I Still Believe in Miracles

One of the things I have noticed is that as I get older I am less compelled to believe some of the things I did as a younger person.

For example, I no longer subscribe to a literal 7 day creation view, holding more to the view that God created, but evolutionary processes are still in place and that these were his idea too. I realise for some that is anathema, but I think it is both faithful to scripture and reason.

I am less convinced of what it means to be ‘saved’ these days and what constitutes a ticket to heaven or a one way route to hell. As Dallas Willard says ‘surely salvation is about than God inspecting our brain to make sure we have an adequate theology of the atonement’. I find myself a lot more circumspect about making any of those ‘in’ / ‘out’ judgements and I continue to wonder what critical theology we (as evangelicals) have got wrong that God will overlook in his grace.

But while the more debatable aspects of faith have seen me tempering my views and admitting my own limited understanding I haven’t lost faith in the miraculous. We are about to read John 6 as part of our teaching at Quinns and the story of the miraculous feeding of 5000 people doesn’t lend itself to a lot interpretation. It feels like a story we either take at face value and say ‘wow – no idea how – but wow!’ or we toss it and the rest of Jesus’ miracles out.

Of course the Bible gets pretty thin then and when we stop allowing for the element of supernatural we really aren’t talking about Christian faith any more.

I guess a creationist could argue that God ‘supernaturally’ created in 7 days calendar days… but then the weight of evidence to support an alternate view is strong and it does not compromise the integrity of the Bible to hold a different view.

20 thoughts on “I Still Believe in Miracles

  1. Hamo – I understand your position on the Creation argument, given their is evidence that contradicts the literal story of the bible, what I don’t understand is your acceptance that later on the content of the bible is true and does ‘not lend itself to interpretation’. The only difference that I see is that in the first instance we have evidence against the literal creation story but for the story of the feeding of the 5000 there is no evidence for or against the accuracy of the story. The absence of evidence is not evidence.

  2. I guess the absence of evidence to refute is one aspect as well as the presupposition that there is the possibility of supernatural events.

    I think it’d be fair to say the absence of evidence cannot be used to prove that miracles do not occur either πŸ™‚

    BTW this isn’t a poke at you following our convo last week – just something I have been pondering recently!

  3. So do you believe that miracles really happen today? Why do the medical ‘miracles’ that happen only seem to be for relatively minor ailments? According to his youtube video, Randy believes that God lengthened his leg. Why is it that withered or missing limbs never grow out into normal functioning ones? Why don’t cerebral palsy sufferers get up out of their wheelchairs and regain full control of their bodies when prayed for? Can God only heal the relatively easy things? Or is it simply that miracles don’t occur and some ailments are just cured medically and naturally, with Christians quick to attribute the healing to divine intervention because it fits their belief system?

  4. I guess it’s a statement about who I believe God is Jack. I don’t claim any understanding of why he does what he does, but if he is actually God then he is as capable of lengthening a leg as he is of raising a dead person.

  5. Randy – Sidamo is superb. Ethiopian coffee always is a special thing for me. The origin or origins for coffee! I can’t see YouTube at work so I’ll have to watch your video later.

    Hamo – I didn’t assume you were poking fun. I agree that the absence of evidence is not negative proof but I would contend that since we are dealing with a story that is over 2000 years old we are unlikely to ever find proof – unless someone replicates the miracle. Jack’s point is one that has always intrigued me – why is it an ‘internal’ (unseen) illness that is cured, or a limb lengthenged rather than gross physical deformities or lost limbs that are cured miraculously?

  6. I think it is a question of why it is in the text in the first place. I am not sure that creation is in the text to be taken literally as we understand it (gets me so worked up when people try and ‘scientifically prove’ the Genesis account- since when was ‘science’ (or the creationists poor take on it) ‘god’?). …but to explain a ‘why’

    I think the miracles were put there as they had been witnessed by those in the community (and don’t forget- others around were there and didn’t ‘believe’ them) and thought they had something to say about Jesus and the nature of God…..rather than ‘this is a miracle- let me prove it to you’.

    So- I guess I agree with you.

    Loving your take on stuff right now and the realism of it all!

  7. I agree with your point Hamo that if He is God, then he should be able to do anything. Yet for some reason He seems restricted in what He does and doesn’t heal (as Grendel has also pointed out). This is an area of Christianity that greatly bothers me, with ‘faith’ healing being a billion dollar industry that I believe exploits hurting and vulnerable people, offering false promises and hope backed up by dubious claims of the miraculous to keep them (and their cash) coming back. Whilst you may think that the local church has no connection to the Benny Hinn’s of the world, I believe that if you create a belief in others that God can and does do the miraculous today, they will continue to seek this miracle despite the lack of evidence that it ever happens. Is it wrong to just love and support those people and their families, rather than give them false hope?

  8. Hi folks

    Without wanting to discredit any miracles of limbs getting longer, I completely understand why anyone would be skeptical of these issues.

    Charlatans have made good $$$ from ‘easy cures’ for years so its hard to believe any more.

    I understand from reports in other countries (dev world) that miracles are much more common there than in the west including ‘raising the dead’. I don’t have first hand proof on this, but it does fit with my worldview and I am happy to believe that it is entirely possible

  9. Hamo,

    I struggle with this stuff too – being once a ‘Creationist’ and now a ‘Dunno’.

    The thing I struggle with is nost,

    1: Evoloutionary theory, survival of the fittest etc: is so carnal of this world, it seems to be at odds with the ‘things of the Spirit’.

