Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Perfect timing

Here's a snippet from a Q&A with Colin Humphreys:

And how has science had an impact on your faith?

I think scientists see the world slightly differently. To me, Christianity is a very logical and reasonable faith. When I read the Bible, I tend to look for natural explanations. That doesn't mean I don't believe in miracles but that I think God often works in and through nature to achieve his purpose. Often the miracle is in the timing of an event. And there are some things, like the resurrection of Jesus or the virgin birth, for which we can't give a scientific explanation and which certainly are miracles.

What is your working definition of 'miracle'?

I go with Aristotle. He spoke about prime movers and agents. He said that God is the prime mover and agents can be things like natural events. So how do you know an event is a miracle or not? It is determined, said Aristotle, by the timing. If, for example, you look at the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, the Bible says that Moses stretched out his hand over the waters all that night. God sent a strong east wind to drive the waters back. So it was a natural event – there's no hint of God sending an angel or clicking his fingers. God was using nature to accomplish his purpose. But that it was done at the precise moment when the Israelites were surrounded and about to be crushed by the Egyptians makes it a miracle.

There's another principle at work, which we can see if we look at the time Jesus walked on water. Often people describe this as a miracle by saying that God stopped gravity operating, otherwise Jesus would have sunk. I look at it another way. Rather than the natural phenomenon being suspended, why not say God provided an additional force which upheld Jesus? That way, God doesn't break his own rules to perform a miracle.


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