Thursday, June 4, 2009

Concering the supernatural

2) The inability to discern supernatural activity in daily experiences

Brett reports on a common practice that I encouraged him to do regularly at our PBF Friday night meetings—ask the students “What is God doing in your life recently?” Brett is correct in that many students arbitrarily single out “happy” things for which they give credit to God. This observation leads Brett to the assertion that one cannot discern supernatural activity in one’s life and therefore there must not be any. The logic that goes from the arbitrariness of human ascriptions to the lack of supernaturalism cannot be sustained. In other words, just because humans claim or don’t claim supernatural activity in their lives does not prove the existence or absence of the supernatural.

However, there is something more important here. Perhaps Brett is right in that my Friday night question is misleading in one sense. It may lead one to focus on the “happy” things and a false dichotomy that God is working sometimes and not at other times. Upon careful reflection of my intent for the question, I am attempting to elicit from the students recognition of the sovereign hand of God in all of their life and cultivate a level of thanksgiving and praise for that. My intent was never to lead students to attempt to discern what specific events of which God was a part versus specific events of which God was not a part.

The Biblical worldview claims that God is sovereign and is orchestrating all things. Thus, every moment of one’s life is “what God is doing in your life.” In the Joseph account in Genesis, which Brett knows well, the narrative story claims that God is working in the small details of life. Through these seemingly random events, God directs the events for the ultimate good of His people. Though, however, His people may not even recognize His divine activity in the mundane and seeming random events of life (good and bad). It is the mature individual that acknowledges the sovereign, supernatural hand of God in the “happy” things as well as the “bad” things (Gen 50:20; Hab. 3:17-19; Roman 8:28).

It is not surprising to me that among relatively immature college students on Friday night that arbitrariness would abound. Brett’s observation is more about the nature of humans than the existence of the supernatural. And, the arbitrary and inconsistent nature of humans precisely corroborates the Biblical worldview! Furthermore, the Christian worldview does not demand that its followers seek to distinguish between the “natural and the supernatural.” Again, the actual claim of Scripture is that the natural is constantly and perpetually sustained by the supernatural activity of God (Col 1:17). So I grant that my question may have implied a false distinction.

Brett goes on to say that there was nothing miraculous (i.e. supernatural) about his church, his life, his college ministry, etc. However, I would begin to push Brett to examine his apparent naturalistic worldview assertion. Let’s just take his “life” as one example--or any of our own lives. What explanation is there in the naturalistic worldview for what keeps the brain sending a signal to the heart to keep pumping the blood for “life”? What keeps the atoms that make up the material world bound together? Brett on the surface sees the natural causes of the heart and the brain signals and the atoms but he does not go beyond to ask what keeps them going? Or does he? Brett still acknowledges wrestling with the question even now of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Precisely! His new naturalism cannot answer this. Brett has no answer. But he a priori asserts that the hypothesis of God is not the answer. Well then, what is? His worldview now precludes the possibility of God; but, his worldview will not give him an answer to his question. –Such a limiting worldview is naturalism.

Brett launches his blog with the quote from Douglas Adams. Douglas Adams died in 2001 and was the author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” Douglas Adams was a committed naturalist. Richard Dawkins, the famous apologist for evolution/naturalism, gave the eulogy at the funeral of Douglas Adams. When pressed on the possibility of why there is life at all, Richard Dawkins entertains the possibility that aliens seeded earth with life.

So as Brett stated,
"Why can't you choose to believe in Santa Claus? "
"Why can't you choose to believe that fairies exist? "
"Why can't you choose to believe that the moon is made of cheese? "
"Why can't you choose to believe [insert anything you do not believe here]"
--Aliens anyone?

When pressed, the naturalist does not have an answer in his worldview for why is there something and not nothing. Sometimes he resorts to “aliens.” But this begs the question. Then, we can easily ask, "Where did the aliens come from?"

The Scriptural worldview asserts that God supernaturally sustains the natural. Is this miraculous? I don’t want to redefine miraculous but God’s sustaining power is supernatural. Furthermore, the Christian worldview asserts that the God who set up the natural and sustains its order occasionally changes the natural order as a demonstration of His authority for those present to witness this display—miracles.

So the Scriptural worldview can rightly handle Brett’s faulty conclusions from accurate observations about the arbitrariness of human’s ascribing divine work to God. Brett does not need to throw out the core of Christian belief, he needs to do the hard work of studying and seeing of what precisely does the Christian worldview consist. Then he can discard his faulty assertions derived from accurate observations.


  1. Hey Brent, I'm enjoying you and Brett's blogalogue (yes I made that up), anyway I wanted to share a video on this subject of naturalism vs creationism between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, I think it represents the argument very well:

    Hope you're doing well

  2. Hey Brent,
    I was interested to read about the dichotomy you were speaking of. It made me think of my own story over the last year and a half, and how God has actually blessed me through things that were less than pleasant. Kristin and I have both grown to understand God's sovereignty through hard events that test both our strength and our faith. The blessing hasn't been the good things that happen, but the result of making it through the bad things. I think sometimes we forget that God can bless and teach us through those periods of introspection, pain and doubt.