Easter and the revised laws of nature

Even within the “semi-deist” version of Evolutionary Creation, the Resurrection of our Lord holds a special place as an example (in some cases the only example) of a true miracle within an otherwise “natural” creation. But the Resurrection isn’t actually a miracle at all.

When miracles are introduced into the origins discussion, the word can sometimes (and improperly) be taken as a generic term covering any “intervention” of God into an otherwise autonomous natural order. In this way, any version of “special creation” is often regarded as illegitimate “miraculous” interference with God’s own laws.

On the other hand, the more precise and correct usage of the word “miracle”, as a “wonder” somehow outside the course of nature and with spiritual significance, is often given more leeway. God might, indeed, do special works for the sake of mankind, in order to lead them to faith.

Sometimes this is a grudging concession within a largely naturalistic worldview – hence R J Russell’s term “semi-deism”: the world runs “naturally” – but God might do miracles. Excessively rarely. Maybe. Modern miracles may therefore be largely attributed a priori to delusion or enthusiasm, by a kind of scientistic cessationism. Even biblical miracles may be put down to apostolic wishful-thinking or the early Church’s weaving of legends. But the Resurrection is different, if only because it is the historic touchstone of Christian faith.

But actually, it is wrong to look at the raising of Jesus as an exception to the way God normally runs the world. In fact, it is instead the first example – the first data if you like – of the new order that God is bringing into the entire cosmos through the Kingdom. What Jesus delivered, through the resurrection, was a down-payment on what is destined to become universal throughout Creation, and it’s no less than a new set of “laws of nature” to replace the old set (that which we study through science) altogether.

Paul describes this as the “pneumatikos” replacing the “psuchikos” – as N T Wright helpfully describes it, is is the spirit-powered cosmos as opposed to the physically-powered cosmos. It is the permanent and complete replacement of “physics” (and all the sciences that rely on it) with the spiritual, and it began with the Resurrection.

In Jesus, this new order is seen in his changed appearance, despite the persistence of his wounds; his ability to appear in locked rooms or travel quickly over large distances, yet eat normal food; his ability to live, in the body, in the very presence of God in heaven up to this very day, and yet to appear on earth to Paul (at least); and to govern and sustain the whole creation as he also directs the course of his Church through history. In the order of the “pneumatikos“, every one of the billions of born-again believers is in spiritual union with this resurrected God-man, and knows him as Lord through a supernatural faith.

The process of the transformation of the physically-powered into the spiritually-powered, we are told, continues (though invisibly) with each new person who becomes part of the Kingdom: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”. The process overall is gradualistic but pervasive – it’s the mustard seed that grows until it becomes the greatest tree, or the yeast that leavens the whole lump, or the mountain that grows until it fills the whole earth.

The promised second coming of Christ, then, will be neither an event within the continuation of the old natural order, nor even a future transformation which can be ignored by us for practical purposes. It will instead be the completion of a cosmic re-ordering that began on this Easter Day three days and nights after the Crucifixion, and that continues apace until the definitive “changeover” point when the old standard is finally replaced with the new: the old coinage goes out of circulation: but the new is already extant.

With that in mind, maybe our meditation this Easter should include the question of how much our worldview makes room for the presence of this new kind of “nature” developing in our midst, and whether we’re too interested in studying the obsolete old order to be sufficiently aware of it.

Resurrection blessings to all our readers.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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6 Responses to Easter and the revised laws of nature

  1. Jay313 says:

    Well said. I am always amazed when Christians philosophize about the present order as if it were the best God could do, forgetting that the resurrection of Christ is the first-fruits of a new creation. Thanks for the reminder.

    Whenever I look around me and feel that sense of awe and wonder that the majesty of God’s creation inspires, I remember Isaiah 65:17:

    “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
    And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

    Look at the beauty surrounding us. The new shall so outshine it that we will not even think about the old. What an amazing thought!

    “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Thanks for these thoughts, Jay.

      We had a double baptism in our Easter service yesterday, which was another wonderful reminder that the new creation – with its whole new order – is breaking into the old one and overturning all those scruples about God’s “interfering” in the world by simply getting on with replacing it.

      Mind you, the old order still asserted itself temporaily when my music fell off the stand and I had to scrabble for it!

      • Jay313 says:

        Haha. Yes, even Jesus himself was exasperated by the old order.

        “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?…”

  2. Henry Tudor says:

    Dear Dr. Jon,

    I hoe that the year in England has been good for you this year. I have a problem and I hope you will give some advice. Like British ancestors, I love a cup of tea. I have read that tea is good for a fatty liver. Also, coffee seems to meet this problem. As a doctor of medicine, what is your opinion.

    Your American British friend

    Henry Tudor (Edward Miller)

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Hi Henry

      As a retired doctor of medicine, I’m realising I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew!

      I haven’t heard about the benefits of tea or coffee for fatty liver, but since I’m pretty confident it does no harm, you can afford to test the theory safely! If nothing else it is certainly a lot better for the condition than the equivalent amount of beer or wine!

      But it has been a good year, including a new granddaughter!

      Jon

      • Henry Tudor says:

        May God bless you and your granddaughter as well as other family members. I am happy for you, Jon.

        Henry

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