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Do the miracles of the Bible have natural explanations?

Published: 30 July 2016 (GMT+10)
wikipedia.org/the Providence Lithograph Company 1907 crossing-red-sea
Israel’s Escape from Egypt

Kyle, L., United States, wrote:

Dear CMI, your articles are wonderful gifts, and they have changed my mind on Evolution. While I was never an Atheist, I strongly considered it after being taught Evolution in college. Now, as a former Evolutionist, I can say that your website is an eye opener that I could not have been more thankful for.

However, there is one article that provides scientific links that question the validity of the Bible itself, and as a man of science, they baffle me, though I am not so easily swayed from my faith, I still can’t answer them. I have searched for an article on your website that answers these, but I have found no answers yet. (Here is the address to the website, I still don’t know how to provide links: [URL removed as per feedback rules—Ed.]

There’s some rough language in the article, but it isn’t overwhelming.

If these questions have been asked and answered on this website already, I sincerely apologize.


, CMI-US, responds:

I know that when I want solid Bible scholarship, I go to the popular humor website Cracked! Seriously though, the level of argumentation is about what you would expect given some of the other subject matter covered there. But to answer the naturalistic explanations in the order given:

6) “Manna from Heaven was probably beetle cocoons.”

Problems with this are: The manna didn’t appear until the people cried out for food (Exodus 16:1–4). The manna evaporated in the heat (Exodus 16:21). The manna wasn’t there on the Sabbath. They could keep the manna overnight on Friday, but only Friday (Exodus 16:22–26). The manna appeared on schedule without fail for 40 years until the very first day the people ate the fruit from the land of Canaan (Joshua 5:12). Sure, there may be a type of beetle with a sweet, edible cocoon, but that doesn’t explain the numerous specific details given in the text about manna. Plus, I don’t know the nutritional makeup of these beetle cocoons, but they probably wouldn’t suffice as an entire nation’s sole food source for 40 years—few foods would.

5) “The burning bush was an acacia bush sitting over a volcanic vent—and psychoactive plant matter was burning too explaining the vision.”

Seriously? Seriously? That’s the best they can come up with? Before I actually answer this, I want to take a moment to point and laugh at the inanities unbelievers are driven to by their refusal to believe the text. If Moses had stumbled off the mountain and failed to do anything that Yahweh told him to do—free the slaves from the most powerful country of the day, doing a series of miraculous signs in the process, sure, we might laugh. But Moses saw a vision—and then took out the most powerful country of the day.

4) “The star of Bethlehem was probably a triple planetary conjunction.”

Because triple planetary conjunctions can lead someone to a specific house (Matthew 2:9–11). Nor did Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn ever come close enough around that time to be called a single ‘star’ rather than three distinct objects. Even if it was an astronomical event, however, there are Christians who take that interpretation, too, so it’s not a point for atheists.

3) “The reversal of Hezekiah’s sundial may have been down to overcast skies and refraction.”

Crazy timing and precision would be required for the sundial to turn back exactly the degree indicated and exactly the time Hezekiah asked for it. And it was significant enough to be a sign, so it can’t have been something that happened all the time (ancient people weren’t stupid).

2) “Fire from heaven was anvil lightning”

Sure, ‘fire from heaven’ may refer to lightning. But it’s another instance of crazy timing, because it wasn’t happening when the priests of Baal were putting on their show, or when Elijah was having the water carted up to pour over the altar, or at any point before Elijah prayed and requested it. The God who created lightning can certainly control when to send it.

1) “Moses’ parting of the Red Sea might be possible with strong winds”:

Not strong enough to form a corridor wide enough for all of Israel to pass through on dry land. And another miracle with crazy timing, because it closed up after the last Israelite made it across, and when the entire Egyptian army was present, was completely destroyed, by a ‘strong wind’ immediately letting way?

What about all the other miracles? I want to know the naturalistic explanation for how Jesus walked on water, or how He multiplied the loaves and the fishes, or how He raised Lazarus from the dead after he had begun to stink from decomposition. How about how Paul was bitten by a poisonous adder and lived? What about the floating axe head? What Cracked has done is put together a little list of attempts to answer various miracles from a skeptical position. It’s even kind of cute how they end the article on a note of realizing that they have ignored “the larger theological question of whether or not these things truly happened, much less if there was an intelligent God behind them guiding the wind, lightning, and other natural phenomenon [sic]”.

We are encouraged that our information has made an impact on your faith. Keep digging for the truth.

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Readers’ comments

Robin S.
Why do miracle doubters even bother to dream up explanations? Obviously they dont want to accept the text of the Bible for what it actually says. Really I see it as a dishonest attempt to confuse and mislead those who want to take the message of the Bible seriously. If they were honest in their comments they would be saying that the miracles are just fables and that they never really happened and that the Bible is really mythology.
William P.
For me the more problematic is the argumentative acerbic "How can a man live 3 days in a fish", coupled with "when I see Mt. Everest in South Dakota, then I will believe and have faith. I suppose that logic is as old as the Garden of Eden. Obviously not the way the Lord works at all. But we shouldn't get hostile back at the Oscar Wilde's and Richard Dawkins' of the world.If a serpent, who could talk to the first man and woman, could lure them with their own curiosity into wanting to know something they didn't think they knew, when all they had to do was say, "I don't know but God will be by in a minute and we'll ask Him" then how obvious is it that goading The Almighty into doing personal miracles to prove His existence( just to them) is just as equally ignoring the obvious of His creation. I notice God "wasn't there" at the moment, however he came walking up later to ask "who told you, you were naked?"...Why don't we wait for God...maybe in the words of Bruce Springsteen we have the secular answer, "All men wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain't satisfied until he rules everything".
Bill R.
Lisa, God bless your Biblical defense. Also this about Exodus 15. Oh yes, "strong winds" did indeed part the Red Sea, but not the windshear sort of nonsense Cracked.com spews. 15:21-22 tells us "the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left." Any natural wind capable of parting heavy seawater of depth would necessarily be focused for hours without moving. Possibly derechos are such winds but they blow up to 100mph+ and obviously would have blown desperate refugees fleeing for their lives like dust in a tornado.
The "strong east wind" of the Lord was His Holy Spirit commanding the sea to stand at attention in honor of His chosen people obeying His deliverance from godlessness. Absolutely this wind was supernatural as the water was held back in sheer seawalls on both sides yet the vulnerable Jews were not hindered by any wind effects. No wonder the Egyptians were willing to enter this amazing phenomenon to their faithless doom. Believe it or not.
The fairy tale force of imagined "strong winds" suggested by Bible rejecters is, sadly, far less powerful than the self-delusion of their unbelief. Woe!
Cowboy Bob S.
Excellent article, and Lita put some things in perspective. (Many times, I've wondered if something offered by a professing atheist or liberal Christian was a serious question or response, or if I was just being trolled.) The reasons for unbelieving were poorly thought out, and seemed more like they were off the cuff.

Christians need to realize that we do not need to be intimidated by objections and rescuing devices. The Bible has been withstanding scrutiny for a mighty long time, and some keyboard warrior is not going to be the one to dream up something that will destroy it. Take some time, do a bit of research, engage in critical thinking, seek to honor God. And don't be buffaloed by bullies with pseudo-intellectual remarks.
John C.
The tenor of this question, stated here correctly by the author in her well-crafted rebuttal, has always bothered me. First of all, if posited by evolutionists, then they do so to render the Bible, and its Author, inconsequential to the argument of origins. If offered by Christians, it tells upon their desire to place man's (scien-tists) thoughts over the God-breathed Scriptures. A better rendition of the question from a believing standpoint would be, “Do the miracles of the Bible need naturalistic explanations?” for which the answer is obviously negative. And wouldn't a natural explanation effectively remove the occurrence as a miracle?
Bob H.
I believe that in performing miracles, God sometimes utilizes very unusual natural events that occur at just the right time to accomplish His purpose. On other occasions, as with the floating ax head, he suspends natural law. God is sovereign and can perform His miracles either by using nature or by transcending it.
Robert B.
Wow, CMI's writers can be brutal sometimes... cool! These latest efforts to explain away miracles are part of the long warfare against the miraculous. The battle is waged because a miracle working God is more involved in His Creation and cares about how we live our lives. Without the miracles, the Gospel becomes pointless.
Joshua B.
I would note that, based on the research of a man by the name of Rick Larson, it seems probable that the Star of Bethlehem was in fact a divinely ordained triple conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus, the king planet and the king star, thanks to apparent motion causing Jupiter to appear to reverse course, coming into close visual proximity three times in relatively short order. See information in the documentary Star of Bethlehem. I believe most of the info is available on the website for the documentary as well, [URL removed per our feedback rules]
Lita Cosner
Joshua,

