Is Science Supernatural?: A Short Review of Miracles by Eric Metaxas
Words by Daniel Caughill
When posed with the task of defending miracles, few Christians initially consider science; most atheists overturn every scientific stone they can lift in search of squirmy little evidences that God cannot exist, and that Jesus—whom they begrudgingly admit existed—possessed little more than snake oil, parlor tricks, and a great personality. But not Eric Metaxas. He, when writing on “what [miracles] are, why they happen, and how they can change your life,” turns first and foremost to the marriage of scientific substance and supernatural miracles, and he defends his case soundly.
Metaxas divides his book into two parts. The first hundred or so pages deal with the question of miracles within the scientific world. He first discounts anyone who would muddle the idea of miracles by purporting a naturalistic worldview that makes even the slightest room for something as metaphysical as miracles. Metaxas says, “if we are not more than aggregates of elements on the periodic table, why should we want that poetic consolation” (4)? Any absolute adherence to a materialistic worldview would require a naturalistic explanation of any miracle-in-question. This would be self-defeating.
Metaxas writes from a seat of authority, having spent his adolescence in unbelief, yet dealing with a Lewisonian longing for “a place more real and true and alive than the place [he] was currently living in” (6). Ultimately, he decided that his wonder was proof of something. He asks, “Can there be such a thing as truth if the world is devoid of meaning” (6)? Rationally, there can’t be, but he was grasping at something—the operating fact being that there was something to be grasped.
Metaxas goes on to define miracles, and challenge the notion that this ancient concept, while legitimate in its ancient context, did not carry on into modern times. If you believe in the Bible and in the biblical accounts of miracles, you must believe that God’s miracles were deliberate epochal interventions into contemporary space and time in order to effect a change. If that is the case, there is no rational support for believing that he cannot and does not still intervene in miraculous ways today.
So, having established the supernatural nature and plausible reality of modern miracles, Metaxas cites plenty of scientific research that not only supports, but demonstrates the reality of miracles in our modern physical world. He states, “The idea that science is somehow at odds with faith and miracles is false. It’s actually not only false but also demonstrably illogical” (23). Even if you don’t agree exactly with his scientific assumptions—plenty will and plenty won’t, and I urge you not to get hung up if you fall into the latter—his statements on creation give plenty of evidence for its intelligent design. Metaxas establishes the limitations of science, then asks, “What if science itself points beyond science (29)?”
Metaxas dedicates the rest of the book to stories; true stories, he affirms, and ones that he chose with painstaking caution. He gathered—only from close friends whom he trusts—personal accounts of occurrences that simply cannot be called anything less than miracles. And with story after story, he boils down your doubt to just three simple options: these people are either raving lunatics, they’re outright liars, or they’ve witnessed the miraculous.
Before I read the book, I believed in miracles like I believe in the quintillionth digit of Pi—from a rational standpoint: one that allows me to say, logically, yes, miracles exist, historically and in terms of conceptual possibility. They could happen today. After reading the book, I believe in miracles like I believe in the inevitable budding of spring. I know it is real, I yearn to feel it, and in fact, it’s probably going on, to some extent, in some part of the world right now.
I’ve come from a place of mights and coulds to a place of where? and at what hour? So bravo, Mr. Metaxas. You’ve given substance to my belief.