Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why the miracle of Christmas points to the existence of the Christian God

Luke 2:10-14 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you aSavior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in amanger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Introduction and Review
In the last two posts we have been answering the question: what is a miracle? We have proposed the first part of the answer: "miracles are by their essence irregular events". In addition, we borrowed an excellent definition of a miracle from Christian Apologist Dr. William Lane Craig, namely: "a miracle is a naturally impossible event". From the last two posts we have aimed to show that because miracles are possible in our world (contrary to Atheists and skeptics), then we can take Biblical miracles such as Christ's incarnation/virgin birth and resurrection to events of history and fact, as well as faith. From our considerations thus far, we could construct the following argument:

#1 Naturally possible and naturally impossible, irregular events do occur in this world

#2 A Miracle, per our definition, is an irregular event that is naturally impossible

Therefore miracles can occur in this world

Miracles are not violations of nature's laws, rather they evidence the intervention of a supernatural Intelligent agent being involved with nature's laws.Now this first argument articulates that miracles are possible in our world. They're not violations of nature's laws, but rather are included with such laws, representing the intervention of an intelligent, supernatural agent (i.e God). This particular point of the relationship of an intelligent agent to the natural course of events is something that skeptics like the 18th century thinker David Hume missed when he coined the definition of a miracle as being a "violation of nature's laws". The laws of nature are descriptive of what we can expect to see in a given set of events providing we don't include factors such as intelligent beings. The laws of gravity tell me for example that if I drop a rock, it will fall to the ground. However, if I drop the rock and then catch it with my other hand, the law of gravity has not been violated. Gravity is still acting upon the rock. The only difference is that there is a person who has intervened in the rock's descent to the ground, hence another set of laws are evoked to explain what happens when a person has stopped a rock from falling to the ground.

Now the above illustration would not be considered unreasonable, being that the point is to show that nature's laws "describe" rather than "prescribe" how certain objects or events will unfold in the natural world. Furthermore, whenever a natural agent (such as a human being, or a cat or another intervening object) is introduced into the situation, their are other laws of nature that describe that scenario. 

Now let's consider a situation that we could term as "naturally impossible" - that is - a situation that could not arise as a result of the actions of a normal, natural agent. The origin of our universe for example is an event that lies outside the known laws of nature. Science can only approach the beginning of the universe to within a few fractions of a second - with the known physical laws breaking down and scientists having to resort to mathematical models to try to explain how it all began. By definition, the beginning of the universe is a "naturally impossible" event and thus begs for an explanation that is not natural and in-time, but supernatural and eternal - hence a miracle. Clearly the beginning of the universe and the resultant reality around us is in no way a so-called "violation" of any laws, being that the universe's beginning occured before there would had been any such laws to describe it! This is why miracles are not violations of the laws of nature - but instead represent God's direct working with such laws in producing His desired effects. God is not limited by way of miracles, which is why He also choose to work indirectly through acts of Providence or secondary agents and causes. Either method of working (miracles or providence) gives us a framework for understanding that our world is a world that includes the working of God.

The above discussion serves to lead into our discussion on why Christmas points to the existence of the Christian God. Since we have seen that miracles are not violations of nature, but rather God's intervention and direct activity with such laws, this creates oppenness to the plausibility and moreso, the reality of miracles like Christ's incarnation/virgin birth. Whenever we consider the specific context that we find miracles occuring (events connnected with the remarkable life, death and resurrection of Jesus), we can also legitimately identify when a miracle has occurred. Consider the below observations...

Miracles are directly done by God
As we have noted already, in scripture, God's interraction with His creation can be described under two general headings. The first is what Bible teachers call "providence", meaning God's "indirect" Sovereign influence exercised through events, the wills of men and physical processes. God's Providential activity includes the use of secondary agents such as people to achieve His purposes. Thus God's activity in this world, as it relates to providence, is what we could term "indirect". A miracle on the otherhand involves God's "direct" involvement with His creation.  What can be interesting of course is when God performs a miracle through the use of ordinary people and situations.  

The Christmas accounts provides the right context to view the miracle of the incarnation/virgin birthThe literature on the subject of miracles often emphasizes that true miracles occur in specific contexts and for specific purposes. When God wrought forth miracles in the Bible, they always occurred, to borrow a term from Dr. William Lane Craig, in "religiously significant contexts". God's direct intervention in the affairs of people and events is a reminder to us that He is The Personal as well as The Powerful God revealed in the Bible. In the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke, we find the context described by such historical details as geneaologies, the reigns of certain dignitaries (such as Herod, Quirinius and Caesar Augustus), particular settings (1st century Judea, Bethlehem and Nazareth) and prophetic anticipation of a coming Messiah. Factors such as these, and the resulting outcomes (the movement of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and then their later movement from Bethelehem down to Egypt) require an explanation. Certainly, the decrees by such kings as Caesar Augustus can naturally explain such movements, however there are other events (such as the Wisemen) which require both natural and supernatural explanations.

Much like Jesus' resurrection from the dead, we need to spell out the events needing to be explain in the Christmas story and then propose an explanation for those events. Certainly, people can offer naturalistic, non-theistic explanations as to why Mary and Joseph did what they did, why the Shepherds suddenly left their flocks to go to Mary and Joseph and why the Wisemen would travel hundreds of miles to boow the knee to a toddler - but willl such explanations suffice. In other words, does naturalistic explanations alone have the explanatory power and scope to handle such evidence? 

If anything, to deny the existence of the God of Christianity is to do a great disservice to the Christmas accounts.  
Jesus' incarnation and virgin birth represent one of the most significant miracles in the Bible. His remarkable human life began miraculously and supernaturally. Just as Jesus' resurrection from the dead cannot be adequately explained apart from the hypothesis: "God raised Jesus from the dead"; the Christmas story as well forces us to realize that the God of Christianity does exists, and that He was revealed in the incarnation of the Son of God.