Friday, November 3, 2017

What Sort of Miracle?

Miracle is a term with many meanings in different contexts. When the term is used in connection with radical or unexplained improvement in one’s medical condition—miracle is frequently applied. Seldom do people comment on what type of miracle has occurred. Most people tacitly understand and approve characterizations of such events as miraculous. For example, recently a local newspaper reported on the startling recovery of a young boy from over a half dozen separate serious injuries suffered when he dashed across the road without first looking for oncoming traffic. We concur with this use of the term miracle with the caveat that the term has multidimensional meanings.

When God fashioned the Earth with its present functionality we could apply many instances in which miracle describes a series of highly remarkable events. We launch our discussion by referring to our previous post on the cause of Earth’s distinct seasons. The tilt of our planet’s axis, currently 23.4ยบ from a right angle relationship to Earth’s orbital plane, is theorized to result from the collision of Earth with another planetary body shortly after our satellite became a solid body. The hypothetical collision caused an orbital deflection which resulted in our planet’s seasonal characteristics even to this day. Most Solar System planets have seasons related to the period of their orbits, (length of time for one revolution) but the presence of life on any of them is not evident.

The presence of warm and cold seasons on our planet is the cause for speculation: Are Earth’s seasons a miracle? or are seasons merely the result of one of many natural “occurrences?” Earth’s seasons have given rise to a multitude of unique planetary characteristics. For starters, scientists acknowledge that the existence of 7 1/2 billion Earth residents on an Earth without seasons could not be sustained. Contrasting seasons have supported and continue to support a diverse and expanding human population! Is the presence of seasons and numerous other life-enabling features of our planet a miracle? If so, we ask, what sort of miracle?

In common public perception, a miracle is sometimes described as highly remarkable, wonderful, unlikely, or coincidental to a high degree. Recovery from an illness described medically as “terminal” causes us to speculate on the possibility of a miracle. The birth of a baby, given the occurrence of a multitude of wondrous circumstances immediately following conception followed by incredible prenatal events in the womb, inspires many to exult in the manifestation of a miracle as described in Psalm 139:13-16. We frequently meditate on the wondrous Old Testament Book of Job, especially chapters 36-41 where Job was questioned whether he appreciated the many works of Almighty God as manifest in the natural world. Many events described in these Book of Job chapters could be described as miracles.

Hugh Ross, in More Than a Theory, (Baker Books, 2009) describes three different kinds of miracles. Generally, his scheme for outlining miracles matches distinctions among miracles made by other authors. These miracles are Transcendent miracles, Transformational miracles, and Sustaining miracles. Ross’s categories range from events truly above and beyond ordinary physical laws contrasted with ordinary physical events events but considered unusual or noteworthy. We contemplate additional posts to help define miracles of different types.   

In the writings of Scripture and in the world of nature we experience many different examples of events which could be described as miracles. Secular scientists attribute natural explanations for every phenomenon they investigate. They resist using the term miracle in any context in their fields of investigation. In contrast, for Christians who believe in the supernatural God of Creation, many phenomena may be considered miraculous. Our blog has discussed many topics dealing with God’s actions which may be described as miraculous. The subject of miracles has many dimensions in the related topics of science and faith.