Why I Don’t Speak of the Supernatural

Is there a problem with this term? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times when debating atheists, I find it amusing that they will always use the word “supernatural.” I don’t. Majority of the times, when I ask what this term means, I do not get an answer. It is a term I refuse to use anymore as I think it’s much more problematic.

For one thing, with this term, whatever is natural is treated as a given. What has to be proven is the supernatural and who gets the burden of proof then? That’s right. The theist does. The atheist has to make no defense of the natural.

Let’s look at that for a bit. One of the big mistakes we make is that we think we just need to argue for how the world came to be. How about arguing for how the world is? What keeps the world in motion? Look at your own self. You could go and end your own life with suicide if you wanted, but if Christianity is true, you would not end your existence. Your existence would go on. (I realize some Christians believe in conditional immortality, but even then it is God who destroys your existence and not yourself.)

You can sit in a chair all day and say “I will myself to not exist” and it will not happen. You will go on existing. You might starve yourself to death or some other means, but your mere will alone will not terminate your existing. You also are not always willing yourself to exist. After all, you have to sleep sometimes. Your existing comes from something else.

Atheists don’t usually seem to want to engage with this question.

But then, let’s go a step further. What is natural? It is hard to describe. This gets us into making supernatural even harder to describe. If natural refers to the material world, many of us believe in things that we don’t see in the material world. We believe in triangularity even if there weren’t any triangles. We believe in love and goodness. We believe laws of logic are real. We believe our consciousness is real. There are differing opinions, but some believe numbers are real. We could even say existence itself. After all, you can’t take some existence, put it in a jar, and study it.

If material reality is all that there is, then these things mentioned here do not really exist. None of them are material in nature. This is one reason I prefer to not use the term supernatural, but I instead speak of the extramaterial. A skeptical will be in a much harder position dealing with those realities, and yet here they are.

Supernatural too often becomes a term coined with anything referring to religion. (Another hard term to define, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole again.) Get rid of that and what is left but atheism? Atheism is treated as a given then, the default position.

If a skeptic wants to claim only material realities or natural (Whatever that means) exist, let him demonstrate that claim. That’s the rule. Whoever makes a claim has the burden to demonstrate it and failing to demonstrate one claim does not mean the other claim is demonstrated. It just means one party has poor reasons for believing their claim.

Defining terms is always important in debate. When supernatural comes up, it tends to end in a debate on what the supernatural is. It tends to put the Christian automatically on the defensive because they accept the term. I recommend then not using the term. It only leads to problems.

In Christ,
Nick Peters