Secondary Causes

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Dan Brown
Lawrence Krauss
Ex Nihilo
Deep Europan Sea
Pray and Do Nothing

Dan Brown

Christians throughout history have thought that God works, in the main, through secondary causes: that He serves us our daily bread on the table, not in defiance of natural law, but in accord with it. The natural world we see around us is no chaotic swamp, but a law-abiding commonwealth. Natural law is not alien to God, because He is the law-giver: "The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1). "The real law is God's speech." (Vern S. Poythress, Inerrancy and Worldview, Kindle location 533). The "ordinances," or laws, of the heavens, are those ordinance which He has proclaimed:

“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth?” (Job 38:33);
“Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): 'If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.'” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

“Thus says the Lord: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’” (Jeremiah 33:25-26).

This was not the way the pagans thought it worked. The message was not lost on Christian Bible-readers: they understood that nature, like the human commonwealth, has been given its own law code, which it obeys:

"If then sun and moon and stars, having been appointed by the divine law to perform their proper courses, and 'to be also for signs and for seasons and for days, and for years,' do not disregard their code of laws, what excuse can still be left for you to obtain pardon if you despise the laws of God?" (Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, Book VII, Chapter X, Kindle location 5001).

The concept of natural law is Judaeo-Christian origin; as Eusebius realized, ". . .we have been unable to find anything like this among the theologians of the nations. . ." (Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel, Book VII, Chapter X). The pagans had a concept of nature, but not as the realm of law.

Though there are occasions when God works in a way contrary to common expectation, as when He multiplied the loaves and fishes, we also thank Him for our daily bread when no laws of physics have been defied in its production. As Paul pointed out, the created world proclaims its Creator (Romans 1:20), not in spite of, but because the world is lawful, and because the world is intelligible. Intelligibility implies intelligence. The Bible says we live in a natural world governed by law, and alert Bible-readers always so understood it to say: ". . .and looking upon nature herself to be, what in fact she is, the most ancient and duly established of laws. . ." (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, Chapter 1).

It is not uncommon for unbelievers to allow God a role only in that which is contrary to nature. Notice the lengths to which this is carried by Dan Brown, who sets up an 'either/or:' either an earthquake is a "geologic event," or it reveals the wrath of God:

  • "'We no longer turn to God for answers as to why the skies drop hail or why plagues spread. Science has answered those questions,' Brown said."
  • (On His Home Turf, Public Discussion: Dan Brown, Maine Sunday Telegram, April 30, 2006, p. E3).

  • "It used to be that the recent earthquakes in Mexico would be seen as punishment by an angry god, and now even the most religious among us would see that as a geologic event, we wouldn't see it as a religious event."

  • (Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown Says He Has Abandoned Christianity, but Is Not an Atheist, Christian Post, by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter, October 24, 2017).

LogoIt is difficult to imagine who the people are who would not perceive an earthquake as a "geologic event," which it is by definition. The guiding principle behind this thinking, to the extent that anyone is thinking here, is that only those natural events can be traced to God's hand which have no analogue, no precursor, no explanation. But it isn't only natural events contrary to law that reveal God's mighty hand. The lawfulness of nature is itself testimony to its legislator, who calls His creation by name: "He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name." (Psalm 147:4). Yet when geology happened, when the great Lisbon earthquake occurred, the atheists attempted to drive God out of His universe by pointing to this fearsome disaster:

"'Come, ye philosophers, who cry, 'All's well,'
And contemplate this ruin of a world,
Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,
This child and mother heaped in common wreck,
These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—
A hundred thousand whom the earth devours. . .'" (Voltaire, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit, p. 153).

Though no atheist ever has been able to explain in coherent fashion why natural disasters disprove the existence of God, the subject excites much hand-waving on their part:

Problem of Evil

Logo While these events may well show that populations who perceived themselves as uniquely favored by God were not necessarily so, how this becomes elided to 'God does not exist' is unclear. Perhaps they confuse 'God' with a political ruling class and its defenders.

Enlightenment thinkers sought to tie God's own hands by the very lawfulness of His creation. Though they admitted God had set the system up, they tried to make its very abundance of order squeeze out His providential care of the world. No room was left for God's free action, they alleged, in a natural order whose sequence of cause and effect rolled on inexorably.

