Were the Chilean Coal Miners Fools?

Chilean coal miners

In mid-October, 2010 after being trapped for nearly 10 weeks, 33 Chilean coal miners were finally rescued from a collapsed mine some 2,000 feet below ground. In the wake of the rescue many of the trapped miners said that they had kept the faith that they would be rescued. One miner, Mario Sepulveda, 40, told CNN through a translator, “I was with God and I was with the devil. But God won. I held on to God’s hand. At no point in time did I doubt that God would get me out of there.”Another miner claimed, “There are actually 34 of us because God has never left us down here.” Topographer, Macarena Valdes concurred the sentiment, “It was 75 per cent engineering and 25 per cent a miracle.” While churches across Chile hosted prayer vigils until the final miner was rescued, one of the trapped miners, Jose Henriquez, 55, led a prayer group from underground.

Ok, enough of this nonsense! Now, someone please tell these poor chaps that there is no God. Can someone please break the news to them? Can someone please tell them that what they experienced was simply a large set of random coincidences, a set of improbable occurrences that this time around worked out in their favor; you know the kind that happen all the time in nature.

Someone tell them it was luck! Who will do it? Who will tell them the presence they felt in that mine was simply the figment of their overactive imagination? Someone should let them know, lest they keep walking around blabbering this sort of nonsense to the press. Come on people! Is this not the 21st century? Have we not all but killed off any notion of the existence and presence of a God?

Dear miners, get up off of your knees, go home, and enjoy the last few decades of this miserable life while you have the chance. You should not pray because there is no God that hears you. You’re simply pacifying your fears as a result of the weakness of your minds. I know you have this conviction inside of you that there is a higher power who cares for you, but please find a psychologist who can help you deal with those inner fears and go read a science book to come to terms with the new century. Who knows why you’re alive? Does it really matter? Just go on and enjoy what’s left of this hopeless tragedy we know to be life.

This, of course, is all tongue-in-cheek. As much as some of us may be compelled to do, we cannot intellectualize life to the point of its disconnectedness from the existential issues that we must all deal with on a daily basis. For what will my atheist friends do when they find themselves in similar circumstances?  Will we be so bold then in times of great distress as we may claim to be in times of the stillness of life when routines pacify our fears and pride helps us intellectualize every nuance from the wonder of life? What will the scholar, who’s dead set on his scholarship as a means of understanding the world, do when his child is hanging on to life by a thread? Will he pray? Or will he insist that he is above such outdated and primitive notions? And if he does pray, is it merely out of fear without at least a modicum of hope that if there is a God, that He would save his loved one?

Is it not interesting, however, that just when we think we’ve reduced reality to a set of completely understandable natural mechanisms and broaden our shoulders to stand up tall, our chest out with a sense of bravado, this is usually when we fall the hardest and our aura of invincibility dissipates like some cloud that had formed by our intellectualizing of very real human existential questions.

Alternatively, we dare not disregard human knowledge, for the importance of the mind is paramount. Yet we often need a different perspective by which to see that knowledge. Consider the laws of logic, the laws of nature, and the multiplied thousands of highly improbable “natural” occurrences. Consider that “supernatural” does not mean merely beyond the natural, but quite often, a natural means to bring about a meaningful end. Nature, unable to harbor meaning in and of itself, is then made subject to the mechanism by which meaning is expressed from a mind that transcends nature. Nature is not the helium-filled bubble that has left God out, but the bubble that is the result of and part of God’s directive. God does not need to operate outside the bubble, but God is also not restrained by the bubble. Since God Himself, is its maker it is indisputable that He would use nature with its set of elegant laws to operate within the world of creatures that can comprehend those occurrences. Even if by all outward appearances this nature should appear to be a set of mechanistic circumstances, it can not speak to the meaningful intent in the mind of its Creator.

Refuse the Pride

Should we so boldly stand atop the mountains we have scaled, we should not stand up so straight as to raise our chins above the heavens? For when we make that stand by the pride and practice of our own intentions, of our autonomy, and our fist, we will inevitably be shaken and then hurled down that mountain by the natural mechanism that we think we’ve identified. Do we then shake our fist in anger at the impersonal wind, or express our frustration with the personal God, who’s justice chose to bring us down in the prime of our conceit?

Is this not what would have been the alternative ending of the story of the Chilean coal miners? It is inevitable that had those miners perished, angry shouts would ring out in unison, “Where is God?” But, would it then follow that God does not exist? Not so much. Our expectations imply a justice. Yet, a merely natural world can not give us that. Still, no one that died today would not have died tomorrow or the day after or 20 years from now. The issue is not whether or not people live or die today. Extension of a life can only have merit if that life was to somehow serve a purpose that had not yet been fulfilled. No one chose when and where to be born and so, life is a gift. However, if we do not recognize the gift Giver and we spoil the gift with our indifference or perversion of it, the sovereign and just Giver has every right to take it away. We are all alive today because there is a purpose that we serve, whether we know it or not. Life is a precious gift. Do not squander it away with useless toys that quickly dissolve to leave us empty once again and wanting more – we will not find purpose in the material world. Life is a gift we’ve not earned and many have not even deserved. And yet, here we are.

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