Thanks for this. This morning I spent an hour in recorded conversation
with one of the Church's top theologians on these matters, Dr
Gerald O'Collins SJ. You'll be pleased to know that he would
support your proposition. (Fr O'Collins is Professor of Systematic
and Fundamental Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome
and is presently in Perth to fulfil commitments as Chair of
Jesuit Studies at the University of Western Australia.)
Our conversation is continuing and I'll let you know where and
when it is going to be published.
I have a different position to yourself and Dr O'Collins – and
what I am about to write is at the heart of my conversation
with him. In his lecture the other night, and printed in the
notes he handed out (see copy attached to the story HERE)
he asked if "God created the world, but always respects the
laws of nature?". I have been asking him would if he would
be prepared to go one step further and accept the proposition
that "God created the world, but always respects the laws of
science which he also created"?
It's a pretty nuanced discussion we've been having and I've
not yet finished transcribing it. I've no doubt there will be
further input from Dr O'Collins when I send the transcript back
to him for revision and further nuancing.
At heart though he has argued to me today that God might "suspend"
the laws of science/nature but not "violate" or "break" them.
Here's the verbatim response he gave: "Suspend
them, suspend them – not violate or break – but suspend them."
As you may realise I have put the proposition forward in this
forum on a number of occasions that from my own background in
the sciences, particularly physics, I find it increasingly unlikely
that God would even "suspend" the laws of his own creation.
The laws of science that humankind has been uncovering for the
last 400 years are not some construct of the human mind. I submit
they are all a construct of the mind of God. We are merely slowly
uncovering these insights into the genius and wisdom of God.
I have no doubt whatsoever that we have a long, long way to
In his interview with me, he cited a story of an English woman
similar to the one you have told. My argument though is that
I do not believe God runs around like some circus magician outside
the laws of his own creation healing people, making statues
weep, rosary beads glow and all these other paranormal events.
His interventions, I surmise and submit, will eventually be
found to be always within the bounds of the laws (physical,
biological, etc. etc.) with which he created the universe and
us. I fully and totally accept that we might not yet have access
to a lot of those laws and, for all intents and purposes, they
might look like "miracles" to us at the present time. In other
words they might appear to have come about as a result of some
"supernatural" intervention by God whereby he might seem to
be suspending, violating or breaking laws within our present
It is already abundantly apparent that many "miraculous" events
of past centuries are no longer considered to be "miraculous"
because we do now have access to better medical and scientific
knowledge and we can see that the explanations as to what happened
can easily be explained within the laws of science or medicine.
God simply was not acting as some kind of "circus magician"
to bring these things about, like the parting of the Red Sea,
as might have seemed to be the case at the time.
Just because we do not have an explanation, I submit, does not
entitle us to run around suggesting that God is entertaining
or amusing us with circus tricks.
I actually do believe that God does intervene in human affairs.
I suspect he does not intervene in the affairs of inanimate
and non-sentient creation. The non-sentient parts of the universe
bore on driven precisely, beautifully and almost musically by
the "miracle" of the laws of his original creation. THAT IS
WHERE THE MIRACLE IS – the laws of science each year as they
are further unravelled merely elevate the genius of the original
creator that he could build into them the perturbations and
nuances that lead today, billions of years later to the magnificence
of the night sky and the magnificence and creativity that is
apparent in every single human brain.
Why, oh, why do we have to get our rocks off with weeping statues
and aunt bessy being cured of her chill brains? These things
are simply not on the scale of the original miracle of creation.
They are not even on the scale of the "miracle" that many of
us partake in when we join in partnership with God in the creation
of a new child. I am sorry, but all this Lourdes, Fatima and
Medjugore stuff really does leave me cold, motherless speechless.
To my mind it is on the scale of Leprechauns and Gnomes at the
Bottom of the Garden compared to the miracle to be seen in just
looking at any new-born baby. When I looked at my children when
they were first born I wasn't filled with wonder at what I had
created. I was filled with wonder at the genius of God who thought
the whole box and dice up – from the wonder of DNA and genetics
through to the wonder of how the joints in the human body work.
I look at them today as the giants they've grown into and I
still think that is the greatest "miracle" I'm ever likely to
participant in so intimately. The other night on television
there was an image of the knee surgery that Jana Pittman has
undergone. You don't have to look at her knee though, just look
at your own. IT is a friggin' miracle. Last night on the ABC
Science Program, Catalyst, one of the Eureka Awards for Science
went to a researcher who has developed an artificial glove that
holds the hope of returning dexterity to the hands of quadriplegics.
Look at the bunky, awkward technology he has had to come up
with to try and replicate the "miracle" of God's original creation
from 15 billion years or longer ago before there were any computers,
and miniature motors and pneumatics.
I honestly do think a lot of people look at Catholics today
and think they are friggin' dingbats and fruitcakes for all
this obsession with the sort of "magic tricks" that purportedly
go on in places where the Blessed Virgin Mary is making appearances.
I am confident, as I've already stated, that God DOES intervene
in human affairs. It IS NOT magic wand stuff though. In time
I expect it will be by various ways of suggestion where the
sick person effectively cures themselves by a change of attitude
and "heart". I am sure a heck of a lot of the "disease" in the
world is literally that: it is dis-ease. A lack of "ease" in
our lives. Much that is physical disequilibrium derives from
mental, emotional and spiritual upsets and anxieties. And I
do not believe it is in the realms of circus entertainment for
God to plant an idea in a person's subconscious that "blossom's
forth" and leads to physical healing once the person has experienced
some "conversion of heart, mind or spirit" in those non-[physical
realms. That is the very "business of life". It is at the very
heart of this whole endeavour of the relationship we are in
with the Divine – with God – where we are called up to listen
AND discern AND to act as a result of that listening and discerning.
This is the whole "partnership" Christ and the entire Church
calls each of us into. That's where the freakin' miracles are
to be found. Not in this superstitious, child's entertainment
clap-trap that waters from a certain place if sprinkled on your
forehead each morning and going to cure your cancer or your
Thanks for the opportunity you have opened up here to clarify
my own thoughts in my ongoing discussion with Fr Gerald O'Collins.
That, in itself, is part of the real miracle – i.e. how we can
be interacting with one another over the space of a continent
and, unwittingly, something that you wrote over in Brisbane
this morning has caused more than a butterfly's wings to flap
all the way over here in Perth. I am suggesting, as I did in
a post the other day, THAT IS THE WAY GOD INTERVENES IN HUMAN
AFFAIRS. He simply does not need "magic trick" type "miracles".
I find it an infinitely greater "miracle" that a small thought
that someone had in Brisbane this morning can influence the
course of a conversation on the other side of this continent.
That "serendipity" is happening all around us, 24 hours a day.
God IS in the ordinary. He permeates all our conversations and
that is his true intervention in the universe and in human affairs
and it is far more spectacular and awesome than anything that
goes on at Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugore or Inala. We DO literally
ALL share in it. Each one of us is a flamin' "miracle" and we
perform "miracles" each day just by living and breathing and
speaking and acting.
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou for triggering all these thoughts.
They have provided some very precise "keys" that I have needed
in the work I have been doing today.