Thursday, November 21, 2019

Miracles (2) Laws of Nature

The so-called laws of nature are not laws in the sense that the word is used in the scriptures. A law is a revelation by God. It describes an action or behaviour that God does not approve. These actions are forbidden by God. A law is distinguished from a sin by the fact, that the law contains a penalty for breaking the law.

In the scriptures, laws are normative, not positive. They describe the things that God wants people to avoid doing, because they mess up relationships and harm the earth. They do not describe how the world works or what must happen on earth. They describe things that God does not want done.

The so-called laws of nature are not laws. They are just a description of how the world works. This understanding has been developed by observing the way the world functions.

  • When water is heated to 100 degrees at sea level, it boils (changes to steam).
  • When an apple loses its connection to the tree, it falls to the ground.
  • If an arrow is shot into the air, it rises for a time, then falls to the ground.
These understandings have been developed by observing the behaviour of objects in the physical world. By testing hypotheses, scientists have developed a huge amount of detail about the way the physical world functions. These understandings have been tested over time, in many places. However, they are not really laws in a biblical sense. They are not rules. They are descriptions of what will happen to physical objects if they are subjected to stimuli in a particular situation. They describe what will usually happen, but they do not describe what must happen. They capture cause and effect in the physical world.

God has created the world so that it functions in a consistent way. That means an understanding of how the world works will be true, wherever and whenever it is tested, provided the conditions are the same. So, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius in New Zealand and Norway. However, it boils at a different temperature on Mount Everest, because the atmospheric pressure is different.

This consistency with which God created the world is the reason that many people refer to their understanding of the way the world works as laws of nature. If there is no God, it still nice to have laws, and this is a good way to get them. But it is not what they really are.

The so-called laws of nature are a description, not a prescription. Though they are called “laws”, in a rigid and prescriptive sense, they are not. Rather, they are universal inductive generalizations.

The laws of nature do not define an outcome, but a process. They tell you not what must happen but what will happen in the natural course of events. If I lift a porcelain vase over my head and then let go of it, the law of gravity says that it will fall to the ground and shatter—but not that it must do these things.

If, one second before the vase hits the ground, my other hand swoops down and catches it, the vase will not shatter. Have I broken the law of gravity? Of course not. I have merely suspended it by adding a new, outside factor into the equation. If I let go of it again, it will fall and shatter.

A miracle is an event which natural causes at a particular time and place cannot bring about.

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