Science explains everything

ben crosses the lineI remember hearing a joke about a Sunday school teacher who was telling her young students about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. This teacher was more learned than the average Sunday school teacher so she explained that the Moses hadn't miraculously parted the water to enable the crossing. Rather, the sea was actually very shallow -- only a couple of inches or feet deep, in fact. So while God did rescue his people, he didn't use supernatural means. "That's amazing!" said Billy, one of her young charges.

The teacher explained that God was amazing but that this crossing hadn't been such an amazing feat. In fact, Red Sea was a mistranslation. It was a sea of reeds. A Reed Sea. And so the Israelites only had to cross a very shallow sea.

"Wow! That's super-amazing!" said Billy.

Exasperated, the teacher asked him what was so amazing about the Israelites traversing the Reed Sea.

"That the entire Egyptian army drowned in a few inches of water!"

I thought of that joke when I read the news today that a scientist thinks the biblical account of Jesus walking on the water has a scientific explanation. Here's how the New York Times put it:

It was a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were out in a boat, battling a contrary wind, when they saw Jesus approaching, as if a spirit. "And he went up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased," it is written in Mark 6:51. "And they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered."

Doron Nof also wondered, in a measured, scientific way. A professor of oceanography at Florida State University, he conducted an inquiry and found what might be a natural explanation: ice.

Writing in The Journal of Paleolimnology, Dr. Nof and his colleagues point out that unusual freezing processes probably occurred in the region in the last 12,000 years, icing over parts of freshwater Galilee. This has not happened in recent history, but there were much colder stretches 1,500 to 2,500 years ago. . . .

From a distance, the scientists suggested, a person on the ice might appear to be walking on water, particularly if it had just rained and left a smoothed-out watery coating on the ice.

Not to sound like Billy, but that is amazing that a boat could be battling rough seas at the same time Jesus was walking on ice nearby. Not to mention that this event occurred immediately after Jesus fed thousands with the few loaves and fishes. And remember what the Bible says about that group? That Jesus told them to recline on the "green grass"? Sounds like winter.

Following on the heels of the prayer study, it's interesting to see so much media coverage of scientific attempts to explain either supernatural occurrences or issues of spirituality. It's also interesting to contrast with the media treatment of religious explanations of scientific phenomena.

When any group questions or raises concerns with the current scientific explanation for a given issue, it rarely if ever gets to just tell its side of the story without rebuttal. And that's only fair and right. But when some scientist comes up with an outlandish explanation debunking Christ's power, it would be nice if reporters would seek a response from other scientists or followers of Jesus who could explain the significance of the story.

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