For the past few days I've been involved in huge posting discussion on Secular outpost. I've been discussing the concept of the /supernatural. The thing has gone on for three posts each generating over100vcoments one is alsmortv200.  For me the major issue is that the atheists are insisting on their usual dichotomy of natural, everything physical that exists vs. Supernatural (SN) everything not sanctioned by their belief system, their reading of science. I did my thing which I have done here on the true Christian notion of the Supernatural. I point out that their ideas of SN in so far as they use that to argue against the validity of Christianity are essentially a straw man argument; not only do some of them not care they seem not to understand it. In this post I will try to clarify my view, and deal with difficulties in their view (at least the view Badly Bowen puts forth).
My view is predicated upon the notion that the original concept of SN was about God's higher nature forming the realm of Grace and and drawing the natural tendencies of human nature toward it culminating mystical experience and transformational power. I further argue that the French philosophs so rebelled against scholasticism that they created their own counterfit SN and then juxtaposed to the natural realm, In making it about realms and natures miraculous power they changed the whole set up. For various historical reasons that became the predominate view. a good history of science that traces the fall of scholasticism and the triumph of anti-clerical scientism in the enlightenment is told by Basil Wiley. In the enlightenment the harmonious relation of nature to Grace was torn asunder and we wound up with a biphercated reality .The believers took the equivocal side to preserve sovereignty of God. The secularists and liberals have taken the univocal side making God either non existent or part of nature.
I first argued that the term supernatural originally, web coined by Dionysius the Areiopegite referred to mystical experience. That is born out in several places but one of the best is a summary of the history or the word found in the work o9f an anthropologist, Benson Saler. He is a secular thinker and probably couldn't care less about the implications of Christian theology. But he does demonstrate that the word originally was not indicative of a metaphysical dichotomy. A couple of reactions to Saler's piece are alarming, one of them thought he was affirming the atheist dichotomy at the end of the piece,
Even the Saler source above that Joe referenced as supporting his definition of supernatural uses a "Western" definition of supernatural similar to yours to contrast it to the primitive definition of supernatural. I find this all a bit creepy....Don't bother reading the whole thing, just go to the concluding Section V. The entire paper is irrelevant to this discussion... as should be expected from Joe.
What he really says is that the Christian dichotomy is too specific to Christian theology to impose upon other cultures as a standard category for purpose of anthropological work.The overall paper is about weather or not Western category of SN can be found in other cultures."...Hallowell warns us that 'a thoroughgoing objective approach to the study of cultures cannot be achieved solely by projecting upon those cultures categorical abstractions derived from Western thought." So he reveals the history of the term in order to show that it is derived form Western thought. What he says in Section V that was cited: "The question now arises as to which understanding of our Western dichotomy of natural-supernatural we might employ in our field research. The Technical Christian distinction bweteen the oder of Grace wnd the order of nature is decidedly too narrow and too tehologically specific to prove of much use." He winds up saying "the SN then is our culture bound category for anything that transcends the immanently principled operation of nature as we understand them." He's talking about using the cultural construct in anthropology he is not proclaiming Christin doctrine false, only unsuitable for anthropological field work.
It would be too simplistic to say that the Christian SN is just mystical experience. I have said things that sound that why due to short handing it for brevity sake. My view is a bit more complex than that, Rather than a transcendent realm the realm of Grace is God;'s higher nature, It isn't removed from the world it's just better. God's grace raises humans to a higher level for consciousness through mystical e and that is the practical and empirical aspect that can be demonstrated at least in so far as the kind of experience said to be mystical goes. Proving it comes from God is another matter. It is because Super nature is the ground and end of nature that it doe elevate human consciousness. Nature is life from life, the physical world of birth and flesh and blood. The two realms are not opposed to open other, The SN is in the natural as well as beyond it. There is a two sidedness but not a real dualism. This is the view of Eugene R. Fairweather and of Moiaathiaas Jospeh Scheebn before him. I have
summarized these views.