But this boast proved impossible to sustain. Science could not demonstrate an iron-clad determinism without exit or entrance, but was ultimately obliged to admit some events, especially those very small, could be predicted only to a level of statistical likelihood. God's freedom is preserved, because in fact there is no random event: "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will." (Matthew 10:29). Casting lots, the very epitome of a 'chance' event, is under God's hand: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD." (Proverbs 16:33). Although God is free to bring His wonders to pass by whatever means He chooses, the law-abiding character of nature, in subjection to Him, is no argument against His governance, just as the law-abiding character of a well-governed commonwealth is no proof that anarchy prevails:

"What, if the result alone had been announced, would have seemed impossible, and hence miraculous in its accomplishment, was brought about by a chain of events, each linked to the other by natural causation. It is this naturalness, in many cases, of the supernatural which most shows that 'Jehovah reigneth.' What He has promised in His grace that He bringeth about in His providence."

(Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History: Old Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim Book 4) (Kindle Locations 10175-10177).

God is not embarrassed or put to shame that His creation follows laws; it is He who wrote the laws. Man should be embarrassed that he fails to follow suit.

Da Vinci Code

Holy, Holy, Holy

  • "One needs to go to much higher levels of confidence, especially if the claim being made disagrees with all other evidence. It is hard to think of a grander claim than evidence for a divine being who creates the universe without apparent purpose, dominated by dark matter and dark energy and containing hundreds of billions of galaxies, lets it evolve untouched for billions of years, and then roughly a million years into human evolution decides to intervene at a time before Youtube or any other objective recording and archiving tool was available."
  • (Lawrence Krauss, Post-Debate Reflections, Is There Evidence For God?, William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss, March 30, 2011).

Lawrence Krauss

Whose views is Lawrence Krauss summarizing above? Who is it who believes that God, having had no involvement with the world for billions of years, all of a sudden began intervening in an alien world created by some rival power several thousand years ago? One realizes with a start that, since Lawrence Krauss, a great crowd favorite with the atheists, does not believe in God, he can only be summarizing what he believes to be the view held by theists! This idea, of an intruder God whose only relation to the world is disruption, is as alien to the theistic mind as would be this stranger-God to the world. God does work wonders, suspending the normal, established ways the world works, such as the conservation of matter and energy:

"One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten." (John 6:8-13).

. . .though some readers think this is a miracle of sharing rather than something for nothing. Who but the lawgiver has the power to change or suspend the law?: "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:12). This lawgiver legislates not only for mankind, but for inanimate objects as well: "Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?" (Job 38:33). The laws in this case are not given by one power, then broken by a rival power, against whom the first then sets off in pursuit.

God is no intruder coming along late in time who, finding a world built by a rival power, begins meddling with it. He creates and sustains the world; His governance is rule by law. Traditional theologians used to say that the act by which God sustains the world is the same as that by which He created. His governance is by no means hostile to the concept of law; if on occasion He does mighty deeds not normally seen in the course of nature, it is only to put the stamp of authorship on His revelation.

How, incidentally, do atheists like Krauss understand this undeniable fact about the universe: that not only men, but planets, galaxies, flowers and trees are subject to law? I will tell you their answer, if you promise not to laugh. Here is the fable: there are a gazillion universes, indeed an actual infinity of 'em. We cannot see the other ones, nor ever will be able to, because they are over there beyond the blue, beyond our sight, just over the event horizon. Thus, conveniently enough, our tale can never be falsified by observation; we can safely repeat it, though it is not science. Now it is perplexing of course that nature should obey law. Why should the natural world show constant, predictable, and intelligible patterns and inter-relations? If there is no intelligence expressing itself in nature, then why should the signal ring so clear, rather than random noise? Well, you see, lots of those other universes were lawless,— you know, those ones we can never see or experience, so this theory can never be falsified,— this one we are stuck in, the only one we can experience, just happens to be one of the lawful ones. Luck of the draw! Because, you see, some universes just happen to be lawful, others lawless, like Dodge City. These latter are the ones where, on Tuesday, water burns, on Wednesday, it quenches fire, on Thursday, it bubbles, and then on Friday, it's Monday. This is not a theory we can test, because we can never see any of those other universes, but rather a bed-time story to tell atheists to quiet their uneasy dreams.


Something From Nothing

Ex Nihilo

The pagan philosopher Plato, a theist of sorts, believed that God created the world, but not altogether: He pieced it together by organizing pre-existing matter. This view was popular at the time and to this day something similar is defended by the Mormons. The gnostics based their world-view on this concept, which follows from the perception that there is something degraded or illusory about matter. To distinguish their view from this perennially popular rival philosophy, Christians speak of creation ex nihilo, i.e. 'from nothing.'

