When Is a Miracle a Miracle? – Rich Cloud, PPCF Chairman
Abstract – The Importance of Both Time & the Miraculous for the Concept of Creation
Holding to the belief that God acted in a miraculous way to create the universe and all it contains should be the first of several foundational perspectives within the Biblical Creation worldview. This miraculous view of God’s work in Creation, which centers around both His character and His attributes and how He would only act in accordance with them, must be consistent both with who He is and how He has clearly revealed these truths to us (in Scripture).
From this understanding, it becomes important for us to clearly recognize key aspects of this belief and how this in turn applies to what God has provided to us within the record of creation as found in the Genesis account from 1:1 to 2:4. The following four key points outline the factual and miraculous nature of the above statements.
1. The Creation of all that there is (the entirety of the universe and its content) is solely the result of the miraculous and creative actions of God.
2. The factual truth which describes this Creation of God is recorded in Genesis 1-2:4.
3. All miracles recorded in Scripture incorporate at least these three major truths:
All miracles originate w/ God (G).
All miracles display a “supernatural outcome” (SN).
The instantaneous and/or specified timing (T) of each miracle is critical to its factual veracity.
4. The truthful fact of a miraculous six-day creation week is further validated by its stated inclusion in both the 4th Commandment and by God’s active presence in the recording of this Commandment.
Creation – in a Box
The idea of a physical universe and all it contains could be visualized as existing within and bounded by a box1. Since a box occupies space and can hold multiple items, one could equate this to the space occupied by the universe and the contents within it. Since this same box would also exist within time (past, present & future), this same illustration could also be equated with the bounded existence in time by which the universe has existed in the past and continues to exist today.
When applying all of the above within the statement of creation, as found in Genesis 1:1, we can see that there is a distinctness and a separation between the physical universe and God Himself.
[“In the Beginning (time) God created the heavens (space) and earth (matter & energy)”]
From a Christian perspective in which God has created the universe, God does not exist within His creation since He has created it (1st cause). If God were to exist within the universe, then God would be limited by His own creation. Thus, we recognize that God must exist outside of His creation. This understanding describes the supernatural character of God, which is part of His attributes and by which this also demonstrates His uniqueness to and separated presence from His creation. Additionally, the factness of His unique character and personhood allows God to have chosen to create the universe, which humanity is capable of recognizing (Romans 1).
As we now examine and evaluate the universe in which mankind exists, we should acknowledge that the factness of its existence must require an origination for it from outside of its own material processes (i.e., the universe requires a Creator). Furthermore, some of the specific characteristics and attributes possessed by this Creator God would include as a minimum:
Extraordinary and unlimited creativity;
Characteristic thoughts of imaginative design – recognized both for utility of function and yet beyond comprehension, plus;
The ability to interact with and yet not be limited by that which was created.
Truly the miraculous nature of the universe displays its supernatural origin. Using a simple box helps us to define the concept of the created universe by God and yet is totally inadequate in attempting to fully explain both the immensity and the origin of the universe into which God has placed us. Thus, it was necessary for God to reveal this Truth to us.
Considering the Evidence (Evidence Diagram of the Miraculous Creation)
When examining any aspect about the factual nature of Origins, including the overall miracle of creation, how one views these facts (or evidences) will always be evaluated within one’s perspective or one’s foundational bias and in the way they would choose to understand the evidence. The bias one holds may be correct or not, but this bias will determine what one fundamentally believes to be truthful about the evidence and by which these same evidences (i.e., miracles) would have originated and/or could be validated within a scientific framework.
In order to put this concept into a visual perspective of comparative evaluation, I often rely on what I call an evidence diagram2 (Image A). This diagram is useful in displaying both the steps and the process of understanding by which one would utilize to interpret and reach conclusions about the evidence. The important takeaway from this evaluation is that the deciding factor for ultimate understanding of the evidence will be influenced by the foundational perspective to which we would each individually hold as being correct.
The evidence diagram includes six key aspects in how one would evaluate evidence. Each of these aspects will be influenced by the perspective brought to bear on the factual evidence (step 3). Each of these is listed below in general sequence of application and with a short explanation.
Presuppositions (P) – These include the core beliefs that one holds (e.g., naturalistic or creation).
Assumptions (A) – These are the outworking and application a person will make based on their core beliefs and specific to the evidence to be examined.
Evidence (E) – Evidence is the same for both perspectives; evidence is simply what exists.
Context of Evidence – This includes both what is actually known or can be directly observed about the evidence plus what is perceived (P & A) to be known (as being true) about the factual evidence.
Interpretation – This includes the initial evaluation and understanding one holds as being true about the evidence. Almost always this understanding is consistent with one’s P & A.
Conclusions – These follow from the totality of specific interpretations made of the evidence and leads to incorporating these interpretations into a broader perspective. This is always consistent with one’s P & A.