I reviewed Rick Larson's DVD; I found it to be interesting, but I ultimately had to disagree with his conclusion.
Phil K.
Any wind strong enough to part the Red Sea would have been too strong to walk across. Especially with carts and animals and women and children. I don't know how long it would take the wind to dry the ground, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been dry enough to support oxen or cart wheels. The parting of the Red Sea was a supernatural act, plain and simple. Trying to explain away miracles with natural explanations is just an attempt to deny God.
Chandrasekaran M.
The naturalistic explanations of Cracked to the six historical events in this articles reveal superficial and incomplete logical reasoning of those who believe the creation story of the evolution worldview of nothing to moral homo-sapiens over billions of years. Why do they critically analyse only the Bible worldview? They seem to be ‘cracking’ themselves by trying to crack the Bible worldview!!
Don D.
Dear Lita, Again you have simply and clearly revealed the truth. But this does raise a relevant point in our Westernized culture of 2016; is our Christianity a supernatural faith or not? As I think over various churchian ideas, I would have to wonder. After a few local churches brought in a CMI speaker, another church in our town felt that it had to put up on their sign words to the effect "We believe the Bible, but not literally." That sign has now remained up for several years. It will be interesting to see if they ever change it! But this is a fundamental issue to divide true and false christians. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 that "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." Note verse 5 "having a form of godliness, but denying its power." The rest of the passage is also very relevant, but the words "having a form of godliness" describe, in my opinion, a religion without a supernatural God. Much of what passes for faith today could go on very nicely without a God who creates, who breathes life into people, who delivers, who heals, who saves and who is coming back again. Keep up the fight of faith, contending for truth.
I. E.
I would definitely agree with your explanations regarding the miracles of the Bible. Even if some of these miracles could be explained through naturalistic means, it could not account for every miracle that the Bible mentions. Of course God could sometimes use natural means to help His people, but the timing of the events are practically impossible to be explained naturalistically.

More power to CMI!!! May God bless your work, providing solid foundation for our Biblical beliefs.. ;)

P.S. Regarding the explanations that the mentioned website posted, I totally laughed at the volcanic vent part.
James T.
I thought skeptics claimed that the miracles in the Bible never happened and was a made up story?Now,they're admitting that those things actually happened but have naturalistic explanations to them?
Gian Carlo B.
I love how you guys pwn bad arguments. Especially how you destroyed that joke of a website called Craked!. Lol. But seriously, this reminds me in a way of a recent conversation I had with an atheist who even lacked the qualification to engage in proper discussion on OT Passages. About the burning bush; Lol one explanation was that the dessert was so hot it burned it and Moses was schizophrenic in front of it. And these were "explanations" from psychologists. They need some real education and it takes so much faith to believe what the Bible clearly describes; happened accidentally and was the work of s madman. Only madman can narrate things of mad horror and terror; not history of rare supernatural events.
Michael K.
My late mother-in-law answered my question: "If the world is so young, how do you explain oil? I thought it takes millions of years to form." Her answer: "That's because the scientists don't take into account the tremendous forces God unleashed in the Flood." She did admire Dr. Henry Morris. Thank God for creationist ministries.
Israel S.
Great article. Just wanted to point out though that the Red Sea was indeed parted by strong winds. It was written in the text, and if I'm not mistaken, an earlier article addresses the issue about experiments on wind causing a Red Sea effect on water. If anything, the "explanation" and the results of the experiment shouldn't shake one's faith, but strengthen it, because then the event just becomes more historically plausible. Of course like your response to the "lightning" explanation, the key here is the timing, and the text outright says God sent the wind. :) Blessings
Lita Cosner
It is absolutely impossible for a natural wind to part the Red Sea in a corridor wide enough for the entire nation to pass on dry ground. The strong wind was a supernatural wind, hence why it didn't come until they cried out to God, and why it kept up long enough for every single Israelite to pass safely to the other side, while drowning every single Egyptian soldier.
Hannes C.
Refer to "Und die Bibel hat doch recht" by Werner Keller 1955 [Econ Verlag GmbH. Dusseldorof and Wenen] for explanations for the manna from heaven and other natural phenomena illustration the application of His creation to supply the Israelites. Manna is a secretion from the tamarisk bush which will appear at certain times of the year in the morning. When the desert floor heats up, ant will carry the tiny secreted beads to their nests. That Israel was there when the manna was available in ample quantities to feed all is the miracle.
Lita Cosner
I highly doubt that the tamarisk bush's secretion is nutritionally sufficient to be the entire diet of a whole population. No one had ever seen it before, and it appeared on the ground like dew, not on or around tamarisk bushes. Also, does the secretion of the tamarisk bush go bad on the second day, except when the second day is the Sabbath?
Hannes C.
Apart from what is mentioned in the article, there are many other disguised miracles like the "water from the rock at Raffidim". It is a natural phenomenon that water can be stored in such porous rocks and seal from the outside by formation of calcium carbonate. The fact that there was enough water for more than 5000 people and their stock for several days is the miracle.
Tim M.
Yes, I agree that God cannot be explained away by trying to 'naturalise' his visible interventions in history. For most (if not all) of Biblical miracles, even if there was a naturalistic explanation (which for some seems quite unlikely--axe head floating?) it would still rightly be called an act of God. For as Lita pointed out, even if (for e.g.) the manna could be put down to bugs or whatever, the immense unlikelihood of it occurring like THAT, coupled with the specific TIMING of when it did occur like that (in response to Israel's cries to God), surely calls for a better conclusion than "Coincidence!?!" From another angle, even if these events are derived from unusual happenings in nature, they often coincide PERFECTLY with something not guided by natural laws (such as free will, like Israel CALLING TO GOD for food in the desert). In that sense, having a natural explanation or not becomes largely immaterial (in my opinion), for the coinciding with a very specific request or action from someone towards God (which is not predetermined by natural law) makes it an act of God in specific response to that person. Particularly since there are so many such 'coincidences' in the bible and history at large. After all, when we ask God for something that is EASILY natural (e.g. "please give us sunshine for our picnic"), and it happens, do we not thank God for it, believing he was responsible? Whether we think something can or cannot happen naturally never means God did not actively ensure it happened there an then. In 2011 our family needed money, we asked only God to help us, soon after we found hundreds of $ sitting in our letter box. Could $ be in our letterbox without God? Of course. But was God behind it happening TO US, right THEN, after our prayer? Of course.
Jim M.
Speaking about trying to explain Jesus' miracles with natural explanations, I remember one sermon I heard where the pastor explained it this way: She said that the people were feeling bad for Jesus and instead of taking food from the baskets they ended up putting some of their own food in the baskets so they ended up with more food at the end than when they started. Any old "explanation" will do. Who cares if it is true or not? Believable or not? Matches all the information in the text or not? etc.The goal is simply to remove the need for supernatural intervention.
Lita Cosner
Of course that is an absurd 'explanation'. It was specifically said that the only food there was the boy's loaves and fish. No one was 'feeling bad' for Jesus--He could generate food! In fact, the crowd kept following Him hoping for another free meal.

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