Let me follow up the previous post with something Fr. Thomas Hopko said toward the end of his podcast series on Charles Darwin, natural science, and Christian theology, in a podcast entitled, Meditation on Miracles. Hopko reminds his listeners that the word “miracle” is never used in scripture (although some English translations mistranslate certain Greek words as “miracle.”) Rather than miracles, Jesus Christ and the apostles do wonders, mighty acts, power goes out of them, etc.
The term “miracle” implies a “super-natural” act, something that occurs contrary to nature. Jesus’ miracles, according to Hopko, were not contrary to nature but fulfilled nature. To take the healing of the blind man as an example, blindness is not “natural,” but rather one of the effects of the Fall; blindness is nature gone awry. What Jesus did was return the blind man to his natural estate.
Being a “meditation” rather than a full blown exegesis, Hopko did not go deeply into the topic and his explanation is less than adequate in certain instances. Turning water into wine does not precisely fit this pattern, nor does his calming of the storm, unless one wants to make the case that storms aren’t natural – a problematic proposition. It also doesn’t address some of the Old Testament stories, such as the day the sun stood still.
Being aware that his introductory comments don’t exhaust the subject, what is striking is that Hopko’s understanding of the world is so similar to Steenberg’s (as presented in the previous post). Wonders and mighty acts are the natural things insofar as they reveal the divine glory that ought to be natively present in this divine creation. What we see here and now is sub-natural.