Are Miracles and Science Compatible?
by Douglas Groothuis
One of the secular claims against Christianity is that the modern world’s increasing knowledge of the natural world through science (principally chemistry, biology, and physics) has made belief in miracles unjustified at best and positively irrational at worst. Recently, biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins has led this charge, especially in his best-selling book, The God Delusion (2007).But before responding to this challenge, we need to define our two basic terms: miracle and science.
Biblically understood, a miracle is God’s supernatural intervention into creation, which produces an effect otherwise not possible given the operation of natural laws. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead in space-time history is a miracle, and the grand miracle of the entire Bible (see 1 Corinthians 15). These divine actions, wrought by a personal and perfect Being, break no natural laws. Rather, natural laws, such as gravity, only cover natural events. When God raised Christ from the dead, no natural laws were violated. Rather, God’s supernatural action did what natural events could not produce: brought Jesus back to life. Further, biblical miracles have a purpose; they are not arbitrary or impenetrable (though not all who behold or read of them may understand their meaning). They work as signs of God’s character as he establishes his Kingdom throughout history.
This description of a miracle already answers one of the complaints of those who claim that science has displaced or replaced miracles with merely natural events and natural laws. Since miracles do not violate natural laws, none need worry that believing in miracles will destroy explanations that trade on predictable regularities in nature. Apples still fall from trees even though Jesus once walked on water.
But why, then, do secularists think that science is incompatible with a rational belief in miracles? There are three main reasons…
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