It should be obvious from the outline above that how one approaches the evidence of Origins (creation) will result in differing interpretations and conclusions based on the individual's starting perspective. Continuing with this thought, it is clear that a naturalistic perspective (or lens) will not accept the miraculous for creation. Conversely, the Biblical Creation view (or lens) will accept the idea that God has acted in a miraculous way to create all that there is. Any attempt to hold an intermediate view of the evidence will ultimately produce a mixed and compromised viewpoint somewhere between the opposing views of Biblical Creation & Naturalism.
Going forward from here and for the remaining discussion in this paper, this article will focus on examining the evidence of Scripture on the subject of miracles from a Biblical Creation perspective.
A Basic Understanding of Miracles – New Testament Miracles by Jesus Christ
When we think of the miraculous and view the concept of miracles through the lens of Scripture, it seems likely that many of us might first consider the numerous miracles recorded in the Gospel accounts. When we examine the context of these miracles, as carried out by Jesus and as recorded in these respective accounts, we would often find that each miracle would fall within one of two distinct responses to observed needs.
Most often these miracles of Jesus would occur in order to provide a solution to a physical need of healing. Usually, this type of recorded miracle was done for a single individual suffering from a clearly observed physical infirmity. Often after the miracle had occurred, Christ would also request anonymity. For the second type of miracle, Jesus’ actions were often to either fully set aside or to sometimes speed up the normal & natural processes of nature. This would also commonly occur in type one above. In both cases the ultimate outcome of either action would then be manifested and recognized by one or multiple people within the immediate view of the outcome as indeed a miracle.
A few examples are provided to illustrate the points mentioned in the previous paragraph. While numerous healing miracles could be sited, one miracle displays a true and clear sense for its veracity: Christ’s healing of a man born blind (Mark 8:22-26). This miracle combines both aspects of the miraculous mentioned in the previous paragraph. This miracle displays evidence of a known medical condition called agnosia3 and by which Christ miraculously healed this man in the two stages related to agnosia. The first stage of this miracle is where Christ spat on the man’s eyes and then puts His hands on the man’s eyes resulting in partial vision. After this stage, the man could not clearly make out the images seen (“walking trees”, verse 24). For the second stage of the healing, Christ lays His hands on the man’s eyes a second time and now the man can see with full clarity.
Agnosia is the condition where the ability to have proper vision needs to be converted and communicated between the physical aspect of sight (one’s eyes, 1st stage) and the transference of this information from one’s eyes to the brain (synapses, 2nd stage). This process converts this physio-optical information into electrical pulses processed by the brain for interpretation, resulting in physical recognition and identification of an object. All of these steps are necessary to result in one’s ability to see. This truly complex outcome, even when operating normally (e.g., a child’s developing sight in the first weeks after birth), is miraculous of itself. Clearly, when Christ both established and sped up this natural process of development, we can affirm along with those present at this event that this was indeed miraculous.
Finally, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, this miracle is also a clear witness to an event where Jesus totally reversed and set aside a natural process within our normal life experience – bringing someone who was dead back to life. We recognize that life can only come from life within the natural processes we observe. Yet Lazarus, who was dead for three days, was miraculously brought back to life (John 11).
One Key New Testament Miracle – Considering it from the Perspective of Creation
The miracle to be discussed here is Jesus Calming the Storm (Matthew 8:24-27). The importance of this miracle, as it pertains to creation by God, is in the idea of Timing (T). I have included this text from Matthew below along with key highlighted phrases.
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.
25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (ESV)
The first question to ask is “Was this a miracle?” and then to answer the follow-up, “Yes or No, and Why?”. When one examines this passage from the perspective of the 1st person observers who were present, it is clear from their response in verse 27 that they considered this act to be a miracle (Yes to question 1). The response to part 2 is to indicate “Why?”. The answer to this part seems to be all about the timing.
For the sake of evaluating this as a miracle consider the following issues of time. What if this miracle by Christ took one day – would the disciples have considered it a miracle? What if it took one hour; or one minute; or even just one second? Would any of these delays be viewed as a miracle occurrence? I would suspect that if this miracle took either one day or one hour or one minute, the reaction by the disciples would not have been to view this as miracle (vs. 27).
They may not have been able to recognize a delay of one second, but the point of mentioning these multiple time frames is that for a miracle to be recognized as a miracle in this specific instance, the understanding involved is based on the fact of its immediacy as to what occurred for this specific event (the calming of the storm). Thus, this event was recognized by those present as a miracle because it happened immediately after Jesus spoke in rebuking the storm.
Was the Act of Creation in Six Days a Miracle?
This is an interesting question to consider when one compares the passage of Genesis 1, which details the creation account, versus the miraculous act of Christ in calming the storm, as previously described. When we consider Jesus’ miracle as given in this previous passage, but now examining it within a one day or 24-hour time frame, this outcome of calming the storm would not have the sense of a miraculous act. For this miracle to be a miracle, the reader senses that this miracle must have occurred immediately or instantaneously, after Christ spoke, for it to be recognized as a miracle.
However, when we compare the creation account and its stated completion within six days of creative activity (with each day of a normal 24 hours), and where this process of creation on each day was initiated by the voice of God, many believe and accept this account and its stated time frame as being both factual and miraculous. Thus, these two accounts from Scripture provide two outcomes where the described miracles are said to have miraculously happened, but where each is recorded to have occurred within two distinctly different time frames. This would suggest that the ability to define any act as a miracle, and thus the timing of this act as a miracle, will require a deeper explanation than just the fact of its occurrence.
In trying to understand this comparison between the Storm and the Creation, the process of understanding miracles can now be examined by answering a few focused questions and where each will need a response. The obvious purpose for these questions about the miraculous will directly focus on the issue of time and why this is so important when addressing the concept of miracles.
Perspective Question #1 – Is a miracle required to be instantaneous in time to be a miracle?
Perspective Question #2 – Can six days of God’s creative activity be viewed as a miracle? Can either 13.8 billion years or 6 long ages of time to complete God’s creative activity be viewed as a miracle?
Perspective Question #3 – Did God have any other reason for creating all things over a 6-day period? Thus, did God intentionally choose not to complete the entire creation instantaneously for another reason? (This will be discussed in the next section)
When evaluating Perspective Question #1, one way to begin would be to consider some of the miracles performed by Jesus during his ministry on earth. I have already mentioned the miracle of healing the man born blind. The interesting part here, as based on the factor of time, is that there would have indeed been a delay during this miracle, primarily between steps 1 and 2. And yet this delay did not affect the response and recognition of the healing miracle which resulted.
Likewise, for the healing of leprosy by Jesus, as recorded in Luke 17, this miracle resulted in a delayed outcome. The ten lepers, who were cleansed of leprosy, were healed “along the way” (Luke 17:4.). This outcome is also readily accepted as a miracle and indicates some measure of time before the cleansing of leprosy was completed as these lepers walked to show themselves to the Jewish leaders. While this delay was not likely long, it was not an instantaneous healing. The results observed from these two acts of healing, both agnosia and leprosy, demonstrated a miraculous outcome, but with a time frame of soon and not instantaneous, for the observed miracles.
When evaluating Perspective Question #2, the act of creation could be viewed in one sense as having similar characteristics to and as somewhat parallel with the Storm miracle. The distinction to be discussed here is how one views the length of time for each of these stated miracles. If one would equate the instantaneous outcome for calming the storm to the factual statement of six, the 24-hour days for creation, then these two distinct time frames, while different, actually express the directly expressed, face value record of the text. If we then contrast this previous comparison with the general idea of old earth views for creation (13.8 billion years and/or six long ages) as being comparable to the extended time of one day/24-hours to calm the storm, the understanding which results from this second comparison holds an interesting parallel. This parallel seems to totally lack a miraculous outcome for both of these extended time frames.
The point of these separate comparisons is that the immediacy of a singular miracle of calming the storm is similar to the immediacy of the multiple creation miracles, which would have occurred within each single day of the described creation week in Genesis 1. If one recognizes that multiple creative acts are described as occurring during each day via God speaking and acting, then one can envision a time interval of one day for the full number of these many unique acts to take place. One can then sense the miraculous nature of each act occurring instantaneously, but throughout each single day and with this same outcome also occurring during each of the six days of the creation week.
In contrast to this, if the length of time for creation was to have occurred within an extended time frame of billions of years proposed by some for the entirety of creation, would not this outcome demonstrate zero relationship with God speaking each miraculous event into existence? Would not each of these individual actions have taken upwards of 100s of thousands to millions or even billions of years to be completed? Thus, the observed outcome would now be fully separated from the speaking, much like the illustration of the 24 hours delay after Jesus spoke would be separated from the calming the storm. Therefore, one could quite easily say that God would seem to be unnecessary for this type of understanding about creation (or the calming of the storm). I would argue that the idea of old earth creation logically denies and removes the concept of the miraculous from the creation account.
Commandment #4 – Sabbath Day
The truths found within God’s Word, and specially summarized within what has been termed the Ten Commandments, has provided a foundational basis for order and function within Western Civilization for many centuries. The content found in these Commandments has afforded key qualities of function as to how society has chosen to formulate its basic laws and regulations while also encouraging personal accountability in both moral and ethical behavior. These same Commandments have also provided humanity with the means to recognize our position before God and how we should both inter-relate and treat one another in our personal contacts while exercising proper social morals and associated actions. The authority placed in God by this text and the expected behavior expressed in these Commandments is clearly intended to provide directed truth to be accepted and to be obeyed.
