Robin Parry over on Theological Scribbles has some considered and helpful thoughts on living naturally with the Christian expectation of the supernatural. It is also something that has been discussed a number of times in sermons at my own church recently. Both have contained a lot of interesting ideas that have had me thinking in the last few months.
As Christian believers we live with an expectation that God can and will intervene supernaturally given historical precedents and Biblical validation (e.g. 1 Cor. 12). However practical experience teaches us that we don't expect Him to be doing so all the time for everyone everywhere. If He were to do so it would offer us little opportunity to recognise and rejoice in the natural blessings He provides to us. By placing us in this universe He provides not only material resources but predictability and stability in which to live our lives and also to exercise the authority, responsibility and creativity He gives us as well.
To be a race constantly in ultimate physical need of God's direct supernatural intervention can't be good for our spiritual growth as it constrains us to never move into a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father other than that of master-slave. Christ came to show us this wasn't how things were meant to have been. Although God is our Lord and King He is also seeking to be our friend (John 15:15). Friendship is not about what one person can beg or dispense to the other but is of mutual and self-giving interest.
Living in this unpredictable and anticipatory supernatural manner far better reflects both that level of friendship and also the mandate that humanity has been given to reflect God and His activity throughout creation. It is right that we desire supernatural interventions and blessings but that does not mean that we should become reliant on it - especially when He has already provided abundantly (and sufficiently 2 Cor. 12:8-10) through natural means.
Viewed in this way God's supernatural intervention in the natural world is an incredible event. The unpredictable, rare and joyful appearance of it within the natural order of things creates greater meaning and contrast than if it were to a predictable expectation. Indeed if God's direct intervention was the expected norm how could it be different to the natural? If this were the case these unique moments of heaven touching Earth would be natural themselves and loose their impact and particular power to witness to God's personality and sovereignty.
This also helps us to focus on larger issues of human life as well. When life is tough, when circumstances appear to be beyond us or when we suffer personal tragedy we too often like to shake our fists at God for not intervening directly in matters. We all know in our minds if not our hearts this is not the right response to our God. His providence and care does not step away from us simply because He is not setting off fireworks in the sky. God's presence and active blessing are more often as real and immediate when an arm goes across a pair of crying shoulders or a good meal rests in the stomach of the tired person.
It is also not just in the personal realm that we can demand of God that He must work in instant miracles but also in more theological areas as well. Some parts of the Church for example have overly extended this hyper-miracle making view of God into wider theology and how they view God's creative activity. They demand a God who creates instantly and miraculously only at certain points in history rather than a God who creates continuously and incrementally through natural processes that He constantly ordains and decrees (Collosians 1:15-20).
Giving that our investigations of the universe around us strongly suggest this latter process and that the former can also conflict with Scripture and spiritual development it again doesn't seem healthy or correct to be holding God to a human-constructed miraculous standard of activity.
As a Christian I enthusiastically accept the supernatural as being possible with our God. I don't think though that it is good or helpful when we cultivate an atmosphere of over-reliant supernatureality (And yes, I can make up words too! :-) ) when God has already gifted the universe and encouraged ourselves to deliver His miracles.
Michael Specter gives a solid message for us all and for our churches in particular (in my opinion anyway) in this talk. He illuminates the real-life need for science and technology to be used as effectively as possible for the benefit of all peoples around the globe and how this needs to go hand in hand with a positive and committed view of science.
Indeed he argues convincingly that to do so is an essential moral requirement for a people who might dare to claim to be dangerously proactive about caring for and loving others.
Which is what we Christians often like to claim about ourselves.
I am a physicist currently working in biomedical research.
Firstly though and (hopefully) before all else I am a follower of Christ (commonly called a Christian).
I like fudge, roasts, good company, spiders and something else.
Warring, transforming robots are quite good fun too.