November 27, 2014

Open Mic: Miracles

We are looking at Tim Stafford’s Miracles this week as part of our iMonk book club. I went to a school where the words “Expect A Miracle” was written alongside the basketball court. (And some of the teams they had desperately needed a miracle to win.) In the circles I grew up in as a believer, the word “miracle” was tossed around like candy on Halloween. It seemed for many, the least inconvenience necessitated a call for a miracle.

Lisa Dye started us off great yesterday with an overview of Stafford’s book and a glimpse of the miracles Lisa has seen in her life. Several of you shared your experiences as well. (Tokah, we are rejoicing with you.)

We want to turn the mic over to you for your thoughts on just what constitutes a miracle. Are there biblical qualifications? Is one man’s natural another man’s supernatural? And most of all, is God still in the miracle business today?

Step up to the mic, state your name, and share your thoughts.

Comments

  1. I, too, grew up in an environment where the word “miracle” was tossed around like candy on Halloween…(or like candy would have been tossed around, if we had celebrated that accursed pagan festival ;) )

    I think it would be really easy for me to be jaded by all of the spurious reports and hyper-sensationalism that accompanies so much of the modern-day “miraculous”–especially given how much of it I was force-fed as a kid. But, I’ve had the miraculous happen in my own family: my mom was miraculously cured of a serious neuro-muscular disease several years ago, and there are no medical explanations for what happened.

    So, I do believe that God is still in the miracle business. Apart from familial experience, I’ve never been convinced by cessationist hermeneutics. I don’t think God in any way is in the business of miracles on demand…but in His way, in His timing, He still does wonders.

    • Ryan you captured my cynicism in many ways. That’s why I hesitate to write what I did on the prior post.

    • I wasn’t force-fed anything religious or theological as a child, partly because my family was always in survival mode. Maybe that is more of a blessing than I have thought at times. It’s allowed me to come to different spiritual subjects without preconceptions. It doesn’t seem open minded to dismiss the potential for miraculous happenings. Neither does it seem healthy to believe we are somehow responsible by behavior or faith for when God chooses to intervene in a way that defies understanding or explanation.

      My Greek teacher who is also a Baptist pastor says that he is becoming more Catholic in his thinking because it allows for God’s mystery. I’ve thought about that a lot and would say it’s true of me as well. I don’t want to pigeon-hole the Maker of the heavens and the earth.

  2. My take on miracles is that of Francis Collins, the eminent Christian biologist, who said something like that he believed in miracles, but had very high standards for what constitutes a miracle.
    I guess I consider a miracle a dissonant phenomenon that can’t be explained any other way. So something that was a miracle 500 years ago might very well not be one today. Likewise, something that is a miracle to my 12 year old son might very well not be one to me, and something that is a miracle to my mom might very well not be to the medical staff that is treating her. The more we know, the less we are inclined to dump into the miracle file.

  3. My brother was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly agressive brain tumor, 30 years ago at age 26. He underwent surgery, then the standard course of radiation, and finally, 2-3 chemo sessions, which he chose to discontinue due to the unpleasant side effects. The prognosis was poor, with the oncologist giving him 2-3 years. At some point during treatment he went to a Calvary Chapel home Bible study where they prayed for his healing. I remember him saying that he now knew that he would be OK. He also began taking daily megadoses of vitamin C, as recommended by Dr. Linus Pauling.

    To this day there has been no further evidence of cancer. He sees a neurosurgeon every 6 mos. and must take Dilantin 3X day to prevent seizures.

    If that’s not a medical miracle then I don’t know what is!

    • Something somewhat similar happened to a friend’s brother. I actually know the guy, so it isn’t just one of those rumor mills type things. Anyway, about 10 years ago he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He decided rather than undergo surgery to remove his colon and the associated chemo and radiation, he’d rather simply live out the rest of his days at home and die. Well, like I said, that was 10 years ago or so, and he’s doing fine now. It’s hard for me to see that sort of thing as anything but a miracle.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In both the above cases of spontaneous remission, I suspect the mechanism involved is immunological — for whatever reason or cause, the cancer cells lost their ability to hide from the body’s immune system (as normal cells) and the immune response did the rest. This would require only one “tweak” in either the tumor’s biochemistry or immune system IFF.

      Regarding Karen’s brother, the tumor is gone but the neurological damage it left seems to still be there, otherwise he wouldn’t be on Dilanin after 25+ years. That seems to indicate a natural mechanism instead of some sort of supernatural re-creation.

      • You are right HUG in that neurological damage remains. Could be from scar tissue, long-term effects of the radiation, possibly even a small part of the tumor remains but has never grown. To my knowledge the drs. never proclaimed him “cancer free”. The side effects of years of taking Dilantin also has taken its toll. My brother worked for about 9 years after the cancer treatment, but was laid off in 1991 and has never worked again, not because he wasn’t able but because he lacked the motivation that “normal” people have. At only 56 he’s in worse physical (but not mental) shape than our 95 yr. old father. However, he remains content with his life as it is.

  4. Miracles point to God, that was Jesus’s ministry on earth and that is still what it is exept now that it is through the working of the Holy Spirit. An event that is unxeplainable and points man to God and that man becomes aware of the presence of God and his working. Miracles should change circumstances not just physically but spiritually as well.

