Just in time for Passover (which is just past), Princeton University Press brings out a book that seeks to debunk the parting of the Red Sea — whose anniversary we Jews just observed two days ago on the seventh day of Passover — along with the other miracles associated with Exodus. I haven’t seen the book itself but I got a press release by email that tells you all you need to know. The author is Barbara J. Siverten; the title: The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of Exodus.
In a nutshell (from the Princeton U. Press website):
Sivertsen shows how the first exodus followed a 1628 B.C.E Minoan eruption that produced all but one of the first nine plagues. The second exodus followed an eruption of a volcano off the Aegean island of Yali almost two centuries later, creating the tenth plague of darkness and a series of tsunamis that “parted the sea” and drowned the pursuing Egyptian army.
Uh huh. I bring this up because books and articles like this come out all the time, trying to explain in naturalistic terms how supposed miracles can be otherwise accounted for. Charles Darwin’s books are nothing other than the most famous example of this genre. The miracle they seek to explain and debunk is the creation of life in its wondrous diversity.
Whatever you think of these materialist debunking jobs on their merits, there’s a question I get hit with all the time in my work that I’d like to throw out to you for your opinion. Are miracles an insult to God?
In the evolution debate, a common charge against intelligent design is that it insults God by implying He set up His world so poorly that it requires constant modifications and inference to keep things going along the track He had in mind to begin with. You could make the same criticism of any alleged miracle — that is, any interference by a transcendent creator or designer in the course of natural or human history.
Why did God have to “interfere” to make the sea part and save the Jews from the Egyptian army? Why not rely on nature, somehow “preprogrammed” into God’s creative work from the beginning, to get the job done? Why not rely on, for example, “an eruption of a volcano off the Aegean island of Yali”? Isn’t it beneath God to have to separate the waters Himself?
The need to interfere, according to theological naturalism, is an indication of an incompetent designer — as when, for example, an automobile has to be recalled by the manufacturer. By this standard, I suppose that the need for the incarnation of God in Jesus is evidence of a blunder of the worst kind, compared to which the need to provide the information stored in DNA is a trivial matter.
Rabbi Natan Slifkin give this view in his own criticism of intelligent design. Writes Slifkin in his very interesting and learned recent book The Challenge of Creation
[Intelligent Design] would appear to be a slight to God’s creative abilities. Was He incapable of designing laws [of nature] that cold accomplish all His objectives, and therefore had to interfere to bring about the results that He wanted?
As I said, in my work I hear and read arguments like this all the time. Someone could answer: Well, who am I to tell God how to do His work? But that has always struck me as a bit of a copout. I’ve been seeking a compelling positive reason that God would have — as He or some designer seems to have done — devised natural laws that are not sufficient by themselves to account for the course that life’s history has taken.
In my reading and thinking over Passover, I came up with a theory on that. But first, I would love to have your view. Is it in any way a “slight to God” to think His laws are insufficient to get all the work of creation done? If so, why? If not, why not?