Being an avid Charismatic, it’s ironic that I wrote a more scientific book on aliens called, Alien Theology. For before I made myself aware of science, I spent much of my time pursuing the supernatural ways of God. I’ve seen people healed while praying for them. I’ve casted out demons. I’ve had spiritual dreams and felt the leading of the Holy Spirit. I’ve witnessed dozens of people get knocked to the ground as God has come upon them. I’ve had encounters with God that has imparted to me the strength to stand strong in faith when I study science.
So do note that as I engage in scientific conversation throughout my book, I am not in anyway denying the supernatural and spiritual side of things. I understand that the supernatural is offensive to the scientifically-minded, but I cannot deny a treasure-trove of spiritual experience in my life in order to be more appeasing or rational to listen to. Faith is “the conviction of things not seen” (He 11:1) and there’s no getting around that.
Now I have heard scientifically-minded Christian apologists try to explain supernatural experiences via scientific explanation, which is fine to some extent as, to use a quote attributed to St. Augustine, “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.” Or as Thor said in his self-titled Marvel movie, “Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.”
So if such scientific studies about miracles would be beneficial to you, there are a number of sources you can check out and a lot you can learn from them, but often they end up crossing the line in Christianity, writing out anything that sounds supernatural, including the resurrection of Jesus. Not only does this make for an incredibly weak faith, but if there truly is no resurrection, Paul would lament:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:13-19)
In Christianity we have to eventually give ourselves over to the supernatural for the very thought of God and of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus are supernatural thoughts. If you write all of that out of the picture, all you’ll be left with is morality and a faith that requires little or no faith at all. For as James R. Edwards says, “Faith that depends on proof is not faith, but only veiled doubt.”
Giving ourselves over to a balanced supernatural understanding of the universe is not bad, because it’s there that we see things most clearly—for both the natural and supernatural are at play in the world. This view, as G.K. Chesterton points out, frees us to see our world more as it actually is:
as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe things me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled ordered and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel.
I have chosen to remain balanced between the natural and the supernatural, because it seems the worst offenses committed against Christianity always come from the extremes. Those who only embrace the natural have no need to be saved. And those who only embrace the supernatural are impossible to relate to and constantly wrong.
However, I cannot dismiss miracles, because they are all around me calling out for my attention. Just because I know how a flower blooms does not make it any less miraculous to me. If anything, knowing all that is really happening to cause it to bloom just makes it even more miraculous.
Science is miraculous. Just hold a newborn baby in your hands and you’ll get that. God doesn’t always have to do something supernatural to get our attention, for his glory is found in both the everyday science of birth and the rare feeding of 5,000 people with a few pieces of bread and some fish (Mk 6:30-44). As Rob Bell says,
When people argue for the existence of a supernatural God who is somewhere else and reaches in on occasion to do a miracle or two, they’re skipping over the very world that surrounds us and courses through our veins and lights up the sky right here, right now.
There’s actually a great analogy within science as to why we should consider taking the supernatural world more seriously. Our universe is currently expanding which is causing everything to move further and further apart from each other at faster and faster speeds. Eventually, distant galaxies will have moved so far away from us that the light they emit won’t be able to move fast enough to reach us anymore. This means that one day we will look up into deep space and be unable to see anything outside of our own galaxy.*
When that day comes, astronomers who study the sky will most likely think that nothing else exists outside of our galaxy. We today know just how painfully wrong this assumption would be, but they would look at us as an ancient culture with superstitious beliefs. There’s a good possibility that we would just be a joke to them.
Here’s where I’m going with this: the ancient culture that handed us our Scriptures speaks of supernatural beings, astrologers, witches, necromancers, conjurers, magicians, diviners, sorcery, signs and wonders, healings, exorcisms, miracles, prophets, and much, much more. Some of these supernatural things are of God and others are of evil. The Bible attests to a spiritual, supernatural world that is going on all around us—one that they were quite familiar with and engaged with as though it truly existed. Both followers of God and pagans knew the supernatural by experience and referenced it without a hint of doubt in their voice. God even acknowledges its existence by speaking so strongly against the supernatural ways of the enemy (Deut 18:9-14; Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27). He doesn’t imply that his people shouldn’t commit evil supernatural acts because it’s silly and superstitious, but because it’s a serious offense.
I suggest to you that the ancient world knew a piece of the puzzle that we (at least here in the West) do not know, because, like future scientists looking into deep space and seeing nothing but darkness, so we in modern times look into the supernatural and see nothing but darkness.
I get into why an ancient culture might have known more about the supernatural in the last chapter of Alien Theology, but for now, know that they were closer to a world that we no longer recognize. We can either consider them fools or we can heed God’s warning and walk in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, undoing Satan’s kingdom just as Jesus did everywhere he walked.
This is an adapted excerpt of my book, Alien Theology.
St. Augustine of Hippo. Manser, Martin H. The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations. Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p. 250.
Edwards, James R. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Mark. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002, p. 237. Though doubt itself is not always a bad thing. See Greg Boyd’s book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, for great thoughts on that topic.
Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. Dover Publications, Inc., 2004, p. 16.
Bell, Rob. What We Talk About When We Talk About God. HarperOne, 2013, p. 79.
*Greene, Brian, director. Is Our Universe the Only Universe? TED Talks, Feb. 2012, http://www.ted.com/talks/brian_greene_why_is_our_universe_fine_tuned_for_life.