    • +1. We look for outward signs, God seeks our hearts. If one does not follow the other, I don’t think that’s a miracle, more like “God of the gaps”. That’s why miracles are not dependent on what we know or don’t know, but how we’ve been transformed from within.

  5. Wow, having to stop and state MY own definition of a miracle made me think long and hard.

    (Yet, I always tell my students that if they cannot explain or define something using their OWN words, that they probably do not yet understand it very well! Sauce for the goose, then, for “teacher”!)

    Miracles, to me, are God’s choice to intervene in human life in a manner that either suspends the rules He has set forth on the this planet, or intertwines several unrelated rules or phenomena to accomplish an outcome requested by one or more persons and that ALSO serves His overall Plan AND increases the faith of one or more people.

    I think. But I could be wrong! :-)

    • Forgive me, I’m not a scientist and don’t know how to adequately describe something I have wondered about …. that the separation that we experienced at the Fall was a breaking apart of dimensions (i.e. the spiritual from the temporal and spacial) that had previously been united and which God declared good. If Adam walked and talked with God, either because God had not separated himself from the physical or because he had not separated Adam from the spiritual, then perhaps what seems unusual and miraculous to us now was quite normal then when those dimensions were properly united as was his plan. Perhaps it’s why even creation groans with longing since the Fall. All of nature knows it was meant for more.

  6. Mike the Geologist says:

    I, too, am a skeptic when it comes to reported miracles. I think the term is too loosely used in evangelical circles and this causes reproach to the cause of Christ rather than resulting in His name being glorified. My own personal testimony is a good example. In 2005 I went to the hospital with intestinal blockage. A CT scan confirmed there was blockage and I was put on IV antibiotics while they waited for the blockage to clear itself, which they often do, since the corrective surgery is major and can cause adhesions which lead to further blockage. After 3 days the blockage seemed to clear and I was released. The next year about the same time, I suffered the blockage again and returned to the hospital. The doctor told me the CT scan did not show blockage but my appendix looked “funny” (his word) and he thought he’d better take it out. Long story short- my appendix had burst- a year ago. Now, you don’t usually walk aroung a year with a burst appendix, although there are reports in medical literature of the infection being contained in adipose tissue (that “spare tire” , it seems, was good for something). So-miracle or not? Well, I know who preserved my life, and I don’t care how He did it. Now as to that commenter on Lisa’s post who said most healings don’t involve restoration of missing limbs- well here’s a quote from a kidney doctor’s letter:
    “I saw T— today for a follow-up of her CT, which was done on December 28, 2006. A CT that I reviewed from December 28, 2006 shows a kidney in the left upper pole. Knowing I performed a Completion nephrectomy on December 16, 2005. I cannot explain this except to her God be the glory. Presently she is having no discomfort. A serum creatinine performed today was 1.1, so the kidneys are functioning normal. T— will undergo further testing to test the renal functions of these kidneyson January 8, 2007. I have reassured T— that I did not see any cause for concern currently. I have also told her at this time she can remove herself from her medication. There is no need for dialysis or a transplant at this time. Hopefully, this is the end to T—‘s long saga. I think she can return to all acitvities and will live a happy and fulfilling life. She should have an x-ray done periodically just to be certain that nothein in the kidney’s change.”
    I emaliled the documents to Jeff Dunn that have this women’s name and the doctor’s name and address. She has given permission for them to be distributed, so if you want them you may contact Jeff or me. After having one kidney surgically removed her other kidney was failing. She was on the list for a transplant when she went to a chruch service. She did not go up to get prayed for, she was weary of praying, sick and worn out, and was prepared to “go home”. The preacher had a word of knowledge that someone had kidney disease and had given up. He said God was telling him to tell her just to trust me this one last time… so she did. Jesus restored the kidney that had been removed and healed the remaining kidney- she now has two functioning healthy kidneys. Fellow beloved I-monks; never give up trusting Him, never give up, never. Even if you have to say with Job; “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Job 13:15). I can’t promise you a miracle (no one can) but I can promise you resurrection. Job 19:26: “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God..” He’ll come through for you, one way or another.

  7. I agree with Ryan in that often times the word “miracle” is tossed around far too frequently, but I absolutely believe that God still does them all the time! There are many factors involved, in regards to the faith level of the one being praying for, and the one doing the praying, as well as if there are any sin issues in either of their lives.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think we can ever have any definitive recipes or formulas for what a miracle is or how to make it happen – we are to simply believe God to do them in order that people might come to know Him as their Lord and Savior

  8. Miracle is the word we use to describe events we don’t understand, that aren’t reproducible, and seem improbable or impossible to our eyes. The common grace, the rain the falls on the just and the unjust, inspires gratitude. Extraordinary grace that is obviously so inspires gratitude and wonder.

    Ultimately though, we don’t define what is and isn’t a miracle. I doubt God even uses the same chapter headings we do. It is a word that is useful to discuss the events of our lives, not to build a systematic theology around.

    What really matters, though, isn’t how we parse our definitions. What matters is how we react to the events we try to define.

  9. I’m not sure any binary appropriation will do the concept justice. The term must be identified relative to our metrics. If, for example, we adopt Collins’ “high standards”, then our metric is something like statistical probability. Anything outside the sixth standard deviation is a miracle, subject to other constraints (a mass murderer getting a hold of a nuclear sub and ghosting half the world’s population is a highly improbable scenario that we would not label miraculous). On the other hand, perhaps a miracle is more of an idea than an occurrence, in which case, digging a well for a poor village in Africa is a miracle. I personally lean toward three constraints: 1) Initiated by God, although a human mediator is generally present. 2) A wholesome telos. 3) Outside normal expectations for occurrence (no immediate, observable cause).
    But, I think this is something more like a starting point.

