The Natural and the Supernatural

by Doy Moyer

The ancients typically would not have thought in terms of our modern categories that we call natural and supernatural. Everything was from God and nothing happened apart from him. Even pagans would have attributed pretty much everything to their deities. They did not think that because something happened in nature, that meant God was not involved.

By separating natural/supernatural categories the way we do, we allow for more of reality that is not dependent upon God. As Schaeffer argued in Escape from Reason, this dichotomy essentially results in nature swallowing up the supernatural. If we can explain something apart from God, then God isn’t necessary. Even those who continue to believe in God may tend to think that God was necessary at the beginning, but once he got the ball rolling and triggered the operation of nature, he is no longer needed to keep nature working. It will just work on its own now. This is deism, and it is far from the truth about the God of Scripture.

This also misses the point that nature operates on the grounding that God is and that God upholds all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17). Without God, there is no nature and there is nothing that can happen at all. Without God, there is no continual operation of nature.
God is certainly not “nature.” He is above it, beyond it, and greater than what we can possibly observe. Yet as Creator, God is intimately involved in the workings of nature. Even when we observe something natural, that should still be seen as evidence that God is at work. As Paul and Barnabas put it, God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

To buy into the natural/supernatural distinctions in modern terms opens the door for serious misunderstandings about who God is and what he does. Learn to see God at work even in the things that we observe as natural. He is not far from us (Acts 17:27).

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