By Ben Swift
“There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred right here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.” (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)
While it may or may not be the intention of authors and script writers, it’s not uncommon for those in tune with God’s Word to grasp some important truths from their works, as He speaks to us through a whole range of contexts. Charlotte’s Web is one such story that comes to mind. Despite being written for children, this incredibly moving and thoughtful work of literary art has much to say when it comes to life and draws readers towards topics that perhaps move beyond life from a naturalist point of view, into a place where questions from a supernatural point of view can be asked.
Towards the end of ‘Charlotte’s Web’, the farmer Mr Zuckerman, owner of Wilbur – the pig seemingly surrounded by miraculous signs – suggests that maybe we are all surrounded by miracles on a daily basis but rarely have our eyes open enough to notice them.
One could argue that it’s not only life itself that’s a miracle, it’s that we are able to appreciate it in being so. What is it about human beings that allows us to consider life, not only from a biological perspective but from philosophical, anthropological and theological perspectives to name a few? Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that if we are simply random by-products of natural selection that we would care less about the deep questions concerning who we are, both as living beings and in relation to a first cause of existence? I’m pretty confident my dog doesn’t lie around contemplating these questions.
Perhaps that’s why great children’s novels such as Charlotte’s Web are so powerful, because by animating animal characters with human traits such as reasoning, we can identify with them and in turn learn about ourselves. An example that comes to mind is where Wilbur the pig, a humble childlike character, makes the following point that gets to the heart of many debates between atheists and theists on the origin of creation:
“What do you mean less than nothing? I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something – even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.” (E.B. White)
Just as the Christian believes that faith is a gift from God, sustained by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, humanity’s ability to reason is also a gift. It is what separates us from the animals, allowing us to contemplate meaning and truth. This is where the argument of the naturalist or humanist crumbles in that if we are all sitting at a point in time in an ongoing process of natural selection, there would be no reason for the development of reason, it simply doesn’t fit the requirements for the survival of the fittest. It would be ridiculous for me to be even writing about this topic at all if the naturalist was correct in their humanistic reasoning.
“It is agreed on all hands that reason, and even sentience, and life itself are late comers in Nature. If there is nothing but Nature, therefore, reason must have come into existence by a historical process. And of course, for the Naturalist, this process was not designed to produce a mental behaviour that can find truth. There was no Designer, and indeed, until there were thinkers, there was no truth or falsehood. The type of mental behaviour we now call rational thinking or inference must therefore have been ‘evolved’ by natural selection, by the gradual weeding out of types less fitted to survive…. But it is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn them into acts of insight, or even remotely tend to do so.” (C.S. Lewis)
It is only when the gift of faith is intertwined with the gift of reason that a human being can cast off the shackles of the naturalist’s confined way of thinking. Only then can the miracles in life, that include and stretch beyond those suggested in Charlotte’s Web, be seen in all their glory – that is reflecting the glory of God the Creator. After all, we have been made to relate to our creator who has revealed himself to us in ways that defy the logic of an existence limited to nature as science currently defines it.
There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened on this farm called Earth. What is impossible in nature has been made possible supernaturally through Christ. What was once lost can now be found, what was once dead can be given life again, life in all its fullness. Let us then be encouraged to embrace Christ’s supernatural truth, one that brings us a hope well beyond the cycle of life and death offered by those who seek to define life apart from its source.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)