Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Are “Miracles” an Insult to God?

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?
As Phillip Johnson summarizes this view (which is not his own):

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?
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posted April 17, 2009 at 10:24 am

I believe G-d makes miracles as a physical reminder to humanity that we owe whatever we have to Him. The miracles of Passover were provided to get the Israelites thinking beyond their slavery mentality and to reinfoirce their belief in Hashem

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maryann moon

posted April 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm

First, liberals are as sublimely worthy unto God as conservatives. To think otherwise is surely hilarious to
God and believe me SHE has a glorious sense of humor.
So, to me to breathe is a miracle. To walk is a miracle. To sing! To dance! To know joy!To love, forgive.
My life is a poem because God’s Spirit goes with me wherever I go. You are a prince to God! I am a
princess to God! My life is a poem to God. So is yours! You life is a new poem every day!
We are innovators to God. and God has NO gender. God is Mother/Father.
love love love to you!

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Derek G

posted April 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

While exploring this subject many years ago, a college professor (a christian pastor) made a statment which I believe is important in this dialogue. True, historians may be able to explain the events of the exodus in terms of natural disasters, but this fails to explain how Moses and Aaron knew the time had come to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. It seems throughout Moses life, G_d says “Don’t ask who I am, observe what I do!”. Because of Moses, we know what G_d did, I’m not really concerned about how it came about, because even if the volcano did cause the plagues, Moses and Aaron couldn’t have predicted it beforehand.

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Your Name

posted April 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

what’s not to sat that G’d didn’t do it. not to look mechanistically or as Maimonadies would(as a rationalist) one could argue that G-d acted by causing the eruptions, which caused the “miracles”. Rambam was at heart a neo-arostelian rationalist, and is revered by jews all over. though even in his own time rabbis in France and Europe did burn his books in his lifetime, as Rambam did state that Miricales as we know them didn’t simply ‘happen’.

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Ray Turner

posted April 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Miracles are a sign of God’s tolerance in a world where each of us from this age or the previous earth age will have to make a choice in God’s economy. You must look at all the dispensations under Noah, Moses, and the conquering Jesus Christ to understand the divine purpose and God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth for “His people”. The rest, by choice, will simply go to hell. Only when Satan explains his deceptions to them through the ages will they finally understand. “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
Finally, if the earth is God’s He can use all nature to accomplish His will. He uses His people to accomplish His will. Do you really think that the crucifixion of Christ occurred because God did not have a plan? Please!

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Your Name

posted April 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Intelligent design creationism is an insult to God, because Johnson and its other creators deliberately left God out of the picture. In an effort to get around the US Supreme Court 1987 decision prohibiting the teaching of “creation science” in public schools because it is blatantly obviously religion, Johnson et al took God and Genesis and Adam and Eve and Noah and all the good parts out of the creation story. They proposed an anonymous invisible supernatural “intelligent designer,” publicly denying for years that it was God. They created another creator – another God! A Vatican theologian has stated that this is technically heresy – an insult to God. How any serious creationist could support intelligent design creationism is a mystery.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 7:57 am

Why should God be limited by naturalistic mechanisms? The life of Jesus itself is a big miracle. Not only that, also love, consciousness, the birth of a child, creativity and the complexity of a cell.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 10:12 am

Per usual, convert Klinghoffer brings a Christianizing optic to bear on Jewish source material.
The fact of the matter is that the Hebrew Bible does not speak of
‘miracles’ but of SIGNS and WONDERS: i.e., events or activities with special meaning and relevance. For the Hebrew Bible – unlike the New Testament* – prophetic authority does not arise from the performance of ‘miracles’ but compliance with Torah teaching (Deut. 13:1-3).
The focus of the Torah is on conformity with God’s will, NOT the uniformity of nature.
*Matthew’s gospel, addressed to a Jewish audience, plays down Jesus’ alleged ‘miracles’, while Luke, as a gentile gospel, plays them up as a sign of Jesus’ authority as a divine-human savior.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Clearly rTJ has not read, thought about, studied, etc. the Torah or he would not treat any Jew, convert or not, in such a dismissive and immature manner. On the flip side, that does mean rTJ has an opportunity to grow and mature! Miracle, signs, wonders, etc. are timely subjects. These are hard times for most people. We are all concerned about right now more than ever; and, we are concerned about or medium- and long-term prospects for maintaining our families, with standard of living a distant second place. My family and I pray every day for guidance in the moral and ethical areas of our lives and for help financially – in our lives, for our neighbors, for the community and for our country. In some ways that means praying for a miracle or two. G-d did not get our country or our families into this position. We got ourselves to this place. By living the commandments, and for non-Jews the Noahide laws, we will put our country and our families into the position to receive help from G-d. With our two hands and the blessings from living the commandments, we will recover and do well. Any other path will lead to weak families, weak communities and at best a temporary recovery.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 5:50 pm

