The Bible: Miracles or Science or Both?
We are in this series, Sharing Your Faith and Your Bible. Our goal is to explore the various scenarios that might arise as you are engaged with people in a dialog about their faith. The key word is “dialog”.
One area of concern, for people who are challenged by the Bible, are the miracles it reports. From the parting of the Red Sea, to the walls of Jericho falling down, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—the list of amazing stories of God moving in the world He created—at times challenges the mind of those who do not accept our God of the Bible (the One True Living God).
We should not be surprised.
Many people live in a world which is soaked in a non-God narrative. The air they breathe is filled with this theory that all there is, is the universe.
Further, they hold to this idea that everything that takes place can be understood by the human mind. What we do not understand today is simply because we haven’t delved deeply enough into the natural order.
Hold onto this thought, “they believe everything that takes place can be understood by the human mind.”
To be fair, they have at one level good reason to think this way. The advances in science are remarkable. The degree to which humans have unraveled mystery after mystery about the natural order is amazing.
Any discussion we have with a person committed to science needs to acknowledge this reality. (It should not be hard for us to acknowledge because from a Biblical point-of-view, it is God who has given us this ability. In fact it is God who has given us an ordered world, so that we can study it. Apart from God we can do nothing!)
To be given the opportunity to have a real conversation about science or miracles or both, is a gift. Praise God!
Just like the prior post, how we handle answering this question is important because we are working against a “full-on narrative” that Biblical Christians are uneducated people who believe in ridiculous ideas—like miracles!
Again, our goal is to witness Jesus, His person, His redeeming work to people that are on their way to Hell.
The question is how? How do we get from Miracles and Science to Jesus?
First, as I suggested in the last post, we keep two objectives in mind:
- We don’t duck their question. We don’t water down the Biblical view. We don’t tarnish our walk with God. We don’t, by any word or phrase, communicate that we lack absolute trust in God’s Word.
- We seriously engage the question, ALL WHILE AIMING to bring people to Jesus.
Second, I think we have clear in our mind the following five steps:
- Our view of where “God sits” regards the universe/natural world—as compared to the person we are speaking with.
- Our definition of a miracle—again, as compared to theirs.
- We, together with them, look rationally/scientifically at what is necessary for our “all of this—me, you, our universe—to exist.
- Given points 1 – 3, might we get them to understand they “step of faith” they are taking (at least as it seems to us!)
- Finally, we consider the most significant miracle every recorded — Jesus.
Again, just a caution. While we have these five steps clear in our mind, we again, ask questions, listening to what lay behind their view of why they reject God. In my experience it often has more to do with life’s disappointments, than a hard core commitment to science.
STEP ONE: WHERE IS GOD “SITTING”?
From a Biblical point-of-view, God sits outside of the natural world that He created.
What exactly does that mean? Scientifically it means that God it outside of all space and all time.
When scientists discover that the universe is somehow even bigger than we knew—God is still outside of it.
God, being outside of space and time, is then free of being accountable to the natural laws He put in place. God is not bound by time, rather God is eternal. God is not bound by space, rather God is ever-present.
This links to the previous post where the Bible tells us that God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the world/universe.
Consider Hebrews 1:1-3:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
To be clear, the Bible tells us that our One God is Three Persons: Father – Son – Holy Spirt. Our God performs a variety of functions, including creating, sustaining and redeeming His world.
I point out the difference between the Three Persons, and the various functions God fulfills, because some people are trying to rename the Persons of God from Father – Son – Holy Spirit, to names that list his various functions.
When we baptize, we baptize in accordance with the Scriptures – Mathew 28:18-20 commands us to baptize in the Name of the Father – Son – Holy Spirit.
Sorry for the “side-track”, but I want to be clear that as I talk about God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, I am NOT advocating renaming the Three Persons of the Trinity.
Back to the “main event”; onto these roles, and what they have to do with science and miracles.
1. As Creator, He is separate from what He created. Consider how we create in our own world. Human beings create many things – yet we are not bound by that which we create.
In fact, the Creator created an orderly universe. One that can be studied. One that is governed by natural laws that we can deduce. This orderly universe does not come from random chaos.
