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Monday, 24 April 2017

Miracles and Science

Can miracles take place?

A common western objection to Christianity is that it is founded on a miracle - the supernatural Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This miracle is crucial to the Christian faith, so much so that if Christ had not been raised then Christianity would be a pure deception.

So, how do we tie up the resurrection of Jesus - trillions of dead cells coming back to life in an instant - with science?

Closed system assumption
Science relies for its normal operation on the assumption that any one part of the universe is a closed system. Take the solar system. Our ability to predict the orbits of the planets from the laws of motion depends on assuming that an angel isn't randomly nudging them this way or that! This is what we mean by a closed system and it's a good - and indeed essential - assumption to make.

When I was a PhD student with an experimental "rig", for example, I assumed that there were no angels or demons inside the rig and that I could therefore model the physical processes taking place within it using mathematical equations.

All the predictions scientists make day by day are based on this assumption. 

The assumption can't be proved
The problem however is twofold. Due to the vastness of the universe, there is no way that science could ever know whether the universe was closed. And secondly there are no theoretical reasons why the assumption needs to be true. So while science assumes the universe is closed it cannot either demonstrate that the universe is closed or provide any theoretical reasons as to why it has to be.

So we are left with an open system in which miracles can happen anywhere and science is OK with that - not that we are looking for cart-before-horse science approval of the miraculous!

Closed system?
Of course underneath the foregoing argument is a very subtle materialism. It assumes that there is no God upholding the regular laws of the universe. The truth of the matter is that what we call regular laws are nothing other than the underpinning mighty power of the Son of God who "sustains all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3) and who "holds all things together" (Colossians 1:17).

In other words there is no such thing as a closed system! How ridiculous the notion of a creation where the Creator is abolished from his universe a priori! How arrogant! How blasphemous!

The universe, which while it is not God (we are not pantheists), is permeated by God's mighty power and sustained by that power.  Normally God choses to work in a regular way (normal nature) but sometimes he choses to work in a supranatural way (miracles).

Miracles are just God tweaking the way he normally works in one region of his universe and making things work in a different way. Miracles are not God "intervening" - he always intervenes, for he is God! Miracles are simply God working in mode B rather than in mode A.

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