This Is Me

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Natural and Supernatural as false dichotomy

The Natural and Supernatural as false dichotomy

Natural/Supernatural is a false dichotomy. What we really mean is "what I'm used to experiencing" versus "what is unusual to me." All things were created by the second person of the Trinity, or Jesus Christ the Son, and are currently being held together through Him.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (John 1:1-10)

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. .For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16&17)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’"
(Acts 17:25-28)

Even Christians have the tendency to think of the world as a natural place, albeit created by God. We have a bit of Deism in our theology when we consider the world to have been created at some point and then left by God. Most Christians would say, "Well God still works in His world; look at this or that miracle." But this is just the view that God created something, left it, and comes back now and again to tweak it. It is still wholly apart from the intimacy of how God really interacts with His world, shown by the verses above from various books in the New Testament.

The very foundations of the world - our atoms, molecules, subatomic particles, trees, water, volcanoes - are all currently being held together by the Word, Jesus. It is important for us to know that when we speak of the natural, what we are used to, versus the supernatural, occurrences that are unusual to us, that we are not talking about two separate things. Many question miracles today, or wonder if something that happened to them is a miracle or just chance, but the reality is God is God and all things flow through Him and from Him - except sin. This does not mean that there aren't really miracles, it means that we can worship God in awe about many events and objects we considered "natural"!

Frustration with what we perceive is the "natural" way

When people get frustrated because they don't see the "supernatural" working I am either saddened or sometimes angered. God IS working! The evidence of His work is that we all still exist! We might be frustrated with God because we don't perceive that He is working in a "supernatural" way, but He is working. God's nature does not change, and He always works according to that good nature. We can keep praying for the outcome we desire, but in the end God will do what is according to His nature - whatever that is. Whether we perceive the outcome as "natural" or "supernatural" it is merely our perception, not reality. But what I see is believers constantly frustrated they have no "supernatural" occurrences in their lives, not understanding that God has merely been working in their lives in ways that seem commonplace rather than unusual to them. Maybe those ways are commonplace because that is what it best at the moment, or maybe that person is not ready for God to work in unusual ways - but we should be humble and willing for whatever ways God chooses to work in our lives, not constantly frustrated that He is not working in the way we desire!

God's unchanging (immutable) nature and Science

When we make observances about what we call the natural world, we merely mean that this is how God acts in this situation and that it is such a regular occurrence it seems commonplace. However, this is true when we talk about supernatural occurrences - it is how God acts in the specific situation; it is just unusual instead of commonplace! The reason why we don't suddenly spin off the earth, have our skin turn purple, or have our atoms cease to exist is because God is not capricious, He is unchanging, and He desperately loves us. He is not suddenly going to decide that He does not care about the individuals He created and their environment. In fact, God is so consistent that we can make some pretty dependable observations about what He does in this world and so know what He will continue to do. This system by which we understand how God works in His creation and all the information we have gleaned from these observations of His workings we call science. In the end, science is the study of how God works in His world. For the Christian, the study of science should be a joyous delight and fervent desire - for to study our world is know about God and His work more fully. Paul discusses how clearly God can be perceived, just from being in the world, not even studying it!

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19&20)[bold added]

How much more can those who know our Lord already learn from "the things that have been made"?


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