It is not their intention in so speaking to deny the principle of sufficient reason, which is sometimes summarized as 'from nothing nothing comes,' because God Himself is the sufficient reason for His creation. Rather, they intend to deny the supposition of pre-existing matter, whether uncreated as the Mormons now believe, or created by a lesser god as the gnostics used to believe. There is no need to supplement the Genesis account of creation to teach creation 'ex nihilo,' because "the heaven and the earth" include everything and exclude nothing created. Since there is no suggestion anywhere in the Bible that there is any world-constituent (other than God) which is uncreated, there is no special need to run down the list. The burden of proof must rest with those who claim part of the world is uncreated, only Moses 'forgot' to mention it. Jews and Christians in the early days did explicitly understand creation, contra Plato, to include the creation of matter: "I beg you, child, look at the sky and the earth; see all that is in them and realize that God made them out of nothing, and that man comes into being in the same way." (2 Maccabees 7:28, New English Bible).

Psalm 148 gives an extensive catalog of creation, though of course no catalog can be extensive enough to foil those casting about for some unmentioned thing that they can thus present as uncreated, a cut-out for 'primordial chaos;' all of which are bound by "decree," i.e. by statute:

Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

"Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire, and hail; snow, and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD." (Psalm 148).

Mormons do not embrace the teachings of Plato, nor did the early gnostics embrace the doctrine which Joseph Smith took from the materialists of the nineteenth century, that matter was uncreated, eternal and indestructible; rather, they believed it to be the inadvertent creation of a fallen, incompetent power. This view dove-tailed with a generally negative estimation of matter and all those things created therefrom. Much of that negativity rubs off on the God of Israel who created this material world, who is generally mocked and disgraced in gnostic literature. The Mormons, who look forward expectantly to a sexually active eternity, have taken some of these old ideas in an unexpected direction.

Mormon Doctrine

LogoIt is striking to realize there were some in the early church whose prior commitment to Plato was so intense they could convince themselves the Bible simply 'forgets' to mention there is a major constituent of the world, matter, which is as uncreated as God but whose existence simply goes unmentioned. Nevertheless the Bible is what determines Christian doctrine, not the pagan philosopher Plato. The Bible knows two categories: Creator, and creation; there is no third category, 'uncreated, but found.' John in his prologue teaches about the Creator and creation: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3). Where is there any mention that the 'stuff'' of which the world is made, matter, was in no way created by God, He simply found it here? Or in Colossians 1:16-17, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." There is an 'elephant in the room' problem with these verses if, as the Mormons claim, God did not create everything that is, but simply found all kinds of stuff laying around and began busily 'organizing' it, as a human workman would do.

Any intelligent agent, including man, can 'organize' existing matter into a designed form; this is what a builder does when he 'creates' a house. But the Bible teaches that God's creative work is unique. He alone,— not us, not any 'organizer,'— calls the things that are not as if they were:

"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." (Romans 4:16-17).

Where is there an example of this manner of creating? When God called the world into being, saying 'Let there be light,' etc.:

The Word of God

Logo The second-century Christian author Theophilus of Antioch had already heard of the idea that God created by organizing pre-existent matter, and he gives credit where credit is due: this is the view taught by Plato and believed by his followers:

  • "But Plato and those of his school acknowledge indeed that God is uncreated, and the Father and Maker of all things; but then they maintain that matter as well as God is uncreated, and aver that it is coeval with God. But if God is uncreated and matter uncreated, God is no longer, according to the Platonists, the Creator of all things, nor, so far as their opinions hold, is the monarchy of God established. And further, as God, because He is uncreated, is also unalterable; so if matter, too, were uncreated, it also would be unalterable, and equal to God; for that which is created is mutable and alterable, but that which is uncreated is immutable and unalterable. And what great thing is it if God made the world out of existent materials? For even a human artist, when he gets material from some one, makes of it what he pleases. But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases; just as the bestowal of life and motion is the prerogative of no other than God alone. For even man makes indeed an image, but reason and breath, or feeling, he cannot give to what he has made. But God has this property in excess of what man can do, in that He makes a work, endowed with reason, life, sensation. As, therefore, in all these respects God is more powerful than man, so also in this; that out of things that are not He creates and has created things that are, and whatever He pleases, as He pleases."
  • (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus).