    • Miracles don’t easily lend themselves to statistical analysis; your six-sigma threshold gives us a 3-in-a-million standard, but we may not have enough cases to do a T-test on them. The case of Mike the Geologist brings up might not meet that standard (you might have a handful of spontaneous remissions out of thousands of cases) but they are enough of an outlier to either chalk up to dumb luck or a miracle. That would meet your case three but might not meet a six-sigma standard; but Six Sigma is better left for GE or Dow Chemical rather than the Church.

      • Its also entirely arbitrary. My point had less to do with what scientific metric is used, and more to do with how difficult it is to use the nebulous “high standards” as a qualifier for a miracle.

  10. Many years ago we attended a new church to us and became involved in a group of people studying Bible passages. We began to listen to the stories of one another. We drew close to one family and one day we experienced a unbelievable story of that family when the father killed thier newly born child and himself. I went into a zone of dead-ness when I questioned God in so many ways. This began a journey of not believing in miracles. Now as I look back through many long years, I gradually allowed God back in a growing but rough journey of trust. As I read the gospels, I see that we are many. As God so lovingly and patiently stuck with me I am seeing miracles around me. The miracles of people who still trust God in the troubling, difficult times that defy our hearts and minds; whereas God in his power keeps the invisible thread of faith steady. Help us, Lord in our unbelief.

  11. I’d like to make two different points, one giving my tentative definition of “miracle” and the other describing what I have seen that fits that definition. I have generally heard people describe miracles as those events where God intervenes to suspend His natural laws. At present I don’t agree with that. It strikes me as inconsistent on God’s part. I think, rather, that miracles are when God causes the highly improbable to happen. For instance, Jesus birth fulfilled several plain OT prophecies. This is not a suspension of natural laws but just highly improbable (Peter Stoner calculated it at 1 in 10^17) and is a miracle. Jesus resurrection is also highly improbable but if we believe that through some yet unknown evolutionary mechanism God brought ordered life from disordered non-life then why not believe that through some yet unknown mechanism He brought life to Jesus already orderly (though lifeless) body. When we don’t understand it, it looks like the suspension of natural law. But someday (here or in heaven) we will understand the mechanism that God used. This is obviously just my opinion.

    On to what I have seen; Having spent the mid-80’s through mid-2000’s in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches I have seen a lot of things claimed to be miraculous. Most of it was mildly improbable but could be explained away, but two incidents involving people I knew well stick out:

    One was a girl who was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta. She suffered from a consecutive string of broken bones. During a weekend retreat (not a healing service) the guest speaker approached her and said he felt led to pray for her healing (she had a broken leg at the time). After the prayer she felt her leg healed. This was confirmed by her physician the following Monday. She has not experienced a broken bone since that prayer (10 years ago) and yet she still bears the genetic markers of Osteogenesis imperfecta. Puzzling.

    The other was a young boy who was diagnosed with Scleroderma. His prognosis was not good (crippling and eventual death). The church fasted and prayed. The Scleroderma faded. The physician’s explanation was that he must have misdiagnosed the condition. I believe these were miracles.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My old DM used to say “Oncologists know of miracles. They call it ‘Spontaneous Remission’.”

      During my time in Azusa Newman Center in the early Eighties, I heard about such a Spontaneous Remission from a reliable source — the woman whose Stage IV Cancer disappeared after a healing service (Prayer for the Sick and Anointing with Oil, Roman Rite), confirmed by her oncologist. The oncologist recorded it as a Spontaneous Remission and met with the priest who did the Anointing. If a miracle, the miraculous part was in the remission’s timing. (I lost contact with the Newman Center a couple years later; I do not know if the cancer returned after that.)

      Now cancer tumors grow because they don’t trip the body’s immune reaction which would normally destroy malignant mutant cells. I theorize that whatever happened, the mechanism was immunological — her immune system began to recognize the cancer and mobilize against it, consuming and destroying the tumor. Again, the miracle connection is because of the timing; her body began fighting the cancer at the time of the Anointing.

      • I vacillate between skeptic and mystic sometimes, but I’d be prone to believe the priest had something to do with it. I just don’t see the point of those instructions in James if it’s never supposed to do anything.

      • I too would call that a miracle. But miracle or no, in the end what is important is that the needs of these people were met. Our proving or defining something as a miracle or not seems of less consequence.

        Thank you God for your provision, whether miraculous or just highly improbable!

      • It would be interesting to find out what percentage of “spontaneous remissions” happen in the presence of prayer as opposed to its absence. Granted, that would be a difficult study to pull off for a number of reasons.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I think there’s a Lewis essay where he concludes a truly-blind study as to the power of prayer and miracles is literally impossible to pull off. Something similar to the Observer Effect in quantum physics, where the act of observing (or setting up an experiment) changes the results.

  12. Pastor Don says:

    God still works miracles today. By that I mean he intervenes with his power and heals and transforms someone from a disease or disability. I do not relegate this to “belief” but to fact because like the example presented by Mike the Geologist above I have proof. My wife was healed of fybromyalgia fourteen years ago and has not had pain nor taken medication for it since that night. She had suffered from it for almost four years prior.

    I also know of many times prayers for healing did not result in either miracles or healings. My wife again is proof of that. She ultimately has had to have both hips replaced due to a degenerative problem with both her hips.

    In my years of ministry I saw many who ministered in the power of their egos and not of God. But I have witnessed numerous occasions when supernaturally, God intervened and made someone whole in their bodies. There have been other forms of miracles we have received as well.

    One Sunday night I didn’t want to go to church. At my wife’s insistence we did. At the close of the service the speaker had everyone stand. He then looked back at us (we were in the back row) and asked us to come up. He then announced that we had a special financial need and wanted the congregation to come up, one by one, and place something at our feet as the Lord lead them. When we got home we emptied the paper bag of money and checks on the kitchen table with our three children surrounding us. We received exactly $1700 to pay off an old obligation we had had for some time that had been wearing on us. No one in the church or our extended family knew about it. It was a night the five of us will never forget.

    Sure we want God to heal us and those we love because that’s how we see it. Jesus didn’t go to heal Lazarus when first called and his disciples couldn’t figure out why. Days later they witnessed a miracle and then they knew.

    Miracles glorify the Father and his Son, and never us. We wish they would occur regularly. They don’t. That’s part of their definition…they are special workings of the Lord’s power at special times for special reasons–all at his choosing.

    Grace to you all.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Miracles are like any other Paranormal Phenomenon — rare and unusual. If they were common, they wouldn’t be miracles.

  13. This is a very touchy topic for me to delve into, by an large I’m a skeptic at heart and I have not seen anything I would constitute as a true ‘Miracle’. I also find that almost all faiths abuse the whole concept, and anything that fits their theology becomes a miracle, with little or no investigation. In the end they do damage their credibility by being so gullible that even things that normal people would scoff at become some type of divine event.

    I certainly don’t buy into all the mania that surrounds healing sites, apparitions (Marian and otherwise), nor do I believe church authorities who have such low standards that you sometimes wonder why they bother at all trying to validate something as real. Might as well just call it a miracle and stop trying to appear impartial about it.

    I do believe there are true Miracles, but my requirements are incredibly high.

    For me a true miracle should be able to stand the honest test of scientific inquiry, leave no external influence questions (people who exhibit a history of claiming miracles etc), and have witnesses of both believers and non-believers. When no other answer exists, then you can claim the miraculous.

    There are some like that, but not many.

    -Paul-

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Paul, what is your opinion of what I cited above about the women whose kidney was surgically removed having it replaced by God?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’d say an extraordinary claim like that requires an extraordinary level of evidence.

        And if true, tests at the time of the kidney regeneration for any clues as to the mechanism involved.

      • Without looking at the documents, or all the details surrounding the case, I would say tentatively that it would qualify. It certainly sounds plausible, there could be other explanations (wrong patient he operated on, faulty memory, twin) but those could be easily ruled out with a simple investigation.

        Like I said, I do believe they happen, I can’t see how you could have faith and not. And I don’t think being skeptical is a bad thing, it gives more weight to actual miracles when they happen.

        -Paul-

        • Mike the Geologist says:

          HUG: “I’d say an extraordinary claim like that requires an extraordinary level of evidence.” I’d agree, HUG, email Jeff Dunn and have him send you the documentation. My understanding is that one kidney was removed and the other was failing. She was on a list for transplant and was being treated for the one remaining failing kidney. After her healing, she felt better and went in for an examination and it was then they discovered the TWO healthy kidneys.
          Paul Davis: “And I don’t think being skeptical is a bad thing, it gives more weight to actual miracles when they happen.” Again, I agree with you. And you know, the Pharisees knew the tomb was empty and He was alive – they still refused to believe.

          • Paul Davis says:

            There will always be those who will deny miracles no matter how conclusive the evidence, those people and the ones who believe every miracle they see do the same type of damage to their credibility. One skeptic I won’t mention by name treats any subject he can’t easily dismiss with pure derision, when I realized that he had his own faith that would not allow ANY miracle, is stopped reading his books.

            -Paul-

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            This skeptic with the books wouldn’t happen to be James Randi or Michael Shermer?

            Randi is so Skeptic Uber Alles (“Whatever it is — I’ll debunk it!”) that he’s been caricatured in Dilbert. Shermer sounds a lot more reasonable.

  14. I hope this doesn’t come across as trite Christian mumbo-jumbo (I like to think of myself as ANTI-trite Christian mumbo-jumbo), but I had a bit of an epiphany about a year ago regarding “miracles,” or at least a little bit different way of looking FOR them.

    After reading a woman’s report of a recurrence of breast cancer and reading her praises of God that He’d allowed her to have 12 years of being cancer-free, I pondered whether life itself isn’t a bit of a miracle, that maybe the “miracle” is that God is STAYING/PREVENTING some horrible things happening to us. Consider Hurricane Sandy, for instance; maybe every day that the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast doesn’t get obliterated by hurricane is a miracle, is “evidence” of God’s miraculous hand. I live in Seattle…earthquake territory. Maybe it’s a miracle every day that Seattle isn’t wiped out by an earthquake.

    Are you in good health today? Maybe that’s a miracle. Do you have a job? Maybe that’s a miracle. Did you wake up today? Maybe that’s a miracle.

    Just some thoughts.