2. As Sustainer, He ensures that the universe “keeps running”. The Biblical view is NOT one where God created the world and walked away. This is analogous to a master clock maker, who makes the clock, winds it up, turns it on, and leaves—that is not our God.
The Biblical view of God is one of a God that is active in His creation. He monitors it. He has a goal and purpose for His creation. He keeps watch over it. He, if necessary, intervenes in it. And, if He needs to intervene, it is not some random and haphazard event.
3. As Redeemer, He fixes what we have broken. Think of the wonderful things you have had in your life. A special piece of furniture which is damaged. Or that classic old car, where the parts are elusive, and the knowledge to restore it even more so. Or perhaps an old piece of clothing or quilt or flag. We seek those experts who are up to the task – I expect all of us, if we had a choice, would select the people who made the original as our first choice.
It is no different for our very broken world.
And let’s be clear, this broken world, we broke it. We cannot fix it.
Who, today, is restoring humans? Jesus.
Who will one day return and restore the world? Jesus.
I pray the brief sketch above is biblically accurate and helps ground you, but it won’t be much help in your conversation with your non-believing friends.
BE AWARE: This idea of God “sitting apart and outside—yet deeply and actively involved—in the world, is maddening for those who do NOT believe in God.
Why? Because it means that God cannot be bound by the natural laws they are trying to use to disprove His existence, and His intervention in His world. He can operate His world, as the Creator, in ways that we cannot.
Said bluntly: God is above science.
Consider a professional race car driver and you. You both show up to the race course, he tosses you the keys and says, “Go for it!” You jump in and take it for a spin. Depending on who you are you may be intimidated, exhilarated, or both.
You pull back in and now you toss him the keys (I know race cars don’t have keys, but work with me). You then sit back and watch him with all command do things with that car you could not fathom.
The Bible tells us that this little analogy is a glimpse of what God can do with His world, versus us.
He is not BOUND by the limits we are bound by.
If you are chatting with a sharp person, they will realize that the Biblical idea of “where God sits” negates any argument they can make. They will be arguing from inside the construct of this natural world, and because our God is not bound by it, our answers will not be very satisfying to them.
The fancy way of stating all that I wrote above is that your presuppositions are different than theirs.
Which is why we need to move on to Steps #2 – #5
STEP #2: WHEN YOU SAY “MIRACLE”, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
As members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we need to own a situation.
In the past, when the world, especially scientists, have observed an unexplainable phenomena, some of the saints who have gone before us have been quick to say, “Well, that which you cannot figure out, that ‘gap in your knowledge’, is God!”
Then, as God would have it, humans figured out how to explain what heretofore was unexplainable.
The casualty in this scenario is God, whose representatives on earth put Him forward as the mystical reason to explain the unexplainable!
When discussing “miracles or science or both” with a person who is knowledgable on this subject, they will often bring this up.
If you find yourself in this situation, own it. Admit that our forebearers made some mistakes. Unlike God, they (and we) are not all-knowing.
And in fact this is a perfect segue into a question for you new friend, “So, when you say miracle, what do you mean?”
Let them give their answer.
You will have to be listening and processing their answer in order to form your response.
My simple definition of a miracle is something which happened, which violates the way we know everything works.
- Rivers stop flowing
- Walls fall down from trumpets
- Virgins conceive
These, and many more mean either we don’t understand how “things work”, or perhaps God “broke into” His world and superceded the natural laws – the natural laws He Put in place.
I expect you both may have somewhat similar answers, unless the person you are talking to believes themselves a “fully rational person” and therefore must reject the idea of miracles.
Either way, your next move is critical – and I suggest, rather than argue about whether miracles exist, you go into their world and talk about the origins of the universe: creation.
STEP #3: LOOKING RATIONALLY AT THE ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE
In a prior post I shared that when we have a Biblical view, we are allowing God’s Word to have authority over our lives. We wrestle to determine the Truths it is teaching. We grapple applying them to our individual lives, today. My phrase is “we sit under God’s Word”.
Yet we can completely sit under God’s Word and discuss what science says about the origins of the universe – NOT TO PROVE the Bible right or wrong.
Rather, we engage in what science says so as to not be sloppy. God is the one who has given us science.
Here I am talking about critical thinking; critical thinking around the origins of the universe.