The basis of these Commandments initially describes our place before God (1-4), and from this we proceed to those commands which define proper inter-relationships between people (5-10). When it comes to our place before God, Commandment #4 outlines the proper place that worship of God must hold in our life, especially for those who recognize the God of Scripture. The key passage here is Exodus 20:8-11, which is provided below and with key phrases highlighted.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (ESV)
When we read this passage within the context of mankind working six days and worshipping God on the seventh day, we see that the basis for this defined week is clearly grounded within the initial week of creation as summarized in verse 11. Thus, we recognize God as having said that our normal work week is to match His “work” week of Creation. Here this Commandment clearly states, and can only make sense, if the creation of all things occurred within six normal 24-hour days. From this we have now provided a direct answer to Perspective Question #3 mentioned in the previous section.
How were the Ten Commandments Initially Written?
What is of equal, if not even greater importance as the fact of, the miracle of and the timing of creation is the means by which this Commandment (and the entire Ten Commandments) came about. When we examine the text found in Exodus 31:15-18, we see that God not only restates the intent of these Ten Commandments, but He also focuses directly on Commandment #4. When describing both the intent and purpose of the 4th Commandment, God also speaks to the fact that He wrote these Commandments “by His own finger”. While this description speaks within an anthropomorphic sense of God writing this portion of Scripture, it also clearly states that the entire content, placed on these two stones and given to Moses in this passage, is directly provided by God Himself. A key portion of this text is given (and highlighted) below.
15a For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. … 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”
18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. (ESV)
Putting the above Scripture into context provides an interesting perspective as to the importance placed by God upon this portion of Scripture. While all of Scripture is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21) and originates from God, we read in this specific passage that God has provided additional confirmation and verification (by His own “finger”) for this text by stating and affirming the factual truthfulness of the creation account. Thus, the only remaining question to answer is: Do I accept the reality of this statement in Exodus 31 or do I discount the intended meaning as provided to us directly by God Himself? For me the answer to this question is obvious: God's Word is true. It is stated as true by both the intent of the author and the factual truthfulness of its content. When viewed in this way, this truth can be summarized in the statement “God means what He says and He says what He means”.
The intent of this paper was to directly examine and evaluate the truth character of God’s Word firstly within the content of the Creation account and specifically as to its stated message as referencing the miraculous origin of creation. The position taken in this paper is that God did indeed miraculously create all things (in six 24-hour days), and that one can readily recognize this action by simply reading and accepting the truth conveyed within His Word to us. While the focus and details of the Creation are found in Genesis 1, we can also recognize that other confirming passages of Scripture have highlighted key concepts for the factness of Creation, such as its miraculous origin and its affirmation by God Himself.
The importance of recognizing and believing the recorded truth about the miraculous nature of Creation cannot be understated. The fact that God was wholly and actively involved in creating and making His creation – as initiator, architect, creative genius, designer, engineer, artist and continued sustainer of His Creation – is without question as based on His recorded Word to us. The fact that God Himself is above, beyond and not limited by what He has created and made is also without question – as based on the passages examined and as further stated within the whole of His Word. The only question to remain is whether we accept these truths in the way the author intended them for us or do we choose not to do so? Can we trust God to speak clearly and truthfully? The answer is an affirmative YES!
May God Bless your study of His Word.
1 A similar illustration and concept utilized in the Truth Project video series, narrated by Del Tackett (from Focus on the Family ministries).
2 The evidence diagram, which I have developed, is adapted from various sources [e.g., John Morris book “Fossil Record” (ICR) & Roger Patterson – articles for AIG]; see Diagram A below.
3 The detailed account of this miracle is found in a devotional book titled “Inspired Evidence” by Julie Van Vett & Bruce Malone, February 9th (“Search for the Truth” ministry).
Diagram A – This is a slide of the evidence diagram and it displays the 6 key elements of the concept called “Considering the Evidence”. The point of this slide (image) is to demonstrate that one’s foundational perspective has a direct impact on how you or I will then interpret the evidence (or any evidence). When evidence can undergo verifiable and repeatable testing via scientific methodology, then the bias of one’s presuppositions and assumptions is minimized and the accuracy of the interpretation and conclusions is more likely correct. The key takeaway is that for a one-time event, such as Origins-based evidence, this evidence cannot undergo repeatable testing and evaluation to help provide verifiable results and in turn validate a specific viewpoint. Thus, one’s perspective (or bias) can directly influence the ultimate conclusions reached and thus the correctness or incorrectness which will result. In the end, the truth of God’s Word should be the measure used to determine the factual reality of the evidence, especially Origins-based evidence.
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