natural laws

Teleology Between Christians and Historians

Teleology is both the hope of Christians and the bane of historians.  As a professional historian, I have publicly railed against teleology for the edification of my students.  As a practicing Christian, I have publicly thanked God for his teleology and used it to comfort those who are hurting.  That sure looks like a contradiction.  It struck me as odd recently, as I was buried under a mountain of undergraduate papers and final exams to grade.  I don’t think it’s a contradiction, but exploring why not has clarified for me what historians are trying to accomplish, and the basis on which Christians formulate their understandings. (more…)

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Is Anything Miraculous?

Much of Euro-American culture, and especially its educated elite, has adopted two contradictory and equally useless attitudes toward miracles.  The first, starting in mid-1700s, was a full-scale assault on the notion that miracles can happen.  The second is a sentimental and vapid dilution of the term to mean anything really good or life-changingly beneficial.  I’m not sure when this second attitude developed, but I’d be inclined to date it to the late 1800s as a defensive, and wrong-headed, rearguard action to preserve the language of miracle while emptying it of all meaning.  In other words, having conceded the idea that genuine miracles are impossible, some Western Christians domesticated the notion of the miraculous in order to retain the language without its threatening implications.  I think this is the wrong approach, and this post will critique the denialist approach, and propose a different definition of “miracle” which I think is more in keeping with its etymology, and with its pre-modern Christian usage. (more…)