As society continues to migrate to towards secularism, a larger percentage of the population questions the existence of God and skeptics find it easier to dismiss scriptural or personal claims of miracles.
Factors of modernity lead some to doubt the literal claims of scripture. Less people see scripture as inerrant leaving each recorded miracle subject to scrutiny. An example of modern dismissal of scriptural miracles can be found with Thomas Jefferson. The influential proponent of the Enlightenment famously (or infamously) removed accounts of miracles from the New Testament because he found them unbelievable.
Contemporary claims of God’s miraculous intervention cover a wide range, from being cured from sickness as an answer to prayer, to countries winning wars. Because such claims can be subjectively interpreted, a skeptic can dismiss them. To the doubter, contemporary accounts of miracles are not necessarily a proof of God.
My purpose is not to suggest scriptural or contemporary accounts of miracles are irrelevant — but that to some, they may not be convincing. I would propose two items that I believe are good cases for the miraculous, and worthy of consideration by doubters, and a possible avenue towards belief.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell points out that the first function of mythology (sacred narrative) is “the discovery and recognition of the dimension of the mystery of being.”[i] One of the best titled books in Mormondom captures the major aspects of being, and the resulting potential sacred mystery. I have yet to read Hyrum L. Andrus’ God, Man and the Universe.[ii] But I really like the title. You really can’t capture the great philosophical and theological topics so succinctly in a single title. And it so happens that it also captures the elements of Campbell’s primary function of mythology.
I propose that the miraculous and/or God can be found in the two major components of being: the Nature of the Universe, and the Nature of Man.[iii]
Miracle #1: The Universe
I was moved recently when NASA engineers cheered the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars.[iv] I had grown up during the Apollo era and the science of the time captured my imagination and wonderment. News of its landing led me to believe we had taken yet another “leap for mankind” towards unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
My personal fascination as a child with space came from the same wonderment we all feel as we stare at the stars and try to wrap our heads around the immensity of space. A lot has been learned about the Universe in the scientific age. We know the Universe is essentially the remnant of a large explosion. For over thirteen-billion years, much of the energy in the explosion called the Big Bang, has coalesced into physical matter, and the space which contains that matter and energy still continues to expand like a mushroom cloud at an ever increase rate of speed.
But as I think about it, it seems we really shouldn’t have had a Universe in the first place. What seems more plausible to me — is that the Big Bang should not have banged at all. It should be as it was in the pre-Big Bang era where our Universe was compressed into a single point. The container that holds the matter and energy of the Universe that we call “space” – did not exist. And because time and space are integrated together as “continuum,” there really wasn’t time either. No matter, no space, no time.
So I wonder why the explosion occurred in the first place, allowing reality as we know it to come into existence. This was the beginning. [v]
Discovering and recognizing the mystery of reality (our Universe) is what Joseph Campbell calls the “Mysterium Tremendum” – the awe we experience as we contemplate the incomprehensible origin and nature of reality.
I submit that the mystery of our 13.7 billion year old reality — is an event worthy of being called a miracle.
[i] Campbell, Joseph, and Eugene C. Kennedy. Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2001. 5. Print.
[ii] Andrus, Hyrum Leslie. God, Man and the Universe. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1968. Print.
[iii] Because I use the title of Andrus’ book to introduce a point, I follow his terminology and use “Man” rather than the more gender inclusive“Humankind.”
[iv] More important is the recent detection of the Higgs Boson particle, the so-called “God Particle.” http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/135756-cerns-higgs-boson-discovery-passes-peer-review-becomes-actual-science
[v] With all the matter of the universe compressed in this tiny space, time would have warped to the point that it would have stood still.