Why? Three reasons:
- It allows me to start in an area they might have more knowledge about, than say, “God”.
- It allows me to start with the really big picture, from a scientific point of view, to flag up to them so amazing imponderables (afterall that is where they are living).
- It allows me, again at a high level, to get to Jesus –QUICKLY!
Let me sketch out a scenario.
You ask: “So, when you say “miracle” what do you mean?”
They respond: “I don’t believe in miracles. When I say miracle I am describing what you believe. How you believe that “God” did…”
You respond: “Okay, understand. For me this idea of miracle is about God, at times, defying all the natural laws we know, sort of breaking into His world, and doing something. For me, it all starts with Creation!”.
They respond and ask: “You are not one of those 6-24-hour day creation nuts, are you?”
You respond: “Well, before we get to the 6-24-hour day creation, can we just talk about today’s science, and what it says about the beginning of the world?”
They respond and ask: “You aren’t going to lay that intelligent design mumbo jumbo on me, are you?”
You respond: “Well, I am just looking at the science, and a lot of scientists (and a bunch who don’t believe in the God of the Bible) are staring at the odds of any of this existing. They currently can’t make the ‘evolution thing’ work. The odds of what it takes for the earth to exist in a condition for our sort of life are staggering. From what I read, the list goes on and on. What is your take on it?”
It is this last question, “What is your take on it?” that you want to get to.
Why? NOT to score intellectual debating points, but to listen to:
- How much have they read and thought about the origins of the earth, and
- From learning about question one, beginning to understand what is driving them.
I return again to my anecdotal observation. Many people who “hold to this science over God” view, have been hurt deeply. They have rejected the idea of God because God has disappointed them.
They have in fact NOT studied all the data.
You are in the role of bringing a soul home to God – not winning an argument.
You need to be asking yourself “As you are in this conversation, with someone you truly care about, what are you hearing?”
Might I suggest the two of you read Miracles or Is Atheism Dead, both by Eric Metaxes. (I would actually suggest you read one ahead of time.)
Metaxes, does not “argue” from a Biblical point-of-view. He argues from a scientific point-of-view.
Here is what is stunning. Science, for decades, has worked hard on the hypothesis of evolution. And today, the scientific reality is “they cannot make it work – there are too many real road blocks to it being a the “slam dunk” theory that has been espoused for decades.
STEP #4: CAN THEY SEE THEIR STEP OF FAITH?
If you are having a good dialog, the really honest place you can get to is:
- You, by faith, believe in the God of the Bible.
- They, by faith, believe in the universe and that there is nothing outside of it. (for those who argue multiverses, we can go there, but God is still outside those in our Biblical framework.
Truly, the scientific method is where a person suggests a hypothesis and then others try to disprove it.
For years the earth was flat—then we disproved that hypothesis.
For years the earth was the center of the universe – then we disproved that hypothesis.
The list goes on.
Evolution is a scientific hypothesis that has not been proven. And if you read Miracles or Is Atheism Dead you will see the odds of it being disproven are stacking up.
If your friend cannot see his/her step of faith, then there is a larger issue for/with them. If they cannot entertain an alternate theory, then, in fact, they are not very “scientific”.
You will have to navigate your situation.
STEP #5: CONSIDER JESUS
The most significant miracle of the Bible is Jesus.
God, Jesus, broke into His world, took on human form, lived among us (performing many miracles), died on a Cross, rose from the dead, and ascended back outside of space and time.
Would they, with you, consider the person of Jesus?
Would they, with you, ask questions such as:
- Did he really live– is there evidence?
- What did he say – and do we know that he really said them?
- What did he do – and did he really do the things reported?
- Did he really die on a cross?
- Did he really come back from the dead?
- Finally – WHY? If Jesus is really who the Bible says he is, the question is WHY?
This post is somewhat like the previous post regarding evolution.
My first suggestion is that you get real command of this situation because the science is turning – turning back to God.
My second suggestion is that you get real command of the overwhelming evidence for the man Jesus!
Finally, I want to circle back to the point I made earlier. Most people have been hurt, or perhaps disappointed by God. What they often need is NOT facts, but love.
Don’t compromise on Scripture, but take it slow, read some books together – when we go too fast – all we are doing is “winning a debate” and possibly losing the person.