“House” and miracles

February 14, 2012

Dr. Chase misunderstands God's involvement in the world.

One of my favorite TV shows, House M.D., is on life support, ratings-wise, and last night’s episode shows why. They’re running out of ideas. How many times, after all, have they recycled last night’s storyline: a patient has a religious experience, and a doctor (usually House himself, but this time Chase) tries his best to explain it away using science.

Well… the story isn’t new, but it’s still a good one. I appreciate the way last night’s episode put in sharp relief the faulty premise of scientism: if science can explain why something happens, then that squeezes God out of the equation. If science then not-God.

For example, in last night’s episode, Dr. Chase falls in love with a patient who is a nun-in-training—technically a postulant. She’s struggling with doubts about her vocation, which provides a convenient opening for Chase. After all, if she decides not to become a nun, then Chase can pursue a relationship with her.

So Chase goes to work on her. But he’s too late. She’s now convinced that God encountered her during a life-saving medical procedure. Upon learning this, Chase is prepared to convince her that her divine encounter was nothing more than a symptom of her disease. Nevertheless, seeing her newfound conviction—she’s praying the rosary as he approaches her hospital room—he doesn’t have the heart to go through with it.

In fact, he may even have second thoughts about his own convictions. The show, as always, leaves the question ambiguous.

But do you see problem with Chase’s point of view? He believes that if there were a “natural” explanation for her religious experience, then there could not also be a supernatural explanation. But why?

Couldn’t God have graciously used this woman’s medical condition and resulting hospital experience to convince her to pursue her calling? God gave her a sign, in other words, using perfectly natural and explainable processes.

My firm belief is that God does this all the time. To be a theist and believe otherwise is to be a Deist—to believe that God has a hands-off policy when it comes to Creation; that God winds up the universe, governed by well-ordered physical laws, and lets it run its course.

Needless to say, I hope, Christians are not Deists. We believe in a hands-on God who is always and everywhere at work in our world. And he can be this way without resorting to what we usually call the “miraculous.”

But that’s our problem. From my perspective, miracles happen all the time.

3 Responses to ““House” and miracles”

  1. Curtis Says:

    What happens if God’s hands-on is the natural explanation and the rest of it is the ego’s attempt to choose the self centered, self aggrandizing, self congratulating, rational overlay that excuses my preference for going it alone?

    What happens if logic turns out to be little more than a crutch I use to keep from seeing more than I want to see?
    ” Just the facts Ma’am.”

    I’m an odd duck. Anytime I encounter this discussion I can’t help but hear what has become for me its sound tack — Frank Sinatra singing, ” I Did It My Way.”

    What a terrifying freedom we have.

    Personally, I’m in the God’s hands-on every second of every day and night group. It occures to me, if He took the night off I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.

    I thank Him every time i drive anywhere. I live in south GA.
    There are on coming vehicals I meet at 70mph that havn’t been inspected since they were new. How many years ago? Do they have brakes? Huh?

    Hands-on every second of every day and night.

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

    • brentwhite Says:

      A terrifying freedom, indeed! At the same time, we can’t do anything apart from God sustaining and enabling us at every moment. I believe that wholeheartedly. We owe every moment of existence to his ongoing presence.

      • Curtis Says:

        We once called it the “Gift quality” of life. My theology professor at Southwestern Seminary, Bill Hendrix talked about the “Tapestry of truth.”

        Well, we took care of all that graceful talk. The SBC replaced “For God so loved the world…” with Paterson’s ca 1979, ” We are going for the jugular.” There was a chorus of such talk. There still is.

        But, as you can see from the outpouring of love for you and your family, Grace is not gone. Love is not gone. The gift hasn’t been defeated or withdrawn. it is just not center stage right now.

        Low visibility. High impact? 🙂

        Hah! He defeated the grave. What’s a religious cage match ever now and then?

        Reverend. Let people love on you. This is a hard time. Give yourself permission to accept the gift. It is clearly alive and well and living in your Church.

        Grace and Peace


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