Wednesday, July 4, 2007

What's Your Question Wednesday

J in Washington wants to know:
Do you believe that credible science exists to prove the walls of Jericho falling, virgin birth, talking ass, healings, people being raised from the dead, the Red Sea parting, manna, water coming from a rock, etc, just not a young earth?

I'm not 100% sure what this question is asking, but I'm going to give it my best shot here. So, J, if I bomb out let me know and I'll try again.

Sometimes there is a perception among Christians that because old-earth creationists accept the data that comes out of the mainstream scientific community, that somehow we devalue the miraculous. I'm not sure why people think this, but it's not uncommon. But really, nothing could be further from the truth! Because old-earth creationists generally reject natural process biological evolution, most also believe that God has miraculously intervened millions, possibily even billions of times, in His creation to form each new individual species. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Historically speaking, Christian theologians have affirmed three different types of miracles. Perhaps if I define those it will help clear up this misunderstanding.

Providence - These are the natural laws that God has put in place to govern the universe. Examples of this include the water cycle (e.g. rain fall and cloud formation), gravity and the other laws of physics, and sexual reproduction. Throughout Scripture, God is viewed as being ultimately behind all of these activities. But scientifically speaking, we know that they are largely regulated by natural laws.

Non-Transcendent Miracles - These are the kinds of miracles where God works within the laws of physics, but shapes and controls them for a specific purpose. Biblical examples would include the extreme amount of rainfall during Noah's flood or when God caused the earthquake in the book of Acts that caused all of the prison doors to open and the prisoners' chains to fall off.

Transcendent Miracles - These are the miracles where God intervenes and violates the laws of physics. The best example of this is the resurrection of Jesus. Others would include turning water into wine or the virgin birth or when the "sun stood still."

Now these categories aren't always quite this neat and tidy, but they are helpful mental "hooks" to help organize our thoughts.

Now, let's turn our attention back to how all of this theory affects old-earth creationism. First of all, at the risk of stating the obvious: old-earth creationists affirm miracles in all three of these categories. Here is a short overview of how this cashes out in our interpretation of the record of nature, in particular.

Providence - Galaxy and planet formation, rainfall, creation of rainbows, etc.

Non-Transcendent Miracles - Formation of earth in a very special galaxy, location, etc. that is condusive to human life; moon formation.

Transcendent Miracles - Creation of the universe (big bang event), creation of first humans, and creation of all new animal species.

When it comes to matters of creation, I think there are certain indicators that can be detected which tell us which of the three different types of miracles that we are dealing with.

I hope this helps clear up my position. Do I believe in the miracles of the Bible? Absolutely! Every single one of them!

If you want to read a more technical discussion of this issue, I'd recommend this paper: "It’s A Miracle! Or is It?" (2003).

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