May 28, 2023
This is a tough one because we all want a God who can intervene on our behalf. I mean, what good is a God who is all powerful but can’t or won’t use that power to give us a hand? What are miracles? Are they God benevolently helping people out of a tough spot? Altering natural laws? What if favoring one person harms another? Be careful of what you wish for, the folks tales tell us—unintended consequences lurk behind our wishes, and they can be far worse than our original plight.
If we define miracles as events which occur or appear to occur outside normal physical laws, laws created by God, then what does that imply for our ability to know those laws? An important concept in Christian theology is that God is entirely truthful and reliable, and scripture tells us we can know God by observing creation. Altering natural laws in special cases feels like fudging the data. Lying. Can miracles confuse or mislead people as to what those laws are? Some people see this simply as wisdom being given to the faithful and the wicked going astray, which implies God lies to the damned. I believe the God of truth would find that abhorrent. And if one of our purposes on earth is to glorify God by learning and discovering the nature of creation (which I believe scripture teaches), would miracles inhibit our ability to understand creation correctly? If creation speaks of the glory of God, wouldn’t God want it to speak truthfully and accurately?
If miracles mess with the physical world, and our soul is an emergent property of our physical body, does that preclude God communicating to humanity through what we call our soul or spirit? Is the metaphysical or supernatural truly outside the natural world or simply outside our current knowledge? Are there mechanisms within the bounds of natural law that we do not yet understand and that God uses to communicate with us directly?
Perhaps God can interact with the physical universe in ways that are miraculous but not supernatural. As one small example, quantum indeterminacy has been proposed as an alternative that would allow for divine intervention that didn’t contravene natural laws. We already know that matter doesn’t behave in entirely deterministic ways at the quantum level—is it a stretch to believe that God could shape that indeterminacy to cause events which appear miraculous but operate within natural laws? Or to speak to us in even the most mundane ways?
What if the miraculous is not necessarily supernatural? Perhaps God is both more subtly and more actively and intimately involved in our lives than popular conceptions would suggest.