through their frequency?
To that, I point to Isaiah 55.8-9.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.