The dialogue continues between Hard Going and Simply Rational. Hard Going represents a Christian point of view while Simply Rational represents a humanist, and sometimes sceptical, interpretation.

SR: I’ve read your blog, I’ve heard your story, but I’m still not convinced.
HG: Convinced of what?
cherry leaf on ice
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The question of interpretation
SR: That there’s an extramundane dimension and, if there is, that it is a Christian one. Even assuming that what you say in your diary is true, there could be other interpretations, couldn’t there. For example, the picture of Jesus falling off the table. Let’s suppose that there is no physical explanation. It could still be argued that things like that have a diabolical source.
HG: You’re right, there is always the question of interpretation and there are theologians – plenty of them – who would vehemently oppose the idea of God violating the so-called ‘laws of nature’. Paul Tillich was one. John Baillie (The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought, 1956), once Principal of New College, Edinburgh, quotes him as saying that ‘the manifestation of the mystery of being does not destroy the mystery of being in which it becomes manifest.’ Meaning that God doesn’t interfere with the laws of nature. Apparently, Tillich would have called such interferences demonic.
SR: So what happened to yourself and your wife was demonic, it was from the devil?

Farmer’s definition of a miraculous event
HG: I don’t believe that for one moment. Demonic forces don’t help you to have faith, they would rather seek to destroy faith. Besides, not all theologians take the Tillich line. In the book I just mentioned, Baillie quotes another 20th century theologian, Herbert H. Farmer as saying, ‘A miraculous event always enters the religious man’s experience as a relevation of God. …Whatever else it may be, it is an event or complex of events through which a man becomes aware of God as active towards him in and through his personal situation. It is God acting relevantly to a man’s individual situation and destiny; speaking through events because He is active in events. … Unless an event has this quality in some degree to someone it is not, in the religious sense of the term, a miracle.’
I like that, ‘speaking through events because He is active in events.
SR: So when there was kinetic activity in your home like the stick or the picture falling, you took that as a sign of God’s activity.
HG: Yes.
SR: But why should it be God, why not a spirit of some kind or, more likely still, some unexplained natural force?

Demonic or from God
HG: I have a number of reasons for thinking that what happened must have been ultimately from God and not demonic or a natural force. For a start the force of gravity is so universal that we never expect it to be contravened. Only God or one of His messengers could do that. Secondly, it wasn’t a natural force because a natural force doesn’t know what you are doing and thinking. The kinetic activity was always giving us a message of some kind, although it wasn’t always easy to work out the message.
SR: So you were interpreting what was happening, putting you own slant on it? For example, the fall of the stick.

Happened for good
HG: Yes, what else could we do? We were astonished and still are. But it had to mean something. And the meaning was sometimes obvious, sometimes not. But let me go back to the reasons for thinking that what happened was from God. Many of the things that happened, happened obviously for our good or perhaps for the good of others. Now, if the forces behind the unusual kinetic activity were demonic, they wouldn’t have led to an increase of goodness in the world.
Catkin, far too early ..
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Has to happen for me personally
SR: Okay, granted that what happened to you was for your good and that it was a genuine miracle as Farmer defined it, however, it doesn’t do me any good. As he implies, only what happens to the person is of relevance to the person. You could be telling the truth and if I was convinced you were, it would probably alter my world-view. But until it happens to me personally, it doesn’t do anything for me.
HG: I couldn’t agree more. If I were in your position, I would feel exactly the same. We, i.e myself and my wife, have told the truth as it happened to us. But we don’t expect it to mean the same to others. God meets with each person individually and they have to find out the ultimate truth for themselves.
SR: If you believe in God.
HG: Believe and trust.