    • I think miracles are more about what is entirely out of the ordinary, as the purpose of miracles is to point people to God. Throughout scripture, God uses crazy, weird, random, and unnatural happenings to prove to a unbelieving world that he does in fact exist.

      If we say that a miracles is not getting hit by a storm, how does that prove God outside of theory? If we see the sun stand still until 4am, that is explainable any other way than to say there must be some greater power that caused that. If I have a headache and it goes away, that is explainable, but if my leg was cut off 10 years ago, and now it miraculously grows back, that does not make rational or scientific sense, it demands that there must be some greater power that caused my leg to “supernaturally” grow back.

      The biblical foundation and purpose of miracles is always to prove God’s existence to an unbelieving world

      • What bugs me most is the meme of “miracles are how God proves/demonstrates he exists”. Because if it is I doubt it is terribly effective [note Jesus’s words about people who crave miracles]. And if that is what God wanted to do then writing it in letters of fire in the sky over New York city would be seriously more effective.

        Much of the miracle thing for me falls into the same category as automatic-writing, weeping statues, weird stuff about the dead or spirits *trying* to communicate, etc… If these beings are so powerful and interested in communicating with us they are also rather stupid, why be cryptic and symbolic – isn’t just saying what you want to say far more effective? Write it on the wall in clear english!

        I don’t disbelieve in miracles, but something being even wildly improbably doesn’t make it a miracle. In a big crowded world wildly improbably things happen *all the time*, to somebody, somewhere. That is just the numbers. Laying down a statistical threshold for miracle status makes no sense [or demonstrates being really bad at math; and don’t be me started on how some of these stats get thrown together]

        In scripture when someone saw a miracle there typically wasn’t much doubt. Fire came down and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. The red sea parted. Christ raised a man from the dead, and cured those not even in his presence. Balam’s ass talked. Joshua lengthened the day. When angel’s appear to people the people were terrified. When these happened was anyone present debating miracle status?

        The modern miracle accounts are weak tea. Is it just hiding behind the one verse about God being in the still small voice? When throughout almost all the rest of scripture God is a rather brassy fellow. [and that still small voice followed an earthquake, a raging fire, and wind – and was a *voice* ].

        • I don’t see the purpose of miracles as proof that God exists. I actually think they are more in line in God demonstrating His faithfulness to people. It seems to me that most miracles I hear of are in the lives of believers, although, I have heard of them happening to non-believers as well. But I think they serve as glimpse of God’s future kingdom. I see them as something like a down-payment or an appetizer. They aren’t meant to simply bless us for the sake of blessing us, but rather spur the church’s prophetic imagination and energize it in its mission. Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, there are plenty of people who focus on the miracles themselves.

    • Brianthedad says:

      I agree. There are many miraculous things surrounding us daily, that we simply dismiss because today we can explain them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I pondered whether life itself isn’t a bit of a miracle, that maybe the “miracle” is that God is STAYING/PREVENTING some horrible things happening to us. Consider Hurricane Sandy, for instance; maybe every day that the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast doesn’t get obliterated by hurricane is a miracle, is “evidence” of God’s miraculous hand. I live in Seattle…earthquake territory. Maybe it’s a miracle every day that Seattle isn’t wiped out by an earthquake.

      However, that leads into the impossibility of Proving a Negative.

      Like the “invisible, incorporeal dragon living in my garage — you can’t see it or detect it, but it’s there” example Carl Sagan wrote about when he was feeling REALLY skeptical.

      • I don’t disagree with the assessment that this leads to the “impossibility of Proving a Negative.” And that is precisely why I like the epiphany I had. I’m not sure miracles need to “prove” anything, and strangely enough it seems to me that God doesn’t use miracles all that much to prove His existence. If He did, He’d become “Genie in a Bottle” ™ and would be only as “real” as the next miracle He provided. All I need to do is point to the extremely fickle nature of humankind as my argument. Heck, just look at Jesus during His final week. He entered Jerusalem to the cheers of a crowd expecting a conquering hero, but was crucified several days later when He didn’t “prove” His power.

        I think it’s a bit in our nature to turn God into a “what have you done for me lately” kind of God, and the idea that life itself is a miracle and that there is the miraculous in His STAYING/PRVENTING power helps me recognize God is always “doing” for me and for us. I don’t need to SEE miracle evidence to believe in His work in my life and around me. I just believe in it.

  15. Most of what I wanted to say has been said. I agree with the theme that “miracles” is used in a flippant way in my prior evangelical circles. I do believe in them, but they are rare . . . that is real ones. I will add, that one of the reasons I think people seek miracles (or claim them so much) is this philosophical orientation that this physical world is inferior (which I don’t believe) therefore all the laws of nature are inferior . . . for, for something to be a “God thing” it has to be outside the laws of nature. Not true. Nature is a God thing.

    Again, I will say that real miracles exist. But the the cheap miracles (finding a parking spot to Grandma’s pneumonia cured), to attribute them to supra-natural causes, than good-ole natural causes is a self deception. Any time we self-deceive, we are actually further away from God . . . who dwells in reality and truth.

    As an evangelical I lied a lot about miracles, which I had witnessed. Such lying got me a lot of attention and praise from my fellow Christians. I can’t help but believe that their stories were also lies. God doesn’t like lying especially when we lie to give Him glory.