    2: Did man evolve from lower lifeforms or was man created uniquley as per the account in Genesis. The creation of Eve from Adams ribs now seems plausible with what we know about DNA, cloning etc.

    3 Was death in the world before sin – or did sin bring death into creation?

    4. Did Adam and others really live for 900+ years?

    5. When Adam sinned, did this bring physical death into the world or was that death of another kind – the devil intimated that God was lying about ‘on this day you will surely die’. And according to the scriptures they did not die physically on that day…

    As I said I am a dunno, but very much open to a God that can create an entire world in seven days – as “nothing is impossible for God”.

    Sometimes too reason is the enemy of faith and human logic and reason have limits… we all need to be careful that we do not lose faith to reason:

    http://www.vividpublishing.com.au/fromfaithtoreason/index.html

  10. Miracles? You bet. And Hamo, I’ve also heard accounts from those who were there (in developing countries, particularlyof people being raised from the dead and other very wacky stuff going on when people pray. World-view seems to play a big role, as world-view will equate to the type or style of faith that someone will have.

    In a developed country such as ours, we are more likely to have significant faith in the things that can be seen and understood (in my opinion, this is a significant reason why so many people have a non-literal view of creation). This causes us to have less (not ‘no’, just ‘less’) faith in the things that cannot be seen.

    If Mrs Toddy & I have seen God working in our lives 100 times, then 90 of those times was when we were financially stuffed (full time student, 2 kids under 2). When we could have no (or very little faith) in things material (don’t get me wrong, we still had a house we could rent and a bomb we could drive) we prayed more often, and more earnestly towards the things we could not see.

    And this may be why we don’t see a lot of healed deformaties etc. We tend to rationalise, or look towards eternal health in the ‘thereafter’, and see the problem as ‘the thorn in the side’ that can draw someone closer to God.

    World view.

    I’d love to talk to someone from Haiti about their world-view right now…

  11. I’m with Toddy on this one. God can heal whatever and whoever he wants but in the Gospels it states that he gave US (the church) the authority to heal and this is shown to be true in the early church as shown in Acts. So God has chosen to act in partnership with us in this area and therefore our “faith” (or lack thereof) is still an important ingredient in the process. Even Jesus was limited in the miracles he could do in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.

    I think this is why they experience more miracles and healings in overseas countries that are much more open to the spiritual realm.

  12. I fell like I’m stepping out on to thin ice here, however. . .

    “Even Jesus was limited in the miracles he could do in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.”

    what – restrictions on omnipotence? How does that work?

    Do they actually experience more miracles and healings in the developing world or is that just a general perception – also how is a miracle verified as such (ie not just a natural event with unusual circumstances)?

  13. I notice that when questioned about the lack of proof of miraculous healings, most Christians revert to commenting about things supposedly happening in third world countries, citing their greater level of faith compared to western societies as the reason why we don’t see miracles here. Of course there is still no independently medically verified proof of these healings, which is much easier to hide from in less developed nations. We are asked to just rely on the testimony of witnesses to these events as ‘proof’.

    Christians in general seem to have an automatic position that “of course God does the miraculous today”, but does that really have to be the case? If miracles just don’t happen, does that destroy your faith? Is it so bad that things just happen (some good, some bad) and God (assuming He exists within the normally understood Christian framework) perhaps doesn’t actually intervene in any circumstance whatsoever?

  14. Grendel: Yes I believe Jesus lived with self-imposed restrictions to his omnipotence. He was dependant upon the power of the Holy Spirit working through him and by living in this way he was able to provide an example that we could follow.

    The testimonies I have heard from many unassuming people who aren’t making money from their books or circuits would support the premise that miracles and healings are definitely more prevalent in developing nations. For many of these people my guess is that their focus is not on providing medical records and “proof” to a skeptical western world – they just rejoice in the fact that once they were blind and now they can see; once they were deaf and now they can hear.

    Jack: If miracles don’t happen that doesn’t destroy our faith. But if miracles do happen and we are fortunate enough to be a recipient of or witness to a miracle then it can increase our faith.

    I think though, that if someone doesn’t want to believe they will always find a reason to doubt. Jesus once said to his skeptics, that even if someone was to rise from the dead they would not be convinced.

    Just a few of my thoughts…

    Jack:

  15. Jack – you’re bang on. I’m sick of normal stuff happening, and defensive-minded Christians insisting that ‘this is evidence of God at work’. This is not the work of a testifier; this is the work of a defence lawyer.

    Even in biblical times- bad stuff happened, and that was just ok.

    Even Lazarus, raised from the dead, died at some point later.

    We’re just fed this bulldust line of all Christians having to be mega-overcomers in all things at all times. It drives me a little bit NUTS!

    Grendal – re that biblical quote, I’m not sure that this part is meant by the writer to be taken literally.

    πŸ™‚

  16. Well..Well where is your faith… the Bible says it..I believe it…that settles it…

    My God is a sovereign God…the bible is Holy Spirit inspired…whilst it may not agree with your thinking…it is Holy Spirit inspired…get away from this fact…your on dangerous ground…

  17. That’s such a load of crap Paul – most of us christians interpret the bible to say what we want/need it to say.

    I’m guessing you trim the sides of your hair every now again, and yet it “says in the Bible” – Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Lev 19: 27). Let me guess… that was “contextual” or “cultural” or “not relevant for today”. Let’s not pretend we believe everything it says in the Bible as being “true” or “right”.

    Or maybe I’m delusional and alone in my heresy πŸ˜‰

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