Though the views of naturalism and supernaturalism often pit science and religion against one another, hypernaturalism is proposed as an alternative that combines divine power and natural law. It is hoped that such a synthesis of science and faith can help religious people become more accepting of science, and place Christianity in a logical framework that the scientifically minded can accept.
Much of the modern “creation debate” devolves into two competing perspectives: naturalism and supernaturalism. Naturalism, often considered the scientific point of view, states that the universe and all life-forms came into being via undirected, natural processes. Supernaturalism, considered the religious view, argues that a supernatural God created the entire universe and life itself.
We believe there is a third point of view that can unite religion and science. We call it hypernaturalism.
Hypernaturalism might be considered a form of progressive creationism. We define it as the extraordinary use of natural law by the God described in the Bible. Hypernaturalism postulates that when God created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing), He also created the laws of nature. He integrated natural law into the created order to make a universe with what has been called “relative autonomy.”1
God the Creator is necessarily outside of the universe He made—hence, He is able to control the forces of nature. Natural law is God’s servant. God has the authority to use the forces of nature to implement His will. Hence, through hypernaturalism, many of God’s miracles can be explained as a combination of divine power and natural law. When God acts hypernaturally, He employs natural law and natural phenomena in an extraordinary way to bring about His will. This encompasses extraordinary timing(including both duration and start and stop time), an extraordinary selection of location, and/or extraordinary magnitude (including severity and intensity). An event is not necessarily hypernatural because it is extraordinary; it is hypernatural if God exercises extraordinary control for a particular purpose (since His miracles always have purpose).
Hypernaturalism vs Supernaturalism
Hypernaturalism differs from supernaturalism, which might be compared to the philosophy of young earth creationism. If God acts supernaturally to effect His will, He operates outside of natural law by overriding the laws of physics, such as gravity and the second law of thermodynamics.
The usual Christian understanding of a miracle is that God supernaturally brings about something that is otherwise impossible. An omnipotent God can surely do this—but hypernaturalism could provide an even greater demonstration of God’s power. A supernatural miracle overriding the forces of nature shows that God has greater power than nature—yet it could also imply nature is God’s adversary. Such a depiction was typical of ancient myths, in which pagan deities representing forces of nature competed to prove who had greater power.
By contrast, a hypernatural miracle demonstrates that God created the forces of nature to serve His purposes. This is evident in Genesis when God commanded Earth and the waters to “bring forth” vegetation and animals, respectively, and nature complied (Genesis 1:11, 20, 24, KJV).
Before the scientific revolution, when humankind could observe but not explain natural phenomena, it seemed logical to believe God acted supernaturally. People believed rainfall (or lack thereof), fertility, and other natural phenomena were God’s supernatural will at work. Today we recognize natural laws and can explain many miracles as God’s extraordinary use of those laws.
Parting of the Red Sea: A Hypernatural Miracle
The Bible explicitly describes some of God’s miracles as the result of hypernatural activity. An example is the parting of the Red Sea (Ex 14:21-28)—one of God’s greatest and most important miracles. Scripture states that God brought this about hypernaturally by causing an extraordinarily strong wind at an extraordinary time in an extraordinary place: