Divine InterventionMay 11, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
Next on the list of things that give us evidence against the Christian God: divine intervention. According to the Myth Hypothesis, God is not available to intervene, and therefore there are some fairly significant and obvious consequences we should expect to find. Today, though, I want to spend some time looking at the consequences we would expect if the Gospel Hypothesis were true.
According to the Gospel Hypothesis, there exists an all-powerful, all-wise, and all-knowing God Who loves us so much that He Himself could and did become a mortal human Who died on our behalf so that we could be saved through faith in Him, and thus we could be with Him forever, as is His desire. He wants, in other words, to be involved in our lives, just as He wants us involved in His. The nature of love is inherently such that loving relationships necessarily involve this kind of mutual involvement and interaction. This is therefore the chief characteristic of the divine interventions we ought to expect to see if the Gospel Hypothesis were true.
Before we look specifically at the question of divine intervention, however, let’s look quickly at the part of the Hypothesis which proposes that God is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-knowing. What does that mean? In short it means that, as Jesus put it, “with God, all things are possible,” i.e. God can do anything He wants.
What this means for us specifically is that there is no point in trying to make predictions based on what God can do, because God can do anything. God’s abilities, therefore, give us no way to narrow down the range of possible outcomes. While this might be a good approach if our goal was to avoid finding out the truth about God, it’s not really suitable for our purposes here. We want to know if the real world does have the consequences we would expect to occur if the Gospel Hypothesis were true, and therefore we must base our estimates on what God desires, since this does narrow down the range of probably outcomes.
If what God wants is an eternal, loving relationship with each of us, therefore, we ought to expect that He would be participating in that relationship here and now. After all, why wait? A saving relationship with God is a good thing for us from the earliest possible moment, and it’s pleasing to God as well. It satisfies His original desire for us, which (according to the Gospel Hypothesis) was so strong He was literally willing to die for it, and it also give us the deepest desires of our own hearts, filling the “God-shaped vacuum” that supposedly occupies the center of the Christ-less heart. Showing up now is a win-win scenario for both God and man.
Nor is there any plausible obstacle to God having an immediate and tangible role in our lives. It cannot be that He is unable to show up to interact with us, since He is all-powerful. Nor can it be that “circumstances beyond His control” prevent Him from appearing, since there are no circumstances beyond the control of a deity who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise. Human free will cannot be an obstacle, since ignorance is a greater deterrent to volitional freedom than knowledge is. We are not truly free to choose so long as vital information is denied to us and thus biasing us against our wills.
Even if we could imagine some set of circumstances in which all of God’s power could not gain Him what He wants, He still has the attributes of being all-knowing and all-wise. I, as a fallible and limited mortal father, have managed to solve the problems of raising children who love me, with their free will intact, despite knowing that I actually exist and am personally involved in their lives. It is hardly plausible that an infinitely wise and loving deity could not manage to do at least as well as I have.
Thus the chief characteristic of divine intervention, as predicted by the Gospel Hypothesis, is that it should be a common and familiar experience, as is the participation of any willing and loving partner in a genuine personal relationship.
You will notice, I called this post “Divine Intervention,” and not “Miracles.” In a genuine, loving, personal relationship, a high degree of involvement and participation is to be expected, because that’s the nature of genuine, loving relationships. You don’t say of your spouse, “Well, if they ever showed up in person to spend any time with the kids, that would be a miracle!”—or at least, if you do, you’re complaining about how your spouse fails to behave like a genuinely loving parent.
We don’t have a special word for the act of showing up, when possible, to spend time with the one you love, because such appearances are merely one brush stroke on the canvas of the relationship as a whole. It’s the consistency and constancy of the interaction that makes it a relationship, rather than something that would surprise anyone because of its extreme rarity and unexpectedness.
Having interactions with God, therefore, should be something that most people regard as both welcome and normal, the unremarkable yet precious shared experience of a God Who really does love us enough to die for us AND to spend time with us. We would expect such interactions to be so common and routine that each and every one of us would know, by experience, exactly Who God is. There should be no question about “was that really God?” or “how can we tell genuine miracles from frauds?” Like our common experience of the law of gravity, it should be something far too prevalent and inescapable to allow for such doubts and ambiguities.
According to the Gospel Hypothesis, God is wise enough and powerful enough that His abilities (or inabilities) should impose no constraints on whether He can do what He wants. The consequences for divine intervention, therefore, are necessarily that we should expect to see Him involving Himself in our lives in accordance with what He wants, which is for each of us to be saved through knowing Him so that He and we can enjoy a genuine, personal, loving relationship for all eternity. This is not just an arbitrary, ad hoc prediction intended to disprove Christianity, it’s what we would expect as the behavior of anyone who loved us and was willing and able to spend time getting to know us and interacting with us in a loving and caring way.
The concept of a “miracle,” meaning something so rare as to be virtually impossible, ought to be a concept that has no relation to our experience of divine intervention—God’s tangible, personal involvement in our lives. As in any person-to-person relationship of any depth and sincerity, we ought expect consistent, tangible, real-world contact and interaction, both as individuals and in groups. God’s picture should be a frequent illustration on the cover of news magazines; interviews with Him ought to appear commonly on news broadcasts (since His perspective would be one of great interest to the rest of us). He ought to be showing up in houses of government, giving speeches to our leaders on how they ought to conduct their policies so as to lead to the well-being and salvation of the greatest number of souls.
All such things are simply manifestations of God having the will and the power to do what the Gospel Hypothesis claims He wants. It’s the normal, predictable consequence of loving us enough to die for us, and of having no plausible obstacle that could frustrate His divine will. But if the Myth Hypothesis is true, then—well, we’ll see tomorrow what the reasonable and probably consequences of that condition would have to be.