Miracles Summary – Chapters 10 & 11
Many people reject Christianity because it seems too primitive or non-intellectual – lol. Apparently, some ancient people believed that God lived in the sky and had a son who came down to earth, and who then returned back to the sky to sit on a throne—today people just don’t believe such things. Our images of things, however, and the truth behind the images are not identical. For example, when we picture London we see an image that is not what London really is. Nevertheless, we can think about London and research London even though our mental picture of London is never close to what the city actually is. There was a girl who didn’t think that aspirin was poisonous because when it was crushed it wasn’t full of “horrid red things.” Her mental picture of poison was quite wrong, but that doesn’t mean her thinking about poison was inaccurate (she knew it was harmful and you shouldn’t swallow it).Whenever we talk about things that we cannot directly perceive with our senses, we must still use the language of sense perception (e.g. I “see” your point). There is simply no way to talk about super-sensible realities without using language metaphorically. In order to talk about things we cannot see, touch, or hear, we need to speak about them as if we could see, touch, or hear them. When Christians talk about spiritual realities, they will find mental images in their minds—but the presence of these images does not mean that their thinking about them is false or absurd. Even if early Christians took some images literally, it doesn’t follow that they were wrong about everything they thought about their images, in the same way that the girl who pictured poison as “horrible red things” would not be wrong not to drink something she knew was poisonous. An early Christian might really think that Jesus physically went up through the sky to sit on a chair—if they later came to take the image metaphorically, they would lose nothing, since the truth-point for them was always that Jesus was ruling and reigning over all. The same truth is evident and a literal reality either way. Neither image is wrong if it does not dismiss the truth that is believed.
The Bible itself gives images of God while denying he can be pictured or seen. It says that God lives in heaven even though he made it; that he lives above the earth and that he fills the heavens and earth. These are statements of spiritual truths, not physical science. When the Bible speaks about miracles, however, it is not speaking metaphorically. We know this because the miracles actually could be experienced through sense perceptions: they were seen, heard, felt, and observed – verifiable evidence. The language of description for biblical miracles, therefore, is literal and historical rather than metaphorical.
Some people believe that there is a supernatural being, but they do not believe that he would interfere with Nature. Much religion reduces to a vague pantheism—in fact, a pantheistic view of God is what people naturally gravitate towards. Pantheism sees God as diffused and distributed through everything like a gas, and everything is part of him. The pantheistic God is sub-personal, a formless everything. Christianity denies this and rightfully insists that God is super-personal and particular. He is the Absolute: the real Thing and Fact that creates other things and facts. Far from reducing the grandeur of God, this view magnifies it. Contemporary theologians tend to reduce God to negatives (impersonal, incorporeal), but because they lack the positive vision of the sages they fail to see that God is more than a blank, absolute negation.
In regards to God, words like “incorporeal” and “impersonal” are not as accurate as “trans-corporal” and “trans-personal”, because he is more, not less. We are the ones who are incorporeal compared to God’s fuller existence and life—we are less substantial than he is. The biblical pictures are not too strong and concrete—they are not strong enough. Spirit should be thought of as heavier than matter. And once we see these truths, we either pull back (because we were only pretending to search for God and never expected to find him), or we go on and recognize that with this God anything may happen, and that everything is possible!