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A Note on Miracles

I like to give God credit for things, but the word “miracle” is overused. If everthing is a miracle, then nothing is. If one says “I believe in miracles: I saw the sun rise this morning,” then he and the atheist both agree, for the atheist saw the sun rise as well.

It is difficult to define “miracle” because it involves certain presuppositions about God’s relationship to the universe. The Bible says that he upholds all things by the word of his power and that all things “hold together” by, or through, him. Yet a miracle goes beyond that, and I think a miracle is when God intervenes and does something that could not occur naturally.

If a sick person gets well, that’s not a miracle. But if he gets well in an instant, that’s a miracle. God usually answers prayer through providence rather than through miracles. If one is dying of cancer and God’s people pray seriously and the cancer goes into remission, that’s only a miracle if it conflicts with the large record of cases where other cancers have gone into remission. I’m not saying God didn’t do it, I’m saying that he did it through providence and not through miracle.

Why quibble? As I said at the beginning, if everything is a miracle, then nothing is. Unbelievers have a long history of laughing at believers because the believer experiences nothing unusual, but still calls it “God.” The believer is thanking God for a medical recovery and the doctor gets ignored along with the scientists who developed the effective medicines. The unbeliever thinks that there is nothing compelling in the believer’s worldview because he sees plainly that the believer is looking at nature and calling it supernatural.

If there is such a thing as nature, (and I think that there is), then those things which are within that realm need to be labeled as such, and “miracle” needs to be reserved to those phenomena which conflict with the natural order of things. Examples would be a storm ceasing suddenly when commanded to do so, a structural deformity in a human body being remedied instantly, or an uncanny coincidence in response to prayer such as an exact dollar amount arriving in the mail precisely in response to a specific need. Such timing and specificity may rise to the level of “miracle.”

Comments

  1. This post is miraculous.

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