Supernatural Interventionism Defined and Posited


Imagine yourself dropped alone on the earth, with no prior experience. (Of course, this is what we read of Adam.)  How would you interpret the natural data you observe?  What would be one’s conclusions from the data one observed?


The first and most fundamental thing one should conclude and believe from the observation of the natural data (and that should affect all other conclusions from observing the natural data) is that the natural world one observed was supernaturally created by an intelligent Creator God (which I will hereafter call supernatural interventionism). 


“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” (Psalm 19:1)


“The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God…” (Psalm 14:1)


In other words, this natural world did not come into existence by mere chance, but was designed and created by supernatural intervention.  Nor was the natural world always this way, and simply represents the perpetual state of being, without supernatural design and creation.  One could rightly believe that an intelligent being – of which man is but a finite example – designed and created the natural world.  The natural world was not self-created or self-formed.


A second proposition one should conclude, and really a corollary of the first, is that nature and the Creator God are distinct.  In other words, the trees, rocks, stars and birds one observed are not the Creator and Designer, but that which has been created by the Creator in an act or acts of supernatural intervention.


This fundamental conclusion and belief (presupposition if you will) would be the one upon which all other conclusions and beliefs must rest and be consistent.  Any conclusion which contradicted it, or was in any way logically inconsistent with it, could be dismissed.  Let’s consider how this fundamental belief affects various possible interpretations of the natural data.  But first let’s speak to the issue of those who deny it.


There have always been a minority of humanity who deny supernatural interventionism, and various terms describe their philosophy.  For instance, naturalism is “the view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual” (Random House Dictionary, 2012).  And atheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is no God” (Random House Dictionary, 2012).  And agnosticism is “an intellectual doctrine or attitude affirming the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge” (Random House Dictionary, 2012).  The first two (naturalism and atheism) positively deny supernatural interventionism, while the last (agnosticism) rejects we can make any conclusion or have any reasonable belief on the subject.


What must we say to those who deny supernatural interventionism?  There are many topics where two people having different views can engage in productive discussion.  For example, two people who believe in the Old Testament of the Bible can productively discuss whether the New Testament revelation is consistent with it and a fulfillment of it.  Or two people with a common agreement on human anatomy and physiology can discuss what causes a particular disease in an individual.  Productive discussion on a topic generally requires common agreement on certain underlying propositions.  This issue is so fundamental that discussion which can bridge the gap between supernatural interventionism and views which reject it is quite challenging.  Productive discussion requires more common agreement.  But it is possible to show how rejection of supernatural interventionism leads to consequences that even most of its deniers are uncomfortable living with.  (For example, how does one account for morality from a perspective of naturalistic reductionism?)


What accounts for the presence of a fair number of those who deny supernatural interventionism, if supernatural interventionism should be so self-evidently true?  Referring back to Psalm 14:1, we read: “The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works…”  We must at least ask what role human conduct plays in framing our belief on this issue.  Does a person’s desire to engage in certain behavior inappropriately predispose him against accepting supernatural interventionism, given he knows that a belief in supernatural interventionism may lead to a belief in divine moral law contradicting his conduct?  But there may be and likely are other explanations why some people reject supernatural interventionism as a self-evident truth.


How does supernatural interventionism affect various possible interpretations of the natural data?  I think it has been underestimated just how significantly admission of supernatural interventionism should affect our interpretation of the natural data.  One implication of supernatural interventionism is that humans cannot know from observation of natural data alone when or by what processes the world came into being.  It is logically inconsistent with the very concept of supernatural interventionism that one can determine from natural data by what processes the world came into being, because it came into being by supernatural intervention, so it is beyond our present natural experience and natural experimentation.  And since we cannot know from the natural data alone by what processes it came into being, we also cannot know what was its condition when it came into being.  Was it created in seed form that the Creator over time made grow and flower, or did the Creator create it fully functioning and mature ex nihilo in an instant, or something in between?  Looking at the natural data only, we simply could not tell, provided we are sure in our fundamental presupposition that supernatural interventionism is a self-evident truth.


Supernatural interventionism as a concept (setting aside any divine verbal revelation) does not preclude theistic evolution as a possible process by which the Creator brought the world into its current state.  But most modern theistic evolutionists go beyond merely asserting evolution’s theoretical possibility, by asserting its certitude from observation from the natural data alone.  This involves them in a logical inconsistency.  The reason they are theistic evolutionists is because they recognize a supernatural Creator must be behind the creation, realizing the natural world cannot have come into its current existence by chance and absent supernatural intervention at some point.  But theistic evolutionists fail to recognize that once they have admitted the presence of supernatural intervention at some point, they have precluded being able to infer from the natural data alone how the natural world came into being or when it came into being.  Most modern theistic evolutionists are committing a logical fallacy at the very heart of their philosophy.  Theistic evolutionists may rebut that assuming uniformitarianism[1] back to some distant point in time, they can then infer the natural processes that occurred based on the natural data from that point to the current time.  That may be true, but there is no way to tell from observation of the natural data alone at which distant point in time to start, once one has accepted supernatural interventionism occurred at some point.  One can build interesting models of what may theoretically have happened, but one is cut off from knowing what happened or when.


