The Problem of Miracles
By Pastor Tom Anderson
A miracle is an event outside the normal process of nature that has no known cause. For example, a friend of mine was driving to work in an emotional low, he heard a voice in the car with him say, “It’s going to be alright.” He was so startled he stopped the car thinking someone was in the backseat. He concluded it was a supernatural event. Biblical miracles include Jesus changing water into wine, feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread, and his own resurrection from the dead.
Science today affirms the possibility of miracles. It is widely believed the creation of the universe was an event which happened outside of natural law and for which there is no known cause. The theory of quantum physics is founded on the notion of uncaused events. Science suggests the universe is far more mysterious and open than we used to think.
Miracles are consistent with science. It’s natural for apples to fall to the ground.. But if I should catch the apple, I do not contradict nature, I have only interrupted it. Likewise to say that God raised Jesus from the dead does not contradict nature either, it’s only an interruption.
Miracles are not impossible but they are improbable. The evidence of any given miracle must be carefully considered. A lottery winner is not a liar because the odds of winning are 1 in 100 million. Of the millions of miracles reported throughout history, it only takes one true miracle to overthrow the impossibility argument. Thus it takes more faith not to believe in miracles than it does to believe in them.
Miracles are rare in the Bible. Jesus performed less than 40 miracles during his three year ministry--that’s about ten per year. Clearly, Jesus did not trade on miracles. He possessed enormous power but was very restrained in using it. Skeptics should carefully consider the historical evidence for Jesus’ miracles which is primarily multiple eyewitness accounts both inside and outside of scripture. Rare events are not impossible simply because they are rare.
What do they mean? Jesus did not do miracles for publicity, entertainment, to earn a living or to make life easier. Jesus did miracles with a theological purpose. The Gospel labels miracles as signs. They verify the identity of Jesus and the reality of the Kingdom of God. The miracles were visible demonstrations that Jesus came to transform lives--to bring about a new creation in the midst of a broken world. Just as he changed water into wine, Jesus can change our emptiness, guilt, grief, disappointment or addictions into an abundant life. The miracles verify his offer of a new life to each of us.
Jesus could have done thousands of miracles, why did he do so very few? Why doesn’t he give me the miracle I want right now? The Gospels are clear: we don’t control God. There are parts of the story of life that we can't understand--only God does. We trust God to be acting on our behalf even when we can’t see. God works in His own time, not ours. Sometimes when we go to God we want quick and easy answers such as instant freedom from some bad habit. But instead of miraculous deliverance, God calls for deeper discipleship--we need to fight it out on our knees in prayer, in fasting, in tears and in searching the scriptures. God’s purpose is not to make our old life comfortable but to grow and transform our souls in a new creation. That too is a miracle!