Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Supernatural acts of God

I have been really enjoying Miracles by C.S. Lewis. I thought I would share a few concepts about God from a chapter called "The propriety of Miracles". He answers the question that some of us may ask. Why would God need to do miracles, wouldn't He be able to plan out nature so that it would fulfil all His purposes without the need to apparently break His own laws of nature?

Lewis begins the chapter with:

"If the ultimate Fact is not an abstraction but the living God, opaque by the very fullness of His blinding actuality, then He might do things. He might work miracles. But would He? Many people of sincere piety feel that He would not. They think it unworthy of Him. It is petty and capricious tyrants who break their own laws: good and wise kings obey them. Only an incompetent workman will produce work which needs to be interfered with." 

He came up with a couple of potential answers to these questions that I found worthwhile thinking about.

1. Lewis suggested that God is like a poet or a painter when it comes to His ultimate plan. He follows basic rules known to everyone, rules that are consistent most of the time, ones that we can generally rely on. But what can surprise us is when the Poet or Painter is so skilful that He appears to break the rules of painting and poetry. The inexperienced may see a poem as half completed or a painting as incomplete, not because they are experts on art, but because they are not. It is the true artists who follow greater rules that are known to fewer of us. The true Artist is able to create a more beautiful and creative art work because of His knowledge and scope of what really is great art. Or I think about Jazz, it is music that appears to break rules but in fact follows a greater understanding of creative music. 
Hence if God does a miracle, it is not because He is incompetent but because He is competent. He is our lecturer, we are the students, in fact, are we the art? :)

2. The next concept that Lewis describes about story telling, is that a badly done story is where the plot is destroyed by unexpected or misplaced miracles. An example he gives is where a realistic story may be left at the end with a cliffhanger, only to finish with an unexpected miracle as an easy way out. The miracle that happened, destroyed the story because the miracle was not the theme of the story. How many movies have we watched where story writers do this! You are enjoying movie, wondering what could be happening, only to find it explained away by a seemingly random alien or ghost! 
However, as Lewis points out, a story where supernatural miracles are what the story is about, can then make a fantastic story.

Here I'll let Lewis describe how these ideas relate to God and His art.

"Now there is no doubt that a great deal of the modern objection to miracles is based on the suspicion that they are marvels of the wrong sort; that a story of a certain kind (Nature) is arbitrarily interfered with, to get the characters out of a difficulty, by events that do not really belong to that kind of story. Some people probably think of the Resurrection as a desperate last moment expedient to save the Hero from a situation which had got out of the Author’s control. The reader may set his mind at rest. If I thought miracles were like that, I should not believe in them. If they have occurred, they have occurred because they are the very thing this universal story is about. They are not exceptions (however rarely they occur) not irrelevancies. They are precisely those chapters in this great story on which the plot turns. Death and Resurrection are what the story is about; and had we but eyes to see it, this has been hinted on every page, met us, in some disguise, at every turn, and even been muttered in conversations between such minor characters (if they are minor characters) as the vegetables. If you have hitherto disbelieved in miracles, it is worth pausing a moment to consider whether this is not chiefly because you thought you had discovered what the story was really about?—that atoms, and time and space and economics and politics were the main plot? And is it certain you were right? It is easy to make mistakes in such matters....
To be sure, God might be expected to make a better story... But it is a very long story, with a complicated plot; and we are not, perhaps, very attentive readers."

The cross of Christ is not a last resort, ditch effort to restore a story gone wrong, but the intended outcome hinted to us throughout scripture. God, the Author of life as we know it, plans the future in as much detail as He sees the past, and we are partakers in His ultimate story. What part will we play?  

Quotes retrieved from

Monday, January 20, 2014

Now That's a Greater Faith Than Mine!

I believe in God because he has revealed himself to all who are faithfully looking for him. I faithfully believe that there is evidence of God throughout the universe. However, in the known universe, I freely attest that there is absolutely nothing that proves beyond a shadow of doubt, that there is a God. However, I and many others, by faith, attest that there is a God.

A believer will tell you that it is strictly by faith that we come to the decision to believe in God by looking at pointers. Things that have no real explanation by itself but accumulatively point to an intelligent designer. We call him God. I freely admit that I do not have tangible proof and am running on faith alone.

