Though I’m old enough (barely) to remember JFK’s assassination, most of what I know about the deed itself comes from the famous 8mm film that Abraham Zapruder shot with his Bell & Howell home movie camera. This film strip has been analyzed, parsed, scrutinized, dissected, and deconstructed from every conceivable (and inconceivable) angle by conspiracy theorists intuiting in each shadow, image, and movement evidence for whatever conspiracy marinates in their souls.
What I have never heard about, however, is this clip being probed, down to even its chemical composition, in order to uncover Lee Harvey Oswald’s motive for the assassination.
And why not? Because even though the effect (the Zapruder film of Kennedy’s murder) arose directly from the cause (Oswald’s motive for the murder), the gap between the cause and effect meant that nothing in the effect, no matter how carefully studied, would lead back to the cause. Oswald’s purpose for killing JFK was outside of and transcendent to the 8mm film of Oswald killing JFK.
Something parallel to this cause and effect relationship can be found in creation. The cause, God speaking the created world into existence (“And God said, let . . . and it was so”), was outside of and transcendent to the effect, the created world itself. This is why the created world no more contains its cause (“Then God said, let . . . and it was so”) than the Zapruder film contained the cause of the Kennedy shooting.
One might be able to discern from a natural effect the necessity of a supernatural cause (See www.adventistreview.org/a-reasonable-expectation-of-the-supernatural), but that’s not uncovering what it was.
Take Jesus’ most spectacular miracle: the resurrection of Lazarus. “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:43, 44). Even knowing what had happened, a physician who examined the risen Lazarus would not have found in Lazarus’ flesh and bones evidence of how Jesus raised this rotting corpse to life, because the cause was qualitatively, metaphysically, and ontologically different from the effect. The effect (the living Lazarus)—even if x-rayed, biopsied, blood tested, MRI scanned, whatever—could never reveal the cause (Jesus bringing Him back to life) because, though reflected in the effect, the cause was outside of and transcendent to it.
Similarly, no matter how determinedly they studied, scientists interested in the origins of, say, cherry trees would never find in the effect, cherry trees, their cause: “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants and trees that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so” (Gen. 1:11).
This problem is amplified by the scientific community’s ideological commitment to methodological naturalism: only natural causes can be posited for natural effects. Someone studying the origins of the Brooklyn Bridge would find evidence in the bridge (the effect) of a cause beyond the forms, structure, and the components of the bridge. That is, the effect points to a cause outside of and transcendent to that effect, unless from the iron, steel, tar, and cement alone the bridge was created.
Similarly, unless the wood, roots, seeds, cherries, leaves, flowers, and stems (the effect) arose from themselves, the effect points to a cause outside of and transcendent to it as well. However, because methodological naturalism automatically rejects that possibility, scientists are left seeking, in the effect, the cause—which means that they are about as likely to find that cause as they would Oswald’s motive in the Zapruder film.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.