BACK TO THE FUTURE
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
-Arthur C Clarke, “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination”
Imagine if you were to travel back through time, and bring someone from 2000 years in the past, back to the future. Imagine trying to explain to them an iPad. Would you start with the touch screen? Or explain the concept of the internet being a library of information that you access in the clouds? Imagine taking them for a drive in your car and having to explain how pistons and engines worked. And goodness knows what they would think of Snapchat!
They would likely not understand anything you told them, and regardless of hard you tried to convince them otherwise, they would likely believe ours was a society of wizards and druids practicing arcane magic.
THE UNIMAGINEABLE FRONTIER
With this in mind, how should Christians respond to critics who point to the seemingly ridiculous stories contained within the pages of the Bible? Tales of fish swallowing humans, seas parting in two and fire raining down from Heaven, appear to contradict the logical laws of nature we observe around us.
Does this mean that the Bible is erroneous, and is more likely an allegorical collection of fables, as opposed to a historical documentation of God’s divine acts throughout history? Or, perhaps Clarke’s logic can also be applied to the fantastic and seemingly magical stories of the Bible, in order to make a proper defence for the authenticity of God’s Word?
THE NATURE OF GOD
Understanding that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, we can begin to get a better understanding of the true nature of God. The acts of God are described as beyond the laws of the natural world and are therefore supernatural or magical.
However, this does not then mean that God is unnatural or illogical, but merely that from the perspective of humans, God operates within laws of nature and logic beyond our understanding. As a result, the authors of the Bible merely described what they saw, and could explain these events as nothing short of magic. But in the same way that an iPad appears as magic to someone from the past, so also the divine acts of God appear as magic to humans.
Read some of the descriptions of God and of Heaven given throughout the Bible:
27 Also from the appearance of His [God’s] waist and upward I saw, as it were, the colour of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it . . . 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire . . .
It is evident that these authors are struggling to put into human concepts and understandable words, the majesty, glory and jaw dropping reality of both God and Heaven. These descriptions seem magical and outrageous but are merely an example of a human, being incapable of comprehending the divine (Isaiah 55:8,9).
“If you think you understand, it isn’t God”
Maybe one day we will more greatly understand the nature of God, and the magical elements of God will be revealed to be natural laws we had no prior knowledge of (1 Corinthians 13:12). But until then, we can be firm in our faith, even if at times reading the Bible can feel like reading Lord of the Rings or watching Star Trek. The Bible is God’s story, and with him as the main character, it only makes sense that a narrative following someone beyond our own understanding, appears to be fantastic, wild and magical.
God describes his ways as superior than ours, and even beyond our very way of thinking. Maybe when we go to Heaven, we will be able to understand some of these things, but until then, we can be rest assured that while it may be hard to believe in magic, it is much easier to believe in a God whose ways are merely beyond our own.
By Christopher Petersen
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