In discussing miraculous occurrences as recounted in the Bible, we often see apologists swing back and forth as to what part of the miracle was actually supernatural, and what part of it was natural. Obviously, God could use both to his advantage, having the foresight to utilize an opportune moment and make it look like a miracle, yet there would be no way for us to tell.
How does a Christian come up with a system, by which we determine God just had good timing, as compared to God actually intervening? There is no way.
I was reading elsewhere as to a re-definition of the First Plague, that of turning the water into Blood. The author was indicating that “Blood” may actually have been a color, and that the First Plague may have been some sort of pestilence, red in color, that killed all the fish, and made the water undrinkable.
If I read this correctly, the author was arguing that instead of the water being Blood, which would be red, it was a pestilence that was red. Instead of the blood killing the fish, it was the pestilence killing the fish. Instead of the blood rendering the water undrinkable, it was the pestilence. I was trying to figure out, for the life of me, why it made a difference? About the only difference I could tell, that was not even addressed in the Biblical account, was that blood would coagulate, and the “pestilence” would not.
As if the author was attempting to explain away that it could not be Blood, so as to avoid people asking why the Nile did not turn into one big scab.
Excuse me? I thought the idea of the plagues was that God was doing something miraculous. If God could turn an entire river into Blood, He certainly could have made it blood without the ability to coagulate! Somehow, the author had no problem with God intervening with the entire water system of Egypt at once, but not creating something that is physically impossible to exist. Curious. If God made water into Blood, he was stuck with all the properties of Blood.
I have seen the argument that the crossing of the Reed Sea was done at the time of a tsunami, and the reason why the water had receded. Did God cause the tsunami? Or was it good timing? Or was it a natural event that people attributed to God? (The timing is all off, anyway. It would take more than 30 days for 2 Million to cross a sea, and no tsunami lasts that long.)
Probably one of the biggest contenders of this characteristic is the Flood. Christians talk about the supernatural aspect of enough water being produced to cover the entire earth.
Then they use the fact that all this water is there to give natural explanations for fossils, continents, and mountains forming. Couldn’t the fossils also miraculously appear? Occasionally we mix and match parts of natural/supernatural. Like God supernaturally calling all the animals into the Ark, but naturally fitting them in, and then supernaturally causing them to hibernate, rather than require food.
Even Christians understand the problem of fitting all the provisions and animals on the Ark, so they begin inserting “miracles” as necessary to resolve the problem. Re-define “kinds” so as to require supernatural evolutionary rates. Or have the animals all shrink. Or have “pockets” of fresh water for some fish to survive. As the natural explanation is being given, if there is a speed bump, simply interject a “miracle.” Shoot, the whole thing is a miracle, what is wrong with a few nudges of miracles along the way?
The problem comes in that we no longer can determine how much was a miracle, and how much was not. If it was ALL a miracle, why the silly charade of having a flood, a boat and a dramatic rescue? Easier to kill all but a few humans and animals with God’s laser-beam eyes.
For some reason (that the Christian enthusiastically admits they cannot even hope to explain) the God must be mixing and matching natural and supernatural events. Either there is some limitation in which he is bound by some laws, or the humans are picking and choosing which parts to label “miracle” and which to not by arbitrary means.
I wonder if even the Christian begins to understand how “it’s a miracle” begins to wear thin as an excuse.
“How did God get the animals to the Ark?”
“It’s a miracle.”
”How did God fit them in?”
“It’s a miracle.”
“How did Noah feed them?”
“It’s a miracle.”
“How did Noah exercise them?”
“It’s a miracle.”
“How did the Ark sustain the build-up of gases?”
“It’s a miracle.”
“Where did the water come from?”
“It’s a miracle”
“Where did the water go?”
“It’s a miracle.”
Yet that is not what we see. Instead we see blogs, and articles, and even entire books dedicated to explaining how a world-wide deluge could only supernaturally occur, but preservation of animal-life could naturally occur. Was God reduced to one miracle a year?
Or Joshua’s extra day, which was recently discussed. Again, a miracle. Yet Christians are often caught in attempting to explain how the earth rotated differently, or “time bubbles” were created or how the axis spun differently, or the earth’s crust stopped spinning. We have even seen the urban legend of astronomers attempting to account for the “lost day” as natural proof of a supernatural event! Natural explanations for a supernaturally claimed event.
Why not just shrug, and toss yet one more of millions of other things into the “We don’t know, but by labeling it as ‘God just did it’ makes it a more intellectually satisfying explanation than ‘We don’t know.’”
Another common natural/supernatural event is the Resurrection. We all agree that a person that is dead for 2 days does not come back to life. That is a supernatural event. But then Christians insist on Jesus having a very natural body. One that walks, talks and eats. (Luke 24:42-43) Not so natural to fly, so that one gets chalked down to the miracle bit. (Acts 1:9)
Or, more interestingly, Jesus having the ability to teleport in and out of rooms. (Luke 24:31, 24:36; John 20:19, 20:26) Again, we have arbitrary choices, as mandated by various books, attempting to claim that parts of Jesus were natural, and parts were supernatural.
