[A] “How can we believe in miracles in this modern age of science?”
If people were really honest, they too would admit in the supernatural. If they accept that God is up there, then why should they have a problem believing that He works down here? (i.e. footballers crossing themselves, keeping talismans (crosses), praying etc…)
Miracles are defined in two different ways:
- A miracle is: a natural but unusual event which occurs at the time it is required.
- Ravens feeding Elijah (1Kings 17:4-6)
- Jesus commanding the storm to cease (Mark 4:39)
- Fishermen catching fish after previous failures (John 21:4-6)
- Coincidences? Seen as miracles because of the time when they happened.
- They are unusual, but not contrary to the Laws of Nature’ (maybe we will soon explain natural reasons behind the first nine plagues in Exodus)
- A miracle is: an event which contradicts our laws of science.
- The virgin birth of Jesus
- The feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes.
- People say that miracles cannot happen because they go against Scientific Laws: Scientific Laws defined = generalizations about causes and effects, by means of observation. That which normally happens (i.e. apple falling = gravity)
- They say that it will normally follow this pattern, not that it will always follow this pattern (i.e. “man is a biped”, but what about an amputee?)
Thus scientific laws only describe how things normally behave. They cannot explain the ultimate cause behind that which happens. That, we believe, rests with God. He is the ultimate WHY of all forces.
One cannot deny miracles today because they go against scientific laws, against that which can be observed today. Miracles are by definition unique and without precedent. Once we believe in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” then everything else falls into place. Ironically deep down most people believe in Gen. 1:1.
Christians believe that matter operates according to scientific laws because God maintains the universe in this way, so that usually the effects of physical actions are predictable. That does not mean God may not at some venture vary the pattern. It is at these times that we find miracles. God is not capricious, or unpredictable, as this would make life chaotic (i.e. game of chess). He may choose to alter it. Yet there is always a purpose behind His action.
We define scientific laws to describe God’s predictable patterns: “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” If He chooses to vary them, this neither destroys the law, but should force us to ask what is the purpose He has in mind. Focus not on the How’ but on the Why’.
Thus, the fact that even in the 20th century things happen beyond our control, which can only be attributed to God, points to the existance of miracles. Humanists say time will provide the answers (yet they can be the most superstitious among us). We say God has already provided the answer, so there is no confusion nor fear:
[B] “People believed in miracles then because they were more simple.”
- Were babies born from virgins 2,000 year ago and not now?
- Could 5,000 people be fed with 5 loaves & 2 fishes 2,000 years ago and not now?
- Were blind men given sight 2,000 years ago and not now?
- Did people walk on water 2,000 years ago but not now?
In every case the witnesses showed surprise, because these events were not normal then, just as they are not normal now.
In Luke 1:34 Mary questioned the logic of the virgin birth. The angel did not answer that this was normal, but said “The Holy One will come upon you” (vs.35)…for “nothing is impossible with God” (vs.37). The same happened to Joseph in Matthew 1:20. The angel explained it as a miracle. Thomas did not believe Christ resurrected and demanded proof (John 20:25). When he saw first-hand he believed, but there are many who still will not believe.
There are miracles today, which people cannot understand or explain. While they see the miracle, they do not necessarily accept its authorship. To believe in a miracle does not mean belief in God.
[C] Doesn’t the Bible contain unscientific explanations, legends, of natural processes?
People assume the Bible is full of absurd statements about scientific things; that they come from legends and folklore. Much folklore is absurd and bizarre, but don’t assume Biblical miracles are likewise. This is guilt by association.
Two qualitative differences between Biblical miracles and folklore:
- Supernatural power in folklore is used to show-off, or to defeat an opponent. Jesus, however, only did miracles as a sign to give Himself authority (i.e. Matt.11:4-5 telling John’s disciples of His works), or out of a need, or due to compassion (i.e. Lk.9:12-17 feeding 5,000; Jn.2:1-11 wine at wedding).
- Folklore or legends are recording second-hand, or by oral traditions, whereas the miracles of Jesus were recorded by the eyewitnesses, who could corroborate the account.
Do any Biblical statements go against scientific principles? There are two ways in which a statement can be unscientific:
- it can describe a repeatable event which we now know is not repeatable. (i.e. the Babylonians cooked eggs by swinging them around in a sling)
- it can describe a causal relationship which modern science now discounts. (i.e. bad humour causes sickness, and needs to be bled out)
- Ancient literature abounds in these sort of unscientific statements, but we know of no example in the Bible. (i.e. Joshua 10:9-14= sun standing still is translated “silent”, so that the sun is muted, by a storm shadowed by clouds for the whole of the day)
- The Bible doesn’t claim to be a scientific textbook; it is merely an explanation of God’s relationship with His creation, Man (i.e.computer manuals tell us how to run it, not how it works). Yet it is not absurd when it talks about science, and even surprises us with accuracy of certain unobservable phenomena (i.e. the debate with Islam over whether water or smoke existed in the primordial state; or the examples of the water cycle found in both the Qur’an and the Bible – yet only the Bible mentions all five stages of the cycle, and particularly the stage not observable by the naked eye = evaporation, found in Job36:26-28; Ecclesiastes 1:7; Isaiah 55:9-11; and Amos 5:8).
- Thus the Bible does not contain unscientific statements, but contains everyday descriptions in nonscientific terms, as it was never intended to be a scientific textbook. One would expect an ancient piece of literature, such as the Bible, to be full of legends or folklore as well as unscientific data, yet we don’t find either with the Bible.
[D] Should the Bible be taken literally in all areas?
As in all forms of literature, the Bible uses pictures to describe ideas (allegory, metaphor) (i.e. the arm of God in Isaiah 53:1 is not His arm literally since
God’s form is unknown Deut.4:15-19 – could be referring figuratively to Jesus).
We take the Bible literally when it intends us to do so:
- “mountains skipped like rams”(Ps.114:4) “the floods clap their hands”(Ps.98:8)=figurative
- the empty tomb, grave clothes, and no body are to be taken literally.
[E] Why are miracles rejected then?
- They don’t fit people’s world-view (only believe that which can be explained)
- They don’t fit people’s experience (only believe that which I have felt and seen). They have never witnessed a miracle, and thus don’t accept them as valid. “I make it a rule only to believe what I understand” Benjamin Disraeli. “He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a very long head or a very short creed” Charles Caleb Colton.
- They don’t fit people’s commitment. If people were to accept miracles, then they would have to accept God, and His revelation. They would have to make a commitment to Him. It has little to do with being clever or intelligent, but more to do with loosing one’s identity; having an authority higher then themselves. The tragedy is that in “refusing to accept the possibility of God breaking into history in a supernatural way, that person is destroying his only hope of understanding what life is all about.”Where do we stand?