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The role of miracles in creation

This post is more than 6 years old.

Posted at 09:00 on 31 July 2017

There is no doubt that the universe shows clear evidence that it is billions of years old. But there are also things that we see in nature that at the very least have the appearance of design. Take a look at this video for example:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_zD3NxSsD8&w=560&h=315]

Now even if natural processes can explain how molecules such as kinesins — the motor proteins that "walk" along the microtubules — came about, I still find it awesome to think that such natural processes exist. Is there any reason why we should not consider the existence of these processes themselves to be miraculous?

Literal Six Day Young Earth Creationists often equate an ancient earth or evolution with denying the possibility of miracles. One anti-evolution booklet that I have been reading says that as Christians we must reject long ages for the following reason:

Because it implies faith in a very small, ineffectual God.

In other words, a Creator who isn’t capable of creation in a timeframe of His choosing. If there is a God of our gigantic universe, ought He not to be able to create something as relatively insignificant as our earth in six days — or six minutes or six seconds if He chose?

This completely misses the point.

Old-earth Christians do not deny the possibility of miracles. Even evolutionary creationists do not deny the possibility of miracles. The only thing we say about miracles is that they are not a get-out-of-jail-free card to reject scientific findings that you don't like.

The fact remains that if the earth is six thousand years old, and if God did create it over six literal 24-hour days, then He must have created vast swathes of completely unambiguous and highly self-consistent evidence for 4.5 billion years of history that never happened.

This hypothesis is called the “Omphalos Hypothesis,” and it was first proposed in 1857 — two years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species — by Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888). Gosse proposed that in order to be fully functional, the earth must have been created “mature” — fully formed trees with growth rings, and Adam as a mature adult, for example.

The problem, however, is that we’re not just dealing with evidence of age, but with evidence of history. The geological record tells the story of 4.5 billion years of very distinct and definitive events happening at times that can in some cases be pinpointed with astonishing precision. The evidence is also very self-consistent, with tree rings, ice cores, lake varves, continental drift, coral growth, radioactive isotopes, index fossils, oil deposits, and much much more lining up with each other with extraordinary consilience. It’s as if Adam were not only created as a mature adult, but as if he were created with scars and missing teeth from skateboarding accidents that had never happened.

This means that if the earth is only six thousand years old, then it must also be an extremely elaborate forgery.

What is the purpose of miracles in the Bible?

When we read the Bible, the most spectacular miracles that we read about tend to be concentrated round a few key events in history. These are the Exodus and the Conquest; the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; and the ministry of Jesus and the early Church. We read about other miracles in other parts of the Old Testament, but not to the same extent, and in fact, the accounts of the history of Israel and Judah in many places are relatively unspectacular.

But why should miracles be concentrated the way they are? Simply because in Scripture, miracles serve a particular purpose: communication. They are God’s way of getting our attention when He has something particularly important to say. Generally, the more spectacular the miracle, the more important the message.

This is the complete antithesis of Omphalos.

Let me make one thing clear. I believe in miracles. But I do not believe that God would use miracles in this way to deceive us. It is inconsistent with the way we see miracles being used in both the Old and New Testaments, and it is inconsistent with what the Bible tells us about the character and nature of God.

The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4 that a day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. I know that some people think that’s not a lot to go on. But the fact is, that at least the Bible gives us something in support of long ages. In support of Omphalos, the Bible gives us nothing.