I’ve been thinking about miracles lately. Mr. Webster gives three definitions of miracles. One is secular and the other two describe extraordinary events as the work of God or a “divinely natural phenomena experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law.” I especially like that definition which sounds a lot like Intelligent Design.
A friend of mine once told me that with sufficient technology there is no magic. In other words, things once considered miraculous were once not fully understood. At one time doctors thought disease was due to miasmic (foul) air, and placed fans in operating rooms for healthy ventilation. Two thousand years ago, descriptions of what we might describe as epilepsy were then attributed to demonic forces (Mark 9: 1-29). Perhaps understanding and technology move us from the realm of magic.
Sometimes, we moderns refer to the Middle Ages as the Dark Ages. The notion of an era of intellectual and technological “darkness” was actually coined by early Renaissance writers as they disparaged the previous Age of Faith. The Dark Ages weren’t dark to those living in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, but it was a time where believing led to “seeing” or understanding. Observational truth, where seeing is believing, actually began a millennia before the Middle Ages in ancient Greece. Actually, it was during those “dark” centuries that magic moved toward observational reality, astrology transitioned to astronomy, and alchemy progressed to chemistry and physics.
Materialism is a perspective that says only what man reasons or observes is real. This philosophy holds that our universe exists by chance, and would be what we observe given sufficient time and opportunity. Alternatively, a deterministic universe posits a purpose, a plan and an author. Materialists can’t tell us where we come from or whether we have a purpose. Determinists accept the mystery and majesty of a Creator and a Divine Intelligence.
Recently, I wrote an essay about swimming and the discovery of the Higgs Boson. You should read the essay of March 30, 2015. I consider it one of my best efforts. Science is often at its best when it is driven by curiosity rather than by grants or politics. The particle accelerator known as the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), where the illusive “God particle” was discovered, is scheduled to restart soon. This time the scientists are seeking to observe and measure what has been called dark matter and dark energy.
You may be surprised to learn that everything we see is a pittance of all that is. It turns out that all the planets and stars of the universe, even light itself, make up only 5% of all that is. Theoretically, scientists posit the existence of so-called dark matter which comprises 25% of the universe. Dark matter is responsible for stable galaxies like our Milky Way, though admittedly we’ve never “seen” it. And equally mind boggling is dark energy which drives the expansion of the universe and comprises 70% of everything. Scientists will now try and understand the 95% of the universe that is not part of our reality.
Perhaps this gives some of you a headache and others imagine these concepts as magical. The purpose for their introduction is to challenge the notion that reality is only what man knows. Everywhere we look the majesty and mystery of the universe increases. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 once said “we see dimly… and [we] know in part.” How prophetically he uttered those words 2000 years ago in his letter to the churches at Corinthian.
To the ancient Greeks arrogant pride was known as hubris and was the ultimate sin. Homer’s Iliad was the equivalent of the Bible in the ancient Greek world. Its purpose was to teach people about virtue and morality, and the destruction wrought by hubris in characters like Achilles and Odysseus. I never knew of these stories until my post-doctoral self-education in the humanities which began about twenty years ago. Some may think it foolish to study the past. The Founders and other luminaries down through time felt that lessons of the past can serve as guides in our own lives. Others may think it foolish to look into an atom or study the universe. Some even think it foolish to study the Bible, and consider this great compendium of wisdom and God himself irrelevant. What hubris.
If life and reason have taught me anything, it is that there is more than I can ever know. And I am humbled by the little I do comprehend. The Proverbist half a millennium before the Greeks once said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” I believe we would all be wise to embrace this philosophy. It saddens me to see so many adrift in drugs, sex, pop-culture and solipsism (look it up) ignore the wisdom of the ages.
The Myers-Briggs typology is a way of demonstrating a person’s strengths and gifts, as well as areas that are less developed and need more focus. I am a scientist at heart and training, but with continuing education I have become a more rounded person and a better disciple of the Way. Scientific inquiry is a discipline I use to see and observe the universe around me. Likewise, my spiritual eyes allow me to see even further. It is not either/or for me; it is both.
OK, enough arcane science and philosophizing! I want to invite all of you to a party. On Sunday, May 17, my wife and I are hosting a book-signing at my church, First United Methodist, 3316 Kingston Pike, from 3:00 – 5:30 p.m. I hope you will come so I can personally sign a copy of my new book, “Well… What Did the Doctor Say?” for you.
Many have asked for such a collection of my essays and this compendium has ninety from the seven years I’ve written for The Knoxville Focus. Please come; it’ll be fun, and a way for me to meet and personally thank my readers!