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Creation 33(3):32–34, July 2011

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It’s supernatural (naturally)


©iStockPhoto/borcheeAutom leaves

We all know about the law of gravity, don’t we? It’s what helps the moon slosh tides around the earth, stops galaxies from drifting apart, and holds your soup in the bowl.

We can express it in general terms as the force of attraction that exists between any two bodies, or we can get more specific and express it as an equation that includes the masses of the bodies, their distance apart, gravitational constants and such like, and then use that equation to help launch satellites and build bridges. The law of gravity is what we call a ‘natural law’, or a ‘law of nature’, because it is not derived from any theoretical proofs, but is simply the result of countless observations of what actually happens continually around us. That is, laws are descriptive, not prescriptive—they don’t cause anything to happen but describe what happens, just as a map doesn’t cause the outline of a coastline, but describes what exists.

However, we use the ‘law of gravity’ unthinkingly every time we serve a tennis ball or hang some washing on the line. No one has ever observed an exception to it—it is a law, unbroken and unchallenged at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances, far out in space or in our own bodies.

But it is not the only natural law. Most of us have at least heard of the laws of thermodynamics, the gas laws, the laws of electromagnetic induction, laws of chemical reaction, the law of biogenesis and many more. These are built into the fabric and operation of the universe by its amazing Designer. Some are expressed scientifically as theorems, such as Bernoulli’s theorem that helps us understand how carburettors work.1 These laws cannot be bypassed, and they are not suspended or modified in living things.

Who would want to bypass natural laws? Well, as it turns out, anyone who wants to try to explain the origin of the universe and of life without God must try to tell a story that bypasses at least one, and usually several, natural laws. It is interesting that such a person would insist that everything must be explained in terms of natural laws without supernatural intervention, when really this is self-refuting—it can’t be done.

Let’s look at some general cases

The origin of the universe is popularly believed to have happened in ‘the big bang’. However, it is interesting to note that few serious cosmologists2 will actually talk about the moment of the big bang, but will only talk about the moment after the big bang. The reason for this is that the theory actually calls for us to believe that everything in the universe suddenly appeared, not from a point, but from nothing. Otherwise it is not an explanation for the origin of anything at all. Many people don’t realize that the point that everything supposedly expanded from in this theory has, itself, no explanation, because the idea defies the most basic natural law—the law of conservation of matter/energy: matter/energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Most other theories of the ‘origin’ of the universe assume something pre-existing.3 Thus only supernatural creation can account for the sudden appearance of this universe from ‘nothing’,4 and only supernatural creation can account for the fact that this natural law exists at all. Otherwise universes could just pop up at random any old time.

Atheistic attempts to explain the origin of life from lifeless chemicals collapse on natural law also. This is because the laws of chemical reaction govern the way substances combine chemically. Even if the often-quoted experiments by Miller, Urey and others demonstrated anything realistic about ‘the early earth’, the idea that the resulting amino acids would form proteins in the ocean or lakes and ponds defies these chemical laws.5 This is because the reaction forming a protein from amino acids gives water as a by-product, but a chemical law dealing with concentrations of reactants makes the protein break down again if there is excess water around.6,7 Proteins therefore could never accumulate in these watery environments, certainly not long enough to accidentally form a living structure—no ‘primordial soup’ could give rise to life ‘naturally’.

iStockPhoto.com/LjupcoSuper natural

The laws of probability combined with these chemical laws also work against the idea that even one usable protein could form by accident. Each protein is a very specific arrangement of many amino acids8 not only in their order, but they must also be all ‘left-handed’. No chemical law connects specific amino acids in any particular order, so their arrangement in any protein in a living thing is determined solely by carefully measured processes, like threading beads on a string to make a desired pattern rather than a random, unsatisfying jumble. Therefore only a Creator could have put amino acids into the order and configuration required for the proteins for the first living things. Natural law says that it could not happen ‘naturally’.

Not only this, but there is the ‘law of biogenesis’. This states that life comes only from life. Have you (or anyone you have ever heard of) ever seen any living thing that didn’t have a ‘mother’? You came from a mother, the vegetables you had for dinner grew from seeds, and the bacteria in your large bowel came from the division of other bacteria. There has never been any exception observed. The assumption that the law of biogenesis can be defied has no scientific support. Yet naturalists insist that life began by itself ‘naturally’, without a ‘mother’, and without God. How can this be?

Among many other natural laws we could examine, one of the most telling areas is that of information.9 Information theorems (easily discoverable natural laws) tell us unequivocally that information cannot arise from the action of time and chance on matter. Information requires a mental source with not only intelligence, but also volition. Yet every cell of our bodies contains the equivalent of 1,000 books of information, packed in a density that cannot be exceeded because it is already at the molecular level. Where did it come from? It could only have been devised supernaturally.

But then, does the supernaturalist (creationist) have the same problem, since miracles also ‘violate natural law’? Not at all. Miracles are really additions to natural law.10 For example, Archimedes’ law of buoyancy states that the buoyant force of a fluid (i.e. liquid or gas) is equal and opposite to the weight of the displaced volume of this fluid. Thus if the object is denser than the fluid, the downward force of its weight will overbalance the upward force of its buoyancy, and it will sink. Some skeptics consequently assert that Jesus could not have walked on water because of this law.

