MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part 1.
Where have all the miracles gone? by Gaius Columbus
A few weeks ago, my Pastor died after a long illness and despite much prayer by all of us. In my initial distress, I decided to search the internet to see what has been published on the topic of miracles. I googled the words, "where have all the miracles gone”. One of the earlier hits on the list, underscoring its popularity, perhaps, was this blog posting by an atheist
Ignoring for a moment the taunting tone of that piece, does the question posed by this blogger resonate at all? It reminds me of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, except that, this time, we Christians are the objects of the taunts. Is the core question a valid one? Remember that our Lord too was challenged to perform miracles by scoffers like the Pharisees and even by the thief crucified on the adjacent cross. While He refused to perform miracles on these occasions, there was at least the compelling testimony of His miracles performed among reliable witnesses of the same period.
You and I may rightfully say that most of the Lord's miracles were performed not for spectacle but to satisfy real human needs even though some miracles, like walking on the water, were more utilitarian in nature--the Lord needed to join the disciples, so walked on water--are harder to categorize this way. The point remains though, that miracles were performed fairly often.
In contrast, the modern era seems to be almost totally devoid of the miraculous both within the church and as a testimony to unbelievers. I am not claiming that they are not occurring in parts of the world--perhaps they are--but surely, you will agree that we are no longer seeing miracles at the same rate or of the same order of "unnaturalness" as those performed by Jesus and the Apostles? We all have our own stories of prayers uttered in faith, left unanswered? Can we honestly say that we are seeing today, miraculous intervention to the same degree as recorded by the early Church?
When does the inconvenient truth force a search for new explanations--even explanations as intellectually unsatisfying as, "we simply do not know why?" Like what some in the markets have called "almost trends", there is an "almost trend" towards a complete lack of the truly miraculous.
Increasingly, I am not sure whether I am being fully honest--both to myself and to others--when in a time of need, I urge myself or others to "have faith", to believe a miracle will occur if only I/they get down on knees, seize the promises of scripture and pray. To make such claims despite the overwhelming personal/corporate evidence of divine "silence" in recent times, at times seems self-deceiving or willfully naive. It does not square with the data at hand. Something has changed, folks--we are not now, nor have we for centuries been anything like the church of the first century. Isn't it far better to acknowledge that a "problem" exists so we can honestly start to seek answers to why our experience is at odds with the narratives that we read about in the gospels and Acts?
Now, before you send off some emotional knee-jerk response that satisfies a need to defend "the team", remember you will only be preaching to the choir. I am asking these questions very carefully. I still believe in God's grace to believers and unbelievers, but I ask that you remove your "Chrife” or conventional Christian lenses to look at this question with fresh eyes. Perhaps it might help to think about how you would answer this question if rather than a taunting skeptic, you had to grapple with an unbeliever or perhaps even a believer who was truly and honestly seeking a straight answer.
Where have all the miracles gone, and if you accept the proposition that the frequency and the "wowness" of miracles has diminished, I ask, why? And please don't side-step the issue by telling me how pondering these matters can or will make one go mad. Again, I will be satisfied with a mere, "I don't know" if that is the best (honest) answer you guys can come up with. - Gaius Columbus