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« This is 90 percent of what’s wrong with TV | Main | A Story with a Happy Ending »

March 19, 2008

The Witness of Creation

Among religious critics, God is a myth whose origin is traced to the irrational fears and silly superstitions of man. Beyond the imaginings of weak and gullible people, His existence is nil. For the believer, God is as real as maternal love.

A mother’s love is not a material object subject to scientific validation; yet it is communicated in material ways establishing a rational basis for belief. The same is true for God. Although the Creator is not a part of the physical world, He has nonetheless revealed himself through it. Like the artisan whose choices of media, colors, and brush stokes are his signature, God has created a masterpiece, writing His name in every corner of the canvas...continue reading

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Comments

Pat

I love this article and had to share it with my atheist brother and cousin

LeeQuod

This is indeed an excellent article, Regis - as always.

Reflecting back on the debate with iota, I'm reminded that atheists know full well it's not necessary to arrive at truth via a sound argument to win a debate. Rather, it's sufficient to make the other side look foolish via rhetorical devices, and thereby win over the audience. So any evidence in favor of theism is shot down with the comment that it's not specific to Christianity. Thus, an atheist can even go so far as to concede (temporarily) that theism is true, and still win by asserting that theism and Christianity are not the same. (Another technique is to force the Christian to backtrack repeatedly in a long chain of evidence, and then to assert that either the chain is too long to be credible, or that the debate itself has grown wearisome and the case is unproven in a reasonable timeframe.)

Had iota (and wiseclam) been interested in truth, I would have pointed out that the Periodic Table is in fact a *table* - an arrangement of the elements that is sensible and can rather easily be memorized. It's even predictive. If atheism were true, one would expect that elements would be unpredictable.

But (as iota might have argued) does the Periodic Table prove that Jesus Christ is risen? Certainly not - by itself. Even so, we apply tests like radiocarbon dating and hemoglobin analysis to relics like the Shroud of Turin (thanks for the other posting), and geochemical tests to the soil surrounding the First Temple (thanks for that one, also). And in the case of the crucifixion victim Yochanan described in the Israel Archaeological Journal in 1969, we even analyze the blood, bone and wood for authenticity and dating. Today we might even consider DNA analysis.

But again, none of that matters to the atheist who is set upon proving to the audience that Christians are foolish. And it's far easier to attack someone else's case than to defend one's own.

Fortunately, God has given us literal mountains (tells :-) ) of evidence to support the truth that Christ is risen - indeed!

Regis Nicoll

LeeQuod--Yes, in a cosmos cobbled together by matter and motion, the phenomenon of rational, predictable behavior (as reflected in your example of the Periodic Table) should be a de-settling reality for the materialist.

But for those who find it, as you put it, "far easier to attack someone else's case than to defend one's own" such things do not often prompt critical thought.

Ethan V. Jones

I've a few questions about some of your assumptions:

1) As I understand it, the distinction between "natural" and "supernatural" was established by Immanuel Kant when he distinguished between "noumenal" and "phenomenal" knowledge. Is there any precedence for it in Scripture?

2) You say that "supernature" can interact with "nature" and violate natural laws. I'm assuming that by "supernature", you mean God, and the interaction represents the popular understanding of a "miracle". How can a miracle "violate" a natural law? Didn't God create those natural laws in the first place? How could He logically contravene his own laws?

It would make more sense to say that God violates our present understanding of natural law, and that our science is in need of updating.

Regis Nicoll

Ethan—1) Yes, Kant’s dichotomy of noumena and phenomena resulted in splitting knowledge into “upper and lower stories.” In the lower story, was phenomena, or Nature--the realm of “facts." In the upper story, was noumena, or Supernature—the realm of beliefs. Kant’s idea that true knowledge is possible only in the lower story, is opposed to the clear statements in Scripture that knowledge and wisdom about “things unseen” is accessible through revelation (inc. creation, HS, Christ, the church, and scripture itself).