    So, some of the miracles mentioned above may certainly be miracles and I’m not doubting that. But I’m just agreeing that the standard should be held high . . . and we should appreciate more how beautiful God has made the Newtonian laws and the other laws that govern nature.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      If this is Christian Monist, I remember him witnessing “lengthening a short leg” miracle claims at various healing services that he was able to tell were fake. Apparently there’s a stage magic trick of folding or rolling the pants cuff or shirtsleeve to make the limb APPEAR to have gotten longer.

      And if an actual limb extension is some small amount (like an inch or so), it could be explainable naturally. The limb might have gotten compressed at the joint(s), so a relaxation and traction (pulling) could have relieved the compression and lengthened the limb some small amount. (They say you’re an inch shorter at the end of the day than at the start, because gravity compresses your spine over the course of the day. Of course, if the limb-lengthening is something spectacular — like a full arm replacing a thalidomide flipper — the above explanations don’t work at all.)

      Because of this, the “lengthening a short leg” or arm miracle claim is not very credible — too easy to fake or show a completely-natural effect. If there are any bona fide miracles along these lines, the above alternative explanations yield a very low signal-to-noise ratio.

  16. This is a story about a man a met, who used to be an atheist until…something happened. You see, in the dark of night, even atheists sometimes break down and pray, and that is what he did. And his prayer went like this:

    “God…if there is a God…get me laid.”

    As he prayed this prayer, he was sitting on a chair facing the door of his dormitory room. To his astonishment, the door then opened up…

    (I swear I’m not making this up! This is how it was told to me!)

    …to reveal the fattest, ugliest woman he had ever seen. Even more astonishingly, she made an immoral, yet welcome, suggestion.

    When nature had taken its course, our hero ran to tell his friend (in the same dorm) what he had just experienced. They spoke the same words at the same time: “You’ll never guess what happened to me…” they both started. Then after a few “You firsts,” “no, you firsts,” it surfaced that the same thing had happened to his friend–the woman had been going door to door throughout their dorm begging for sex.

    So when I met this guy, he wasn’t an atheist anymore. He was an agnostic.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  17. Brianthedad says:

    I hesitate to add my family’s story because it is painful and personal, and because some may dispute the nature of what we see as a series of miracles. And because i don’t want it to be about us. God gets the glory in this.

    About 8 years ago, my 4 yr old daughter was diagnosed with a glioma on the pons of her brain. Inoperable, and malignant by location, according to the pediatric neurologist. The diagnosis came after months of waiting for what the pediatrician had said was bell’s palsy to clear up. The first miracle was how long we had her after the symptoms showed. The neurologist said that in her experience with tumors located where this one was, a child is unable to walk, swallow, or stand within a month of first showing symptoms. We had almost 8. The prognosis was not good.

    The next step was a needle biopsy to determine more about the tumor, to better determine the choice of treatment. It was scheduled for the following week. We got one last mother’s day weekend, one last trip to the lake, one first fishing trip. We prayed desperately for a miracle. Our church and many others in our community were praying for her and our family in this difficult time. We could feel their love, and I was preparing for a fight against cancer. I could just feel a miraculous recovery around the corner.

    The day of the biopsy was stressful but she handled the poking and the prodding well. She went into surgery and came out fine. In recovery, still unconscious, she sat upright in her bed, reached out and hugged her mom, and lay back down. In 5 minutes she went into respiratory arrest, and doctors rushed in to revive her. That started the next 18 hours of emergency surgeries on her little brain to try to save her life. Hours of family and friends praying in the chapel for a miracle, praying for a miracle in the waiting room with my face to the floor, completely at a loss for words.

    After the last surgery, we could tell she was gone. All the incredible technology of saving lives was arrayed against her death, and it had failed. Out of the blue,  out of the midst of her pain, my wife asked the chaplain if organ donation might be possible, despite the tumor. Not yet, according to the doctors, they were still working their hardest. But eventually the time came, she was pronounced dead, and I signed the papers making my daughter an organ donor. The autopsy later determined it was a stage 2 gemistocytic astrocytoma. Exceedingly rare was the phrase the neurosurgeon used at the post mortem. Even more so in children.

    Medical science can’t explain why my daughter developed a brain tumor. It easily explains the three lives saved by the death of my daughter, but the results, though explainable, are miraculous to us. The 11yr old boy who got her liver has relatives in our hometown. His extended family’s church just down the road from ours was praying for his delivery from terminal liver failure while praying for our family’s deliverance from a brain tumor. Today he’s a promising student in his freshman year of college. A 6yr old dying from end stage pulmonary hypertension received her lungs. While being limited because of the risk of exposure to germs due to the anti-rejection meds, she’s still a typical 14yr old, texting my wife and I at least daily to complain about her brothers or how bored she is cooped up in her house. A 57 yr old grandmother received her kidneys and is free from dialysis. She can now travel to see her grandchildren, no longer tied to a dialysis machine for hours a day. There are so many more facets to this that God is still revealing to us today.

    We have met them, have become parts of their families, even joining in family reunions and high school graduation. We prayed for a miracle, but got at least three.

    • Wow. Simply…wow. Fascinating and compelling perspective. I will be pointing others to this post.

    • I am deeply sorry for your loss and I say this as a father. I thank you, again as a father,on behalf of those children who could benefit from your tragedy. There is a Christ-type to this story. A horrible thing out which life was given, where God is not the author of evil, but can redeem it and not let it go completely to waste. May God bless you and your family.