LogoIt cannot be supposed that all men are born Platonists,—the Mormons themselves are not Platonists,—and so there is no reason to read this distinctive teaching of the Platonic school back into the Bible, although those who subscribe to it may be tempted to do so.

Some, but not all, of the Rabbis concur with the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo: "Cf. Genesis R. 1: 'The philosopher said, "Your God is a great Craftsman, but He found good materials which were of assistance to Him in the work of Creation, viz. TOHU, BOHU, darkness, spirit, water and the deeps." The Rabbi answered, "A curse alight upon you!" In connection with all of them Scripture mentions that they were created. . .'" (quoted p. 166, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, W. D. Davies).

It's been said, "Einstein said, 'God does not play dice.' He was right. God plays Scrabble.'" (quoted Kindle location 898, Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator). See:


Intelligent Design

LogoDeep Europan Sea

In the nineteenth century, Louis Pasteur closed the door on the old idea of spontaneous generation. Prior to his time it had been widely assumed that there were worms not parented by other worms:

". . .for a worm which is generated from animals has not the aspect of generation and sonship. . ." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 27, A(2).)

. . .namely, worms which arose, spontaneously, from putrefaction:

"The senses are witness that something is generated out of the sacramental species, either ashes, if they be burned, worms if they putrefy, or dust if they be crushed." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 3, Question 77, A(5).)

Imagine believing that the mystery life-forms pulsating within the forgotten jars in the back of your refrigerator started right there. To show that this is not so, place a steak out in the open air, and another in sterile conditions, under a bell jar. Soon the steak left out in the open will be crawling with maggots and worms, but not the steak isolated from the environment. Life comes from life; it does not arise spontaneously when conditions are favorable. But for a very long time, many people, some of them Biblically learned Christians, thought otherwise:

"And there are innumerable kinds of worms not produced from sexual intercourse; some in the neighborhood of Venice come from trees, which they [Manichaeans] should eat, since there is not the same reason for their being unclean. Besides, there are the frogs produced by the earth after a shower of rain." (Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book VI, Section 8, The Complete Works of Saint Augustine, Kindle location 177967).

Let me hasten to note, that "frogs produced by the earth" is a null set; the man needed, but lacked, a microscope. He had a Bible. In imagining there were "pure frogs, daughters of heaven and earth," spontaneously sprung to life, he erred. What is striking is that, during all the long centuries prior to Louis Pasteur when many able men labored to interpret and understand the Bible, the Bible verse which states life cannot arise in this way escaped their view. And by the way, what is that verse? If you believe what you hear on Christian radio, you would think the Bible says little fishes cannot swim within the blue Europan sea. It says no such thing. Joining hands with the secularists, they have expelled God from nature, allowing Him just one chance to intervene in His own creation.

The heroic story of Louis Pasteur's achievement we all learned as children involves a slight bit of over-statement, because both Pasteur and his critics, like naturalist Felix Pouchet, failed to realize that some micro-organisms are not killed by vigorous boiling. Life can hang on even in hot springs. Pouchet's experiments with boiled hay infusions, intended to verify spontaneous generation, were probably legitimate so far as they went: "In fact, it is almost certain that Pouchet's hay was infected with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. This amazing bacterium can survive extremely high temperatures and will increase in numbers rapidly on exposure to oxygen. The sterilizing precautions of neither Pasteur nor Pouchet could eradicate these tenacious organisms." (John Waller, Fabulous Science, pp. 26-27). The germ theory of life would have been even more amazing, too amazing to believe, if these men had realized how very hard it can be to kill off these little critters.


Moral Evolution

  • "He sends the springs into the valleys;
    They flow among the hills.
  • "They give drink to every beast of the field;
    The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
  • "By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
    They sing among the branches.
  • "He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
    The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
  • "He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
    And vegetation for the service of man,
    That he may bring forth food from the earth. . ."
  • (Psalm 104:10-14).

LogoPray and Do Nothing

What value do you get nowadays for the price of a Harvard education? Why, you learn that people who pray are people who put forth no effort to make whatever it is they are praying for, happen. For example, people who pray for 'our daily bread,' do not go out and plant the wheat crop in the back forty. Why would they, when they expect God to drive up in a delivery van and deliver a sack of flour? See:

“Discussing his book, [Harvard professor Steven] Pinker said, 'It is not against religion. It is certainly against the belief that God interferes with the laws of the universe and that by praying to him we can make the world better. I think that is a dangerous belief because it’s not true. If we want to make the world better, we have to figure out how to do it ourselves. If we want to cure disease, we have to come up with antibiotics and vaccines and not prayer'. . .He added, 'If you’re counting on God to make the world a better place you are probably going to make the world a worse place because he is not listening and we saw that yesterday.'” (, Harvard Professor Pinker: Where Was God When Florida Massacre Happened?, by Pam Key, February 18, 2018).

