From Chapter Three: God's Attributes
For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
(Psalm 86:10 TNIV)
While most faithful people would probably agree to the timelessness of God, when it comes to other attributes of the Creator, there are many viewpoints:
- God 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 matter.)
- God knows everything we do and think.
- God caused everything in the past to happen.
- Gods knows what the future will bring.
- God controls what the future will bring. (Can we say predestination?)
- God rewards good/faithful people.
- God punishes bad people.
- God can do anything He wants to do.
It’s no 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.”
The 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.
To clarify, let’s look at the primary definition of the word magic:
- The use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
- Magic rites or incantations
- An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source
- Something that seems to cast a spell.
- The art of producing illusions by sleight of hand
Definitions 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.
God, 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.