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Miracles and the Uniformity of Nature




By: Eli Ayala


The question that this article presents was sent to me through a Facebook message and I thought it would be helpful to reproduce my response here for folks to be able to read.


Question:


Hey brother! Have you ever heard the claim made that the uniformity of nature doesn’t exist if God can break the rules of nature through miracles?


Clarifying the Question:


In apologetic dialogues, presuppositionalists often make reference to the fact that given the Christian picture of reality in which God exists and governs the world in an orderly fashion, the Christian has a basis to expect uniformity and regularity in nature. The world works in an orderly fashion and we are justified in expecting regularity because an orderly God created the world to function in this way, as Genesis 8:22 notes, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”


The heart of the question above is that if God intervenes through acts of the miraculous, then is the Christian justified in expecting that the future will be like the past, that is, is the Christian justified in expecting the regular and orderly functioning of the natural order? The point here is to place the Christian theist in the same boat as the skeptic, in that both are not justified in expecting such regularities.


Answer:


Yes, I have heard that. But it is logically fallacious: “The uniformity of nature does not exist” does not logically follow from “God can break the laws of nature.” First, the criticism incorrectly understands the laws of nature as having “rules” that function on their own, and God must step in to break those rules. That understanding of natural law is more deistic than Christian theistic.


Systematic Theologian Wayne Grudem, correctly defines a miracle in the following way: “A miracle is a less common kind of God’s activity in which he arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (Systematic Theology, pg. 648).


Notice that miracle is defined as a “less common kind of God’s activity.” So there is a distinction between “less common kind of God’s activity” and a “more common kind of God’s activity.” Natural law in its regularity is merely a description of God’s common providential activity in his governance of the world. And within this “common kind of activity” the Christian can be confident that God will continue to function in this regular pattern of governance unless he desires to provide a distinct witness of himself and his activity through the miraculous, in which case, he will not “break any rules of nature”, but rather, he will utilize his “less common kind of activity” so that it is made in stark contrast to his more “common kind of activity” and hence man will know that God is engaging in the miraculous at that moment.


So, based upon God’s providence and promise to govern the world in a generally uniform way (Genesis 8:22), the Christian has the worldview basis for expecting uniformity, generally speaking, and has the basis for also allowing for the miraculous to occur. The unbeliever, who posits a world governed by randomness and chance has no basis for any uniformity whatsoever. All is as Shakespeare wrote, Sound and fury signifying nothing.

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