Friday, October 14, 2011

Emprical Evidence of the Supernatural?


Yesterday I came across a typical statement on a message.

"Alchemy" on "Christian"
October 04, 2011, 07:17:59 PM »
There are many who claim to have either supernatural powers or to have experienced supernatural events. Claims of psychic abilities, EVP and ghosts have been around for 1000’s or years however, verifiable evidence of these claims continues to elude us.

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a $1,000,000 prize for anyone who can prove supernatural abilities yet this prize, which has existed for over 20 years has never been claimed.

Does any verifiable evidence of the supernatural exist?

This is a typical expression of what most people take to be "the supernatural." Yet it's not a valid expression of the Christian concept. If we bother to fix the concept and deal with the Christian idea then we do have empirical evidence of the SN. He names off a few things that are typical of his notion of the supernatural: Claims of psychic abilities, EVP and ghosts yet these are not indicative of the Christian idea of the SN. Not sure what EVP is. apparently it's recordings of silence and when played back latter there are voices (see the link).

One of the most helpful sources for understanding this topic comes from a book edited by Martin E. Marty:

Eugene R. Fairweather, "Christianity and the Supernatural," in New Theology N0. 1. Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, ed. (New York: The Macmillian Company, 1964), 237.
The term "supernature" simply refers to the concept of the supernatural. But, that concept is much changed in modern parlance. The term first originated with Pseudo-Dionysus around 500 CE. In modern terms it refers to anything wired, or beyond the normal course of cause and effect; the occult, psychic powers, and so on. In scholastic terminology, however, it is two things: the realm of the transcendent (or God's presence beyond the created order), or the power to God to alter the natural and bestow grace. Miracles, for example, are "supernatural effects." To say that supernature is the ground and end of nature is simply to say that God is the origin of the nature, and whatever goal or purpose is fulfilled in creation, it is fulfilled to the extent that it moves toward God's purpose. This could be a moral goal, it doesn't have to be a physical effect, because "nature" includes human nature (and primarily human nature in scholasticism). Supernature is the higher law, rooted in God's will and grace (power). see Fairweather and Scheeben.

The article by Fairweather lays out the meaning of the term as consisting of two things: On the abstract level it's an ontology. That is a part of philosophy that describes the nature of being. That nature is that the power of God is the ground and end of the natural. The natural refers to the realm of being in which life stems form life (Mathais Joesph Scheeben, Nature and Grace, 1856). "Ground and end" means the natural realm has it's basis in God, and it is toward God that it moves as a final goal. Now it may not seem like everything is moving toward God, but consider Martin Luther King's statement "the arch of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice" (from the "I have a dream" speech). What that means is all moral things move toward the idea of justice and all moral motions seek to implement justice as the final goal of moral reasoning. In the same way, nature is "moving" toward it's goal of God's will. The second aspect of the definition is that Supernature is the power of God to lift the individual to the higher level of understanding and being. That's an example of what it means to move toward the end goal. Nature, that is human nature, strives to move toward utlimate goal, the one for which it was created which is knowledge of God. So the power of God to elevate is the primary example of this ground and end of nature.

The problem in all these discussions about the supernatural is that we are dealing with a degraded concept. The notion of "Supernatural" is a misnomer to begin with, because modern people construe the idea as another place, an actual location that you can go to. It's the unseen invisible world that is filled with ghosts and magic and so forth. It's in the realm where God can heaven are, we suppose. But what they don't' realize is that this is the watered down, dilapidated concept. It's not even understood well by Christians because it was destroyed in the reformation.

The term "supernatural" comes from the term "supernauturalator" or "Supernature." Dyonisus the Areogopite (around 500ad) began talking of God as the supernaturalator, meaning that God's higher nature was the telos toward which our "lower" natures were drawn. St.Augustine has spoken of Divine nature as "Supernature" or the higher form of nature, but that is speaking of nature in you, like human nature and divine nature.

In the beginning the issue was not a place, "the realm of the supernatural" but the issue was the nature inside a man. Human nature, vs. divine nature. The Supernatural was divine nature that drew the human up to to itself and vivified it with the power (dunimos) to live a holy life. This is the sort of thing Paul was talking about when he said "when I am weak I am strong." Or "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." The weak human nature which can't resist sin is transformed by the power of the Godly nature, through the spirit and became strong enough to resist sin, to be self sacrificing, to die for others ect ect.

