Thursday, September 9, 2010

Complacent in the miraculous

Don't worry--I'll be getting back to the series I started soon...I just wanted to offer this remark given the timeliness of the subject matter.

While I think the actual premise of Stephen Hawking's recent statement that the universe was in essence "fated" to create itself because of its own physical laws--laws whose presence is completely unexplained since if there is nothing, then there is also nothing for any laws to be grounded in--I will go into no further detail on the actual argument, as other sites are doing very well at addressing these more direct issues and exposing the fundamental flaws in Hawking's argument. (Though I might make the comment that if laws somehow pre-existed all somethings in this universe, then you open the possibility of a multiverse, and if there's a multiverse, then how did IT get there? You're right back to the question of a first cause and hence a Creator...)

Rather, I wanted to offer a meditation on the nature of...well, nature itself, and the miraculous.

I should state that I have great respect for Professor Hawking's intellect, and perseverance in his profession in the face of serious adversity. However, that doesn't stop me from disagreeing completely with his conclusion, and suspecting that perhaps he's not exactly a disinterested party in this argument. I don't mean that to suggest anything malicious, of course--rather, I think it's quite notable that Hawking doesn't acknowledge the miraculous when many people, from an outside perspective, would suggest that he himself is quite possibly the beneficiary of a major one. His survival with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) is quite simply unprecedented. Especially to those who have known people who have this disease and have not shown Hawking's longevity, the miraculousness of this is quite obvious.

I wondered how it was that one who is constantly experiencing such an unusual and miraculous happening as this would not acknowledge that indeed it is a miracle, would find no reason to suspect that there is something beyond the deterministic forces of physics. Even to conclude that the human will was capable of making a difference, without even acknowledging deity, would seem more sensible from an outside perspective.

Yet as I thought about it, I realized that there's something about the kinds of miracles that get our attention in life, and which ones don't. When you read the Bible, there are many examples of sudden, "bolt-out-of-the-blue" miracles: voices speaking from the sky, vivid visions, and even life and death themselves dealt out at the spoken word of God. These jolt us out of our routines--we are very ready to acknowledge that these are far from everyday experiences.

But not all Biblical figures that we are familiar with seem to recognize the miraculousness of the circumstances in which they are involved. It's interesting to consider that Abraham and Sarah had fixated upon having children, only recognizing that sudden event as a miracle. Yet it is made quite clear that their lifespan is not one commonly lived by people in their time. That in and of itself was a miracle right there, yet they were so fixed upon the one they wanted that they never saw this other miracle that they lived every day. There's another reason they didn't see it as well, I think: the fact that it was every day. It wasn't a dramatic bang...rather, a set of circumstances that crept up quietly, slowly, and in a drawn-out manner.

That's what I think may have happened in Hawking's case--being in the thick of it, so to speak, and understandably being concerned with the hope of a better future outcome, may have made what seems obvious from the outside very difficult to see indeed. It's a matter of perspective, and I think that we should all take the time, as Christians, to step back and look at some of the "quiet" and "slow" circumstances in our lives that are also miracles from God, not just the quick, bold bolts out of the blue.

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