Supremely Natural

Excerpted from Reading the Bible in the Strange World of Medicine by Allan Verhey, footnote his (Copyright  2003 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pg. 33-34):

There was, so the tale is told, a heart patient who was both quite sick and quite pious. He had the habit of opening his Bible at random and, without looking, putting his finger upon the page. He would take any passage thus identified to be a word from God for him in whatever circumstances he found himself. After he had been admitted to the hospital, and after the initial round of tests and procedures, when he was finally left alone in his room, he took his Bible and let it fall open upon his lap. It fell open to the Psalms, and he put his finger down upon Psalm 51:10. He opened his eyes to read it; “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” it said. And then he looked up with rapture that God should speak so directly to his condition. It was a word from God, surely — a message, a sign. And he knew what it meant. It could only mean that he should receive a Jarvik Seven, the artifical heart that he had recently read of in the newspaper. He summoned the nurse to report this remarkable event, and he sent a message to his doctor that he needed a Jarvik Seven.

The physician stopped by in the morning, and when she had heard the patient’s story, she refused to take Psalm 51:10 as an indication of a need for a Jarvik Seven. “A Jarvik Seven is probably not what the psalmist had in mind,” she said. The patient was not easily convinced; he kept pointing to the still-open Bible and to Psalm 51:10. As the doctor got up to leave the room and to quit the argument, she put her finger down upon that same Bible, upon the psalm before Psalm 51, upon its ninth verse, and she read its words: “I will accept no bull from your house.” ((The patient’s Bible must have been a Revised Standard Version (RSV).)) That sort of “bull” is probably not what the psalmist had in mind either, of course, but the patient was suddenly a little less confident about his method of “searching the Scriptures.” And so should we be.

It’s a very entertaining tale, and one, I’m ashamed to reveal, that I’m guilty of engaging in. I remember moments in my life where I would open my Bible and hope for a miraculous revelation, but, instead, what was miraculous was my steadfastness in finding what I wanted to find. I don’t think miracles happen today as they did with the early church. Certainly, unexplainable phenomena may be attributed the title of miracle, to which, I’m confident, staunch naturalists will attribute the title “that which has no explanation yet“. In light of that, I think miracles have an unfortunate association with miraculous things — or rather, “impossible” things. The miracles presented in the Bible are certainly miraculous, and they seem this way, I postulate, because they seem impossible. How do you feed 5,000 persons with a few loaves of bread and fish? How do you sustain a widow, her orphan, and a prophet for days with enough ingredient for only a day’s meal? How does a virgin conceive, or the dead resurrect?

I don’t doubt the existence of miraculous miracles, but I think miracles, for the most part, are much more natural today. That is, the impossibility of the biblical miracles has reduced. Certainly there exists a spiritual reason to ask for miracles, but their actuality, I believe, is more natural than we seek. ((Isn’t it rather human to desire what, at times, seems unattainable?)) Instead of hoping for a miracle cure from an illness, it is a miracle that God has provided doctors; and it is the health care practitioners that perform the miracle. Instead of hoping for a miracle mark on your next exam, it is a miracle that God has provided tutors and peers that grasp the material more adequately, and are able to help — even then, it is a miracle that you can have a swing at the content, and can train yourself to understand it; and it is the tutors, peers, and yourself who perform the miracle.

Yet, certainly, there exists this supernatural realm of demons and spirits. It’s hard for me to surrender to the belief, but I am confident in professing my belief of spirits and demons. ((As a professing Christian, I must believe that spirits exist, lest I denounce the existence of the Holy Spirit. And if the Spirit exists, it must follow that demons as well.)) And it is in this realm that I am befuddled. I’m curious to know the prevalence of demons and spirits in the 1st century and why, or at least why it seems, the prevalence has decreased today. It’s also an interesting thought to ponder on why these spirits seem to be more populated in less developed areas. ((It makes me thinks of rural villages where witch doctors still exist, and where shamans heal patients by warding off evil spirits. These observations draw me back to a very interesting interpretation of Genesis that I put forth about a year ago. Perhaps I’ll revisit it and tie in this idea.))

The dichotomy of science and spirit is an area that might summarize the pinnacle of my academic endeavor. I am so interested in that intersection. The most profound thing, I think, that I will find at that intersection is that the collision of these two subjects isn’t as immiscible as we have developed it to be. It could be that the two subjects are really more natural than we think.

Final Note: I feel like the excerpted story is irrelevant  to the entry, or vice versa. I’m not sure how I twisted either to support the other, but let me be firm in my purpose in writing this: sometimes God is more natural than we think, and sometimes science, the method and discipline, is more godly than it ought to be. The divine is, at times, more common, and reason, at times, is not the Absolute.

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