Sunday, May 25, 2014

Enlightenment cessationism

The boast of many scientists throughout the latter half of the 17th century that the mechanistic worldview greatly devolved to God's glory, had a hollow ring. Such a devout Christian among them as Robert Boyle could bring himself to accepting only the biblical miracles. Only there could be no rational defense for such a restriction. With Pierre Bayle the rationalist attack on miracles got in high gear at the start of the 18th century. The Enlightenment had not yet run its course when the attack reached its logical denouement in Hume's skepticism and Kant's apriorism.  
…the question of miracles imposed itself in the measure in which the laws of nature began to appear as subtly ultimate realities…Many divines, in fact, lost their faith in miracles as they saw those holes being filled up with the relentless progress of science. They turned to an increasingly radical reinterpretation of biblical miracles culminating in the exegesis of Bultmann and in the philosophy of Ernest Bloch.  
Newton's willingness to admit the reality of biblical miracles alone never cut ice with rationalists. It was quite possibly a tactic on Newton's part to cover up his Unitarianism, which if discovered, would have cost him the Lucasian chair in Cambridge and, later, the Directorship of the Mint. Unbelievers could, of course, be reassured by Newton's categorical denial of Christian miracles postdating New Testament times. 
Here Newton merely followed none other than Robert Boyle…Boyle's dismissal of post-biblical miracles as being unworthy of God, the clockmaker, is a perfect example of the vengeance which one's lack of sound philosophy can take both on one's theology as well as one one's broader interpretation of science. 
Clearly Newton believed less in Christianity than he should have and believed more than a Christian should in the laws of science and nature. One wonders whether Newton had ever as much as suspected the miracle of creation at the beginning lurked behind all laws of nature, and their totality, or the miracle of a specific nature stable in its ordinariness. For only with an eye on that miracle can the possibility of miracle be raised meaningfully.  
S. Jaki, Miracles and Physics (Christendom Press, 2nd, ed., 1999), 4,33-34.

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