Thursday, November 1, 2007

Does God Still Do Miracles?

Does God Still Perform Miracles, Signs and Wonders?

I am (my health permitting) attending an Alpha retreat this weekend. And part of the Alpha program is praying for each other, asking God to provide miraculous answers to these prayers, and to give different gifts to the Alpha guests (See, 1 Corinthians 12). But a fair question is whether or not God still performs miracles. We don’t see people walking on water, or splitting the Red Sea anymore, and so is it possible that God no longer performs miracles?

I believe God still provides miraculous answers to prayer. But the starting point in looking at this question is that God authenticated Jesus’ message and ministry as well as the ministry of the Apostles. Mark 16:20 and Hebrews 2:4. Hebrews 2:4 is very instructive, where teaches that the great message of salvation (by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus alone) was first proclaimed by Jesus, and that God Himself bore witness to the truth of this salvation: while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by jgifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

And so God was a witness to Jesus’ message through miracles, signs and wonders, and the giving of spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues. Miracles and wonders and the giving of gifts was God’s testimony to the truthfulness of Jesus.

But did miraculous gifts, signs and wonders stop after the New Testament writings were completed? This would mean that God relies solely on the writings and message of the New Testament for people to provide salvation for the unbelievers. But this means God has given up helping people through miraculous answers to prayers and giving of gifts.
But here is why I believe that God still provides miraculous answers to prayers. One of the earliest names for God is El Roi (Genesis 16:13), which means God who Sees and Cares’. And so, if we trust the Bible in saying that God is almighty (Genesis 49:25) and Sovereign. It is good to remember that God is sovereign in that He has control over all circumstances. He has total authority.

So we see that El Roi, God is a God who cares for us, and because He is sovereign, He also has the power to miraculously change circumstances. The examples of this throughout the Bible are too numerous to mention. But here’s a couple of quick examples: Jesus feeding thousands; Jesus healing the man by the pool; “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” (Acts 5:12).So God has the power and the love for us to care for what is happening in our lives, and to miraculously help us. And we see in Malachi 3:6 that God’s character is such that He does not change. And so, if He did miracles in the Old Testament (including Creation, the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Elijah and Elisha, etc.) and well as throughout the New Testament, then God’s unchanging nature means that He will do miracles today. And I have seen enough miraculous answers to prayer to believe this. God is powerful, He loves us, He wants to help us, and so there are times when God will use miracles to show His love and concern for us. Praise God, El Roi!

1 comment:

Edward Oleander said...

Long post here, hope you have a couple minutes…

So, in Malachi 3, God’s reference to not changing seems to be directed more at his choice of the Jews as His chosen people, rather than a blanket statement about His overall nature.

I don’t think it’s fair to use Malachi, or any similar verses, to make the argument that since God used to miracles, He still does so today. Several pastors who commented on the Malachi verses (3:1-9)on the web, concentrated on the idea that God’s PURPOSE is unchanging.

There are several instances in the Bible where God’s METHOD of getting there takes some fairly sharp turns. The best of these is, of course, the flood. Just before drowning just about every living thing, God is seen acting on information gathered at the time, not from any vision of the future. He looks down and doesn’t like what He sees, so the Big Flush is on. Clearly, He has changed his mind about humanity in it’s current state and wants to try something new.

This is a classic study in strategic vs. tactical thinking. God’s purpose for the world is his strategy, and does not change. His tactics (such as killing off the planet in a fit of pique, or performing high-profile miracles) can and do change, therefore your argument fails.

Miracles, by their very nature, are quite difficult to prove. Some see miracles in everyday occurrences where others see only coincidence or happenstance. Very few people, when discussing miracles, are comparing apples to apples; they are discussing their own private definition of what qualifies as miraculous. A man on a sidewalk who NEVER picks up change from the ground suddenly stops to pick up a dime. The motorist who would have CERTAINLY killed him if he had instead stepped into the street now whizzes harmlessly by. Miracle? Yes, to some, but not to me… Until we know what a miracle really is, how can we say they are still occurring?

Let’s assume for a moment that miracles are happening around us all the time. Religious people around the world, including yourself, tell of miraculous occurrences every day. Since miracles happen to all known peoples, how can we be sure of their source? Christians tell me that their God looks out for everyone, so ALL miracles are His doing. Scripture is less than conclusive on God’s willingness to help non-believers, so this has always been a little suspect to me. Add in the fact that every other faith makes pretty much the same claim, and now the issue of the origin of miracles is severely in doubt. Last year a plane went down in South America, and there were quite a few survivors among the dead. Local authorities stated on CNN that it was a “miracle” that anyone could have survived such a horrific event. Ok… let’s assume it WAS a miracle that saved those people. Which god gets credit for the save? Did all the deities who had followers on that flight chip in to the Miracle Fund, or did one god save his followers and let some others tag along? In any major disaster, both the dead and the survivors represent many faiths. Automatically assuming that your own personal deity granted what you perceive as a miracle removes several equally plausible explanations, so is invalid. Even though a person may have prayed to their personal god for a miracle that occurs, it could just as easily be another loving god/dess who overheard the prayed and decided to lend a hand.

Summary:
1) God can, and has, changed His tactics before, so lots of past miracles cannot guarantee future miracles.
2) We don’t know what miracles are, so cannot be sure we are really seeing one if and when it happens. This precludes a reasonable opinion on the frequency of current miracles.

3) If miracles are happening, they could be the work of any number of supernatural agents whose existence is as plausible as the existence of the Desert God, therefore any miracles which ARE still happening cannot be conclusively credited to God.

Happy Wednesday!
~Ed~