Supernatural but Not Miraculous

I am enjoying Craig Carter’s latest book. I think his argument that our contemporaries are reverting to pagan metaphysics makes sense, and his suggestion that evolution is their mythology really explains a few things. Now I’m reading where he is arguing that the pagan gods were real spiritual beings and that there were real supernatural powers associated with pagan religions.

The other thing I was reading recently was the Doctor Angelicus on angels ( in De Potentia). And he was answering the question whether angels do miracles. It would seem that they do: they are greater beings than we are. But Aquinas answers the question in the negative: angels do not, in fact, do miracles. How does he get there?

He gets there by how he defines a miracle. A miracle is an effect the cause of which can only be from beyond the created order. By defining a miracle as an effect in creation that only its transcendent Creator can cause, he ingeniously covers a lot of theological ground. And he answers the question about angels, because however we define natural and supernatural, they are part of the created order. Nothing created does miracles of its own unaided agency: created things only do the things for which God made them and gave them the power to do.

And so the pagan gods which could do things, can be called supernatural. They are part of the invisible realm, if Craig Carter is right then they are angelic beings, higher than man who is lower than the angels, with powers exceeding what we can do. But not with anything that exceeds the power with which God made them and ordered to the purposes for which they were created. That power is God’s alone, and it is the power of the only Agent capable of signs which are wonders: miracles.

And if you want a text that is working on that distinction, try the account of the shepherds in Luke chapter 2.

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