Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Post #15 Addendum: DVD in Pocket Saves a Life

Please read Post #15 for the context of this news story and the following questions...

DVD in Firefighter's Coat Blocks Bullet
Feb 19, 11:05 PM (ET)

WALTERBORO, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina man is thankful for a DVD that ended up taking a bullet for him. Colleton County Fire and Rescue Director Barry McRoy says he was leaving a Waffle House restaurant in Walterboro on Saturday morning when two men ran in fighting over a gun. Police say a bullet hit one of the struggling men, shattered a window and then hit McRoy.

The bullet hit a DVD McRoy was carrying in his pocket. He suffered a bruise but didn't realize he had been shot. As he told a police officer what happened he noticed a bullet hole in his jacket, the shattered DVD case and a piece of the bullet.

"I was saved by a DVD," McRoy says. "How lucky can you get?"
One man was arrested on assault and battery and gun charges.
The DVD was nicked. It was a gift from an employee who had recorded a TV show about fire extinguishers.


• Was Mr. McRoy one very lucky man? or was this divine providence?

• Would you first need to know if McRoy is a believer? or if he prayed for protection that morning?

• What about the thousands struck by stray bullets which were not deflected by a wallet or DVD case or other object?

• Random stroke of luck? or Divine Will in action?

Feel free to comment ...


Gordon J. Glover said...

I have a hard with these situations. It's natural for someone in this situation to claim that God spared him, but why did the bullet hit him in the first place? That would be like my pushing you in front of a trian, only to pull you back again. My "saving" you from the train only has meaning if you fell in front by other means.

The worst is when a winning sports team thanks God for their victory. I guess the other team is composed of pagans? And if God gave you the advantage, are you really the better team? A hard fought sports victory only has true meaning if you accomplish it "on your own" so to speak.

These are issues that make it hard for me to live out my Calvinism. Even though it provides me a very workable framework for interpreting Scripture, it can be difficult to apply in real-world situations.

Timothy said...

Super natural intervention... how does it play out??? I'm not one to say that God doesn't intervene in our lives; on a personal/practical/miraculous level.... in fact I am always a little skeptical of "believers" who say that God doesn’t intervene in situations of our lives. But from my experience I am increasingly coming to a belief that God has set up natural laws that govern our universe and is not quick to interrupt those laws... I guess this is how I deal with a perceived lacking of the supernatural in my own experience (limbs growing back, life threatening diseases cured, resurrection from the dead etc.) but when I consider the matter a couple of questions come to mind, to which you or your readers may care to respond???

1) When God intervenes does He some how violate Himself by violating the natural laws he has set up to govern our universe? If so what level of intervention is a violation, and are there simple ways He intervenes in our lives that we fail to give Him credit for?

2) Does our western logical, scientific, skeptical, self-reliant, modern worldview put us in a situation less likely to see or appreciate God’s hand and therefore limit His capacity to act on our behalf?

3) Does God have dispensations of his involvement in the lives of humans (witness the 400 “silent years” that precluded the birth of Christ) where he is more active in some cultures or situations than in others, and does our ideology/worldview have a bearing on this (this is related to #2)

Cliff Martin said...

in•ter•vene, verb come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events.

I do not question divine intervention. In my own life there have been many circumstances that have divine intervention written all over them ... some of them have been almost uncanny. No, I am not questioning whether God intervenes, but rather, into what is he intervening? What is the backdrop? What governs the “course of events” which he comes to prevent or alter? As Gordon so well illustrates, his interventions have little meaning if the underlying course of events are completely in his control. So I agree with Timothy: natural laws govern our universe without direct divine superintendence, and this stream of events can be called randomness.

I will respond to Timothy’s questions, though I am interested in the response of other readers as well.

(Refer to Timothy’s questions)
1) Because I believe that randomness is important to what God is doing with this cosmos, I believe he is reticent to intervene except that he does respond to faith. God does intervene in the affairs of men when invited to do so by faith-filled people. Is that not the essence of prayer? I believe that he “can” respond to faith in this way without violating his own self-imposed reticence.

2) Probably. But what I am calling to question in Post #15 is the tendency of some believers to go the other way ... to see divine intervention or supernatural events when in fact we often are only observing a stream of raw randomness.

3) There do seem to be such dispensations (not to be confused with dispensationalism!) In the Biblical history, there are three times around which the great majority of recorded miraculous events occur: the Exodus, the Exile, and the Incarnation/Early church. That is not to say miracles only occur then, but they do seem to be disproportionately clustered around those times and events. And today, it seems that miraculous interventions are more prevalent on the “outer reaches” of the expanding Kingdom of God. Or could it be simply that greater faith is being exercised in such places?

Pete said...

I wouldn't see the need to distinguish between luck and God's providence. God need not “supernaturally” intervene to be in control.