With that said, there is a greater faith than mine and that is of those who freely decide that there is no God. They look at the same evidence and decide that there is nothing to our God. As a matter of fact, many do call God, "nothingness". They ask us how we could come to our conclusions with no real proof. They call it a blind faith.

The pointers I mentioned earlier are based on the belief that everything in the universe, known and unknown, the something and the nothing, points to something greater than man. I can show you how everything and the nothing points to something beyond our understanding. However, when those who do not believe make their decision on the known universe, it is a small sampling of the known universe.

Present scientific consensus states that only 5% of the universe is knowable matter. The other 95% is nothingness, Dark Energy or Dark Matter with little or no understanding what Dark Matter or Dark Energy or nothingness actually is. Based on that 5%, non believers freely decide and proudly proclaim that there is absolutely no God and are willing to risk their immortal souls on it. A decision based on a 5% sampling rate……

That my friends is a Faith greater than mine.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Supernatural vs Process

A quick interlude between posts in my current series ... :)

This article is very thought provoking - it deals with the idea that Christians typically prefer supernatural descriptions of God's activity rather than natural / process descriptions. This is particularly obvious when it comes to creation and the origin of Scripture.

OBVIOUSLY this is a simplistic (and in some places and for many people, wrong) discussion. Supernatural creation is preferred over evolution for many reasons, and not only because it has more God-interventions that are not considered 'natural'. Biblical inspiration is preferred over a naturalistic explanation for many reasons, not only because it requires more supernatural intervention.

But I think the author makes an interesting point - why is it that we rely on non-'natural' interventions to assure us that God was present and involved and sovereign over a process? While I disagree with the author's specific conclusions regarding creation and Biblical inerrancy, his conclusion that this is not necessary or healthy - it's mostly right. The problem, I think, stems from his emphasis. He minimises the evidence and need for 'non-natural' intervention to support God's sovereign involvement, rather than lifting our view of 'natural processes' to BE a form of 'super-natural' sovereign involvement.

For example, in writing Scripture, he states that wise men simply wrote what they liked, hence no need for a high view of inerrancy, but God was still present in the process. I would say that God is ALWAYS present and active in every person's thoughts and writings, and not a single word is spoken or written that God did not specifically ordain. This includes Scripture. So we can still acknowledge 'natural' processes, and even potentially accept 'errors', but have confidence in the absolute intimate and sovereign direction of God.

This means that we really can trust Scripture to be without error in all that God intended it to teach, and in the clarity of its message, and in its preservation. This is ultimately why I disagree with his specific conclusions about Scripture, and creation.

So 'natural' processes are in fact multitudes of 'supernatural', intimately God-sustained and directed, sovereignty beautiful interventions. We should not minimise processes, or rely on obvious 'supernatural' interventions to assure us of God's involvement. He is ever-present and involved!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Next I want to discuss the apparent obscuring of God’s nature in reality, and God’s relation to this - his justice, and victory over/through evil. Much of this discussion will continue throughout the series, so this is just a simple introduction. Also Hell is notably absent from this discussion - I will address this later too.

Remember I’m really keen to hear philosophical or scriptural challenges, or even simple lack of clarity. Please comment :)

Sin & Evil
In contrast to holiness, divergence from God’s character is known as sin - this is not a description of specific acts, rather a state of character.
Anything which encourages development of sin character (called ‘falling’ or ‘hardening of heart’) is evil. This includes trials (perceived lack of expression of God’s character), and temptations (perceived alternative offers of pleasure). Sin always wills for evil to be expressed.
Since the best expression of God’s character is the ultimate result of all things God creates/allows, God only allows evil/sin to exist because they ultimately serve as part of that best expression. Thus evil is never truly/ultimately evil - it is only temporary. This also means that sinful characters will never find as full ultimate expression as holy characters, minimising possible pleasure.