2) You ask, “How can a miracle ‘violate’ a natural law?” If a phenomenon doesn’t involve a suspension, reversal, or contravention a natural law, it wouldn’t be a miracle. According to the “laws of nature”: a woman who hasn’t had sex doesn’t get pregnant; a few fish and bread loaves won’t fill a hungry crowd of 5000; and people who have been dead for three days don’t come to life and pass through solid doors. What's more, ontologically, God violates the second law of thermodynamics, else he wouldn’t be eternal. And if the New Heavens and New Earth are also to be eternal, he’ll have to not only violate that law, but eradicate it.

LeeQuod

Ethan V. Jones wrote: 'How can a miracle "violate" a natural law? Didn't God create those natural laws in the first place? How could He logically contravene his own laws?'

The answer depends on what you mean by "natural law". Many people use "natural law" to mean "a phenomenon that is assumed to be true based on experience or repeatable scientific investigation" - i.e., not described by God, but "discovered" by men. In those cases, a miracle simply does something unexpected, as per Regis's examples.

God won't do anything that contradicts His own nature, if that's what you mean by "natural law". But just because we commonly observe a "law" that death is irreversible, that doesn't mean that God can't overrule our expectation (as in the case of Jesus, Lazarus and several others, God did). In fact, I believe God allows us to think of "natural laws" as inviolate, strictly so He can violate them to demonstrate that He, not us humans or some impersonal "law", is in fact in control of the universe.

Ethan V. Jones

Regis,

Surely you understand the logical outworking of Kant's dichotomy. If, as you say, nature exists in the phenomenal ream and "supernature" exists in the noumenal realm, and that the former can be grasped through reason and evidence and the latter through only "belief", then we are forced to conclude that to believe the gospel, one must exercise "faith" apart from "reason" admit that it is ultimately irrational. I don't believe the Bible defines faith that way (in fact, I believe that that is a dangerous definition of faith) and I believe it is erroneous to import Kant's categorical dichotomy into our understanding of Scripture, especially if it lacks Biblical precedent.

Secondly, you say, "if a phenomenon doesn’t involve a suspension, reversal, or contravention a natural law, it wouldn’t be a miracle." My question is that how could such a thing occur in the first place if we understand God to be the Supreme Lawgiver? If God cannot lie (i.e. contradict himself), it would be impossible for Him to undermine the very laws He created! Also, if He is truly sovereign, no element or factor within creation could undermine those laws either. This is to say that we should be more humble to admit that our understanding of the universe is still woefully insufficient.

Again, I think it would be more accurate to say that "miracles" defy our present scientific understanding of the universe and confirm that our theories are in need of updating, even if that includes the second law of thermodynamics.

Regis Nicoll

Ethan—I didn’t say “nature exists in the phenomenal ream and "supernature" exists in the noumenal realm,” Kant did. Further, I don’t agree with his two-story schema of epistemology, as my reference to contra biblical statements was intended to convey. Loving God with heart, soul, MIND and strength indicates that faith involves rationality, not mere blind assent.

As to whether miracles are violations of natural law, LeeQuod’s point is well taken: it depends on how you define “natural law.” As it is commonly used in scientific circles and elsewhere, it means the physical principles of the universe that describe our observations in it, without appeal to supernatural explanations. Since that, a priori, excludes miracles, a miracle, by definition would be an exception, or violation, of “natural law”--which comports with the Stanford Encyc. of Phil. stating that a miracle ‘signifies in Christian theology a striking interposition of divine power by which the operations of the ordinary course of nature are overruled, suspended, or modified.’" (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/ )

Of course, if one means, by “natural law,” the totality of principles that flow out of God’s ontology, then, no, a miracle would not be a violation—again, as LeeQuod suggested.. But that would be so far removed from common usage, that it would be better called, “supernatural” or “Divine” law.

I would go as far as to say that there is no such thing as “natural law” as is commonly understood. Why? Because, as scripture tells us, “In him all things hold together” and “by his powerful word,” all things are sustained. God is not a Cosmic Clockmaker who wound up the watch and retired to his supra-natural villa. He is an active, engaged God whose supernatural intervention everywhere and always is essential for the continued existence and integrity of the cosmos.

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