“Visions” and supernatural ghosts appear in and out, without requiring open doors. “Physical bodies” require opening and shutting doors. Which was Jesus? Well, that depends on the moment.
If Jesus could teleport from room to room (and teleport from city to city) why did the Stone have to be removed from the tomb? Could you see Jesus coming back from the dead? There he was, in a tomb, the linens neatly folded. “Great. Here I am back from the dead. I can vanish, appear and even fly. But I can’t get out until somebody moves this blessed rock.” Talk about frustrating!
Why would the rock need to be moved from the tomb? According to the tales, Jesus convincingly no longer needed doors.
Mark recounts the women visiting the tomb, and the rock is already removed. The tomb is empty. An open door, a missing body—pretty clear how that body was supposed to get out. (Mark 16:4-6) Luke follows Mark’s lead with the same implication. (Luke 24:2-3) John also has a moved rock, and missing body. (John. 20:1)
Only Matthew recounts even how the stone was moved by indicating an angel moved it. An angel so bright that the soldiers fainted. Is that when Jesus escaped? (Matt. 28:2-3) Remember, this was Jesus that could vanish and re-appear at will. He just needed that rock out of the way! The angel even says, “Come see where he lay.” I am often told that just because one account doesn’t say something happened, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Hey, I can play that game too! Just because the angel doesn’t say it, the angel could have muttered under his breath, “Come see where he lay…(until about two seconds ago, when I had to open the stone, because Jesus forgot his key again. Had you come in here a bit quicker, you would have seen him teleport out of here naked!)”
By the time the Gospel of Peter was written, it was made even clearer that Jesus needed that rock moved to get out. The Gospel of Peter has the stone rolling away by itself; two angels come down from heaven, go into the tomb, and bring Jesus out. We know that actually happened, because it was recounted as something the centurion said, and early Christians would have been too fearful to quote testimony from a living Roman Soldier. (I hope you understand the sarcasm of that last sentence after reading such claims from apologists.)
In the very earliest elements of the resurrection story, Jesus can’t get out without that stone being moved. Now…it may be stated that it was not a question of inability, but of demonstration to his followers that the tomb was empty. I would hope one would seriously consider that statement, and recognize how unpersuasive it is.
Apparently having Angels appear at the tomb, and say “He is risen” would not be enough. Seeing Jesus would not be enough. Placing one’s fingers in the wounds would not be enough. Watching Jesus eat, hear him talk, watching him cook and clean fish would not be enough. Watching him fly off into the sky. Nope, all that would never quite convince the disciples that Jesus was resurrected. God needed to have that stone moved, so the Disciples could clearly see it was not a clever imposter. (‘Course a clever imposter could have also moved the body, once the tomb was open, but let’s not think about that.)
Moving the stone for a “look-see” would not make a whit of difference to his followers. There would not have been any need to connect an empty tomb to the miraculous personage appearing before them.
I imagine one of the earliest conversations between a Christian and a non-believer could have looked like this:
“Jesus is risen!”
“How do you know?”
“Oh…er…’cause his disciples said his tomb was empty!”
“How could they see that?”
“They must have looked.”
In order to look, the stone had to be out of the way. From this simple story, Mark incorporated the myth of the moving Rock. Only later, in order to add panache, did stories develop about how Jesus could teleport—never realizing it made the earlier stories of a moving rock unnecessary.
Again and again, we see an interesting mixture of natural and supernatural explanations, without a system for us ever to determine which could be miraculous, and which can be naturally explained away. Odd that Christians, in order to bolster their claims of miracles, often hinge the miracle’s effect and aftermath on natural events.
When my children were much, much younger, I had them largely convinced I could open doors with my mind. As we approached the grocery store I would call out, “Watch this. Watch this.” and would nod my head with emphasis, with my face contorted as if I was thinking very hard. At the correct moment of the nod, I would step into the radar, making the door swing open. “See? I can open doors with my mind.”
A few times of this, and they were almost (but not quite) firmly convinced. When they asked me to repeat this trick at home, they began to suspect it was not totally within my psychic ability.
Miracles are like that. At first, the stories sound fantastic, but upon inspection and contemplation, they begin to fall apart.
No, I do not assume miracles cannot exist. I am having a hard time, though, hearing Christians agree as to what is a supernatural miracle, and what is good timing, and what is natural. If Christians cannot agree what is a miracle, why should I assume that what some particular Christians claim is a miracle—really is?
Jesus needing a rock to move, because naturally he could not leave without it, and later teleporting sounds exactly as to how humans create myths.