I am personally struggling with God's intervening or perhaps specifically the effectiveness of prayer. Is someone more likely to get healed if we pray for them? Not according to a myriad of controlled studies, and not according to my own experience. It seem Christians and non-Christians alike have the same experiences of heath and recovery, of finding jobs, of securing food, of avoiding random accidents. Aren't these the very things we pray for. What thing I really can't stand is the old response I received as a junior higher about God answering prayer. I was told, “God either says, yes, no, wait, or go”. In other words, whatever I prayed for will happen, will not happen, or it will happen later, or it will happen if I do it myself. Of course, this covers all the possibilities, and one of these four outcomes will occur if I pray to God, or to Buddha, or to a rock, or don't pray at all.

Lots of people have stories of miraculous healing, such as cancer disappearing that astonishes the doctors. I am encouraged by many of these stories and yet I do notice they are always a bit subjective on the supernatural part. As stated in an earlier comment, God does ever seem to grow back limbs for amputees. Cancer can go into remission all on its own (or better, because we don't yet understand the intricacies of our immune system). God developed our immune system, and perhaps He kicks it into gear for this “miracle”, but I wouldn't mind God growing back a few amputated legs, or better yet, doing clearly supernatural things every day; like raising people from the dead, to display that He exists and answers prayer. Indeed, I have to agree with Carl Sagen, why not put a flaming cross in the sky to remind us all of His sacrifice?

There is a internet book floating around the addresses the effectiveness of prayer. Unfortunately written by someone who concludes that God is imaginary; it basically spells out my own struggles with this issue. The book is appropriately titled, “Why Won't God Heal Amputees”. You can find it at

“And today, it seems that miraculous interventions are more prevalent on the “outer reaches” of the expanding Kingdom of God. Or could it be simply that greater faith is being exercised in such places?”

My answer for this has became very cynical. I don't think supernatural interventions happen even there. I think these stories just originate in cultures who accept the supernatural in ways the west did a thousand years ago; out of ignorance. Many of these people groups had a culture of accepting supernatural things before the missionaries arrived, and their stories just changed to reflect a Christian backdrop. It seems though when skeptical people arrive with video cameras all of these supernatural events seem to disappear (or our exposed as frauds). Is it that surprising that the lady who believed her aunt turned into an eagle two weeks before is now testifying that spears turned into roses when hurled at the missionaries.

I am finding all the reasons us Christians give that supernatural events only happen overseas increasing “ad hoc” Either God doesn't want to make belief to easy(?), or the Devil is trying to convince us he doesn't exist(?), or we have the Bible so we have no excuse (?), or that God refuses to do miracle if any “scientist” is watching(?). None of these seem to a make a lot of sense when you think through all the implications.

Having said this, I do have a close friend who traveled overseas and claims she witnessed a large tumor disappear off someone's shoulder. She is a bit more chasamatic then most, accepting the spiritual gift of healing, and more susceptible to this kind of thing. I certainly don't doubt her own testimony of what she saw; though given the nature of it (a tumor disappearing, as opposed to a leg regrowing), and that many people who huddled very close around the healee with arms obscuring this and that angle; I regrettably suspect she was hoaxed.

It seems the one last bastion of God's supernatural activity in the US is to help out people in need with random checks written to the exact dollar amount (and often the exact penny) to cover some need. Clearly this could not be coincidental. At the moment though, I can't remember any of those stories that are not just internet circulated (which are probably made up). I seem to remember a few people personally telling me this happened, though they were a bit more vague on the dollar amount. Was it to the dollar, or where they calculating it a bit after the fact? If you need several hundred dollars, you usually get several hundred; I have gotten several hundred dollars in random bonuses or gifts from friends, and it usually fits a need. But then, I can always find a NEED:) for more money. I'm going to try to track down on of these stories. I wouldn't be surprised though that what we find is the same thing that goes on when people think they have ESP regarding who is about to call them. A lot of people, some of my most conservative unchasmatic in-laws among them; who think they have supernatural ability to know when someone is about to call. Because they are thinking about them right before they call. Of course, what is really happening is selective memory and poor statistics. For one, they only count the hits; the times they are thinking of someone and they call. The forget when they are thinking about someone and they don't call, or somone calls they were not thinking about. Also, people that are likely to call are usually people that you are likely to think about, and you probably think about people quite a bit more then you realize. And how long between thought and call is valid. I suspect, “I was JUST thinking about you” can extend back several days if you haven't spoken to the person in a while.

Well, this whole reply has been a downer. As you can see, I have really been struggling with these issues lately.

Gordon J. Glover said...

me too, Pete.


Cliff Martin said...

Pete and Gordon,
There are two situations in my life right now in which the questions Pete asks are painfully applicable. But I believe that a faith which does not work in the hardest passages of life is a faith which does not work. Our faith and our theology are tested in crucible of life.