      • Brianthedad says:

        Thank you. A Christ-type, yes. When asked about the the ordeal, I often tell people that it was a brief insight into the way God works, taking something terrible, painful and horrifying and redeeming it into good. He took Good Friday and made Easter Sunday, right?

    • Thanks for sharing your heartbreaking and beautiful story. I’m imaging that the memory of that last hug brings so much joy and sorrow.

      • Brianthedad says:

        Yes, and a certain guilty jealousy of Mom being the recipient, but I was on the other side of the room talking to my parents, and my wife was sitting on the bed with her.

  18. I don’t want to be the one who beats the crazymatic charlatan performing well advertised healing on demand miracles, but I have to share this:

    When I was younger I saw a preacher do miracles by healing a gal with back pain. He had her sit in a chair and he lifted her legs to horizontal and discovered that they were uneven. He prayed for he and suddenly her legs became even in length!

    Don’t laugh, I was in a whole church full of people who bought it. The only reason I bother sharing is because I recently begun seing a chiropractor (nothing serious). And as anyone whose been to one can tell you, he performs the “uneven legs becoming even again” stunt about 5-6 times each visit as he works on me. It’s completely natural. I watched him do it to my wife first, and then I though, hmmm… this looks familiar….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Like I said above, the “Uneven Legs Become Even” stunt is easy enough to replicate using chiropractic or stage magic effects that it is useless for miracle claims — too low a signal-to-noise ratio.

      And at the end of the day, your legs WILL become uneven — you probably favor one leg for weight-bearing when standing or walking, and the joints will compress a bit over the course of a day’s activities.

      • But all it takes is a light touch to the right area of your buttocks in order to even them back out again. Or the right area of the back of your neck. Seriously, I’m born again every time I go to this chiropractor. It’s like scientifically targeted massage therapy.

  19. Marcus Johnson says:

    For some reason, I think there are a lot of folk here who seem to think that whenever someone gets healed with no explanation, that constitutes a mracle. Or when someone prays for healing, and healing comes, that constitutes a miracle. It is a very post hoc argument, and we need to be a little more careful, albeit amid our joy in seeing healing, that we are not confusing coincidence with the supernatural hand of God.

    First, I’d like to get away from the notion that miracles happen everyday. I think we need to distinguish between the everyday engagement that God has with human affairs from whatever we choose to define as “miracles”; otherwise, we become the boy who cried, “Wolf.” It seems similar to calling someone a supermom merely because she feeds her kids everyday. If we are that malnourished for a basic standard for a good mother, then maybe we need to raise our standards. Likewise, if we think that every time the wind blows, God is doing a miracle, then we need to raise our expectations of who God actually is.

    Second, very few people have stopped to ask why a miracle occurred; the general assumption seems to be, “I asked for healing and got it.” Every time a miracle occurred in the Bible, there was a specific context, message, and audience for that event. For the folks here who are touting a specific event as a “miracle,” I have to ask, what was the message God was trying to send through that miracle? I remember a couple of weeks ago, we were having a debate about the superficiality of worship services; are we applying that same sense of superficiality to miracles, in that everytime someone unexpectedly goes into remission or has a tumor shrink, we call it a miracle before we examine the message?

    • Brianthedad says:

      That’s a good point and we do risk being superficial about this. I understand and agree with the Wolf argument. Sometimes maybe it is coincidence, as HUG has opined several places above. I get that. Does a miracle have to have a message to someone immediately that’s apparent to everyone there? I don’t know. The axe head that floated and came back to the prophet? Definitely a miracle. The message? Get back to work? I don’t know. In our personal example I listed above, the why is still a question to me. There was no voice from heaven that declared anything. We mourned the loss of our daughter and asked why. No answer. We rejoiced for the other families that we didn’t know yet. We asked why us, why no healing. Still ask that, but one of the chaplains at the hospital told us later that there were two doctors whose faith had suffered over the years, seeing the day to day sickness and pain that comes too often in a children’s hospital. The Chap said that their faiths had been refreshed. God be glorified. Is that a miracle? I don’t know. It sure wasn’t natural. Peace.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Second, very few people have stopped to ask why a miracle occurred; the general assumption seems to be, “I asked for healing and got it.”

    And what happens when you ask for healing and DON’T get it? Like my mother with small-cell lung cancer in ’75? “Discerning Secret Sin”, “Not Sweetly Submissive”, “Said the prayer improperly”, or other blame-the-victim responses?

    Somebody wrote once that in faith-healing revivals, if there is a healing the Faith Healer gets all the credit and if not the victim needing the healing gets all the blame.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Good observation, HUG. For all the happy posts on here of people who prayed for healing and got it, there are those who prayed and did not get what they wanted.

      I guess the bigger questions to ask is: do we believe in God or Santa Claus? Just in case there is any confusion, Santa Claus is the supernatural entity who keeps track of everyone who is good, then goes around the world and ensures that they all get what they want. Unfortunately, he really only works one day a year, so most of the time, people don’t get exactly what they want when they want it.

      Next obvious question: why pray for healing?

      What if that prayer was not just a request for healing, but an acknowledgment that God is in control, and that regardless of our efforts, we trust that whatever happens, even if the outcome is not what we desired, is not outside of God’s control or knowledge.

