“Miracles of Nature”: Natural Assumptions for God’s Actions
For example: the flood of Noah, the separation of the Red Sea, the quail, the earth swallowing sinners, Sodom and Gomorrah and the water of the rocks
Atheist and anti-theist Jonathan MS Pearce recently published an article about Sodom and Gomorrah possibly having been destroyed by a meteor / meteorite. Here is my response on his blog:
I wrote about this three months ago, including a reference to the same article you cite at the end of mine. I considered it, of course, to be one of hundreds of scientific and historical / archaeological confirmations of Biblical correctness. What is fascinating is your statement: “Certainly an interesting theory and which is certainly more plausible as an explanation of history than the biblical account!”
There is not necessarily a contradiction between the two. God can perform a miracle, or He can use natural events, with His perfect omniscient knowledge of what will happen and when – including His timeless being (in this case, for judgment). Natural explanations and God’s intentions (sometimes using them) are not mutually exclusive. Personally, I think these scenarios are even Following fascinating and interesting than a purely supernatural miracle, and nothing in the Bible would preclude these events which have been described as “miracles of nature”.
So, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God warned of impending judgment. He knew that a meteor would approach soon, and therefore used the natural event in conjunction with his warning about judgment. It was always His will to judge for sin. How? ‘Or’ What It does so is a separate issue. He can perform a supernatural miracle or use natural events for his purposes.
In my main article defending a local flooding in the Mesopotamian plains, c. 2900 BC, I cited geologist Carol A. Hill (“Qualitative hydrology of Noah’s flood”, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006):
Noah’s Flood was a miracle because God intervened in his physical laws. It is not necessary to invoke the notion of suspension or violation of natural laws in “miracles of nature”. Divine action can simply be understood as higher order laws (the ultimate goal of God) working seamlessly with lower order laws (the physical laws of God). Is it less of a miracle because it is explained by natural processes? This is the nature of “miracles of nature”: to have the timely intervention of God in natural processes.
One of the best examples of a “miracle of nature” that comes to mind is Jesus rebuking the winds and the sea (Matthew 8: 23-26). In Mat. 8:26 am, the calming winds and sea could be explained by a sudden change in barometric pressure – which it probably was. But it was God who brought about this change exactly when Christ commanded the waves and the wind to stop.
Likewise, I wrote in my article on the natural explanations of the quails appearing in the Sinai Peninsula at the usual place and at the right time of the year which can still be observed today with regard to their annual migrations. :
Now, as always, God can work by pure and simple miracles (He could create a million quails on the spot and send them to the complaining Hebrews), or He can wonderfully arrange in His providence that many quails appear right in the middle. when He said they would appear. Both are entirely within its capacity, and either is an extraordinary event, showing its power (omnipotence) and / or its omniscience and sovereignty over nature.
He knew from all eternity that the ancient Israelites would complain in the wilderness that they had no meat (again longing for their wonderful period of slavery in Egypt), and He knew (if the natural explanation was what had happened). actually passed) that the quails would migrate through their path precisely at the time this whisper occurred.
I do not opt for either of the two scenarios. I am simply saying that it is entirely possible (and no less glorious to God) that a natural explanation could explain both the abundance of quails and the death as a result of their consumption. If so, the inspired and infallible Bible would again be accurate in reporting what happened (as it always is).
Likewise, I wrote in my article on the separation of the Red Sea:
In the biblical and Christian worldview, recorded extraordinary events (seemingly miraculous at first glance) may be in part natural events and not entirely supernatural. This is the question to ask about the famous separation of Moses from the Red Sea. Was it a purely natural, entirely supernatural phenomenon, or a combination? Any of these scenarios is possible in the biblical worldview.
Sometimes in the Bible God is described as having caused something that is actually natural. In these cases the meaning would be that God “upholds” creation and / or caused the origin of natural laws in the first place, which now govern natural events, aside from the rare miraculous divine intervention with a miracle. In his providence, these natural events occur at just the right time, so that God can be said to have caused them. Other times it is purely miraculous.
I do not have a firm position on this, myself (that is, on the scientific explanation that I am going to present). I’m not totally convinced, but I’m not against being convinced. I’m open minded. I’m not trying to explain or rule out a miracle. I fully believe in miracles and in the ability of omnipotent and omniscient God to cause them. I believe whatever happened in this case, with Moses, Pharaoh, and a body of water about 3,300 years ago, God was behind it all, for His purposes, and it was amazing. .
Again, in my article on The Earth Gobbling Up Dissenters in Moses’ Day, after noting two plausible and possible natural explanations, I wrote:
Or it was just a supernatural miracle, directly caused by God. This scenario is always possible in the biblical view, as are natural events that occur just at the right time, by the providence of God, or a combination of the two. So, for example, just after the Bible passage above, we have: “And fire went out from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (16:35). It could have been a supernatural fire from God, or a natural lightning bolt, in a storm that also naturally produced the collapse of a mudflat (assuming those involved were close to the same).
Again, in my article on Moses drawing water from the rocks, I detailed some scientific (hydrological) explanations related to the Sinai Peninsula that were observed and may explain this. I noted:
Again, in those articles where I suggest a natural explanation for a conspicuous / assumed Biblical miracle, I am not dogmatically claiming that no miracle occurred; rather, I argue that a natural explanation could explain what actually happened in some cases, and can be seen at the very least as a possibility (if the evidence is strong enough). I have no disbelief in miracles (no interest in one explanation or another),. . .
There is indeed a theologically liberal / skeptical mentality that every miracle in the Bible is rejected and “explained” by natural processes (because of unbelief in all miracles from the beginning). I hate it, and it is not at all my own position, expressed above. On the contrary, my point of view fully accepts the possibility and reality of divine and supernatural miracles, while at the same time recognizing that the omniscience and omnipotence of God, providence and sovereignty are such that He can and does too to incorporate natural events into his divine plans for the human race and the fulfillment of his ultimate will.
Geologist Carol Hill (above) eloquently defined this concept as “higher order laws (the ultimate goal of God) working seamlessly with lower order laws (the physical laws of God)”.
Photo credit: The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (1852), by John Martin (1789-1854) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
Summary: God may perform a miracle, or there may be natural assumptions for the actions of God, using his omniscience as part of his providence and sovereignty over nature.