Posted: Aug 23, 2013 5:47 am
by willhud9
This is perhaps the hardest post out of all of the subjects I will have to write. The historicity of the resurrection, in part itself a very miracle, is in my opinion an easier topic to write about than the topic of miracles in relationship to the rationality of Christianity, therefore this definitely going to be the shortest of all my argument posts. Sorry Byron!

So to begin.

Miracles are used by fundamentalists and atheists alike in their defense or refutation of Christianity. Fundamentalists point towards faith healing and atheists often jest about the lack of amputee healings. In honesty, the atheists point rings more true than the fundamentalists, but out of a misguided principle. Miracles are not special powers bestowed upon people by God, nor are they random events. The very concept of a miracle (the Greek is δύναμις) is by itself simply a "marvelous deed" and in the Christian world view, a marvelous deed achieved through the inherent abilities of God. This could be as simple as bringing someone to know Jesus Christ, an act which takes the abilities of God, and seen as a marvelous deed as a lost sheep returns to the flock (Luke 15:3-7). We do not think as people coming to know Jesus Christ as their lord and savior miraculous, but in the strictest sense of a miracle, it is.

But what about the big things? The parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, the whole Jonah and the great fish thing in his book, or all the miracles of Jesus? Why are there none of those in today's time? Well despite what some fundamentalists will try to apply, the issue has been widely debated among the church throughout the centuries.

The answer as to why the miracles of the Bible, the grand displays of God's power, is because miracles are not meant to be a guide to faith, but rather a response to faith. Moses trusted God to deliver him from Egypt, and God followed through with a miracle. Joshua prayed with fervor for a big sign, and God stopped the sun. Jonah cried out to God for forgiveness and God delivered him. Daniel trusted the Lord as he went into the lion's den and throughout the Gospel of John, we are told that the miracles of Jesus are all signs pointing to who He really is, but done when the people had faith in who he was (as we see he does not perform any big miracles for Herod, as the biggest miracle of Jesus would be self resurrection.) With the death and resurrection of Jesus, the signs of God, all point to a deliverer, a savior, and Jesus is just that.

Now there are things called spiritual gifts; what about those who claim to have the gift a healing (a gift Paul lists in his epistles)? Very valid, and it is possible that there are those who do have that gift. Going back to my first argument post, if God can work on the quantum level than yes all things are indeed possible through God. However, rationally we should always be skeptical of extraordinary claims. Even Paul in Thessalonians instructs the church to test all things. He was talking about the spiritual gifts of prophecy. People discerning what God really was trying to say. This practice applies with the acceptance of the credulity of supposed miracles. We know there are those who are willing to lie about their faith in order to boost their testimony. Paul even says so in Romans that people would try to justify such actions.

The scientist in me is wary of claims of miraculous healing. Because I know medical science, I know there are many things lacking in our understanding of cancer and other diseases. Yet people will claim and oftentimes truthfully that when doctors told them there was nothing left, all options were spent, and the people suddenly recovered and were cancer free; it is very easy to attribute that to God. Now again, all things are indeed possible, but rationally there could be an unknown medical reason. Of course, if one is feeling nuanced, the point could be made that God is sovereign and therefore in control, and therefore even if a completely natural response happened, it was still graced by God. Of course, that is true from a Christian world view, but is it the same as a miracle? No. There was no marvelous deed done through God's inherent abilities, if the cure was completely natural. Skepticism and Christianity are not opposed to each other here, as again Paul tells the church to test all things.

So miracles, and rationality? David Hume, a very brilliant man from the enlightenment, wrote that it is against nature itself for a miracle to a occur and in a sense he was correct. But if God works at the quantum level then nature itself is able to be manipulated. After all, quantum physics by its very nature deals with the concept of uncertainty that anything is possible, if not plausible or even remotely likely. That is the rationalist will never say something is impossible, but will rather say the more correct analysis of 99.99 percent. So therefore there is a .01 percent chance of something breaching the laws of nature due to quantum fluctuation. Extremely unlikely, but possible.

I will agree with David Hume, however, on his testimonial account of miracles. It is wise to be skeptical and take with a grain of salt all claims of miracles. But then that leads us to the miracles of the Bible.

Again, I will most readily deal with reliability of the Bible, after my two rebuttals and Jesus post, but suffice to say the Bible is reliable. Now this does not mean that it is the inerrant word of God, or everything literally happened. That is a position of fundamentalism and not orthodoxy. Many orthodox Christians have distanced themselves from fundamentalism. But I digress.

The miracles of the Bible serve one purpose: to demonstrate God's power and sovereignty. Many of the miracles may very well be allegory, meant to show us that by trusting God great things can be done (such as Joshua and the son) or hyperbole, to show us that you cannot escape the call (Jonah), or as John wrote, signs that gave testimony of whom Jesus really was. But by no means does this diminish the concept of miracles.

But honestly the only miracle that ultimately matters for Christianity is just one. And when it comes to Orthodox Christianity, it is what makes or breaks the reality of the religion: the Resurrection. More on that next post!