On Collision

My friend Craig posted these good thoughts on the superb documentary Collision, and it got me thinking some about Christopher Hitchens’ (unfair) comparison of nature and miracles in the film.

Hitchens essentially argues that the transcendence of a black hole is more beautiful than the miracles documented in the Bible. Jesus sending pigs over a cliff (Mark 5:1-13) is ugliness to Hitchens. Craig pulled things back a step to show that if you find nature’s bright spots remarkable, the Creator of all that beauty interacting with us creatures is quite remarkable, whether He chooses a burning bush or a thundercloud as the medium.
Aside from God deserving the credit for the wonders we see in nature, God is also more artful in His use of miracles than Hitchens thinks. The signs and wonders in both the OT and NT were not primarily signs of God’s transcendent beauty, so you can’t compare a black hole with pigs falling off a cliff and say “nature’s prettier than God!” OT signs were often given to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to Israel in might (i.e. bringing down their enemies’ walls), against idols (dropping fire from heaven in the face of Baal’s prophets), through provision (Elijah’s diet prepared by ravens), or in tender condescension (Gideon’s fleece; the covenant transaction with Abraham; water from the stricken rock, and on). Jesus gives visible signs that He is Lord of nature (calming waters), vocation (sacking fish for stumped fishermen), evil (giving demons marching orders), death (raising Lazarus), and all things (the Resurrection). God doesn’t need to show off His transcendence in miraculous fashion, because it has already been revealed to us creatures, in things like galaxies and stars and clouds and ants and image bearers. When Job needed rejuvenated faith, God didn’t perform new miracles to display His beauty and get Job’s trust back. Instead, He reminded Job of the creation around and above him (Job 38-40:2), which caused Job to remember who God is (Job 40:3-5). The black hole? Yeah, that was Him. And He came in the Incarnation to claim lordship over more than our aesthetic sensibilities. Jesus’ transcendent, beautiful glory was actually veiled in the Incarnation, and the apostles never stopped marveling about the time they got to peek through the veil at the Transfiguration (John 1:142 Peter 1:16-18).
So all of God’s acts consist of a beauty that is both aesthetically pleasing and meaningful. An atheistic view of wonders is devoid of meaning, which empties the seeming transcendence of anything we perceive. If there is no Creator, what is the point of a black hole? What is it there for? If it’s just there to be pretty and fold things up, the deep beauty gets sucked right in with all that matter.
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