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Resurrection a Miracle? Unscientific?
July 23, 2008, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Christian Doctrine, Philosophy | Tags: , , ,

(Here’s some unfolding thoughts about miracles and the ‘laws of nature’.)

Was the resurrection of Jesus a miracle?  

Surely it was unnatural.  According to the natural course of things, Jews who’ve been crucified, died and buried don’t rise and walk.

It is easy to see why.  Decay and rot set in.  Unless something is done from the outside, a dead human stays dead and continues to decay.  There is no internal principle of motion in a dead human that will lead to this dead human rising and walking.

But what of folks who die from heart attacks?  What about the folks who get zapped back to life by a defibrillator?  This is an example of an external principle of motion bringing about something unnatural.  (Here the natural is understood to be that which happens according to the unfolding internal principle of motion in a thing.)

It is not as if we are utterly unaware of what would need to take place in a resurrection, even if we are unable to bring it about or describe it exactly.  Somehow we’d need to stimulate the body and reorganize it.

Now, according the NT, Jesus’ resurrection body was the same yet different.  For one, it was no longer subject to decay.  It is not as if we have no idea whatsoever what this kind of body would be like.  We know what decay is like, so we must have some idea of what a body unsusceptible to decay would be like.  


The resurrection of Jesus was unnatural.  It was a sign and a wonder, yes.  But was it against the ‘laws of nature’?  Which laws were broken?  

Is there a law that the dead do not rise again in 3 days?  If there’s a law at all, it’s a law based on much more specific considerations dealing with decay, and on much more general considerations dealing with there being no internal principle of motion (in dead humans or in nature taken as a whole) to counteract this decay in dead humans.  

But it’s manifestly not the case that an outside principle of motion bringing about a resurrection would constitute breaking the ‘laws of nature’.  

Put a book in a drawer and it naturally stays there.  It will stay there unless an outside principle of motion moves it.  It’s being moved is unnatural, but no law is broken.  A law would be broken only if the book was moved by an internal principle of motion.  

The same is true of the resurrection, right?

Natural laws are NEVER broken, because they never can be broken.  


Miracles are not acts by which God breaks laws.  They are acts whereby God brings into play an outside principle of motion.  

Of course God is also the prime mover–the source of natural motion.  But the motion of nature really is given to nature, and it belongs to nature by the gift of God.  That is why it is called internal motion.  In this sense, Christians believe in nature.  (We tend to take nature for granted these days.  But why?  What if there is no nature?  What if the world is not natural at all?  What if there is no cosmos, but only chaos?  Why believe in nature?)

Miracles are then unusual injections of outside motion in addition to the motion given to nature naturally.  There is nothing unlawful about that.


Problems abound in the philosophical literature because we no longer know what we mean by ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’.  We define the natural as what you get when you subtract the supernatural (all that spooky stuff silly people believe in).  This has to be unsatisfying to the thoughtful.  What makes the natural natural?  Only once you’ve answered this can you say what counts as sub-natural, supernatural, unnatural or whatever.  I’ve been assuming a basically Aristotelian understanding of nature, and that seems to work nicely and clear up some confusions.  Any other competitors?


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