This was the "supernatural" prior to the reformation. It was tied in with the sacraments and the mass. That's partly why the Protestants would rebel against it. Austine (late 300s early 400s) spoke of Christians not hating rocks and trees, in answer to the assertion that Christians didn't like nature. But the extension of the natural world as "nature" didn't come until latter. The idea of "the natural" was at first based upon the idea of human nature, of biological life, life form life, that's what the Latin natural is about.

Prior to the reformation Christian theologians did not see the supernatural as a separate reality, an invisible realm, or a place where God dwells that we can't see. After the reformation reality was bifurcated. Now there came to be two realms, and they juxtaposed to each other. The realm of Supernature, is correlated to that of Grace, and is holy and sacred, but the early realm is "natural" and bad it's myered in sin and natural urges.

But all of that represents a degraded form of thinking after going throught he mill of the Protestant Catholic split. The basic split is characterized by rationalism vs feideism. The Catholics are rationalists, because they believe God is motivated by divine propose and wisdom, the Protestants were fiedeists, meaning that faith alone apart form reason because God is motivated by will and sheer acceptation, the desire to prove sovereignty above all else.

The rationalistic view offered a single harmony, a harmonious reality, governed by God's reasoned nature and orchestrated in a multifarious ways. This single reality continued a two sided nature, or a mutli-facets, but it was one harmonious reality in which human nature was regenerated through divine nature. But the Protestant view left Christian theology with two waring reality, that which is removed from our empirical knowledge and that in which we live.

The true Christian view of the Sueprnatural doesn't see the two realms as juxtaposed but as one reality in which the natural moves toward its' ground and end in divine nature. It is this tendency to move toward the ground and end, that produces miracles. A miracle is merely nature bending toward the higher aspect of Supernature.

but with the Protestant division between divine sovereignty, acceptation and will motivating the universe, we mistake univocity and equivvocity for nature and supernature. We think nature and supernature are not alike they are at war, so difference marks the relationship of the two. But to make the Supernatural more available they stress some aspect of nature and put it over against the rest of nature and pretend that makes it supernatural, this is univocity, it's the same. So will and acceptation, sovereignty, God has to prove that he is in charge, these are all aspects of univocity.

It's the natural extension of this biphercation that sets up two realms and sees nature as "everything that exits." or "all of mateiral reality" that sets up the atheist idea that supernatural is unnecessary and doesn't exist.

These are Fairweathers terms; the analogical ontology, which is juxtaposed to the "equivocal" and "univocal" views. The equivocal representing the reformed and neo-orthodox theology, the univocal representing enlightenment based liberal theology. Admittedly, Fairweather's schema is too Thomistic to be accurate, but his terms are handy descriptions of concepts which take a long time to lay out, so I use them. He speaks of the harmonious relation of immanence and transcendence as "analogical" on the assumption that religious language is merely analogy. Since the transcendent is beyond word, thought, or image, the most we can ever hope for is an analogical relation, or pure mystical experience. Of course, there is nothing to guarantee the accuracy of the analogy. But, in contrast to the other two views, the idea is that rather than losing the supernatural in the natural (which includes the materialist view as well as most liberal theology) and rather than losing the relation of nature to grace through sheer volunterism (which the reformers substituted for creative purpose in their notions of soverginty), what for Fairweather is the "correct" view, maintains some relation between creature and creator, even if we can only know that relation through analogy.

3 Fairweather, 245-253.

Fairweather traces the notion of supernatural from the early days of the Church to modern times, in summary fashion. He emphasizes the Greek, Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformers, and Paul Tillich. He argues specifically against the denigration theory.

To answer the question, there is a huge amount of empirical evidence for the supernatural. The superntural is nothing more than the power of God to lift the individual to a higher level of consciousness and spiritual existence. We have a great deal of evidence of that which we are quite justified in construing as "the power of God" at work all the time. All 200 studies on mystical experience, demonstrate the transformational effects. this is direct evidence of the supernatural, once we understand the term correctly. While waiting for the book I've written about these 200 studies (it's coming, be patient) one can find some evidence here. There is a great deal of evidence, but at the moment I can offer mostly secondary evidence. I do have organized sources that list studies.

Also 300 empirical studies on the positive effects of participation in religious devotion.

My list of seven topic areas that can be construed as evidence of Supernatural.

I am constantly pointing out to atheist how they are using the wrong concept of superntual. That makes it a straw man argument, becuase they are using a concept they themselves developed to stand in for the real thing, which they can't touch. So they are just putting forth a straw man. They just say "our straw man is what most Christians believe so that beats Christianity." makes no sense at all.

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