byFaith | 5.2.16
By Alan Dowd

“There are two ways to live,” a wise man once observed. “You can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Importantly, the source of this insight for living is not someone generally associated with faith, but rather one of the giants of science: Albert Einstein.

It seems Einstein was suggesting that this world and this life are full of miracles, and indeed that this world and this life are miracles—if only we have the eyes to see God’s fingerprints.

That’s the great challenge in this age of “man-made miracles”—micro-surgeries performed on unborn babies, wonder drugs that cure disease and erase pain, boundless harvests that feed billions—and man-made horrors—pills that can effortlessly erase unborn life, weapons that can kill by the tens of thousands, mass-murderers masquerading as holy men.

It’s a challenge that’s getting the better of us. Recent pollingreveals a decline in belief in God among Americans (from 82 percent in 2005 down to 74 percent by 2013) and an resultant decline in the percentage of Americans who believe in miracles (from 84 percent in 2000 down to 72 percent by 2013).

This trend is at least partly a function of the emergence of the “Millennials”—the 83 million Americans born between 1982 and 2000. They represent a huge share of the adult population, and their impact on culture and society cannot be overlooked. Compared to every other generation of living Americans, lower percentages of Millennials pray, believe in God or attend religious services weekly.

It’s not difficult to understand why or how this happened. Marinated in our postmodern culture—which denies the existence of absolute truth, which celebrates cynicism, which elevates the self and miniaturizes God into some me-shaped idol—what else should we expect from these teens, twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings?

Christ’s words from Matthewcould just as well apply to our day and age: “They have closed their eyes…Though seeing, they do not see.”

Put another way, even when God does miraculous things—even if everything really is a miracle—many of our neighbors miss it because their eyes are closed.

Einstein’s notion that everything is a miracle presents us with something of a conundrum.

In one sense, “A miracle is, by definition, an exception,” as C.S. Lewis observed. Oceans parted, improbable pregnancies, stilled storms, the dead raised to life, water turned to wine, a lunch pail feeding 5,000 people, blind men seeing, mute men singing, lame men leaping—these are not normal occurrences. They are amazing and unusual.

Yet Einstein suggests that “everything is a miracle.” Every breath. Every heartbeat. Every sunrise. Every day. Every moment.

The way to bridge these two seemingly divergent views of miracles—the “exception view” and the “everything view”—is to adjust our vision. When it comes to miracles, how we see the world is key to whether we notice God’s fingerprints. And our world is literally a miracle.

The rotation of the earth, the earth’s distance from the sun, the kind of sun the earth orbits, the moon’s distance from the earth, the position of the earth in this solar system and in this galaxy—all of these are part of a mega-miracle that makes this planet so much more than “a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” as Carl Sagan gloomily concluded.

The earth and its neighborhood are wondrous works of art, marvels of mathematical precision, evidence of a Designer.

“The harmony of natural law,” Einstein concluded, “reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

Cosmologists calculatethe odds of “a life-friendly universe appearing by chance” at less than one in 10 raised to a power of 10 with 123 zeros after it. The odds are, quite literally, astronomical.

In other words, life is the “exception,” to borrow Lewis’ word, and because we are alive, it’s not unreasonable to view everything as a miracle, to paraphrase Einstein.

Everything: from the infinite expanse of the universe to the infinite complexity of the human brain. Researchstudiesconclude that the human brain’s memory capacity is equal to at least one “petabyte.”

How much information is that? A petabyte equals 1,000,000 gigabytes. To put that into terms we can try to grasp: A brand-new iPhone has 16 gigabytes of memory, which roughly equals 2 million pages of text or11,000 photographs or 4,500 songs. And that’s just 16 gigabytes; a petabyte represents 62,500 times more information than your iPhone can hold. Or try this: The entire Library of Congress has upwards of 235 terabytes of data; a petabyte is four times more than that amount.

In short, this arrangement of cells, neurons and nerves that enables us to learn and think and remember and recall and understand and discern and reason is a miracle of staggering complexity and capability.

God’s Canvas
Lewis described miracles as God’s “shortcuts.” Looking at miracles—and the world—this way can help us perceive the constancy of miracles in our lives.

Lewis explained that in the miracles of Christ, “God does suddenly and locally something that God has done or will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature.”

For instance, “As part of the Natural order, God makes wine. He does so by creating a vegetable organism that can turn water, soil and sunlight into a juice which will, under proper conditions, become wine. Thus, in a certain sense, He constantly turns water into wine, for wine, like all drinks, is but water modified. Once, and in one year only, God, now incarnate, short-circuits the process: makes wine in a moment: uses earthenware jars instead of vegetable fibers to hold the water...The miracle consists of the shortcut, but the event to which it leads is the usual one.”

Lewis concluded that “The Supernatural is not remote…It is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing. Denial of it depends on a certain absentmindedness.”

We may think we’re too rational, too intelligent, too evolved, too advanced to believe in miracles, but perhaps we’re the very opposite. Perhaps we’re too dense, too oblivious, too cynical, too self-obsessed to notice miracles, to see God’s fingerprints, to perceive what God is doing.

Our obliviousness is sad but not new. “When our ancestors were in Egypt,” the psalmist lamented, “they gave no thought to your miracles;they did not remember your many kindnesses.”

Miracles may appear to be the exception in a fallen world. Yet by setting things right—life defeating death, evil being cast out, the unjust vanquished, the righteous vindicated, wholeness replacing brokenness, abundance dislodging hunger, shalom conquering war—they actually provide “a glimpse of what the world was meant to be,” as Philip Yancey writes. “Death, decay, entropy and destruction are the true suspensions of God’s laws; miracles are the early glimpses of restoration.”

Jesuspromisedthat miracles would not end when He went away to prepare a place for us. And He keeps His promises. I have seen His signs and wonders: my grandfather receiving Last Rites—twice; my niece coming out of her coma whole and healed; my wife rescued from the nightmares of her childhood.

Our challenge as people of faith is not just to believe in miracles, but to look for them and to point them out to the miracle that is the world around us.