Was that a miracle or a counterfeit?
by Rob Phillips
An elderly woman tosses aside her walker and sprints around a crowded auditorium amidst thunderous applause. Hundreds of congregants gasp as a faith healer lengthens a man’s shortened leg in the name of Jesus. Throngs of worshipers fall backward, seemingly lifeless, as an evangelist breathes the Holy Spirit on them.
These are common sights on Christian television, meant to convince us that God continues to perform signs, wonders and miracles through His anointed servants.
But are these truly miracles? Is God really at work, or is some charlatan playing on our emotions so we’ll pull out our checkbooks and “release” our faith with a generous donation?
It’s not always easy to tell. Thankfully, Christian apologists Norman Geisler and Frank Turek offer some good advice in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. The authors remind us that miracles are possible today – God still deals in the supernatural – but it’s important to separate the miraculous from a host of counterfeits.
Six categories of the unusual
Geisler and Turek say there are at least six categories of “unusual events,” only one of which is a miracle. A brief summary follows.
Miracle. A miracle is an unmistakable sign from God that meets certain criteria. It must be unique, easily recognizable, and something only God can do. God alone has infinite power, supreme design and purpose, and complete moral purity.
In other words, to be miraculous, the act or event cannot be explained naturally. In addition, the act may not be performed for entertainment purposes or personal gain, but to exalt God. Further, there may be no error or immorality or it is not from God.
Examples of miracles are raising the dead, calming the stormy seas, and restoring sight to the blind. These acts are instantaneous, complete, purposeful, and moral.
Providence. God indirectly causes providential events. That is, He uses natural laws to accomplish them. These may be quite remarkable and may stimulate faith, but they are not provable as supernatural…
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