Archive for the ‘History of Israel’ Category

Tuesday Theology Musings: 0.1A – Can miracles exist?

July 5, 2011

Last week, we discussed how classical skepticism and the Bible interact in their perception of reality. Today, we will explore the implications of Pyrrho‘s eighth mode: constancy and rarity.

The ninth depends upon the frequency, or rarity, or strangeness of the thing under consideration. For instance, earthquakes excite no wonder among those nations with whom they are of frequent occurrence; nor does the sun, because he is seen every day. (from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, trans. C.D. Yonge, 1853, Book IX – The Life of Pyrrho, Chapter IX)

Many modern skeptics believe that miracles, like to the kind recorded in Scripture, are impossible because they violate the natural order, as “codified” in repeatable scientific empiricalism. Iwould like to venture a rebuttal on three propositions, inspired by Pyrrho:

1) The rare is not the impossible

Modern particle physics is presently searching for the Higgs boson, also known colloquially as the “God particle”.

However, as of today, it has not been discovered/detected. To quote a particle physics blog:

“The Tevatron by the end of 2011 will have acquired 10-12 inverse femtobarns of luminosity…. To unravel this, here is a handful of back-of-a-madgraph estimates of how many interesting events can the colliders get by the end of 2011.

Higgs Boson (120 GeV Higgs produced in gluon fusion) events:
Tevatron: 10 000
LHC: 11 000

Both experiments will have a similar sensitivity to the Higgs. Although 10k looks like whole lotta events, Higgs signatures are notoriously difficult to search. For example, one promising discovery channel at the LHC is when the Higgs decays into two photons, which happens roughly twice per thousand events for a 120 GeV Higgs. For this and other reasons, neither Tevatron nor the LHC has good prospects of discovering the Higgs, unless in lucky circumstances (e.g. production cross section larger than in the standard model, or Higgs mass sitting close to the sweet spot of 160 GeV).” (Resonaances, accessed 7/5/2011)

To be at least intellectually consistent, if rare events in science can be expected, then so to rare events beyond the comfort threshold of the scientist.

2) The common is not the non-miraculous

As stated in Pyrrho’s own words, ” the sun [does not excite wonder] because he is seen every day.” This is better explained by those more versed in the subject, so I will point you to two takes:

…to which I again appeal for equal treatment under my first proposition!

3) The “laws” of science are never set

The scientist is alwasy questioning and exploring. In science, there are relatively few laws: explanations of the mechanism of a process so rigorously upheld by empirical data (evidential test) and so entrenched in other corollary aspects of scientific understanding (logical-conceptual test) as to conceive of their not being true/real is tantamount to undercutting the whole existence of life/the universe as we know it. However, most scientific understanding is only about a hundred years old (at least, in its present formulation)…why should we not expect the rules of scientific thought to change again?

In conclusion, miracles cannot be discounted or disregarded simply because they do not fit our modern sentiments on the subject.


The transition begins…Joshua 1

September 11, 2007

 (v.1, 2a) “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead….'” Joshua inherits a vast people, the children of former slaves, who have lived their entire lives in the wilderness of Sinai. He has assisted the great Moses in leading the people through hardship, disloyalty, and the conquest of the eastern territories. He must now go alone in leadership to cross the Jordan and conquer the land of Canaan. Daunting, to say the least!

(v.2b-5) “…now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” Sometimes in times of disarray, disappointment, and despair we need God to just tell us that He is with us. Not because we necessarily have forgotten, but so that we are confirmed in the knowledge that “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 (v.6, 7, 9) “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go…. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” The temptation to Joshua and the people of Israel to try to conquer Canaan in their own strength, as they had before and failed (Numbers 14:39-45). This is not surprising given that some of God’s requirements were a little strange (blowing trumpets to destroy the wall of Jericho in Joshua 6). And some of Israel did eventually violate the standards and cost them all much (Achan’s greed cost them 36 men at Ai and his life in Joshua 7). The phrase “Only be strong and very courageous” should resonate with us still as we too try to shortcut or rethink God’s Ways – a parallel thought is given by Paul in Ephesians 6:10,11, 13b: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…and having done everything, to stand firm. ” We’re just supposed to stand, not fight! We’re just supposed to be strong and courageous!

(v.8) “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” A parallel thought is given by the writer of Psalm 1: those that absorb God’s Word will be made useful and fulfilled by it and Him.

(v.10, 11) “Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, ‘Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.”‘” No doubt Joshua, after forty-five years of assistantship, was already considered the rightful heir to the command of Israel. But mutinies had occurred before, by Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12 and Korah (and 14,700 people) in Numbers 16. Still Joshua trusted the word he had jsut received from God and acted accordingly.

(v.12-15) “To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, ‘Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, “The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.” Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.'” Joshua reasserts the unity of Israel despite the easy excuse of the physical barrier between them. To assuage their hesitancy, he allows the women and children to remain behind in safety, a luxury not given to the other tribes.

(v.16-18) “They answered Joshua, saying, ‘All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses. Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.'” God’s promise of His support of Joshua before the people is shown true. Notice the blessings with which they anoint Joshua as the new leader: “only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.” and “only be strong and courageous.” Echoes of God’s own words from the lips of God’s own people!

 Please return next week for Joshua 2…and may God bless and enlighten your understanding, along with mine…