MIRACLES IN OUR DAY. Part II
by Gaius Columbus
In response to the comments in my other post , I too enjoyed reading Josh McDowell's book Evidence that demands a verdict. Like Luke, his book served to assure me of the certainty of what I had believed. I doubt, however, that a hard-core skeptic, unwilling to countenance the possibility of the Divine, would have been convinced.
Calorius is correct when he says the recipient's faith plays a key role in making sense of unusual phenomena. The intransigent Pharisee attributes these spectacular events to the workings of juju or magic, the naturalist scientist to chance or to some known or as yet undetermined law of nature, and the believer to acts of Divine power and grace. Each because of his/her peculiar predisposition while agreeing that something spectacular has occurred--this is important--reaches a verdict regarding the cause that is at variance with the others. In some ways, therefore, the strength of one's previously held position can make the data irrelevant and the conclusion a foregone thing. This, in a sense, explains a lot of internet debates.
So I agree with each one of you when you say the parameters of this discussion--particularly the intended audience--have to be set carefully. My intended audience for this discussion is primarily the believer for whom the dearth of miracles in his own, and in modern life has become a stumbling block. To a far lesser extent, I also include the unbeliever who may be genuinely open to, but not convinced of the "wild" claims of the Bible; i.e., the non-Christian seeker such as the Ethiopian Eunuch or the rich young man in the Bible who deserve a serious answer, even though that answer may be of a different flavor than that offered the believer.
In response to the other comment posed by George, if one could show that our Lord's era was no different from previous or subsequent times, this would indeed invalidate my argument made earlier. The gospel narrative suggests, however, that this is not the case--again, see John 21:25. There were indeed intervals in the OT during which miraculous activity occurred at a heightened pace. Returning to the analogies used previously, this would be akin to times of higher-than-normal volatility in the markets (those not reaching spectacular levels) or to passable reception on the radio not attaining the quality of a high fidelity signal.
Such times, Christians would say, merely foreshadow our Lord's ministry. They are types of what was to come; the earth tremors before the major earthquake, followed in a sense by the aftershocks of the first century and present era. This rush or explosion during our Lord's ministry is observed not only in the frequency of the miraculous acts, but also in their magnitude, culminating in the ultimate miracle, His resurrection from death not by the intercession of men as previously recorded (see Elijah and Elisha), but by His own authority. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. I Jn 10: 17-18.
All of this, the spottiness of miraculous activity through time, suggests to me that the predominant motif in man's dealings with God is not the spectacular but rather Grace. Not “Magic” (or the magical) but rather Mercy. Grace and Mercy, present from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. Grace in the garden, grace in the stories of Abel and Noah, grace in the prophets, grace in life of David, and on and on. Indeed, an examination of the Scriptures reveals that miracles appear much later in the narrative, and then only in fits and spurts. Far more pervasive and permeating the Scripture is God's grace to His servants.
If so, God's words to Paul when he asked for healing are apt; No miracle this time, just my grace is sufficient for you. Indeed, it should be stated that unless miracles are themselves embedded in an overarching framework of grace and right theology, they run the risk of becoming mere spectacles, the voyeuristic experience of the fickle such as the crowd that followed Jesus or, worse still, a diabolical means for leading people astray as we are told false prophets and the Antichrist will do. We walk by faith not by sight.
In my next post I hope to say something of how this overarching principle of grace relates to my view of miracles today, using Paul's experience as a starting point. Till then, let me just say that I do not believe the popular notion of every Christian as potential healer and miracle-worker. I do not believe this position is supported by a right understanding of Scripture. I believe instead that on a bedrock of grace for daily living, God occasionally and even today raises men and women endowed with spectacular gifts of healing and with miracle working ability to bless us (see Roman 12: 3-8, posted below).
Spectacular miracles have and continue to accompany Christ's body as a corporate entity, but not always as individuals. His grace, however, extends past and supersedes specially gifted people and special times, remaining even in times of perceived miracle-drought. Grace is the invariant in this sea of up and down miraculous activity. It points us to the Giver of all good gifts rather than to the gift itself. It manifests in gifts received in the natural as well as in the supernatural but results ultimately in relationship. - G Columbus
Romans 12: 3-8: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
MIRACLES IN OUR DAY, a recap. Part I