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

Why I Reject A Natural/Supernatural Distinction

Are we buying into a paradigm that we ought not to? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times when I’m in a debate, I’m told that I accept supernatural realities. My response is always along the lines of “Who said I do?” I in fact do not accept such because I do not believe that the term supernatural is really that meaningful anyway. I consider it a claim we have from the time of the Enlightenment that takes for granted an idea that we got from that time.

You see, in this view, the world that we see everyday is “natural.” For that, it is the one that does not need to be explained. Outside of this world is supposed to be a world that is deemed “supernatural.” This world is supposed to be a catch-all to includes ideas like fairies, goblins, demons, angels, miracles, and of course, God or the gods.

Is this really an approach we want to take?

You see, I can readily accept there are realities that we see everyday, and to be fair, most atheists and agnostics would seek to have an explanation for this rather than “It’s just there” as some sort of brute fact, but at the same time I believe in many realities that I do not have the ability to see everyday and do not operate according to “laws of nature.”

“Of course you do. You’re a theist. You believe in God.”

Okay. How about triangularity?

But don’t we see triangularity around us everyday?

No. We don’t. We can see several triangles. We don’t see triangularity itself. You could not draw me a picture of triangularity. You could only draw me triangles.

How about numbers? Now to be fair, I’m not convinced numbers exist in the same way triangularity does, but if you think that numbers do exist like that, then what is your explanation for that?

What about morality? Many of us do believe that there are objective moral truths and that some things are objectively good. This is not something that we can detect through scientific means however. It’s not visible so how could we just call it “natural”?

And then of course, there’s existence itself. Now we can say we see existence, but we don’t. We see things that exist. You can’t take just existence itself and put it in a jar.

When we accept the false natural/supernatural dichotomy, we make it so that we entirely have the burden of proof and we accept a more materialistic worldview right at the start. Why should we do that? If someone wants to say there is a natural/supernatural dichotomy, then it is up to them to demonstrate that.

When we accept it also, everything gets accepted under this catch-all term so it becomes “Oh? You believe in miracles? Then do you believe in fairies also?” The nonsense idea is that all claims of this sort are equal entirely. Of course some claims of suprahuman realities are false, but that does not mean all are. Each claim must be examined on its own.

I urge Christians to question this dichotomy wherever you find it. If you use this terminology, you’re already well on your way to accepting a materialist worldview. Don’t do it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters