God’s power is infinite such that He can do anything he wishes, consistent with His perfections. He is infinitely more powerful than anything or anyone in the universe.
“God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.”1
Genesis 18:14: “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?”2
Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
Mark 10:27b: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
Nothing is impossible with God. As infinite and omnipotent, God is not constrained by the patterns or laws by which He orders and sustains His universe. Moreover, miracles are reasonable in view of the infinite “gap” between God and mankind. As mystery is the necessary implication of the limitations of our perspective and knowledge, so aspects of God’s ordering and operating the universe He created and upholds will be beyond our capacity to understand or explain.
Indeed, as briefly mentioned with respect to God’s self-existence and self-sufficiency, “natural laws” are better described as the way God governs the universe for a particular length of time. The uniformity of nature, as we perceive it, only exists as long as God orders the universe in a particular way. And even if one assumes that matter and energy exist apart from God, everything would be random chance and chaos apart from God’s ongoing ordering and sustaining of it. All things depend on God’s ongoing power for existence and order at all times. Miracles, then, should not be contrasted with a universe presumed to exist and operate apart from the ongoing power of God, or viewed as God intervening into the operations of the universe. On the contrary, miracles are no more than God changing the way He orders and sustains an aspect of His universe at a point in time, for a particular purpose.3 The far greater “miracle” is the display of God’s genius and power in the existence and uniformity of the entire universe. The miracles of Scripture are small by comparison.
Briefly, a worldview is one’s view of God, man, reality, knowledge, truth, authority, and ethics. A worldview is determined by certain ultimate, non-negotiable faith commitments or beliefs (presuppositions, assumptions) by which one interprets all things.4 Ultimately, one’s worldview is determined by the nature of one’s heart, or one’s love or hatred of the God of Scripture. The person who views all of reality as created, ordered and sustained by God, and reflective of His glory will interpret things differently from someone who sees none of reality as created, ordered and sustained by God, and reflective of His glory. The person who views mankind as created and dependent upon God for all things, including knowledge and truth, will interpret reality differently from one who views mankind as uncreated and independent of God in all things, especially knowledge and truth. One’s view of ethics will be determined by one’s view of the nature of God and mankind.
Thus, by definition, no worldview is neutral. All things will be interpreted according to the ultimate faith commitments of the interpreter, believer and unbeliever alike. The nature of the interpreter determines the nature of the interpretation. Everyone wears the “colored glasses” of the worldview through which they view and interpret the data of God’s universe.5 And as all things will be colored by the tint of the glasses, all things will be “colored” or interpreted according to the faith assumptions of the worldview by which they are viewed. The interpretation of any fact will be driven by the assumptions of the worldview.
God created all and is Lord over all. Believer or unbeliever, all people are created and sustained by God and exist in the universe created and sustained by God. We all share a common existence in the same created world of God. “The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2, NASB). Moreover, believers and unbelievers alike are created in the image of God.6 And though severely defaced by sin, the image of God in people remains intact.7 Therefore, much common ground exists between believers and unbelievers as they exist together in God’s image, in God’s universe.
Yet, despite the considerable common ground shared by believers and unbelievers, believers and unbelievers do not interpret the world the same way. The faith assumptions by which the believer interprets the world differ from the faith assumptions by which the unbeliever interprets the world. In fact, the faith assumptions of the believer are so contrary to those of the unbeliever, that in principle, they share no common ground in how they interpret the universe.
On the one hand, believers view all things as created, sustained, and interpreted by God. All design, order, and beauty in the universe depend on God for existence and display God’s excellence. No design, order, and beauty in the universe are possible apart from God. Man depends upon God for all knowledge and interpretation of facts, and all created things declare our debt to love, honor and obey God. Moreover, what is possible in God’s universe is determined by God. The ultimate authority and standard of truth for the believer is Scripture.
On the other hand, unbelievers view all things as existing, ordered, and properly interpreted without the God of the Bible. All design, order, and beauty in the universe exist apart from God and display nothing about God, while all design, order, and beauty in the universe are possible without God. Everything came from nothing and random chance is behind all of the order and design of the universe. Man is independent of God for all knowledge and interpretation of facts, and nothing in the universe declares our debt to love, honor and obey God. Moreover, what is possible in the universe is determined by the human interpreter. The ultimate authority and standard of truth for the unbeliever is human opinion. The contrasting worldview assumptions of the believer and unbeliever (in principle) are as follows.
Believers and unbelievers may share the same reality, but operate according to opposing faith assumptions by which they interpret God, man, reality, knowledge, truth, authority, and ethics.8 Believers reason in submission to God and His revelation, while unbelievers assert their own presumed authority and reason in rebellion against God. Each interprets reality accordingly. This applies to religious unbelief, as well. Idolatry of any form is ultimately unbelief, and ultimately operates according to the above principles of unbelief, even if it claims Scripture as its ultimate authority. Religious unbelief often borrows aspects of the true biblical worldview, even while ultimately denying it by assuming the place of God’s ultimate authority in picking and choosing what to accept or reject of God’s revelation in Scripture. Religious unbelief, like atheistic unbelief, suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, even if it claims to accept portions of Scripture as true.9 Moreover, as God’s revelation is from the only God, all other “revelation” is ultimately man-made.10 Scripture alone is the authoritative written word of God.
And as one’s worldview is determined by the nature of one’s heart, or one’s love or hatred of the God of Scripture, so also will one interpret the universe in a manner that reflects his or her view of God. Thus, because unbelievers are hostile to God,11 they will interpret God as either non-existent, unknowable, unimportant, or “made-up” according to their own imagination. The nature of the unbelieving worldview is to interpret God as anything other than what He has revealed himself to be in Scripture. This explains the near universal acceptance of the theory of evolution. That everything came from nothing and subsequently organized itself into the brilliant complexity of life as we know it is absurd. That no one will accept that an iPod developed by random chance while believing that the innumerable life forms of immeasurable more complexity came about by accident is evidence that worldview drives interpretation. From a heart of hostility toward God, the clear evidence of God’s genius is suppressed in unrighteousness.
And so it is in principle, the believer and unbeliever share no common ground in how they interpret the universe, as they view it according to contrary principles. In practice, however, they often interpret things in many similar ways, because neither believers nor unbelievers live and interpret the world in a manner entirely consistent with their worldview (for reasons that will be discussed below with respect to God’s sovereignty). For our present purpose, however, note well that nothing is interpreted from a purely neutral, objective perspective, including miracles.
Miracles are interpreted in the same way that all things are interpreted, according to one’s worldview or core beliefs about God, man, reality, knowledge, truth, authority, and ethics. And as one’s view of God ultimately determines one’s view of all things, so also one’s view of God ultimately determines one’s view of the miracles of Scripture. For instance, if God’s existence is denied, then the divine origin of Scripture and the historicity of the miracles it reveals will be denied. If God is understood to be the author of Scripture and the creator and sustainer of all things by His infinite power, then the miracles of Scripture appear reasonable and true. And to believe that God is the creator and sustainer of all things is also to believe that finite, created people are dependent upon God for all things, including the truth of what is possible in God’s universe. To believe in the God of Scripture is to accept one’s human limitations in explaining that which transcends reality as we know and experience it. Believers accept that God can do anything consistent with His holy character, even if we cannot understand it. How one’s worldview determines one’s view of miracles can be seen in the following diagram.
One’s view of God ultimately determines the assumptions of one’s worldview, which determines the interpretation of biblical miracles. Any and all of the miracles of Scripture will be accepted as reasonable or rejected as unreasonable according to the interpreter’s view of God. No miracle of Scripture is unreasonable or impossible in a universe created and sustained by an infinitely powerful God who transcends created reality.
