Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday in Easter Week: Supernatural vs. ultimate reality

Opening Sentence
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8

Collect of the Day
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 146, 147

Lessons: Exodus 13:3-10, 1 Corinthians 15:41-50, Matthew 28:16-20

I am not a fan of the word "supernatural." I hear it often enough, usually in a religious context. The problem I have with the word is that it is not Scriptural and is wholly inadequate to describe those things associated with the Christian faith that we cannot explain as naturally occurring phenomena. It was the Enlightenment which created the categories of "natural" and "supernatural" with the intent of discrediting the latter as having to involve the violation of the "laws of nature." Hence, the major doctrines of the Christian faith were to be abandoned or, at least, radically revised because they were based on a belief in the "supernatural" and, therefore, not sustainable under the scrutiny of scientific naturalism.

Scripture, in contrast to Enlightenment rationalism, takes a dim view of the word "natural." It is used almost exclusively to describe the fallen condition. It is synonymous with "mortal." A "natural" person is a "mortal" person, living in open rebellion against God, destined for the grave. A "natural" body is a "mortal" body, inclined toward sin, destined to return to the dust from whence it came. A worldview which holds the "natural" in such low esteem would hold the "supernatural" in even lower esteem. If "natural" means fallen, "supernatural" could only mean fallen to the fullest.

The biblical opposite of "natural" is not "supernatural," but "spiritual." In the resurrection, the natural, mortal body will be transformed into the spiritual body. This does not mean an ethereal, ghostly existence. Rather, it means a change from the natural inclination toward sin and disobedience leading to death to the spiritual inclination toward holiness and obedience leading to life.

This is the hope of every believer, made certain through the death and resurrection of Christ, a transformative event which is not to be described as "supernatural" in that it would have involved a violation of the laws of nature, but as "eschatological" in that it involved the bringing forward of God's ultimate future into the present. What happened for Jesus will happen for all believers on the Last Day. The natural, mortal body will be transformed into the spiritual, immortal body. In and through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, God will make the whole creation new. This is not a violation of the laws of nature. This is the ultimate reality which will give meaning to all of life and all of history.


The Day of Resurrection