God’s relational nature compels Him to express his character in a very particular way - by demonstrating how other relational beings do / should relate to Him and the rest of reality. This is known as God’s justice.
Part of his justice is demonstrating the natures of other relational beings. These are themselves part of the expression of God’s character (and so need demonstrating anyway), but particularly in a relational sense to uphold God’s justice. Also, no other being has foreknowledge like God, so without demonstrating some of these fundamental realities, they would never be known, and the expression of God’s character (and justice) would be reduced.
Part of His justice is treating His character as of infinite importance  - as the ultimate purpose AND good for all things. Evil and sin cannot merely be overlooked because they ultimately work for good - although that would still demonstrate God’s character in the end, it would fail to demonstrate the full importance of His character (especially in a relational sense).
Part of His justice is demonstrating a contrast between good any other possible experience (i.e. evil), and between holiness and sin. This includes describing and demonstrating the differential outcomes of each character type - in terms of natural consequences, and punishment/reward (thus upholding the importance of His character). God’s justice ascribes merit to individual soul-states - to sin/holy characters, and to subsequent wills, desires, and emotions.

Necessity of Evil & Sin
God’s desire and ability to mould a variety of holy characters, coupled with the nature of soulishness, means that a variety of specific experiences in specific contexts are required to produce the necessary sanctification process. And some (? all) of these sanctification processes theoretically require directional switches (repentance - rather than simple unidirectional sanctification).
In addition to this, conscious faith toward God’s own character is necessary to God’s plan. It demonstrates the depth of God’s grace more clearly than faith-less ‘sanctification’, because it is focussed on Him, and allows more pleasure (in Him). 
But those attitudes of faith only have any real substance WHEN they exist in the face of imperfect realisation or experience. In other words, only if a semblance of holiness persists in the face of some experience of evil. Ultimately, faith requires a mix of good and evil, where the perception of good slightly outweighs the perception of evil (possibly involving prior learning and spiritual senses).

We can see from these things that there is a good argument to be made for the necessity of evil, FOR the best expression of God’s character, despite the fact that (by definition) it temporarily obscures at least some aspects of that very character.
The variety of sanctification processes God requires need the existence of evil/sin. Faith needs evil/sin. Demonstrating the contrast between His character and otherwise, requires the existence of evil/sin. 
And finally - both of which are discussed later - Demonstrating humanity’s nature of Total Depravity requires evil/sin, and the existence of Hell (also necessary for different reasons) requires evil/sin.
Note that the necessity of Evil/Sin for ultimate good, means that it is entirely possible for God to ordain and create sin and evil, without Himself being sinful, and without evil being the ultimate result.
Thus the context in which we live our lives - a mixture of God’s goodness (needed for any holiness to be possible, and the continued expression of God’s character) AND evil (needed as discussed above). God’s deliberate allowance of evil in the fleshly world is known as the curse, and it includes human death.

God uses processes
We can also make an observation about God’s methods. He does not instantaneously create what He desires, but uses processes. 
This is partly because He desires some of the actual processes themselves (as they display aspects of His character better, or demonstrate aspects of creation which need to be displayed).
It is also partly because He is constrained to use them by other desires - i.e. the complexity of creation, the nature of our souls, the necessity of temporary evil (i.e. must progress from the stage of its existence to the stage of its removal).

  1. Evil (trials and temptations) is any lack of expression of God’s character, which encourages the development of sinful characters (divergence from God’s character).
  2. Evil is something God continues to allow in creation, meaning it MUST somehow be part of the best expression of His character. Thus evil never exists in an ultimate sense (only temporarily).
  3. God’s justice compels Him to demonstrate the natures of all beings, and the contrast and natural consequences of evil/good and holiness/sin.
  4. God’s justice compels Him to treat His character as of infinite importance, meaning he cannot overlook them (even though they work for good in the end), and meaning He ascribes merit (for reward/punishment) to various soul states.
  5. Evil is necessary for the variety of sanctification processes, for faith, and for aspects of God’s justice.
  6. Since Evil is ultimately ‘good’, God can ordain it without being sinful, and without evil having even the slightest victory in the end.
  7. God uses processes rather than instantaneous power - partly because the processes themselves display His character best, partly because of the complexity of creation and the nature of souls, and partly because of the need for temporary evil.
The Series
  3. GOD'S NATURE - OBSCURED (this post)
  5. More to come...