Hello Redeemer Family:
If you were at the 8/7/05 morning service you heard me say that some persons do not think miracles can happen. This may be because they have been influenced by a view called Philosophical Naturalism (PN).
I have found, in my conversations with persons and in my reading, that often a person who does not believe in miracles holds to the view that there is nothing outside of “nature.” PN is the belief that everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces, and that there are no things or events outside of nature. Atheist Paul Draper puts it this way: Naturalism is “the hypothesis that the physical universe is a ‘closed system’ in the sense that nothing that is neither a part nor a product of it can affect it. So naturalism entails the nonexistence of all supernatural beings, including the theistic God.”
Now note this: PN is not itself a truth that can be discovered by studying nature. As Darwinist Eugenie Scott states, science only studies nature, and nature is “matter, energy, and their interaction.” PN cannot be found in nature, thus the idea that "there are no things or events outside of nature," that the universe is a "closed system," is not itself a scientific truth. It is rather an assumption, or a definition. Therefore, for someone who buys into PN (whether consciously or unconsciously, but quite often the latter), of course miracles don’t happen because “there is nothing outside of nature.”
Let me put this another way. If someone like Draper just states that the universe is a closed system, then of course, for people like Draper, miracles will not happen. As philosopher Richard Purtill states, “a position that describes natural laws as simply a summary of what happens cannot even make the contrast between miracles and nonmiraculous events” (“Defining Miracles,” in A Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, eds. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas, 70).
Obviously, then, a person who holds to PN cannot believe in miracles (defined as events that cannot be explained by pure natural forces). The non-existence of miracles is assumed by definition. Just as it would be impossible to believe in a “married bachelor,” it is impossible – logically – for a PN-er to believe in miracles.
Philosopher Winfried Corduan writes, "By virtue of their assumptions about the nature of science the naturalists [adherents of PN] will never be convinced that a miracle has actually occurred... We can now see that the naturalists have laid out the rules of the game in such a way that they cannot possibly lose" ('Recognizing a Miracle," in Ib., 101).
I feel quite certain that PN long ago infiltrated the Christian church. In spite of the fact that God worked miracles through Jesus and Paul, there are Christians who doubt that miracles really happen today. In this sense they are people who walk in unbelief. They are philosophical naturalists.
Here then is a reason why we do not see miracles in Westernized churches but see them in non-Westernized churches. This explains Matthew 13:58, where we read that Jesus refused to do miracles because of the people’s lack of faith. Where there is lack of faith or unbelief we should expect the relative absence of the supernatural.