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on the God of the gaps

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

This video is making its way around my FB page. As a Christian, I find it… irritating. Embarrassing, really.

http://www.godvine.com/Woman-Drowning-in-her-SUV-is-Miraculously-Saved-1342.html

The science doesn’t seem so impossible to explain to me. If the woman could get the door open (which according to MythBusters is impossible before the car is full of water and the pressure inside and out equalizes, but perhaps if she held her breath and was pushing on the door at the right moment…) then the water would surely shut the door again. The man reaching for her would feel her arm once she was already out of the car. The real danger at that point is drowning. Dangerous and unlikely, but not impossible, I wouldn’t think.

But even if I couldn’t explain it, this simply isn’t what a miracle is. By that logic, the fact that I can point a cameraphone at a person, click a button, and create a likeness of her on my screen would be miraculous – to a caveman or someone who had no clue how a camera worked. Just because the best science of a particular point in history can’t explain some occurrence (let alone a half-dozen average people having just been frightened by a near-death and with no particular expertise…) doesn’t mean there’s not an explanation.

I have a hard time accepting the concept of miracles across the board. The way scientific laws seem to work, they don’t seem to leave room for exceptions. But I’m also conscious how there’s more in heaven and earth than can be accounted for by our philosophy, so I’m not going to completely rule out the possibility of a miracle happening. The thing is, some religious people are so ready to see it in what they can’t explain easily. It’s unconvincing to me and I’m not in any particular need of convincing. And it seems like it dulls our natural curiosity. If I had thought this moment was a miracle, I wouldn’t have been driven to poke around online and figure out what kind of natural explanation there might be.

If there is a miracle, it’s that the woman happened to pull on the handle at precisely the right moment or something like that. Something which can be explained naturally but is so improbable, it gives the woman and the onlookers the experience of the miraculous. As far as proofs for God’s existence goes, that’s not a very good one. But as part of giving us a sense of awe, I can see moments like this having a role to play.

I was also really bothered by the way people were so ready to praise God for saving this woman but not blame Him for causing the flood that put her in harm’s way. You don’t get credit for the very problem You created, particularly if you’re omniscient so really should know better. And you certainly don’t get praise when lots of other people really and truly do die from storms. We just marked the one-year anniversary of Sandy, and according to the NY Times, about a hundred people died in the NY/NY area. Somehow pointing to this woman’s survival –which, don’t get me wrong, is a really good thing and I’m very happy for her and her family!– seems insensitive to the families whose loved ones really did die. You can’t praise God for breaking the laws of physics unless you’re going to ask why He didn’t, in those other cases.

On some level things like this bother me intellectually, but really there’s a personal component as well. I’ve known people who died in accidents. Lately I’ve been missing them a little worse than normal, because life is hard and I’m moving on into yet another stage of my life which has me looking back in ways that aren’t pleasant. There wasn’t a natural disaster at work, but there was bad luck not to be found sooner and not to have my own miracle in that moment. But even with that personal element aside, videos like this are just bad thinking, I think. If I need any kind of proof or explanation for my religious experience, I really hope I could do better than this.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
Nov. 7th, 2013 01:26 pm (UTC)
Like you, I think it's insensitive to place too much emphasis on stories of survival in situations when many others did not survive.

Such things are often called miracles, and I think that's how they feel to the people involved. But subjective evidence can't be convincing to people who want to have objective evidence that a miracle has occurred.

"If there is a miracle, it’s that the woman happened to pull on the handle at precisely the right moment or something like that. Something which can be explained naturally but is so improbable, it gives the woman and the onlookers the experience of the miraculous. As far as proofs for God’s existence goes, that’s not a very good one. But as part of giving us a sense of awe, I can see moments like this having a role to play."

I think you are right about that. I can point to certain events in my life that I totally believe the hand of Providence was at work for my benefit. Do I expect other people to agree with me on that point? No. I experienced and felt it; they did not.

As for real Biblical-type miracles, they occurred for God's reasons, not our own, and it's quite possible those reasons are not anything we could ever conceive or understand.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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