Notice that, in his view, there is a disjunction between doing productive things and praying; if you pray, you will therefore do nothing. This is however not normally the way this matter is viewed. It is expected that the person praying for his daily bread will also visit the supermarket to buy the stuff, and not only that, but will pay for it with his own money besides. Insisting that it appear miraculously on the table is thought rude and presumptuous. It might even be considered lazy and irresponsible. So why thank God when it does appear, harvested, ground, baked, bought and paid for, not having violated any known laws of nature, on the table? Should we say instead, 'Thanks for nothing, we paid for this food'?:

'Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman maketh but in vain. Around the wall the sentinels pace with constant step; but yet the city is betrayed unless the unsleeping Watcher is with them. We are not safe because of watchmen if Jehovah refuses to watch over us. Even if the guards are wakeful, and do their duty, still the place may be surprised if God be not there. “I, the Lord, do keep it,” is better than an army of sleepless guards. Note that the Psalmist does not bid the builder cease from labouring, nor suggest that watchmen should neglect their duty, nor that men should show their trust in God by doing nothing: nay, he supposes that they will do all that they can do, and then he forbids their fixing their trust in what they have done and assures them that all creature effort will be in vain unless the Creator puts forth his power, to render second causes effectual. Holy Scripture endorses the order of Cromwell—“Trust in God, and keep your powder dry”: only here the sense is varied, and we are told that the dried powder will not win the victory unless we trust in God. Happy is the man who hits the golden mean by so working as to believe in God, and so believing in God as to work without fear.”
(Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David (Kindle Locations 78592-78600). GLH Publishing. Psalm 127).

If God ceased to uphold us, we would cease to exist. What is Professor Pinker counting on then? Our own efforts to re-establish our existence? Pulling yourself up by your book-straps has its limits; it does not work for non-entities. However God has not called us to sit and do nothing either: "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Psalm 6:9-11). If we are following His instructions, we will not do nothing. Is it really possible that when young Pinker went over his friends' house for supper, and they said grace, he thought they were saying, 'We don't want this crummy food we had to work for, we want it sent down by drone.' Some would dislike that sentiment, saying instead, "May we, born anew like morning, To labor rise; Gird us for the task that calls us, Let not ease and self enthrall us, Strong through thee whate'er befall us, O God most wise!" (God, That Madest Earth and Heaven, Reginald Heber, Frederick Hosmer). In any case he seems to be missing the point just a bit.


The early church had a problem. The best contemporary secular astronomy described a complex structure comprised of nested, clear, solid spheres stretching from the earth to the most distant stars. Yet the Bible seemed to know nothing about any such structure, describing the heavens more in terms of stretched fabric. What to? Just wait them out. There ain't no spheres. While flat-earthism was a ploy of desperation, there really are problems with Ptolemaic astronomy which should not be swept under the rug:


Flat Earthers


A good example of the 'either/or' mentality came up recently, offered by a nominally Christian governor of the State of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Instead of ranking causes in a hierarchy, as used to be done, this worthy announced that there can be only one: if man, then not God:

"'Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do, how we act, will dictate how that virus spreads.'" (Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking to CNN, quoted at Christian News (, by Heather Clark, April 15, 2020, 'NY Gov. Cuomo on Coronovarius Stats: "We Brought the Number Down. God Did Not Do That."')

It would be better to say, with God's word, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. (Psalm 127:1). This is not to say the builders should lay down their tools, as useless; but God has the final say. Indeed, whatever behavior the governor is boasting of, it did not stop the spread of the virus. In modern days we lack any authorizied and certified prophetic guild to explain God's ways to man. Back when candidates for the post were more readily available, they often explained pestilence as God's judgment on a fallen society. While lacking prophetic revelation, it is empty speculation to wonder how this latest scourge fits into God's plan, still it seems likely the conservative program for the inhabitants of the State of New York to pursue, if they wish the killing to stop, is to tell their garrulous, self-promoting, blaspheming governor to shut up.

