I just remembered this old post from the Powerblogs site, a post relevant to present concerns. Written February 2008.
I raised the question whether divine revelation is miraculous. I answered tentatively that it is not. Though revelation may be accompanied by miraculous events such as the burning bush of Exodus 3:2, I floated the suggestion that there need be nothing miraculous about revelation as such. So I was pleased to find some support for this notion from another quarter. The following is from an essay by Leo Strauss on Hermann Cohen's Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism:
Revelation is the continuation of creation since man as the
rational and moral being comes into being, i.e., is constituted, by
revelation. Revelation is as little miraculous as creation. (Leo
Strauss, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, U. of Chicago
Press, 1983, p. 237.)
This is an extremely interesting suggestion in that it may offer us a way to make sense of the notion that God creates man in his image and likeness but without interfering in the evolutionary processes most of us believe are responsible for man's existence as an animal.
Man as an animal is one thing, man as a spiritual, rational, and moral being is another. The origin of man as an animal came about not through any special divine acts but through the evolutionary processes common to the origination of all animal species. But man as spirit, as a self-conscious, rational being who distinguishes between good and evil cannot be accounted for in naturalistic terms.
As animals, we are descended from lower forms. As animals, we are part of the natural world and have the same general type of origin as any other animal species. Hence there was no Adam and Eve as first biological parents of the human race who came into existence directly by divine fiat without animal progenitors. But although we are animals, we are also spiritual beings, spiritual selves. I am an I, an ego, and this I-ness or egoity cannot be explained naturalistically. I am a person possessing free will and conscience neither of which can be explained naturalistically.
I suggest that what 'Adam' refers to is not a man qua member of a zoological species, but the first man to become a spiritual self. This spiritual selfhood came into existence through an encounter with the divine self. In this I-Thou encounter, the divine self elicited or triggered man's latent spiritual self. This spiritual self did not emerge naturally; what emerged naturally was the potentiality to hear a divine call which called man to his vocation, his higher destiny, namely, a sharing in the divine life. The divine call is from beyond the human horizon.
But in the encounter with the divine self which first triggered man's personhood or spiritual selfhood, there arose man's freedom and his sense of being a separate self, an ego distinct from God and from other egos. Thus was born pride and self-assertion and egotism. Sensing his quasi-divine status, man asserted himself against the One who had revealed himself, the One who simultaneously called him to a Higher Life but also imposed restrictions and made demands. Man in his pride then made a fateful choice, drunk with the sense of his own power: he decided to go it alone. This rebellion was the Fall of man, which has nothing to do with being expelled from a physical garden located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Original Sin was a spiritual event, and its transmission was not by semen, but by some spiritual (socio-cultural) means.
If we take some such tack as the above, then we can reconcile what we know to be true from natural science with the Biblical message. Religion and science needn't compete; they can complement each other -- but only if each sticks to its own province. In this way we can avoid both the extremes of the fundamentalists and the extremes of the 'Dawkins gang' (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, et al.)
Returning to Hermann Cohen's suggestion above, as mediated by Leo Strauss, we can say that the divine-human encounter whereby the animal man becomes spirit is God's revelation to man. God's revealing himself is at the same time a creation of man as a spiritual being. In Heideggerian terms, at the moment of encounter moment man becomes Dasein, the Da of Sein, the site where Being (Sein) achieves finite self-understanding. But there is nothing ontically miraculous in this, no contravention of any law of nature.
Revealing himself to man as Being itself -- Exodus 3:14 "I am who am" -- God creates man as understandor of Being.