In case you’ve been in a cave somewhere without this Internet thing, or access to any TV, Radio, the regular or short wave kind, you likely know there is going to be a total solar eclipse tomorrow across much of America. This doesn’t happen very often so it’s kind of a big deal. It’s also awe inspiring for reasons that don’t need explanation, and that makes it a big deal too. I’ve seen several headlines in previous weeks similar to this one in the Washington Post: “The first solar eclipse to cross America in 99 years is coming. To some, it’s an act of God.”
Such a headline is indicative of the naturalism and its assumptions that pervade secular Western culture. Naturalism simply means that whether there is a God or not, the universe was set in motion, and natural laws are what keep it going, no God required. The Deism popular around the decades of America’s Founding was a form of naturalism. God’s a clock maker, he made the clock, and now it runs on its own.
We know as Christians that we’ve been infected by naturalist assumptions when something awesome or inexplicable happens, like a solar eclipse, and only then do we see the “supernatural” involved. For Christians, though, there is no distinction between the natural and the supernatural. We know intuitively, or ought to, that the material world is infused with God’s presence, as Scripture affirms, and that he providentially animates all things.
C.S. Lewis pointed out that Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit was no more miraculous than any woman’s conceiving. When I first read that I was ashamed that I hadn’t thought of it before (But that’s why he’s C.S. Lewis, and I’m not!). With a little thought I realized that any new being’s creation is miraculous. Naturalism, by contrast, insists we believe the process of creating a new life is solely “natural,” no divine assistance required.
Knowing better now, when I look at any being, human or not, but also when I contemplate a seed of any kind, my response is, “There is a God!” When we think about it, within any seed are found all four of Aristotle’s causes: the material, formal, efficient, and final cause all rolled up into one! The telos (another Aristotelian concept), or end (final cause), is found in the seed. It will become a thing, even in its uniqueness, as Genesis tells us, after its own kind. Amazing, and yes, miraculous.
Speaking of the eclipse, that is certainly yet another reason to stand in awe of our Creator God. Astrophysicist John ZuHone tells why an solar eclipse is no accident:
We take it for granted that the sun and the moon appear roughly the same size in the sky. This is due to the remarkable fact that though the former is roughly 400 times wider than the latter, it is also roughly 400 times farther away. This is what makes total eclipses possible.
We can pretty much boil these amazing facts to two possible causes. Either they are an astounding coincidence of “natural” phenomena that happened for no reason at all, and thus when we see the eclipse we can shout, “Praise chance!” Or they are the result of the exquisite planning and power of Almighty God, and our response will be, “Praise God!” We should never allow ourselves, or our kids, to “take for granted” anything of God’s amazing creation, whether it be a total solar eclipse, or a seed.