The practice of quarantine goes back in human history, well before the plague era of the fourteenth century. In fact it goes back to Leviticus. No physical basis for such practices was known or suspected during the plague years; the useless medical science of the day insisted all depended upon the four 'humors,' and could achieve nothing. It would be remarkable enough if Moses' law and the nascent science of Europe had discovered these practices independently; but they were not discovered independently, where adopted, the practice of quarantine was borrowed from the Bible, and practiced on a purely empirical basis, because it worked, not because anyone could explain how it worked. God did not tell us to pray and do nothing, when it came to disease; He gave us a valuable key to unlocking the mystery. Face masks are another instance where it would be wise to follow His advice:

Leviticus What For?
Hansen's Disease Nay-Sayers
For the Other Side Surgeon General
Manuduction Evolution of a Curve
Chivalry Vitamin D

Face Mask

Typhoid Mary called down a curse on those who took away her liberty: "The reporter quoted Mary Mallon: "As there is a God in Heaven, I will get justice, somehow, sometime,' she insisted." (Typhoid Mary, Judith Walzer Leavitt, p. 142). It could be that her imprecation, which glanced away without effect at the time, fell down upon us all in the latter days. While Mary herself was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever who could and did infect others, 40 million inhabitants of the state of California, few of whom were even imagined to be infected with the Corona virus or capable of disseminating it, were imprisoned within their homes just as if they were felons. Let us hope they don't try this stunt again. Liberty is not a thing of no value, it is our most precious possession.

Not to suggest that the evangelical church covered itself in glory in the interim. Initially, John MacArthur's megachurch was closed, the same as the other churches in California, during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, when the churches were allowed to reopen, they too reopened, having hosted online church and such stop-gaps in the meantime. But one thing online church doesn't do well is pay the rent. Collections had fallen off, so John MacArthur began putting out the most preposterous made-up statistics about the disease that was hitting him in the pocketbook so rudely: that 99.99% of those who contract the disease recover just fine, etc. It's a disgrace to the human race that anyone behaved so selfishly and stupidly in a time of national crisis. But this does not imply there is any inherent contradiction between evangelicalism and science; it just means greedy people gonna be greedy.



God works His wonders, sometimes through the means of secondary causes, like the east wind:

"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22).

. . .at other times through His mere fiat. Both natural law and miracles are works of God:

"Natural law is a description of the way God acts regularly in and through creation (Ps. 104:10-14), whereas a miracle is the way God acts on special occasions. So both miracles and natural law involve the activity of God. The difference is that natural law is the regular, repeatable, and predictable way God acts, whereas a miracle is not." (Norman Geisler, Miracles and the Modern Mind, Chapter 11).

It may seem unbalanced and asymmetrical to say that both natural law and miracles are the products of the same mind, the same agent, but the annals of the behavior of free agents will provide many analogues and similar cases. What does it mean to be free, if you have to do it the same way every time? It is customary to distinguish between providence, God's governance of the world according to His own established laws, and the miraculous, His direct action over, above, and even against those same established laws, which, it is important to realize, are His own laws. "Providence refers to God's activity in the affairs of men without direct supernatural intervention." (God's Word in our Hands, edited by James B. Williams, Kindle location 8483). What is a miracle? What would "direct supernatural intervention" look like, and can we know for a fact, without further inquiry, that such could never occur?:

An Example Cautionary Note
The Enlightenment Benedict de Spinoza
Pinball Machine David Hume
Natural Explanations Prophecy


Logo One of the things you are always hearing from atheists is how Christians stifled medicine, by stimulating the belief in miracles:

"The world is hardly beyond the beginning of medical discoveries, yet they have already taken from theology what was formerly its strongest province — sweeping away from this vast field of human effort that belief in miracles which for more than twenty centuries has been the main stumblingblock in the path of medicine; and in doing this they have cleared higher paths not only for science, but for religion." (Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology, p. 444).

Back in the real world, Jesus' miraculous healings no more stifled medicine than His exhortation to pray for "our daily bread" put an end to agriculture. Nevertheless, this authority assures us, "The old theological theory, that 'vain is the help of man,' checked scientific thought and paralyzed sanitary endeavor." (Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology, p. 461). Any such "theological theory," that 'vain is the help of man,' seems rather selective in its application, not having stifled improvements in munitions and the like. The 'logic' of these authors is that, if, afflicted with illness you pray for healing, then you will not seek a remedy for the sickness, and thus medical science will perish. Can it be proven that people in the middle ages prayed? Yes, though not in Biblical accents; access to the Bible was often denied them. Well, that explains the plagues! Of course, you can prove also that people in the twenty-first century pray, which impedes the progress of medicine not one centimeter per century.

