At last – the perfect scriptural passage to illustrate the tension between what I think of as “supernaturalism” and “Deism” 🙂

Supernaturalism accepts a metaphysical dimension that supercedes nature, and is not subject to direct observation. Theism is intrinsically supernatural. If we believe in God at all, we must accept the idea that the supernatural exists, since God is, by definition, supernatural.

One definition of Deism … is the classical view that the universe was created by a God who then makes no further intervention in its affairs, often expressed by the metaphor of the “Divine Watchmaker” with creation being self-regulating. In this view, the reason God does not intervene in the world (via miracles) is not simply that he does not care, but rather that he has already created the best of all possible worlds and any intervention could not improve it.

One area of difference between Deism and supernaturalism is the acceptance/denial of miracles like the raising of Lazarus. What is a miracle?

Thomas Aquinas says … those things are properly called miracles which are done by divine agency beyond the order commonly observed in nature (praeter ordinem communiter observatum in rebus),

A Deist viewpoint of miracles might be summed up by the thoughts of Spinoza (1670) who believed that they do not occur as nothing happens contrary to the eternal and unchangeable order of nature which God has set up.

I guess you guys know which I am – a supernaturalist. I believe the miracles in the NT did occur and, like CS Lewis, I don’t think there’s a contradiction between a miracle and the laws of nature. As he says …

By definition, miracles must of course interrupt the usual course of Nature; but if they are real they must, in the very act of so doing, assert all the more the unity and self-consistency of total reality at some deeper level. … In calling them miracles we do not mean that they are contradictions or outrages; we mean that, left to her [Nature] own resources, she could never produce them.

All of this is, of course, just the hashing about of ideas and beliefs … I know mine are no more valid than anyone else’s … it’s just fun sometimes to talk about them 🙂


3 responses

  1. Well — Larry should appreciate the Blake pic :0)I would call myself a soft-supernaturalist based upon your definitions. While I accept the possibility of miracles I treat any given potential instance with skepticism. Mircales in the sense of direct interventions contrary to the usual order of things are by deinition so unusual that any given potential case is likely to be explainable by other causes.OTOH: God maybe (is) re-creating the universe moment by moment. That emans each sunset, each flower bloom, each braeth we draw is a direct intervention of the divine into our awareness.So i guess my answer about miracles is — depends what you mean by miracle.

  2. Yes, I was reading that the catholic church now usually only works with medical miracles. And there are strict guidelines for what can count as a possible medical miracle … They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting… Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade…. “Inexplicable,” or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the Vatican’s “medical conference” give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope. Modern Miracles Have Strict Rules, David Van Biema, TIME, April 10, 1995

  3. As a naturalist I believe nature was created by God, who works through nature in performing all mighty acts. We call some of them miracles because we don’t understand how they happened.But remember we understand only a tiny, tiny fraction of nature. I don’t call something supernatural because I don’t understand how it happened. I don’t undertstand one heck of a lot about anything.Well, my rant ends here.

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