However, does this mean that a helicopter rescuing someone from the sea also violates this law? No, the helicopter provides an additional force to the system of the person’s weight and the sea’s buoyancy. Jesus as the Creator (John 1:1–3) likewise could have exerted an additional force.

Materialistic objections to miracles are therefore irrelevant, because, once God is admitted, the universe is not a closed system. His supernatural intervention is obviously necessary for creation and other ‘miracles’. Normally, though, God upholds His universe by natural laws like those we have discussed. In fact, it was the notion of a lawmaking God that led to the idea of natural laws in the first place—the birth of modern science.11

The Bible says “For since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20). It is in “the things that are made” that we see the natural laws we have discussed in operation. Those who try to explain the universe without God are faced with the insurmountable problem that these laws, easily observable by theist and atheist alike, themselves deny any ‘natural’ explanation for the origin of the universe and life. They tell us unequivocally: our origins are supernatural, naturally.

References and notes

  1. Bernoulli’s theorem is a special case of the law of conservation of energy, the First Law of Thermodynamics. Return to text.
  2. Notably the famous physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking, who admits that the equations he works with collapse as his theoretical musings approach the actual point of ‘beginning’. Return to text.
  3. For example the ‘brane’ theory assumes the existence of two-dimensional ‘branes’ (an extension of ‘string’ theory), while the ‘landscape’ theory assumes a pre-existing universe so huge that our observable universe is only a tiny corner of it, and the ‘quasi steady state’ theory assumes an oscillating universe of infinite age. Return to text.
  4. That is, nothing physical. Return to text.
  5. See creation.com/urey. Return to text.
  6. See creation.com/polymer. Return to text.
  7. This is why you soak your dishes in water before washing up—it breaks down the proteins. Return to text.
  8. Selected from an ‘alphabet’ of about 20. Return to text.
  9. See Gitt, W., In the Beginning was Information, CLV, 1997 [or sequel Without Excuse, Creation Book Publishers 2011]. Return to text.
  10. See also creation.com/miracles. Return to text.
  11. Sarfati, J., Why does science work at all? Creation 31(3):12–14, 2009; Biblical roots of science, Creation 32(4):32–36, 2010. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

jeremy W.
Great article!! I recently read the magazine version. I hate how the culture paints this 'science v faith' distinction where as i tend to see things as supernatural-natural or Suprarational- rational...the supernatural is MORE than the natural not the opposite of it.
Rudi J.
During a debate where I pointed to this article, somebody said that ex nihilo is not what the Bible says. Is that a correct theologic answer?
Carl Wieland
The Bible was not written in Latin, but the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is most certainly taught therein, just as is the idea of God as a tri-unity, without the word 'Trinity' actually appearing. See this Journal of Creation article which reviews a book that, though written by Big-Bangers/long-agers, hence not exactly on our side, is nevertheless a defence of the doctrine of ex nihilo creation. argumentum-ad-nihilum-argument-amounting-to-nothing . BTW, before wrestling with such a question, it generally pays to find out what they are claiming it teaches instead, and why.
Brian H.
Johan D. makes a point that I have often thought. If the first day was the big bang...
Isaiah 42:5 New Living Translation (NLT)
5 God, the Lord, CREATED THE HEAVENS AND STRETCHED THEM OUT. He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.
So, then six literal days follow, and we still have the literal reading of Genesis. But, I don't like the words Big Bang, because they automatically make us think as Carl Wieland did - the rest of evolution. So, if it was a bang, a pop, a whoosh, or just an instant quiet happening, I don't really care. God did it on the first day, and the following six days made it so that I would one day sit here and type this note.
I like the "user/administrator" analogy. When God wants to push a different button to add to the whole system, he can. We can't, and shouldn't. Just as the common user of a mainframe doesn't have the knowledge, education, and view of the overall picture, we too should not have access to commands such as “Lazarus, come out!” Surely, we would make the system crash!
Thanks for publishing comments for our benefit.
Anthony K.
Boy, these comments are just like a facebook session.

I personally agree with most of you. Great article. Gordon Howard is another of the great bastions of truth.