To be sure there are some Christians who discourage resort to medicine: "Trusting in medicine was, in her view, antithetical to trusting in God. 'Throw physic to the dogs,' she proclaimed, 'and take the standard prescription which comes down with the power and the Holy Ghost.'" (Maria Woodworth Etter the Evangelist, by Steven Phipps, Kindle location 773). But this is to dictate to God how He will achieve His wonders. For most of human history, the profession of medicine was a mixed blessing. For many centuries, doctors, who relied on Galen's authority and practiced blood-letting as a universal cure, relied on mystification and the placebo effect to avoid being lynched: "The renowned physician, chemist, priest, and asrologer Arnau de Villanova — born in Milan around 1240, and eventually a resident of Barcelona — even admitted so much: if you don't understand the case, he said, just mention obstruction, because 'they do not understand what it means, and it helps greatly that a term is not understood by the people.'" (Passions and Tempers, Noga Arkiha, p. 84). The pagan Galen had allowed theory to get way ahead of practice, and there was very little practical good they could do for people. It is only in the past century or so that the 'empirics,' as they used to be called, have reliably been doing more good than harm to those subject to their ministrations. This long and sorry history of harming people is not quite over yet: just think of the lobotomy, which caught on like wildfire in mid-twentieth century. In spite of this, there is no instruction in scripture to avoid patronizing them.

The idea that you must rid the world of prayer to see progress in medical science is absurd. . .although one must concede to this author's deeply deceitful propaganda campaign (what is 'theology'? How does it differ, or does it, from the 'gospel'? Why is it sometimes Christian, sometimes admittedly pagan, but always laid at the doorstep of the church? Why must the church answer for the survival of pagan superstitions like the existence of werewolves? Who answers for ideas which originated in materialistic science, which were wrong and harmful but at times advanced by medieval universities under Christian leadership?) that he's not the only person who has ever thought along those lines. Mary Baker Eddy, who believed disease was unreal, and matter itself rather 'iffy,' discouraged her acolytes from seeking medical care, on grounds that they were fanning an illusion:

Mary Baker Eddy

You will not find many Christians who deny to God the use of means. The story goes, the river begins to rise, and the householder is driven to the attic by the flood tide. A small boat piloted by a neighbor cruises by, and the neighbor, seeing him peering through the attic window, asks him, 'Do you want a lift?' 'No, thanks,' says the man, 'I'm waiting for God to save me.' The neighbor's boat putters off. A larger craft piloted by the firemen shows up; 'Here, get in our boat!' they shout to the man, now perched atop the roof-line. 'No, thanks,' he says, 'I'm waiting for God to save me.' Last of all, a National Guard helicopter hovers overhead and drops down a harness, but the man refuses to grab it, protesting, 'No thanks, I'm waiting for God to save me!' The National Guardsmen shrug and are off. Throughout the water keeps rising, and at last the struggling, drowning man sinks to rise no more. He was a Christian, though, and standing at last before the throne of God, he protests, 'God, I specifically asked you to save me from drowning!' 'What do you want?' asks God. 'I sent you two boats and a helicopter!' The story is intended as a joke, but no one has shared the punch-line with this tribe of 'scientific' authors.

As we've seen, no sparrow falls to the ground without the Father:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will." (Matthew 10:29).

What this does not mean is that, 'gravity does not exist.' Certainly if the sparrow fell to the ground, gravity played a role in this event; a dead or injured sparrow in a zero-gravity environment would not fall to the ground. And the fowler's blast, hawk attack or illness must have worked their harm, to have caused the sparrow to deviate from his flight plan. Jesus is not saying that the sole and only cause for sparrow mortality is God's wrath. All events which occur in this world are within God's permissive will at the very least. People like Andrew Dickson White adopt a reductive scheme of causation. Of, say, Aristotle's four-fold understanding of causation, they leave standing only the efficient cause, and only such efficient causes as are of material nature. What motivates adoption of this model of the world, that it is an immense field of dominoes each of whose fall is brought on by a shove from the posterior domino? Whence comes this universe where there is naught but atoms and the void? It is a mechanistic ideal, espoused by some, but brought into full realization by no one ever:

"This is how Walter Charleton, writing in 1654, summarized what would soon be called the mechanical philosophy. . .'Consider we, that the General Laws of Nature, whereby she produceth All Effects, by the Action of one and Passion of another thing, as may be collected from sundry of our praecedent Discertations, are these: (1.) That every Effect must have its Cause; (2) That no Cause can act but by Motion; (3) That Nothing can act upon a Distant subject, or upon such whereunto it is not actually Praesent, either by itself, or by some instrument, and that either Conjunct, or Transmitted; and consequently, that no body can move another, but by contact Mediate, or Immediate, i.e. by the mediation of some continued Organ, and that a Corporeal one too, or by itself alone.'" (Quoted p. 513, The Invention of Science, David Wootton, spelling as in the original).

