Sacred Space: The Church vs. Naturalism

Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

Adam: the first man to be told by a woman to stop messing up her hair.

One of the present challenges to the church is compelling narrative of naturalism. By naturalism, I mean the idea that everything always has and always will be governed by “natural” laws.  In this worldview, science is naturally king because  its business is to study that which is observable. So if one never observes a miracle, why should it ever be taken into account in a naturalistic worldview? Naturalists can very easily regulate miracles into one of two realms: 1) They are the stuff of fantasy because most naturalists have never observed one and/or 2) just because something looks like a miracle, it doesn’t mean that it is. Science just hasn’t figured out the mechanics of it yet.

This is, it must be admitted, a rational and logical position, and it is quite appealing. Naturalism makes sense of the known universe, at least it makes sense of much of it. And because science is so wonderful, it breeds confidence in the idea that through science we will eventually discover the answers to the things we cannot currently make sense of: like where life comes from or what life “is”.

= 2,190,006 Days, not counting pagan “leap years.”

Let’s take, for example, the naturalistic/atheistic view of evolution. What if I read Genesis One very literally and come to the conclusion that the Earth is indeed very young, maybe only 6,000 years. That is insanity to a naturalist because it goes against everything he observes. So how does a “young earther” have a conversation with a naturalist that doesn’t involve name-calling?

I’m not interested in arguing here about the age of the earth, and I am not really interested in arguing about that with a naturalist. What we are really arguing about is whether or not there are miracles. It is as absurd to the naturalist for me to claim that Jesus rose from the dead after three days as it is for me to claim that the earth is young. It is equally ridiculous to the naturalist for me to claim that Elisha made an iron axe head float by tossing a twig into a creek, or that Elijah called down fire from heaven, or that Peter raised Tabitha from the dead by taking her hand and telling her to wake up.

Scientist discovers Earth, on a chalkboard.

When you get to the heart of the matter, the church’s issue with science is not that science is bad. God did create an orderly universe that functions very rationally most of the time. This universe can be studied like a book, and sometimes in the course of study it will reveal to us its secrets. The problem is really miracles. It is possible that God made the world and all the universe instantaneously 6,000 years ago. Or that He did it one minute ago. If a naturalist concedes that this is possible if there exists an omnipotent, all-powerful being then we have simply reached an impasse. After all, people believe all sorts of crazy things and still manage to function as productive members of society.

So how does the church overcome such a system of thought? First, she has to recognize that she cannot out argue a naturalist. We are at an impasse. Second, she has to recognize that the issue really is God’s existence and the idea that He intervenes or creates miraculously, that He is above science and cannot be found or proven by science. He is beyond our reason, but that does not mean He is unreasonable.

Scientist discovers spaceship, also on chalkboard.

Finally, in an age where miracles are rare and cannot be scientifically examined even if they weren’t, we have to remember that becoming a Christian is, in itself, a miracle. No one is a Christian because they figured out life, creation, and the age of the Earth. People are Christians because God intervened in their lives, brought life to their soul, and even now bears witness to their spirit that they are God’s children. The new birth is a miracle, and the only way anyone ever experiences it is when the church preaches the gospel.

 

 

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.

  • http://sjsterling.posterous.com Steve Sterling
  • Johan Mathiesen aka DeadManTalking

    Indeed, believing in the unknowable is always safe. At least you can’t be contradicted. You might have a probability of near zero, but one can never count out the teacup flying around the world. It may be there.

    From a practical standpoint, however, forget about it. It’ll just eat up your time with no rewards. Miracles, schmiracles. There comes a time to put away childish things. This is that time.

  • Adam E

    Naturalism gives us the facts about our world. Christianity gives is something that science never can; the reason why it exists.

  • http://www.spiritofthescripture.com Joshua Tilghman

    I think miracles only seem like miracles because we can give no account as to why they happen…they seem to follow no natural law. But perhaps they do, it’s just on a level we can’t consciously comprehend yet. I am in no way putting down awesome evens seen as miracles. I just think we do injustice to ourselves and the world around us to say something is so miraculous that it could never be understood. There is always a cause and an effect.

    http://www.spiritofthescripture.com/blog

  • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

    Joshua,

    If they can be naturally sorted out, or if they follow a natural law, then they aren’t miracles. A miracle is Jesus rising from the dead after three days, or the Red Sea standing aside in one heap, or an iron axe head floating in a stream because someone threw a stick the water, or the Nile River turning into blood.

    Science cannot explain things of this nature, and to hold out that science can “eventually” is to give up on the super-natural completely.


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