A man in Oklahoma died in a fire. His neighbors saw smoke and thought the man’s trash had caught fire, so they went into his house to check it out. Instead of trash, they saw that he was on fire. There was no other damage in his house. There is no apparent source of flame.
This sounds like a classical case of spontaneous human combustion (SHC): the body is completely consumed, except for perhaps hands or feet. The fire was locally contained, which is saying a lot for intense flames that must reach upwards of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce a body to bones. There is no evident ignition source, though witnesses often describe seeing blue flames shoot from the victim’s body.
But what is SHC? Modern science simply doesn’t know. Why not? Because they cannot explain it.
To understand SHC, you have to first ask yourself a question: do you believe in the supernatural? Christians should answer “Yes” without blinking an eye.
If you do, then you have to ask another question: what is the source of the supernatural? Again, Christians should immediately recall the greatest, most supernatural act to ever occur in all of history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension into heaven.
A BRIEF PHILOSOPHY LESSON
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But moving on we ask this: Why doesn’t modern “science” get it?
Because Modern science is established on Kantian realism.
Prior to Kant, David Hume obliterated cause-and-effect as we know it. For example, if you burn your tongue after drinking a cup of hot coffee, we link the pain that we feel to the water as the cause of that pain. We understand that there are underlying laws of physics, chemistry, and biology that link all of those things together.
But Hume said that those “laws” are merely conventions agreed upon by men, fictions we’ve fabricated to describe the processes. A different group of people could come up with a different set of laws and descriptions. In reality, Hume said, there may not actually be any link between the water’s “hotness” and the sensation of pain we feel. We experience that pain each time, but that’s all that’s really going on: our “experience.”
This is the philosophy of nominalism, which states that there is no underlying metaphysical structure (things such as physical laws, like gravity) that links cause-and-effect and orders reality into something understandable. Hume said we made all that stuff up, that there’s no more a law of gravity than there are unicorns, and that the “law of gravity” is just a name we created to describe an experience common among us.
If someone were to ask Hume “If all people in the universe disappeared, would the law of gravity still exist?” his reply would be “No.”
Far-fetched? Perhaps, but it’s a serious philosophical question for some people. Hume’s philosophies led mean into deep skepticism about everything. All of a sudden, if one were to take Hume’s ideas seriously, a person has to question even the most basic elements of his daily life. This is hard on our minds.
Immanuel Kant, afterward, decided he didn’t like this either. He believed that skepticism was a stepping stone, not a conclusion:
Scepticism is thus a resting-place for human reason, where it can reflect upon its dogmatic wanderings and make survey of the region in which it finds itself, so that for the future it may be able to choose its path with more certainty. But it is no dwelling-place for permanent settlement. [Kant, Critique of Pure Reason]
So, he went looking for certainty. There was obviously no certainty to be found in Hume’s consummate skepticism and the contingency of relative human experience. Kant, in the final analysis, basically said that there are some things we can know about, and some things we can’t.
The things we can know about are the things that we can experience through sense perception and interpret with our minds. He called these kinds of things “phenomenal.” Then there are things we can’t sensibly encounter, and he called these “noumenal.”
Kant said that we must limit our knowledge to the phenomenal. He said we cannot know the noumenal, so we should just humble our minds and stop asking questions related to that realm.
That is the approach modern science takes. It is a blunt-force instrument that seems effective when wielded against Christianity, but it runs into problems when the “noumenon” breaks into the world of the “phenomenon.”
A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Spontaneous human combustion is such an event. Modern science cannot explain it because it never allows the source of its explanation into the courtroom to be presented as evidence. It is not taken seriously, and it isn’t allowed to be.
Some scientists still stick by this rule, but ever since the 1960’s and the spread of counter-culture, people are more curious. In the age of the Internet where rare events can be captured on video and uploaded to Youtube in minutes for millions to see for themselves, the old explanations aren’t good enough.
Kant’s rationalism basically said that it is man’s mind who creates the laws of nature. Rather than there being no underlying metaphysical structure holding reality together, like Hume said, Kant reasoned that it was man’s mind itself that held reality together.:
“Thus the understanding is something more than a power of formulating rules through comparison of appearances; it is itself the lawgiver of nature.” (Kant, Critique Of Pure Reason)
To a Christian, this should immediately set off alarm bells: this is rebellious Man seeking autonomy from God. It is defiant Man, seeking to determine good and evil apart from the true lawgiver, God. Since there are questions that Man’s mind cannot explain, Kantian rationalism simply made an attempt to cover this up by constructing a superficial mental “NO TRESPASSING” sign: since we can’t know the answers to these questions, we must simply ignore them.
This is the act of rebellious men who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Rom. 1:18) In the old days, the history books could simply ignore these kinds of events. No explanation? No problem; just don’t talk about them. But thanks to the Internet, it’s becoming increasingly hard to suppress these kinds of stories.
For a few pages summarizing the history of spontaneous human combustion, download this book, Unholy Spirits, and flip to page 52.
Update — The original article and headline erroneously reported that the individual died in Texas. His death actually occurred in Oklahoma. The article has been revised to correct this.