This mechanistic, billiard-ball universe has been a dream, a desideratum, but fell far short of achievement, even when its goals were widely accepted. Charleton's 'Goads, Poles, Levers' are absent even from Newton's gravity. They recede further into the distance with time; quantum mechanics is like this even less than Newtonian mechanics. Aristotle's scheme, by contrast, underlies many an explanatory narrative to this day, in a far from tendentious way. When, in your morning stroll, you come across a new house that wasn't there before, this demands an explanation. It didn't come from nowhere! There is of course the material cause: without a pile of bricks, and mortar to bind them together, no house would have risen from the dirt. Then there is the formal cause, the architect's plan,— even if only a contractor's sketch on the back of an envelope. It's not a shapeless heap after all! Lest we forget, unless a work crew had shown up when their presence was demanded, and laid brick to brick in a line,— the efficient cause,— there would be no house. And without the final cause, the homeowner's desire for more spacious quarters, the process would never have got underway in the first place. I'm not arguing in favor of that particular scheme, but to say, because there are bricks, that therefore there is no architect, is a futile way to argue: there is not one, and only one, cause for each entity, event, or circumstance in this life. Certainly White is correct in pointing out that poor sanitation plays a role in epidemics, as Christians like Lister discovered, though it does not cause them; some of these authors seem to want to return to the old miasma theory. Christians like Jenner and Pasteur saved many lives by their discoveries. But to say that, because germs cause disease, therefore prayer is futile, is missing the point in a monumental way. God's will is not a contributing cause, because nothing happens outside of it; but neither are micro-organisms uninvolved by-standers. And, by the way, how many lives were lost to the miasma theory? Who answers for those?

What went wrong with medicine? Its history is one of massive underachievement, and it's difficult to see why. Far from showing hostility to this venture, Christians opened hospitals to provide nursing and medical care to the indigent, but it's not clear whether, up until the middle of the nineteenth century, these sufferers were really benefited by a doctor's care, more than they were harmed. To this day, by some counts, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death; but the way they used to kill people wasn't by 'mistake.' Medicine, from its start among the Greeks, proposed to itself the method of empiricism; indeed, 'Empiric' is an old name for a doctor. And the theories that were adopted early on were faultlessly materialistic, if that's what you're looking for. The theory of the four humors ascribed as universal cause for disease an imbalance in the body's quantities of blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. Therefore as 'therapy' they would bleed the patient, reducing the supposed excess. How many lives did they cut short by doing that? Even the father of our country, George Washington, may have made an early exit thanks to the learned doctors.

You cannot blame Christian doctrine for any of this, though they do; the theory of the four humors, which predates the proclamation of the gospel, is an instance of reductive materialism which has no resonance with any Biblical theme. Its founders were pagans, as were the founders of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy and many other things they blame Christians for. 'Not invented here' is no excuse in the eyes of these accusers; not only do they blame Christianity for inherited secular science, but for superstitious folk beliefs and practices they themselves realize were survivals of paganism. Paganism, after all, is just as 'theological' as is Christianity.

Atheists have no concept of moral accountability, so you'll never see an apology for all the thousands of needless deaths caused by this misguided therapy. Nor will you ever see an apology for any of the other unhelpful and unavailing therapies suggested by all manner of false and discredited scientific theories, which now seem laughable. At the time this out-of-control theorizing was taken seriously, and so people died, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. Nor did self-policing by the medical profession ever put an end to this kind of thing; rather, the political process, from the outside, imposed on them the discipline of the Food and Drug Administration. Where that agency cannot reach, it's still the same old business as usual: Freudian psychotherapy, a totally quack form of therapy that never cured anyone of anything, although it swallowed millions of dollars, caught on like lightning in the twentieth century. It had no therapeutic efficacy whatsoever. Yet they cannot stop talking about how brave and heroic they are, for making up nonsense, simply because the nonsense is not religious:


Sigmund Freud