Machen on Science and Miracles

It is sometimes alleged that any approach to creation and origins that appeals to miracles undermines – or is at least inconsistent with the study of science.  In response to the claim that science is held hostage by simplistic miracle-believing conservatives, J. Gresham Machen offers some insightful words:

It is sometimes said that the actuality of miracles would destroy the basis of science.  Science, it is said, is founded upon the regularity of sequences; it assumes that if certain conditions within the course of nature are given, certain other conditions will always follow.  But if there is to be any intrusion of events which by their very definition are independent of all previous conditions, then, it is said, the regularity of nature upon which science bases itself is broken up.  Miracle, in other words, seems to introduce an element of arbitrariness and unaccountability into the course of the world.

The objection ignores what is really fundamental in the Christian conception of miracle.  According to the Christian conception, a miracle is wrought by the immediate power of God.  It is not wrought by an arbitrary and fantastic despot, but by the very God to whom the regularity of nature itself is due – by the God, moreover, whose character is known through the Bible.  Such a God, we may be sure, will not do despite to the reason that He has given to His creatures; His interposition will introduce no disorder into the world that He has made.  There is nothing arbitrary about a miracle, according to the Christian conception.  It is not an uncaused event, but an event that is caused by the very source of all the order that is in the world.  It is dependent altogether upon the least arbitrary and the most firmly fixed of all the things that are – namely upon the character of God.

Christianity & Liberalism (New Edition), pgs. 86-87.

Rev. R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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