      As I wrote that last sentence, I felt really horrible because it sounds so much like what that steaming turd Richard Mourdock said last month about abortion rights for rape victims. However, this is not the same as “rape and death happened because God wanted it that way for some reason.” It’s more of a “rape and death happen because we live in a world infested with sin, but in our fear and frustration, we turn to and rely on God, knowing that He is still on our side, and that He will win in the end.”

      • Have a little grace, brother. Richard Mourdock isn’t a steaming turd. He’s a sincere Christian man with a shallow view of God’s sovereignty.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Normally, I would use a word that had a little more grace to it, but every time someone like Mourdock tries to legitimize a political position with a superficial line of rhetoric from his fait, it makes it that much harder for Christ-followers to show Jesus as a God of reason and love. As a black man, I had the same reaction everytime a network gave Flavor Flav or Ice-T air time.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I guess the bigger questions to ask is: do we believe in God or Santa Claus? Just in case there is any confusion, Santa Claus is the supernatural entity who keeps track of everyone who is good, then goes around the world and ensures that they all get what they want.

        “He knows when you’ve been sleeping,
        He knows when you’re awake,
        He knows if you’ve been Bad or Good
        So be Good for Goodness’ sake —
        Santa Claus: Jolly old elf or CIA spook?”
        — Calvin & Hobbes

        It’s more of a “rape and death happen because we live in a world infested with sin…

        The term I like to use is “the Cosmos is Broken”.

    • As Steve Martin (the imonk, not the comedian) said in another post, every person who is healed will eventually die. Since all healings are only temporary, healing must be more about some special purpose God has in a situation rather than a formulaic combination of Faith+Righteousness+PixieDust. When miracles don’t occur it’s called “normal.” And eventually “normal” will catch up to us all.

    • HUG I totally agree…. I’ve watched a loved one deal with schizophrenia for 16 years. I’d go to churhc hearing people talk about “God is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good” or, “MY prayer was answered!!” And I’d sit there pissed as hell and angry because I thought of the times my prayer was unanswered.

      Who was to fault for this? Did I lack faith? Did I not pray hard enough? Or even worse….was this God’s will.. This along with other scenrios contributed to my open hostility to John Piper and the likes of other reformed theologians. Heck…when Matt Chandler had a brain tumor people I knew were like, “Look to him, look to him…HE HAS the answer on suffering.” I didn’t know my father would have a brain tumor, but after going through that and hanging on to news, dreading MRI scans, and the uncertainity of the unknown. My opinion of Matt Chandler took a turn south.. Instead of havign suffering and declaring that this for a speciffic reason. Why can’t Christians say, “I don’t know…”

      Maybe its me but I really feel like the attitude of many fundementalists have helped fuel the problem of evil.

      • I just prayed for a woman in our church who has some serious cancer issues. My prayer went something like this: “Lord, I have no idea why you heal some people miraculously, and others get no healing, but that seems to be the case. Miracles are yours to give or not give, and clearly that’s the way you want it. So I just ask for a miracle in this woman, recognizing you may or may not provide one for her and her family. Seems like a miracle in this case would be a testimony to your power and grace, and I’m sure it would be used as such a testimony, but only if you decide to provide one. Amen.”

        The other weird thing is…why would THIS prayer make any difference to God, as opposed to all the other prayers that have gone up for her? Is God up there, thinking, “Well, until Rick Ro. prays his prayer, I’m not going to heal her”…? So we apparently serve a God who gives miracles as He chooses, and listens to the prayers of His people and answers them as He chooses. I’m not sure what to do with that. But this is the God I choose to worship and call my Lord.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “No individiual can guarantee the actions of another.”
          — Mr Spock, Original (“Old Testament”) Star Trek

      • Unfortunately, it does seem that many Christians feel that they have to try to have an answer for everything rather than simply saying, “I don’t know”. Sure, good can come from suffering, and maybe God does have some mysterious purpose in things, but those things sure don’t help comfort someone who is suffering.

        I often times think of Jesus’ actions in John 11. When Jesus comes back to the home of Mary and Martha after Lazarus, he finds people of course very upset and mourning the death of Lazarus. Jesus become very emotional, and the text actually makes it a point that He was very angry. The question is what made Him angry. I’ve heard some people claim that it was his friends’ and disciples’ unbelief. I really don’t think that is the case. I believe He was angry because of sickness and death was putting these people through. He was angry at a sin-ravaged world. His emotions were a sign of solidarity with the people, not simply frustration with them.

        My point is that I don’t think we need to pretend we have all the answers. We do need to comfort those who mourn. We need to quit kicking them when they’re down.

        • Yes. And we must not, simply MUST NOT, ever give the trite Christian viewpoint, “They’re in a better place now” or “This is all part of God’s plan.” UGH!!!!!!!!

          • Brianthedad says:

            Yes! Job’s friends were just fine until they opened their mouths. In defense of those who said something dumb while trying to comfort us, most people are also shocked and upset, and that’s rarely ever a good time to speak.

      • Brianthedad says:

        Eagle, those are all questions I asked myself about the death of our daughter. Was there some secret sin in my life, in my past? Was my faith while praying for healing not strong enough? I made it about me. How typical. Accepting “I don’t know” is the right thing, and the hardest. Being an engineer doesn’t help. We saw it in friends also. We had some who began to avoid us, like having a dead child was contagious. I’m certain some didnt want to accept that bad things happen, and can even reach into white, middle class, church-going, conservative families like theirs and ours.