Great work Gordon.
Jesse M.
That's an awesome analogy Sandor! I would have never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense. I agree with Curtis C. about some people having an emotional problem with miracles. That reminds me of an article that Dawkins wrote where he tried to define God out of existence by claiming that God would have to submit to His own created laws of nature. That is so stupid and arbitrary. That's the logical equivalent of saying that computer manufacturers don't exist because they do not submit to the "law" of "no free will" that computers are bound by.
Johan D.
The thesis that everything came from nothing reinforces the Bible; God spoke creation into being through words in faith. However, whether it happened through a big bang is may'be not that clear, but there is a good explanation for it if it did!
Carl Wieland
The problem with the Big Bang for a Christian is (or should be) not so much its atheistic premises (because, as you indicate, it can always be claimed to simply be a description of how God created everything out of nothing) but rather its denial/contradiction of Genesis history. For example, Genesis makes it clear that the Earth came before the sun, whereas in BB thinking it came millions of years after the sun. Also, the BB has a time framework which involves billions of years, contra biblical history which has everything in the universe ("the heavens and the earth", i.e. the whole box and dice) created in six earth-rotation days, with Adam and Eve created on the sixth of those days and then a set of chronogenealogies following directly from Adam. The last 4-5 billions of those years are also supposed to be represented by a succession of geological ages on earth. Not only does this deny the global Flood (which is the real cause of those fossil-bearing rock layers) but it means that there would have been death and violence and suffering on earth (also diseases like cancer, shown in the fossils)well before Adam and hence before sin. So this destroys the whole idea of a fallen, cursed world which was originally 'very good' and which will one day be restored (through Christ the last Adam)to its original sinless, deathless paradisiacal condition.
John J.
The whole thing in a nutshell - brilliant. There is nothing more to be said other than 'thank you' to God for providing such a team of brave scientists willing to share the truth.
Cody T.
What Evolution, the Big Bang, and other secular theories, really boil down to has nothing to do with science, but rather man's feeble attempt to eliminate God. After all, if there is a God, then we ARE held accountable; If there is a God, then there ARE absolutes. It's as if these 'specks of insignificance', by merely wishing it or
imagining some sort of 'bovine fecal matter' theory, can actually do away with God at a whim. One day, they are going to be in for a big surprise.
The tripe they spew in the History Channel, Science Channel, etc. as fact is utterly amazing. The History Channel aired a new show a few nights ago. It was called.....get this....."How the Earth Made Man". I just shook my head in disdain knowing there are actually people out there who do not think for themselves, but actually take all of this on faith because "Scientists say,...". Rather ironic.
Sandor P.
Miracles are easiest to understand for those who know computer operating systems. These fundamental software set the "laws" that govern the operation of the hardware and other programs. Most of them distinguish between the "administrator" who can do anything and the "users" who have limited rights. E.g. the users cannot delete certain files or run certain commands.

We have user rights in this nature. God, of course, has administrator rights. For Jesus, it is enough to say to a storm "Be quiet!" and the storm will stop. (Note the reaction of the disciples.) There is no violation, not even a temporary suspension of natural laws, just access to a set of commands that God reserved for Himself.
Colin M.
A good introductory article. Laws are excellent tools. I sometimes agree to answer challenges from atheists as long as they agree to being logical and supplying factual information. I then ask them how they account for Laws of Logic and Information from a materialist worldview. They have no answer and this article cuts their escape route off at the pass!
Curtis C.
This would make an excellent article to link to the next time an atheist parrots the old "you must not believe in gravity" line. :)

Really, in my opinion, the -actual- rules that really govern the universe are merely the mechanics of how God designed it, on its own scale -- which is universal. If we apply the same thinking to a smaller scale, we can list universal observations of limits on smaller systems too, like the limits of what a car engine can enable. On that scale, these could then be called "laws of this car."

When you think of it that way, it's obvious that a designer altering the design, or giving input into systems designed to take input (like controlling the steering wheel) are fully logical. These would be "miracles" within the scope of that object.

Likewise, the entire universe functions the way it does because that's how God designed it. It makes sense that he could alter the design sometimes for the purpose of giving signs, or even just use systems in basic physics that he designed to respond to his input.

Atheists also use emotionally loaded terms when describing these concepts, I've noticed, like calling such interaction "interference", as if the God who is Love would be somehow causing harm by his miraculous actions.

In one of your old articles, I noticed a fascinating quote from Einstein that seems to explain why:

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I WANT to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts." (Capitalization emphasis mine.)

Einstein wasn't really that unintelligent as to not be ABLE to imagine the biblical God (nor did he need to; God revealed himself!). It's that he didn't want to, for emotional reasons, as shown at the end of that quote. He was afraid of seeming to be afraid, and probably afraid of accountability. Personally, I just want the truth. :)
Gary A.
I was wondering whether God's moral law (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20&version=NIV) was prescriptive or descriptive. But then I remembered that Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments(John 14:15) so I guess that the 10 Commandments are descriptive law, descriptive of how we will relate to God and others when we love Jesus.
Noel W.
Excellent article. just goes to show how desperately the atheistic scientists try to defy to God, but in doing so, they end up defying their scientific natural laws. Great work as always creation team!
Jack C.
Yes, it's very interesting to see how so many atheistic theories, like the theory of evolution can be easily refuted and dismissed simply by applying the laws of science. It's a shame atheistic scientists don't abide by their own rules. At least we know there are many theistic scientists who do.
P. B.
One of the things that helped me understand the concept of how God performs miracles, without violating His own laws is C.S. Lewis' book The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, where he talks about the deeper laws, that the witch could not know, that led to the percieved law that the witch knew to be broken. Do we really think we know all the laws of God? No we do not, so it is arrogant in the extreme to say God could not do it with out breaking his own laws, on the order of the scientist who in the 1800s thought we had discovered everything worth discovering.
Kevin W.
Excellent, easy to understand, well written article on how the undeniable, well proven, natural laws can only exist as a result of supernatural intervention. Good article for the sceptic and unbeliever. I will be passing it on.

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