Wilson Bentley photograph

The Miracle of Infinite Variation

"Prove it to me."
"Show me the facts."
"When I see it, I'll believe it."

We are all keen observers, but even the best of us have been tricked with a sleight of hand. At one time or another we have all been lied to and cheated by the trickster and the magician, so that our species has become cold, rational and in need of indisputable evidence in order for us to say, "I believe." This is a reasonable response, especially if the world were steely deterministic, but thankfully, the universe does not work that way.

Yes, the planets wobble, spin and orbit in a very well defined pattern. The sun will rise tomorrow morning at just about the same time it did yesterday. But how rigid are these patterns really?

We live in an age of scientific determinism, where it is believed that everything is governed by the unbreakable laws of nature. Our scientific theories are based on these assumptions. For science is not really possible without repeatability. We can't really figure out the way things work, can we, if the way things work changes from day to day? But this idea that we live in a deterministic world is an assumption. It's easy to arrive at this assumption based on our ability to reason and rationally organize our thoughts. But it's mostly an easy route to take because there's seemingly nothing to lose. My hope can't be dashed if hope doesn't exist. There would be no need of hope in a deterministic universe. Why hope when the future is predetermined? To hope is to risk everything. We would put our money on goodness. We would put our life on the line for love. We would put everything we have on God.

In our sciences we can develop highly-procedural experiments that provide us semi-deterministic results. A good baker does the same thing with a loaf a bread. But to say that's the way the universe works is misleading. That is the way man and his rational methods do things, but we can't say that's how natural phenomena are derived, can we?

Is the universe so mechanical, so scientific? If it were, the universe would be as dead as a hammer and as lifeless as a laptop. Life is born out of freedom. Dead things are just puppets composed of rote order. If the universe is deterministic, then it is dead and so am I.

But in all of nature, we find variation and this is a sign for us. Variation tells us science-types, that yes, there is more than meets the eye. Because if life were so deterministic, then there would be no infinite variation. Everything would be a clone of its type. Everything would have the nature of legos. But we know in our hearts that no two snowflakes are alike, even though we could never prove it.

Infinite variation is the one miracle that we can all witness in nature. A deterministic universe couldn't produce the depth of variety. Variety whispers saying, "See, God calls each of us into being, even the atoms, snowflakes, mountains and planets. We're all very special to him." It's a miracle, because God alters the universe indefinitely and allows something new that wasn't there before. His creation doesn't play musical chairs.

I am fascinated by the miracles of Jesus not because of the wow-factor and not because they are signs of the reality of Jesus. (No, it was initially hope in his words, particularly the Beatitudes, that made me a lover Christ.) The miracles demonstrate the freedom of God over his creation. He speaks and nature responds. They show us that we are not clinging to a deterministic universe where we are chained down by the laws of nature hurtling toward an unseen fate that gobbles each of us up at the end of our days.

But unlike his natural creation which responds directly when he speaks, we humans have a special type of response when he talks to us. We can respond relationally to his personhood. We are able to love him like a child loves her daddy and mommy. We can talk to him and he talks back. This is why some Christians rightly emphasize a "personal relationship with Jesus." It is the one miracle that we can experience daily. The words passed in the relationship are new. They were not predetermined by fate. They are new and those words alter reality—whether you can see it or not. (In fact, you can see it or not based on what you choose to see.)

The miracles of Jesus were a bit different. They each had a special purpose. And those that were recorded each tell us a particular story. God talks to us through them. What is he saying to you when Lazarus was raised from the dead? The miracles of Jesus demonstrate the character of God: He cares. He wants to make things right. He wants to heal us. He wants to make us whole again. He wants to have a personal relationship with his creation. And it is through us that he does so.

Over the next few months, I'll be writing about the miracles of Jesus. I want to learn more about how to have a "personal relationship" with our beloved Jesus and I think the miracles may explain how.

Tags: miracles