Miracles of God in an Orderly Universe

As a believer in God who enjoys science and music, I found the following analogy interesting. This is from Professor Colin Humphreys’ lecture at Trinity College, Cambridge on the topic, “Can Scientists Believe in Miracles?” In this part of the lecture Dr. Humphreys seeks to balance the consistency of God in maintaining an orderly universe with the ability of God to intervene miraculously in the natural order.

Overriding natural laws not only give scientists a problem but also theologians, and the reason for this is that the picture of God given in the Bible is of a consistent God. There are many biblical passages where the consistency of God comes through strongly. So theologically, if God created the Universe and is constantly upholding it, and if God is a consistent God, then would he override the laws he has established?

Let me give you a musical analogy which may be helpful. Imagine you are standing behind a pianist who is playing without music and you are watching the pianist’s fingers. Every time the pianist goes to play the note “F” he plays “F sharp”. You can deduce from this the key signature of the music. The key signature is the rule the composer establishes for playing that piece of music. If you keep watching you may observe that, on occasion, when the pianist should play “F sharp” he plays “F”, or he may play black notes when you expect him to play white ones. These are what musicians call “accidentals” which the composer has deliberately put in the music.

The composer, of course, is free to put accidentals in the music – he is the composer – and although he’s set up a key signature which signifies the way the music should normally be played, he is free to say that it should be played differently on occasions. If he is a great composer, the accidentals will never be used capriciously, they will always make better music. It is the accidentals which contribute to making the piece of music great. The analogy with how God operates is clear. God created and upholds the universe but, like the great composer, he is free to override his own rules. However, if he is a consistent God, it must make more sense than less for him to override his rules.

4 Comments

  1. Margaret says:

    As a piano teacher, and lover of music, I can relate to that analogy. In this beautiful orderly universe, we can praise God for our wonderful world, and praise also for His miraculous interventions. When we read how Jesus calmed the storm on the lake, we marvel along with the disciples at God’s power. I am grateful for the times in my own life when God has rescued me, both physically, and spiritually. I expect most of us have had similar experiences.

  2. Interesting article, and I agree. God can intervene when He thinks best, and override the laws He created that generally govern our universe. Of course, the entire Creation is a miracle of God or it would not exist at all.

    An increasingly large percentage of today’s scientists believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as intelligent designer of the universe and life, and this is now an established one way trend. To understand this turn of events, including perspectives of many leading scientists, see Intelligent Design vs. Evolution — The Miracle of Intelligent Design.

  3. Ray Fowler says:

    Margaret and Miracles – Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Steve Greene says:

    (Full disclosure: I’m an atheist, not a Christian. Not here to tear things up either, though.)

    In regard to science and miracles, the problem is not, essentially, whether “miracles” are possible. After all, as Arthur C. Clarke (an atheist) wrote, “Any sufficiently-advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic”. (This issue also touches on an ambiguity in the distinctions between the concepts referred to by the words “natural” and “supernatural”, because however a god did something there would be some means, some process, some “supernatural force” by which it was done. Conversely, for example, the very propagation of the force of gravity is pretty mystical, even yet to physicists working on the problem, and if you tried to discuss the latest ideas concerning particle physics, field theory, and the associated mathematics of theoretical physicists about how the force of gravity actually works with people living a thousand years ago, they would think you were the most mystical person on the face of the planet, or absolutely insane.)

    The problem with Humphreys’ analogy is the issue of producing good evidence for miracles, because in fact even most Christians (at least in developed nations are very skeptical of miracle claims because we know that an awful lot of religious people (and not just Christians) like to proclaim miracles yet for which there either isn’t any good evidence for them or there is evidence (i.e., claims have actually been investigated) and the evidence is against the claim.

    So miracles aren’t black key accidentals occasionally mixed in with an all white key C major piece, but a guy says they player just played a peppery sound, probably from a green key, of course, but no one else hears the “pepper” sound, and we’re wondering what a green key is supposed to be (‘Do you see one? I certainly don’t see such a thing.’)

    That analogy fits the situation much better. Of course, analogies can be enlightening, or they can be limiting in a self-serving way. They are, after all, just analogies.

Leave a Reply