possibility and surrender

I met a friendly man today who, learning of my religiosity, asked me about my views on science and faith.  It was a good chat, not too long, and remained wonderfully amicable.

The man was, by global and local standards, wealthy, educated and articulate.  At least some of the time, such a demographic can tend to view the ‘God’ topic primarily as an interest, a curiosity; certainly not a matter of life and death.

During the conversation, I remember thinking, “Oh wow, the science-and-faith conversation.  Is this still a popular topic for people?  Usually it’s hell or homosexuality.”  I have no idea of his intentions, but very often many Christians feel like such conversations have little if anything to do with someone’s genuine interest in (or pursuit of) faith, and everything to do with some kind of justification of their unbelief.  The theological out-clauses are many: global suffering and evil, hypocrisy in the church, science and/or evolution, hell, homosexuality, ‘the Old Testament’, etc.

This leads me to another thought, which emerged from my reflections.  It is the reality that if an ultimate invisible and limitless being is real, then that kind of opens up literally anything and everything as being possible.  A ‘god’ could be very controlling and hands-on, more distant and deistic, or somewhere in the middle; evil, good, impatient, patient.  If people just start believing in ‘god’ willy nilly, well they might start believing just about anything about that ‘god’.  This ‘god’ might send 99.9999% of humans to hell, gays first of course, and save only the members of Westboro Baptist Church.  Or this ‘god’ might be the mamby pamby, everything-and-everyone-is-great, domesticated, flaccid (and frankly boring) deity… Anything is possible if there is a ‘god’!

The truth behind all this is precisely this: Yes, you and I don’t get to say what God is like.  God may have attributes we don’t find pleasant or popular in our time and culture.

This is where a little notion called surrender comes in.  This is where we stop trying to be more moral than God.  This is where we let go of all our controlling questions and submit to the reality of an Ultimate being, far stronger and higher than us.

The good news, literally, is that in the person and gospel of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to wonder – or fear! – what God might be like.  We have a Creator and Saviour who is radically committed to the creation, humans in particular.  So much so that this God is long-suffering and hell-bent on saving us, despite our almost continual rejection, rebellion, apathy and downright selfishness.

Anything is possible with God; and what a good possibility it is with the God we know through Jesus Christ.

miracles

Some scattered, quick thoughts about miracles, in passing reflection (all I’ve got time for at the moment) on some recent posts by Damian and Glenn.

  • I, too, am sceptical (US friends, this is the NZ spelling of skeptical) of most miracle reports I hear.  Wait, no, I’m actually sceptical of all miracle reports I hear.  Not because I think ‘miracles just don’t happen’ (naturalism), or ‘miracles just don’t happen any more‘ (cessationalism); but rather because miracles are meant to be pretty amazing things, which don’t happen all the time, and amount to more than looking for your car keys for 30 seconds, then praying and finding them and calling it a ‘miracle’.  ((one wonders: how quickly after praying does the thing have to happen for it to have happened ‘because you/I/we prayed’?))
  • “That’s just hear-say” is just as much a non-reason for something not being a miracle as “But Benny Hinn said so” is for something being one.
  • People disbelieve miracles (in general) of a miracle story (in particular) for two main reasons: impossibility and impropriety.  Not possible or Not proper.  Can’t happen or Surely didn’t happen.  They either rule them out a priori, or they feel that they (in general or in this/that particular case) are ‘unfitting’ invasions/interruptions/etc.
  • ‘Miracles’ by Clive Staples Lewis.  Everyone interested should read it.
  • The very concept of a miracle requires some sense of ‘the way things normally/lawfully/usually/typically happen’, as a miracle is an abnormal/’unlawful’/unusual/non-typical sort of thing.  People don’t say something was a miracle because they don’t know the laws of nature, but because they do.  Without a sense of ‘what normally happens’ (i.e. sex –> fertilisation or stork or something –> baby; or life –> death –> remaining dead), there can be no concept of a miracle (i.e. wow, a virgin is pregnant.  How odd!; or life –> death –> eating breakfast on the beach with friends).
  • Miracles attributed to various kinds/understandings of god/God/gods doesn’t in any way make them (automatically) less/more believable.
  • In an analogous relation to the hopeless task of reading all books that are published, it is impossible to investigate all miracle claims in anywhere near a robust enough way to discredit them all.  Hence the inconvenient situation we have of not having philosophical 100% epistemic certitude regarding whether or not miracles happen.  Having said that, I see no reason to say that someone who genuinely claims that a reasonably verified miracle has happened to them is not justified in claiming 100% certainty?  (or people close to them, for that matter?)
  • There are different kinds of miracles: miracles of ‘timing’ (i.e. an earthquake causing a river-damming landslide just as you approach it); miracles of ‘restoration’ (delayed-decay? – i.e. a death-delaying disappearance of a cancerous tumor); miracles of ‘information’ (i.e. prophetic word of knowledge of future event, etc.); etc.