25 December 2007

Why no miracles?

I've talked to possibly hundreds [of people who have claimed to experience miracles] by this point. When it comes down to it, not a single one, I repeat, not a single one of these miracles did not have another possible explanation. Does it mean that their explanation for what happened was wrong? No, of course not. It just means that these "miracles" did not necessitate the interference of a god as the only explanation. See, the problem is that I have yet to see an argument that necessitates a god. Even if the argument did necessitate a god, it would do nothing to explain this god.

Okay, now you're talking. If you've talked to hundreds of such people, you must have been doing your research.

I'm toying between two different directions to take this: scientific or theological. I'll start with scientific.

If I understand what you're saying correctly, you've witnessed hundreds of examples of phenomena that *may* indicate supernatural power, or *may* be explained by natural (if bizarre) circumstances. You have (at least) two competing hypotheses. As a scientist, doesn't that suggest you should set up experiments to determine which explanation is correct? How do you propose setting up such experiments? To leave the question unresolved, remaining in ignorance, seems intolerable.

Now the theological. (This will bore most of you, so feel free to tune out, as you usually do.)

The Bible is full of accounts where Jesus or others performed miracles that could not possibly be explained naturally — speaking in foreign languages, resurrecting people who had died, etc. Even the most flamboyant Pentecostals of today rarely report such experiences. Why?

I can only speculate. (Contrary to any impressions I may have given, I am not privy to all of God's inner motives.) What's interesting to notice is that if you talk to virtually any missionary engaged in bringing the Gospel message to places where it's never been heard before, they've all experienced events like those reported in the Gospels. The most common report (in my limited experience) is encounters with evil spirits. But you also hear of impossible healings, miraculous communication, even raising from the dead.

What's the difference?

Someone else who had noticed the same contrast once tried to explain it in terms of invading new frontiers: When Jesus Christ is bringing his message to areas where the Enemy is in complete control, he brings out his big guns, and holds nothing back.

That answer doesn't satisfy me. It still doesn't say why.

Again, I'm speculating here. But to me, it relates to the (presumably fictional) story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Skipping to the relevant part, the rich man is in hell, talking with Abraham, who is in heaven:

“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send [Lazarus] to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

“The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’” (NLT)

How does this relate?

Abraham's argument is essentially: Your brothers already have all the evidence they need to reveal the truth of God to them, so that they can make a decision. If they choose to ignore this evidence, no amount of additional evidence will make them change their minds.

Most of the modern world already has "Moses and the prophets", and then some. If they refuse to respond to the evidence they have, no flashy miracles will make a difference; they will find some way to refuse that evidence, as well.

Not so in places without the Bible. People there do *not* have Moses and the prophets, and do not have the evidence they need to respond to God. He therefore gives them more evidence, the evidence of supernatural miracles, to confirm his message.

Of course, even in the rest of the world, God still moves. His actions are discernible all the time, to one who has "eyes to see, and ears to hear". But they only serve to encourage those who are open to God, not to convince those who are not.

As I said, this is speculation. I don't presume to understand the full mind of God.

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