In response to the quote “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.”
G*d gave us free will. So to continue with the car analogy, the car was designed correctly, but that does not keep us from driving recklessly. So G*d’s “interference” via “miracles” is like the tow truck pulling us out of the ditch, or Dad paying to have the car fixed.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I don’t exactly believe in “miracles” or the “supernatural,” because I think we don’t know as much about the “natural” as we think we do. For instance, when Scripture tells us that we should love and obey the Holy One so that our land will get rain when we need it, “modernists” like to tell us that of course human behavior has nothing to do with weather. But in fact, if there is one thing we have learned in the past 30 years, it is that human behavior has a whole lot to do with the weather. “Modernism” tends to fall out of date very quickly. So I’m okay with “naturalistic” explanations of the Ten Plagues or the parting of the Sea of Reeds, because I think we have both the right and the obligation to try to figure this stuff out, and that there is nothing wrong with explaining a part of the natural that we don’t yet understand in terms of other parts of it that we do.

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Your Name

posted April 19, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Believe in miracles,they happen everyday!Even if you didn’t witness of a miracle because you are not in that place where it actually happened.One day,God will show the miracle of your life,the one you hope for,the thing you long for,with faith,hope and love,nothing is impossible,they will and surely all be called miracles!If God be for us who could be against us?By this declaration,a corresponding miracle will also happen.

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Carl Sachs

posted April 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Clearly it won’t do, as Hume showed, to argue that it is reasonable to infer, from testimony concerning the occurrence of a miracle, that the miracle in fact occurred. That said: it does not strike me as unreasonable for someone to think that, given that God exists, He chooses to introduce miracles into the natural order in order so that rational beings can know that the natural order is not all there is, and that the natural order is not the only dimension of the human condition.

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Your Name

posted April 19, 2009 at 7:56 pm

God will support the righteous,if He find out they are that kind and
if the most iportant miracle of all worthy of love for each other, that way,that miracle called right and true love SURELY can be granted by the grantor,the God of love.

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Your Name

posted April 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I got confused with my comment abov,all i am trying to say is i
believe in miracle,i believe that for righteous people,miracle is
never impossible,taking God as the judge to all of our hearts desires,
if we are found worthy to love and desserve each other’s LOVE,
no matter what it takes,the miracle we hoping for shall come to pass.
There is God who guides our own destiny,He is a good God,He never
change,a God kind we need and expected,a God who knows our yearnings,
a God who is compassionate, a good who encourages,a God of patience,
etc.most of all,God of love.We cannot fathom the depth of God’s
entire personality or being,but He reveals Himself if we listen closely to what our heart is saying,and pray without ceasing because
He answers prayers,in a very timely manner,out of His love for us,amen.(silently)

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Your Name

posted April 22, 2009 at 8:39 am

Carl, all Hume showed was that a naive approach to testimony doesn’t work. Hume’s “proof” against miracles as a method could also be used to prove that Carl Sachs doesn’t exist. Of the total number of people on earth, most would certainly testify that they don’t know anyone named Carl Sachs. The same method could be used to disprove all esoteric science experiments.
The Bible expects a non-naive approach to testimony–witnesses are to be carefully questioned by judges, who are to filter out non-corroborated testimony about empirical propositions.
The question about miracles being insulting appears to me to assume that God is a kind of watchmaker, rather than a father. A father is engaged with his children, while a watchmaker may forget about his creation. Miracles are an identification credential that lets us know that Father is paying attention to us.

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posted May 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm

The reason God has to ‘interfere’ is because satan is alive and well on earth and because man is a free moral agent and frequently makes decisions that go against God’s teachings. This causes man to wind up in a tight spot, between a rock and a hard place, up the river without a paddle, etc., thereby needing God to help, save, rescue, and heal him. God’s creation was perfect. When Adam bowed his knee to satan, committing treason, he opened the door to troubles and hardships for all of us. The most important lesson we can learn from Adam is what happens when we exalt our own will over God’s.

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