Is It Reasonable to Believe in Miracles?
The world casts stones at the Christian because of, among other things, our belief in the intervention of God in our activities. When faced with the report of a providential act, they attempt to explain it away as a natural occurrence or using a scientific law. As the church, we need to understand that whether the world can describe an occurrence with the help of scientific language has no effect on the operation of God in the world today.
Let us start off by differentiating the biblical miracle, such as raising Lazarus from the dead, from the providential operation of God in the world today. Many theologians do not believe that miracles of biblical proportion occur today, while the same theologians are quick to point out that miraculous occurrences are reported today that show God continues to move and work in His church.
When people use the term 'miracle,' what they mean is an occurrence that can only be explained by supernatural means. C.S. Lewis defined a miracle as follows: "I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power." Here's where the trouble starts. Supernatural, by definition, means anything that is above or outside of the natural order of things. When something not explainable by the methods and processes we typically call 'natural' happens, does the definition of natural expand to include what we just saw happen? In other words, when something occurs do we then begin to believe that the occurrence that we at one time considered supernatural is now natural? If the occurrence happens only once, probably not. The occurrence can remain supernatural and have no effect on the definition of natural. What happens if the occurrence happens more than once, say 10 times? Do we now come to accept that occurrence as natural? Here's an example.
As the Israelites were embarking on their 40 year jaunt through the desert, God provided them manna. This was because, in their grumblings, one of their concerns was that they did not have bread and meat to eat. In response, God provided them bread to eat each morning that they could gather and eat 6 days a week. If they gathered more than a single days worth, it would rot. On the 6th day, however, they were to gather twice their normal amount, which would provide them enough manna for Sunday. The manna did not rot on the 7th day, since this was the Sabbath when they were to do no work. Read Exodus 16:4-8.
4Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, "At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?" 8And Moses said, "When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him— what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD."
I have no doubt that God's provision of manna was hailed as a miracle during the first week. But what about the 51st week? By the end of the first year, the Israelites were probably coming to expect that the manna would just be there every morning, 6 days per week. What was at one time a miracle ceased being a miracle simply because of the amount of time that had passed. Imagine how they took the manna for granted by the 40th year.
Fast forward from the manna in the wilderness to today. We see the changing seasons, watch the sun come up every morning, watch the phases of the moon, eat apples from trees, harvest our crops in Autumn, etc., and take the whole thing for granted. We have seen these occurrences everyday of our lives. They are not miracles, they are hum-drum. But are they any less miraculous than they were the first time they were experienced?
By insisting on miracles and the hyper-supernatural, what we are really doing is putting God to the test. He has already provided for us through the things that we now consider everyday occurrences. When we become addicted to miracles, we go beyond the everyday occurrences and ask for Him to outdo Himself. "Don't use the systems you've already put in place, God. We are used to those. We now want to see you do something amazing." The world is amazing and is authored by God. The systems in place are no less His than the miracles of the bible. The earth and every hum-drum system within it exist and operate because of God.
Still, He does provide miracles. Julia was born in an emergency c-section situation. She had not been breathing normally for nearly 12-hours. She failed nearly every test of a healthy baby. I was told she would not live. Then I was told she would have severe brain damage if she stayed alive. I prayed the entire time. Within 18 hours, the doctors told me that they could not explain it, but that Julia’s blood gases were normal, her brain function was perfect, and she was released to me and Sarah to go home as a normal baby within 3 days.
The Christian detractors will posit their guesses as to how this could have happened without providential intervention. They will read the bible and attempt to explain it away with superficial scientific descriptions. Much like believing that a 2-year old who can recite a book from memory can read, they believe that because they can recite a simple scientific rule they have explained away God. They must explain away God, because not doing so would be to admit that they are living a contradiction. They must hope, desperately so, that I am making this story up and that the bible is full of nothing more than fairy tales. They can neither disprove the miracle nor the natural system put in place by God that makes the miracle a rare occurrence. They know they can't – their consciences and their minds attest to the fact.