I’ve been writing and teaching a lot recently about miracles and the supernatural. Specifically, I’ve been considering how our deeply held but rarely examined set of assumptions about reality (our worldview) influences how we think about miracles, nature, and the supernatural.
In the modern West, we use the word “nature” to refer to the material universe that operates by cause and effect, independently of spiritual influence. We use the term “supernatural” to describe what is spiritual/ immaterial, from beyond the natural world. If we hold to these two assumptions, then a miracle occurs when the supernatural invades the natural. This way of seeing things can have great influence upon how we read and understand key scriptures.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, ESV)
If we read the above verse through the filter of our modern Western assumptions, we might understand “on earth as it is in heaven” as the supernatural triumphing over the natural. But what would happen if we adjusted our filter according to the following passages of scripture?
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:2–3, ESV)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1–3, ESV)
“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV)
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16, ESV)
From these verses it becomes clear that the material universe originates from and is sustained by the Word. The natural originates from and is sustained by the supernatural. The natural is, in its essence, supernatural. The visible is made from the invisible. When we view Creation through this set of lenses, the distinction between natural and supernatural begins to get pretty obscure. Heaven and Earth are both created realities. They were nothing. Now they are something because God spoke. Heaven and Earth are both supernatural. They are both ordered. They both operate by laws God has set in motion.
It is therefore insufficient to think of a miracle, that moment when Heaven invades Earth, as an expression of the supernatural triumphing over the natural, for the natural is itself supernatural. It is likewise incorrect to think of those aspects of our existence that are not obviously miraculous, our day to day material, cause & effect existence, as being merely natural. The material world itself originates from and is currently being sustained by God’s living and active Word.
I believe it is the modern Western view of things that works to limit many believers from experiencing the miraculous life promised and modeled within scripture. By relegating the spiritual to a reality disconnected from our material existence, and thereby defining the miraculous as a divine interruption of the norm, we position ourselves to only experience the miraculous abnormally. If, instead of seeing spiritual reality as a distant and disconnected reality that must interrupt the way our world normally works in order to produce the miraculous, we were to see the spiritual reality of God’s Word as the source and sustenance of every aspect of every moment of our existence, we would begin to see the supernatural in all things and, at the same time, begin to redefine the miraculous altogether.
Instead of defining a miracle as God working “here” from “out there” in a manner that violates the natural cause and effect processes that are actually His design, we begin to see a miracle as the supernatural work of a supernatural God within His supernatural material creation to accomplish His purpose. Heaven is working within earth to restore God’s original design. Everything is spiritual (heaven & earth). Some things are also material (earth). Some things are doing fine (heaven). Some things are broken and fallen (earth). God is at work redemptively within fallen material Creation to restore and heal; as a result, His will finds full expression on earth like it’s already expressed in heaven.