For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are
(Psalm 86:10 TNIV)
faithful people would probably agree to the timelessness of God, when it comes
to other attributes of the Creator, there are many viewpoints:
knows everything. (This is why He doesn’t need a Facebook account. He already
knows every little detail about your life and everyone else’s, for that
knows everything we do and think.
caused everything in the past to happen.
knows what the future will bring.
controls what the future will bring. (Can we say predestination?)
rewards good/faithful people.
punishes bad people.
can do anything He wants to do.
wonder that many of us grew up thinking of God in terms of “magical” powers. We
were led to believe that He simply waves a “magic wand” and “miracles” happen.
Presto! This concept is cleverly illustrated in a couple of classic stories.
A man is
working on the roof on the top of a tall building. The pitch of the roof is
rather steep. At one point he loses his grip and begins to slide down toward
the edge of the roof. A fall would probably result in serious injury, even
death. So he frantically prays to God. “Please, God. Save me.” Suddenly his
clothing catches on a nail, he stops sliding and regains his grip. “Never mind,
God,” he says. “The nail did it.”
area is experiencing a huge flood. A man climbs out the window of his home and
onto the roof. As the water rises higher and higher, he prays, “Please, God.
Save me.” Soon a boat goes by. The driver asks the roof-bound man if he needs
assistance. He waves the boat off and shouts, “No, thanks. I’ve asked God to
save me.” So the boat goes on its way. As the floodwater reaches the peak of
the roof, a helicopter flies by. The pilot shouts down to the stranded man. “Do
you need some help?” he asks. “No, thanks,” he responds again. “I’ve asked God
to save me.” So the helicopter flies on. The water continues to rise, the man
drowns and shortly finds himself at the alleged pearly gates. As a man of
faith, he is bewildered. “God, I prayed to you to save me; but you didn’t,” he
cries out. “My dear soul,” God replies, “I sent you a boat and a helicopter.
What more did you want from me?”
Magic and Illusion
So what did
these two men expect God to do? In both of these stories, it appears that the
underlying assumption is that God would use magic or miracles outside the scope
of normal human activity to answer prayers. While we agree that an all-powerful
God certainly could perform astonishing feats, our proposition is that God
doesn’t use magic to run His Universe (and, of course, our planet Earth
included). Magic would violate the God-given laws of science.
clarify, let’s look at the primary definition of the word magic:
1 a : the
use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over
magic rites or incantations
2 a : an
extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source
b : something that seems to cast a spell.
3 : the art
of producing illusions by sleight of hand
1 and 2 both use the term supernatural. In number 3, we have a reference to
illusion. Illusion is different from what we call magic, in that it requires no
supernatural powers. Professional magicians such as David Copperfield are actually illusionists. When he “walks
through” the Great Wall of China and makes people and buildings “disappear,”
Copperfield doesn’t violate any laws of physics. No supernatural powers or
spells or incantations are being employed. The magician is simply creating an
illusion for the purposes of entertaining and astonishing his audience.
through His awesome creations, astonishes us daily. With every magnificent
sunrise and sunset, with the breathtaking palette of tones with which He paints
each season, with the simple yet profound “miracle” of childbirth—our God does,
indeed, fill us with wonder and awe. But we don’t believe He uses a “magic
wand” to bring about everyday “miracles” such as these.