The heart of magic is misdirection. Sure, there are specially made tools of the trade. There is well-trained prestidigitation. There are moments of art and flourish. The magic, however, is to get the audience to look one direction while you do something decidedly ordinary in plain sight. That’s how we start with an empty hat, and end up with a fluffy bunny.
It is much the same in all manner of intellectual magic. If we can get our intellectual opponents to overlook the fact that we are bringing something out of nothing, we can wow them all the way to the bank.
Consider first naturalistic science. Here we begin with one of two hats, both of them black. Some will say that all of reality was compressed into a point of singularity that existed from all eternity. Did you see what they did there? They explain the creation of the universe by presupposing the existence of the universe. We ask, “If you deny that God made everything, where did everything come from?” and they reply, “Well, everything was really squished together…” We let them get away with a universe, and a profound change (the explosion of the point of singularity) from and by nothing. The second option is more brazen. On the one hand these scientists are more honest, affirming that there was nothing. And then they get more dishonest, when they tell us “it” exploded into everything. Wait. There was no “it.” There was nothing, not even a hat surrounding the emptiness. And now it’s everything?
They don’t, of course stop there. Evolution takes center stage for act two. We’ve got everything, but how are we going to make it better? How do we go from chaos to cosmos? The magicians flourish again and tell us, “Everything gets better.” We ask, , “But how? Where’s the oomph?” They tell us, “Everything gets better. It’s science.” More order, more information jump out of the hat as fish take a walk on the dry side. All by themselves.
Consider second economics. An honorable politician promises to defend our wealth. A truthful politician promises to take some of this one’s wealth for the benefit of another. A common politician promises he can make us all richer by taking from all of us. Once again the common politician is the magician. He wants us to forget that the state has nothing it can give that it did not first take from another. He may take it via taxes. He may take it by inflating the money supply. But he will leave it out of the equation, pulling bunnies out of hats. And worse, getting us to pull levers behind the curtain at our voting booths.
Consider third man’s will. Calvinists are quite content to confess that men are free to do what they want, to act according to their nature. Indeed we affirm we must do what we want, and can do no other. Non-Calvinists, on the other hand, define freedom of the will as the ability to do what you don’t want to do. You choose without the desire for what you choose. This too is something out of nothing. Two men are presented with the gospel message. One embraces it, the other does not. How’s come? If we confess the difference in the man, it is the man God made, the man for which God is the ultimate cause. (And of course the wiser man would have something of which to boast (Ephesians 2:9)). If we confess the difference is in God, well, welcome to Calvinism.
All three, like magic, claim to give us effects without causes, something from nothing. All three depend on our willingness to be distracted, to be misdirected. All three are rabbits out of hats, and hats out of thin air.
Basement Tape #126: Q is for Queen of Sciences, Theology Proper is a conversation about the importance of theology. Join Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Laurence Windham, and others and listen in on CD or MP3 download.