As miracles are quite reasonable in a universe created and sustained by an omnipotent God, one must first prove that God does not exist to deny the existence or possibility of the miracles of Scripture.
Exhaustive knowledge of the entire universe and beyond is required to know that God does not exist. Or, granting that God does exist, exhaustive knowledge of God’s nature is required to know that He lacks omnipotence and is constrained by the universal and uniform “laws of nature.” In other words, one must be God to legitimately deny God’s existence and to know what is possible in the universe. But, the limited perspective of a finite person of three dimensions and five senses is incapable of knowing that God does not exist or what an infinite, self-existent, self-sufficient, omniscient and omnipotent spirit can or cannot do. Created and finite people are dependent upon God for existence and all knowledge, and can only know what God can and cannot do by what God has revealed about Himself.
Even while unbelievers deny the existence of the God of Scripture, they nonetheless affirm His existence in their denial of miracles. Appeals to the uniform laws of “nature” to deny miracles are self-defeating, as uniform laws are impossible apart from God’s ongoing ordering and sustaining of the universe. God’s ongoing ordering of the universe forms the basis of the unbelievers’ denial of the miracles of Scripture, by which they deny the existence of the God of Scripture. In other words, God must exist for unbelievers to appeal to the uniformity of nature to deny miracles and God’s existence. As we have seen, the uniformity of nature is inexplicable apart from God’s creating, ordering, and sustaining power. Random chance produces no laws and no uniformity of nature. And even if one incorrectly assumes the uniformity of nature apart from God, science cannot prove a consistent uniformity of nature throughout all of history. The assumption that things have always operated as they do today is as unjustified as the assumption that uniform, universal, and consistent laws are the product of random chance.
No authority higher than God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture exists by which we can know God’s nature and abilities. We know what God can and cannot do from Scripture. Apart from Scripture, human opinion is insufficient to speak authoritatively about God. To claim to know that which contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture assumes one’s personal opinion as superior to God’s authoritative revelation as the ultimate determiner of truth. Created, finite, and dependent people are simply incapable of knowing such things apart from God’s revelation.
As one must be God (omniscient) to prove God does not exist, and one must prove God does not exist to deny miracles, one cannot legitimately deny God’s existence or the truthfulness of Scripture by denying the possibility of the miracles of the Bible. Yet this inconvenient truth has done little to deter unbelievers from making unwarranted claims about God and the universe. I remember watching a movie where someone argued that God could not have stopped the earth’s rotation to make the sun stand still because all of the continents would have piled up onto each other. It apparently escaped the script writer’s notice that a God who could stop the earth’s rotation could also prevent the continents from piling up.12 Arguments against the historicity of the miracles of Scripture are worthless in light of the omnipotence of God. If God spoke and made the universe, no miracle of Scripture is unreasonable or impossible. Six-day creation, Noah and the Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, Christ walking on water and raising the dead, et al, what miracle is impossible for an omnipotent God who created and uphold all things?
Why, then, do professing Christians sometimes attempt to defend the miracles of Scripture by making them compatible with unbelieving assumptions of the uniformity of nature? For instance, the size of Noah’s Ark is often used to validate the account as historical. And while Scripture gives us the actual dimensions of the Ark, and such information is indeed true and helpful, it does not prove that the account was historical. After all, Noah had to collect all the animals, direct them in their respective stalls, feed them, and clean up after them. Regardless of the size of the ark, God’s miraculous power was required for the universal flood and the gathering and preservation of life. And while the size of the Ark is accurate and adequate to God’s task, we cannot expect to make miracles acceptable to those who deny the omnipotence of God by making miracles compatible with unbelieving assumptions.
Perhaps more problematic are attempts to explain the plagues of Egypt or the miracles in the wilderness by natural causes, such as algae turning the Nile to blood (and just at the right time!) or the Red Sea as two inches deep as the explanation of Israel passing through the Sea. And while the things God has created and ordered are often utilized in God’s miracles, He is not constrained to use “natural” things or “natural laws” to perform them. Apologists need not appeal to a recent account of someone being swallowed by a whale and surviving to defend the historicity of Jonah’s trip to Nineveh. God could keep Jonah alive in a whale for one hundred years if He so willed.