Evolutionists – theistic as well as non-theistic – assert that assuming philosophical uniformitarian principles and a long expanse of time lower life forms would naturally evolve into higher life forms, assuming the universe were created in “seed form” rather than a mature fully functioning state.  There is good reason to be highly skeptical.  Where is the proof of such macro-evolution?  Has such been actually observed?  (They assert transition fossils prove the case, but these fossils raise questions as to whether they were really transitions at all, and beg more questions than they answer.)  But even if they are correct in their assertion that macroevolution is probable given enough time and the existence of uniform laws of nature and the initial condition of the universe (which I doubt), their assumptions regarding time, philosophical uniformitarianism, and the initial condition of the universe are too great to be admitted as unquestionable assumptions, most certainly by someone who adheres to supernatural interventionism.


It is appropriate at this point to address a misnomer that often arises in discussions: “apparent age of the world”.  Once one has accepted supernatural interventionism, the world really does not have an “apparent age” that can be determined from the natural data.  There is simply nothing in the natural data itself that can tell one the age of the world if one accepts supernatural interventionism.  One can at most say “apparent age of the world assuming uniformity of natural laws back to a certain point in time and assuming a certain initial condition”.  But since uniformity of natural laws in a given time period cannot itself be proved from the natural data, nor its starting condition, strictly speaking it is incorrect to assign an age to anything from the natural data alone.


Once we have accepted supernatural interventionism, science utilizing a study of natural data can present us with possible models of what may have happened in the past, but it is incapable – especially utilized alone- of yielding us knowledge of what happened to form the world as we find it and when such occurred. It is perhaps an indication of how even most Christians have failed to appreciate the limitations of science in a world created by supernatural interventionism that Christians – both those believing it is a young earth as well as those believing it is an old earth – have turned so much to scientists (whether creation scientists or evolutionary scientists) to resolve the question.

Theologian-philosophers have ceded too much ground to scientists (creation scientists as well as evolutionary scientists).  The last few centuries have tended to diminish the role of theologian-philosophers in society and intellectual thought and elevate the role of scientists.  This is in part due to the great achievements science has made, but it is also in part the result of the rise of secular humanism.  I believe the coming centuries will reveal that the role of science in knowledge must be more realistically limited.  Science has made too many questionable assumptions without disclosing the precariousness of those assumptions.  Consequently, it has reached questionable and even false conclusions.  It has tried to be things it simply cannot be and to play an exaggerated role it is ill-equipped for.

We must turn to another branch of knowledge- history – in order to help with our dilemma.  History is the record of past events, as transmitted among intelligent beings.  It is by the study of history that we know the US Civil War began in 1861 AD, the Battle of Hastings occurred in 1066 AD, etc.  And we must especially consider that history which claims to be of divine origin – the Bible.  Supernatural interventionism leads us to look to history, and especially that history which claims to be of divine origin, to discover the nature and timing of creation and an explanation of the natural data as we observe it.  We need divinely authored history because man simply has not been around since the beginning of supernatural interventionism.  And even when he has been around, he has not been witness to all that happened.


Philosophical Presuppositionalism and Biblical History

Given man’s finitude, all of his knowledge must necessarily rest upon presuppositional propositions he places faith in.  As Augustine rightly noted, “do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”  I will not seek to prove or further elaborate presuppositionalism here, but refer the reader to the writings of such theologian-philosophers as Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, etc.   To the extent any philosophical system does not explicitly lay out its presuppositional propositions, it is doing a disservice to the pursuit of truth.  The veracity of a philosophical system ultimately depends on the veracity of its presuppositional propositions.

In the preceding section we posited that our philosophical system rests upon the presuppositional proposition of supernatural interventionism.  We also noted that given the limitations, we need history, and more specifically divinely authored history.  So now we are ready to posit a second presuppositional proposition: The Bible contained in the Old and New Testaments is a true, divinely authored history and revelation.

The Westminster Confession well speaks to the issue of our faith in the Bible and Biblical history:

“We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

With the Bible (and only with the Bible) may we truly come to a greater understanding of the timing and nature of the creation of the universe in more detail than simply realizing it was by supernatural interventionism.  We must study the details of the Bible in order to try to understand what happened and when it happened.  Of course, even the Biblical account is in various respects sketchy.  Upon what can be ascertained from the Biblical account we may make and test hypotheses that may expand upon our understanding of creation, but we should hold any scientific theories based upon these scientific endeavors with a certain tentativeness, given the multiple questionable assumptions they likely entail.  But without the Bible and the Biblical history, attaining truth about creation is far more problematic, yea impossible.  The Bible at least provides a base upon which to do scientific work to ascertain what happened in the past.



I have tried to set forth in this paper a brief sketch of Biblical young earth creationism explained by supernatural interventionism within the context of philosophical presuppositionalism (which for short I will simply call “Biblical supernatural interventionism”).  It is obviously different from evolutionary thought.  But it is even different from what is commonly called “creation science”, at least in its most common expressions.  “Creation science” in its most common expressions tends to believe much more can be ascertained from the natural data alone than Biblical supernatural interventionism admits is possible.  Generally speaking, creation scientists purport to tell us that they can conclude from study of the geologic and other data how what we observe resulted from the Noahic Flood.  They often also purport to be able to tell from the natural data the timing of creation, etc.  In contrast, Biblical supernatural interventionism does not admit that such is possible.  There is a philosophical divide, albeit far less than with the evolutionist.


[1] By “uniformitarianism” I am referring to the laws of nature being constant (i.e, philosophical uniformitarianism), not the term as used in geology to differentiate from catastrophism.