Teleology in nature is not part of the modern secular intellectual marketplace. Understand why scientists cant or shouldn't try to includes teleology in discussion of nature, even though Newton and Boyle did. It's the same reason why historians can't list miracles as reasons for historical events. Reasons for the Fall of Rome: too much led I their water, ran out of grain, empire was stretched thin, God was against them. But theology is a different matter. We can talk teleology (that doesn't necessarily mean miracles). So the notion ground and end of nature is not unthinkable in post modernity. That is Fairweather's thesis. The harmonious relation of nature and Grace nature bending toward Grace as ground and end, and "nature" primarily means human nature. In physical nature we might think about fine turning or anthropic principle. We might think about consciousness. Supernatural is not a miracle it's not outside nature it's the driver that brings order out of chaos and makes the moral universe bend toward Justice. It makes human nature bend toward God.
It has been alleged that no one thinks that way today, Martin Luther King did. "The arch of the Moral universe is Long but it bends toward Justice.  The places where we will really see this analogical view (or ontological SN--my terms) is in the orthodox Church and some kinds of Catholics.  There is a concept that is essentially the same view of harmony but through embarrassment hides the SN in the univocal. That is the theologically liberal univocal view of the 20th century. Catholic theologian Carl Rahner: "The supernatural existential refers to God’s free fulfillment of a human person’s openness to being through God’s 'self gift' of grace. Rahner holds that we have been created from the very beginning for the grace of God’s self communication. For Rahner, the supernatural existential indicates 'the permeation of our existence by the gratuitous divine self- communication even prior to human response.....'" I also cou8nt Paul Tillich in this view, Even though he rejected the term SN I think he clearly approved of the view of Fairweather. I think it was the common misconception to which he objected.  We see the same univocal tendency in John Macquarrie. Like Tillich he's hiding the divine in the natural but leaves it a connection with what the modernists vie would call "SN" through the juxtaposition of finite to infinite, rather than nature and SN.  The difference in the liberal view as portrayed here is that I want to preserve the original language of the faith and call it SN, they want ot hide the SN in the natural.
I will Give the atheists this much: the enlightenment univocal view became so pervasive that that';sall we see. Evemdm moderm lberal theologions like Tillicjh who have the Concept ofGrce owrlkking in natjre an d nature respmskingf to the higherlevel opf Grace couch it in temvother than sup[ernatual or lean to to the univoclo lside. They have the right concept butthey repudiate the term SN because they identify it with the hijack which hads beomce traditional. So really my work is an attempt at resurrecting the older dcocpet bur the structurevof it is there invmodern liberal tehology.
In his exposition on the Meaning of SN part 2 Bradly Bowen defines both SN and natural in that order. will start with Natural first. He takes definition from American Heritage Dictionary:
NATURALPresent in or produced by nature.
Of, pertaining to, or concerning nature: natural science.
Conforming to the usual or ordinary course of nature: a natural death.
a. Not aquired; inherent: Love of power is natural to man. b. Having a particular character by nature: a natural leader.
Free from affectation or artificiality; spontaneous.
Not altered, treated, or disguised: natural coloring.
Faithfully representing nature or life.
Expected and accepted: Marriage seemed the natural and logical sequence to love.
- See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/06/06/what-does-supernatural-mean-part2/#disqus_thread
The first definition references natural science. So clearly this is based upon the post enlightenment dichotomy that recognizes modern science. This definition of nature presupposed a contrast to Supernature. His definition of supernatural:
Of or pertaining to existence outside the natural world.
Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural laws; miraculous.
Of or pertaining to a deity.
(The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College edition, p.1221, emphasis added)All three definitions seem relevant, at least initially. However, the third definition is clearly too narrow, taken by itself. When I use the word “supernatural” I have in mind more than just God and the attributes of God, and more than just dieties in general. I have in mind, for example: ESP, angels, magic, ghosts, levitation, demons, mind-reading, and souls, in addition to God and the finite gods of polytheistic religions.Note that “supernatural” in the first and second senses is defined in terms of the word “natural”, specifically in terms of the phrases “the natural world” and “natural laws”. The third definition of “supernatural” is the only definition that does not use the word “natural” as part of the definition.