Not only do attempts to explain miracles by the naturalistic assumptions of unbelief fail to establish the historicity of miracles, they appear to deny or ignore the infinite power of God. They grant legitimacy to the unbelieving principle that God, even if He exists, is subject to the constraints of “natural” laws. But the point of miracles is to display God’s transcendent power above and beyond the universe He created and controls. He has power over all things. Christ displayed His power over the realm of life and death by raising Lazarus from the dead. No “natural” explanation is needed.
Further, when Christian apologists attempt to make miracles compatible with the false assumptions of the unbelieving worldview, they affirm the unbelieving worldview and the unbeliever’s presumed authority to determine what God can and cannot do in His universe. As we have seen, exhaustive knowledge of everything in and beyond the universe is required to know what God can and cannot do (apart from revelation) and whether or not God, the miracle maker, exists. We would do better to expose the unbelievers’ unjustified faith in their opinions about what they are incapable of knowing apart from God’s revelation, a revelation that contradicts what they claim to know. Rather than conforming the miracles of Scripture to the principles of unbelief, we should challenge claims to know what cannot possibly be known and call unbelievers to repent of the sin of assuming the place of God in their denial of Him.
Lucifer’s fate is a lesson to all. Attempts to assume the place and prerogative of God are doomed to defeat. No opposition to God can stand. And though we suffer persecution and are considered as sheep for the slaughter, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”13 We need not be intimidated. And while the ridicule and insults of the world against God and His people are often difficult to bear, we are to bless and curse not, and have compassion on those opposing God. God’s purposes will stand for all eternity. Moreover, our present sufferings are not to be compared to the glory that will be revealed by God’s infinite power. As we share in the sufferings of Christ, we shall also share in His glory in heaven forever. This glory, through salvation in Christ, we should desire for those engaged in the futile pursuit of opposing the omnipotent God of the universe.
“Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
1 Grudem, Systematic Theology, 216.
3 To speak of miracles as an intervention of God into the world implies that the world and its physical laws exist and operate independently of God’s ongoing intervention and power. To the contrary, in performing miracles, God merely does something differently in His active and ongoing work of upholding and ordering the universe according to His “natural” laws. For an excellent discussion on this point, see G. C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 204-207.
4 For a definition and description of the nature of presuppositions, See Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 2n.4. Bahnsen describes a worldview as “fundamental convictions about reality, knowledge, and human conduct.” Ibid., 40n.14.
5 Van Til, Why I Believe in God; quoted in Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 128-9.
6 “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27, NASB.
7 “With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” James 3:9.
8 Thus, Van Til notes that believers and unbelievers “cannot be said to have any fact in common. On the other hand, it must be asserted that they have every fact in common. Both deal with the same God and with the same universe created by God. Both are made in the image of God….Metaphysically, both parties have all things in common, while epistemologically they have nothing in common.” Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel ( Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1972), 5.
9 In addressing the presumption of some that particular promises of Scripture were spoken to them directly and in particular, Edwards quotes an interesting and applicable comment by Thomas Shepard in The Religious Affections. Shepard asks the question, “when may a Christian take a promise without presumption, as spoken to him?” He answers, “The rule is very sweet, but certain; when he takes all the Scripture, and embraces it as spoken unto him, he may then take any particular promise boldly….This no hypocrite can do; this the saints shall do.” The Religious Affections, BT, 152, footnote; Yale 224.
10 And or demonically inspired as in the Garden of Eden. An adequate discussion of this particular point is beyond the scope of this work.
11 See Romans 1:18-22, 8:7; and Colossians 1:21.
12 This was an argument made in a scene from the movie Inherit the Wind, a grossly inaccurate portrayal of the Scopes “Monkey” trial.
13 Romans 8:37.